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The Rediff Special/ Sheela Bhatt

'The international community won't help us'

December 16, 2008

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In the first part of the series, where rediff.com's Sheela Bhatt asks strategic thinkers India's options on responding to the Mumbai terror attacks, former national security advisor and principal secretary to then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Brajesh Mishra, said India has many options before it, but it must fight its battles on its own.

Part I of the series: India will have to fight in its own way: Brajesh Mishra

In the second part of the series, Sheela Bhatt asked Kanwal Sibal, the former foreign secretary, if India has played its cards well and what India's best diplomatic options are.

Sibal, an acclaimed expert on Russia [Images], had worked hard to draw world attention to danger of terrorism and nuclear proliferation in Pakistan, was also asked if the military option was still open.

First of all, our diplomatic steps are insufficient after the Mumbai terror attacks [Images]. I believe India has lost the diplomatic initiative. It is allowing outsiders to decide what we should do. The string of Western dignitaries visiting India are limiting our options.

Some countries are genuinely worried about terrorism, they are worried about terrorism emanating from Pakistan and its linkages with the Pakistani establishment.

India's options vis-a-vis Pakistan are limited because of nuclear weapons on both sides.

In this scenario, China is a factor too. It is an 'all weather friend' of Pakistan and has strong linkages to the military in Pakistan. As you have noticed in North Korea, the China factor is important for the Western powers to negotiate. The same is true vis-a-vis Pakistan. The Afghanistan issue has made us realise that India's options are limited. On Monday, John Kerry told India how the US is going to prop up Pakistan by giving it aid of $15 billion.

In this situation India's reliance on the international community is not going to solve its problems. I don't think the international community will help us achieve our diplomatic goals.

At the same time I think India does have options to respond appropriately to the attacks on Mumbai. I have a question to ask this United Progressive Alliance government: Even after more than a fortnight, why has the government not announced the suspension of the composite dialogue process? Why can't we stop the dialogue with Pakistan on Kashmir? At least, exercise that option. Why can't we dismantle the joint terror mechanism or roll back some confidence building measures?

This argument that both are victims of terrorism is giving Pakistan an escape route.

I don't buy the argument that after 9/11, the US didn't suspend relations with Saudi Arabia even though the attackers were mostly Saudis. The US had many stakes in Saudi Arabia. The US is dependent on the Saudis for its energy needs.

India should act harshly by discontinuing the peace process. The Lashkar-e-Tayiba simply could not have the kind of capacity to train commandos. The Pakistani establishment's help has to be there to prepare people for such attacks.

Pakistan is in a denial mode and will never admit the linkages of its establishment with anti-India terrorist outfits within Pakistan. I believe nothing much is going to be achieved by India if we carry on with this kind of diplomacy. House arrests of certain characters have happened, but it means nothing. Do they have an American monitor? What is the state of law and order within Pakistan? What is the credibility of such arrests and bans?

I am not saying that America or Britain doesn't care about the Lashkar menace. They are engaged in Afghanistan against the Taliban [Images], but they do have concerns about the Lashkar, which is spreading to Chechnya, the Gulf and Afghanistan.

It is because of this concern the US is cooperating with India. There is a confluence of interests in curbing the Lashkar. China will play a careful game. They have gone along with the world view in the United Nations on banning the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, but it will try and protect Pakistan without making itself vulnerable. Russia will strengthen and support multilateral efforts in controlling these elements. I see that some efforts are on by friendly countries like the US and the UK and we should not antagonise them by creating misunderstandings.

On the balance, I feel India's bilateral political action, so far, has been incomprehensible.

We are not helpless and some firm steps won't accelerate military steps. By the way, I certainly believe that it is too late for military action. Just too late!

The Indian government doesn't have the courage, so far, even, to break the dialogue process, so a military strike is ruled out.

If I had been asked about it, I would advise against military action. But in any case, the moment to strike has been lost.


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