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The Rediff Special/ Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC

'What more evidence do we need to provide?'

December 29, 2008

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Aziz Haniffa reports on the Washington, DC conference where the consensus among a high-profile group of former diplomats, military leaders, politicians, businessmen and others was that the Mumbai terror attacks [Images] was a tangible manifestation of a global threat that calls for a global response.

Part I: 'India's patience is not infinite'

Former Indian ambassador to Pakistan G Parthasarathy, now a visiting professor at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi [Images], pointed out that 26/11 was the first time India's investigations into a terrorist attack co-opted the intelligence agencies of other powers like the British, American and Israeli agencies. 'So there's no question of India cooking up cases, as some people are given to arguing,' he said, pointing out that much of the evidence coming out of Washington also points to ISI complicity.

He also reminded the audience that 'the evidence of ISI involvement in the attack on our embassy in Kabul came out of Washington and from Kabul, and not from Delhi.'

Parthasarathy said historically, Pakistan invariably called on India to produce evidence to back up its charges, but whenever such evidence was produced it was denied or ignored. In this connection, he recalled that when India gave hard evidence 'about the Jaish-e-Mohammad attacking our Parliament in December, 2001, there were flat denials. Yet on March 6, 2004, General Javed Ashraf Qazi, former director general of the ISI and then Pakistan's minister for railways, said the following in Pakistan's parliament: 'We must admit that Jaish-e-Mohammad has been involved in the killing of thousands of innocent Kashmiris, the attack on the Indian Parliament, the murder of (Wall Street Journal reporter) Daniel Pearl, and an attempt to assassinate General (Pervez) Musharraf.'

'So I don't know what further evidence we can provide for (Jaish leader) Maulana Masood Azhar and others to be prosecuted, when Pakistan's former ISI chief makes this solemn assurance on the floor of Pakistan's parliament -- and remember that General Qazi is still a serving senator.'

Similarly, he recalled, shortly after the attack on the Red Fort [Images] in New Delhi December 22, 2000, Lashkar founder Hafeez Mohammed Saeed 'went public in a meeting at which Maulana Masood Azhar and Qazi Husain Ahmed were present and acknowledged very proudly that he had planted the Pakistani flag on the Red Fort, which was the ruling place of the country's past Muslim rulers. So what more evidence do we need to provide? Anybody who reads the Da'wa magazine brought out by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba [Images], I think on a fortnightly basis, will find all the evidence that is needed.'

Parthasarathy also pointed at the writings of Pakistan's Ambassador [Images] to the United States Hussain Haqqani, particularly an article titled 'The Ideologies of South Asian Jihad and Jihadi Groups', in which he had said the Lashkar is 'backed by Saudi money and protected by Pakistani intelligence services. This is not an Indian, this is Pakistan's ambassador to the United States writing this, so I don't think there is any (need for) further evidence.'

Sudheendra Kulkarni, adviser to Bharatiya Janata Party leader Lal Kishenchand Advani [Images], said 26/11 and other terror attacks on Indian soil was 'not a confrontation between one faith and other faiths, not one community and another community. In the Mumbai attack, no less than 30 Muslims were killed. This is a confrontation between an evil force and humanity, an evil force that is giving bad name to a faith, to a community, and it's a responsibility of all communities, all countries in the world to fight this evil force together.'

Kulkarni said the US was justified in its reaction to 9/11. 'We would now like to know from our friends in the international community, how should India react? There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that if Pakistan does not do what is required to be done to prevent more Mumbais from happening, India will react.'

He said it was imperative that the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan had to be dismantled. 'It's a threat to Pakistan itself, it's a threat to Pakistan's own survival. And therefore, this is a fight in which India, the people of Pakistan, all the right-thinking people in the political establishment, military establishment in Pakistan, and of course the international community, have to work together.'

Former Union minister Suresh Prabhu, a Shiv Sena member of India's parliament and a resident of Mumbai, said if the international community had realised the importance of the terrorist problem 'when India was talking about it, probably 9/11 would never have happened. If we acted on it in time, probably this phenomenon which now assumes such a serious proportion would never have reached this level.'

26/11, he said, was an example of how terrorists are now targeting their enemies not just in the countries where they live but all over the world. 'This is not a Mumbai problem, though it happened on Mumbai soil. It's a global problem and unless you recognise that, you risk repeating it again.'

He said the attack clearly intended to create a communal conflagration, but 'To the credit of Indian society, (this) didn't happen. In fact, the Muslims in India brought out a huge march in which they protested against the attack. The Muslim religious leaders came together to say these people who attacked India, we are not going to bury them in our own burial grounds. This is the type of response that Indian society has provided, and now India's society is waiting for the government to respond to this challenge.'

He said he was not blaming Pakistan as a whole for the attacks. 'We in India also have a stake in ensuring that Pakistan becomes a stable, democratic State,' he argued. 'A democratic State cannot survive if the Pakistani president himself feels that there are non-State actors who are trying to subvert the State. So we have to work on that, make sure that we really go to the root cause of terrorism and root it out completely so that no innocent people will die anywhere in any part of the world in future.'

Lambah and Parthasarathy both argued that while India was currently awaiting the international response with commendable patience, and that the country would be happy if the situation can be resolved peacefully, patience was not infinite.

Parthasarathy said the minimum requirement from Pakistan is 'an irrevocable disbandment of the infrastructure of terrorism.' He said that in the past, any action against the terrorist groups was preceded by considerable notice, allowing the groups to spirit their funds out before the crackdown. 'This time we are not going to be satisfied with games. We want this seriously done,' the former envoy said.

Moderating the discussion, Dr Ashley Tellis, the Mumbai-born strategic analyst who is now a senior fellow at Carnegie, said, 'In the aftermath of the second World War, after we all saw the horrors of Nazi terror, Hannah Arendt wrote a book called The Banality of Evil, and when one listens to Indians describe their experience of terrorism since the 1980s, it's not hard to remember Arendt's description, because there's something about terrorism in India that has become routine, that's become banal, that has become part of the mental architecture of India democracy.'

This is unfortunate, he said, pointing out that to the victims, terrorism was anything but banal. 'The US traditionally has looked at the problems of terrorism in India with a great deal of sympathy, but primarily from the perspective of trying to understand what its implications are for conflict between India and Pakistan.

'A great deal of our diplomatic efforts historically have been focused on preventing the terrorism that occurs in India, often supported by groups operating out of Pakistan, from becoming the moment for another India-Pakistan conflict. Those objectives are understandable and they are often desirable. But they are ultimately insufficient because conflict management cannot be successful if, at the end of the day, it is not extended to appreciating the dynamics that cause the constant provocation.'

Terrorism [Images] has transcended its 'root causes', the Mumbai-born Dr Tellis said, 'And so, dealing with this kind of threat is going to be a challenge not only to India, but also to the United States, particularly in the weeks and months ahead, because India's final response to the attacks in Mumbai have not yet occurred.

'This is a process that is continuing to evolve, and it will be a process that will pose challenges to India's policymakers, who will have to make some hard decisions about whether what has happened in Pakistan over the last few days constitutes sufficient remedy for the tragedies. From the decisions that they make, there will be policy challenges also posed to the United States.'


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