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Pak response to Mumbai attacks 'unfortunate'

Suman Guha Mozumder in New York | December 04, 2008 11:54 IST

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"I think evidence is accumulating that is making very credible the claims that this group of ten attackers was trained and equipped and organised in Pakistan," Daniel Markey, senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, told

Markey, who returned last month from a visit to Afghanistan at the invitation of top United States military commander General David McKiernan, said the big question now was to what extent the State of Pakistan was responsible for the attack on Mumbai, and what would be the most appropriate or constructive response to the situation.

"I think there is a growing consensus that the problem in Pakistan is the weakness of its leaders and its lack of capacity to control this militancy, which is different from the historical problem of their actively using the militants to pursue their goals. Now, the militants have outgrown their masters to some degree," Markey said.

"So the question is what kind of coercion you want to use against a relatively weak civilian leadership of Pakistan. That is a difficult balance we are stuck with right now."

Commenting on External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's comments that all options including military retaliation were open in India's reaction to the terror attacks on Mumbai, Markey said he found war an unlikely scenario.

"I think that the comment is actually a diplomatic language that says 'we are very angry and we have never surrendered the right to use military force'." However, said the South Asia expert, his reading of comments made by the minister in his briefing to Indian diplomats across the world led him to believe that India does not consider a short-term military solution.

"That is very encouraging. I think for diplomatic reasons it was necessary to show a tough face and also a reasonable face, and that is what they are trying to do right now," he said.

Markey said Pakistan's statement that it would not extradite terrorists on the 20 most wanted list presented by India "narrows the opportunities for Pakistan to provide India with some evidence that it is cooperating, but the problem is with India's sending of those names."

"I believe those names have been taken every time there has been an attack on India. You might say these are the generals behind the militancy or the inspiration behind the militancy, but India has not been able to send tangible evidence to Pakistan as to how these individuals are linked. So it puts Pakistan in a very difficult situation."

Markey clarified that he was not defending Pakistan. "But politically, it puts them in a tough spot. I think Islamabad [Images] can, even without handing over these 20 people, do something to provide additional information to India on specifics ([EM>of those behind the attacks)," Markey said.

He said if India shares evidence obtained from the interrogation of the sole captured terrorist, and if Islamabad is then able to use that evidence to track back, through phone records and other means, and find the operational masterminds at the Pakistan end, that would be a good example of cooperation.

"I think that is a kind of thing that the US would like to see happen," he said, adding that if one follows that path, one avoids more difficult, more politically challenging tasks and gets at specific individuals that are involved in this terror attack.

"That may be an area where there is room to maneuver and where the Pakistani government may be willing to provide more, especially when US Admiral Mullen is over there and is pushing that angle," he said.

Markey said the Pakistan response to the Mumbai attacks has been "unfortunate. "At least from what I see, they were relatively uncoordinated, and not very diplomatically careful. And it has not been as effective in terms of demonstrating a good faith approach to India and to the US, as well as the international community," Markey said.

"It seems they were too defensive, which is unfortunate because I think ultimately the civilian leaders in Pakistan have actually found themselves very much the victims of similar groups, and that I think is very frustrating," he said.

Despite contemporary events, Markey said, he was hopeful that there was a future for the India-Pakistan peace process, because he has seen a lot of goodwill in the top leadership on both sides, and even within the Pakistani military.

"It may not be a total settlement of all outstanding issues, but normalisation of ties and composite dialogue and bringing a variety of interactions between the two countries have been there. It made me positive that the two countries would never get back to where they were in 2001-2002 in terms of bilateral relations," he said.

Markey hoped both sides could play effectively against their "more hawkish" public elements. In India, he said, a section of the public is upset with the government's inability to protect them, and therefore reasoned that what people seek is better security, not war with Pakistan.

He hoped that on the Pakistani side they are able to resist their "traditional temptation" to respond violently to Indian statements. "I look for positive opportunities that in the past couple of years had been forthcoming and encouraging."

The South Asia expert believed two factors come together to create a conducive climate for peace despite recent happenings. "Firstly, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] appears to genuinely want reconciliation with Pakistan as his legacy, and sometimes that is a very important thing to have that motivation at the top. And secondly, peace has actually been a popular electoral issue, and peace with Pakistan, a breakthrough, a roadmap or even a framework for working through these disagreements on Kashmir or Siachin or whatever may actually be one of the few potential winning issues that the Congress party could have," Markey said.

The danger of abandoning that path and, for electoral gains, adopting a hawkish posture is that the Congress will find itself playing the me-too game, Markey pointed out. "After all, he (Prime Minister Singh) can't be more hawkish than the Bharatiya Janata Party."

Complete coverage: Terror strikes at Mumbai's heart

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