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Sympathy for Pakistan?

May 16, 2011 16:32 IST

By a mix of deception, subterfuge, ingratitude and crocodile tears, Pakistan has begun to get sympathy rather than condemnation when it stands exposed as the haven for the most wanted terrorist in the world, says T P Sreenivasan.

Pakistan has done it again. By a mix of deception, subterfuge, ingratitude and crocodile tears, it has begun to get sympathy rather than condemnation at a time when it stands exposed as the haven for the most wanted terrorist in the world, apart from being the epicentre of international terrorism.

The Government of India itself, after the initial expression of satisfaction over reaching a milestone in the fight against terror and confirmation of Pakistan's trust deficit, is bending over backwards not to appear to exploit Pakistan's discomfiture. At a time when Pakistan appears to be confused and groping for a face saving, we are even ready to pursue the dialogue with Pakistan. At the height of trust deficit, we wish to chase the mirage of trust.

Our army chief's assertion that India has the capability to have our own Abbottabad provided a perfect handle for General Kayani to turn his embarrassment into bravado. His sovereignty, which he had surrendered to the Americans long ago, suddenly became sacrosanct against perceived Indian adventurism.

Both the general and his foreign secretary found a golden opportunity to turn their confused people against India. Our own experts lamented the lack of civility on the part of India to have 'threatened' Pakistan and  won Pakistani approbation. Sympathy for Pakistan's predicament is the latest fashion among some people in India, for whom hope for peace is an obsession.

The simple truth that the United States and Pakistan have a common interest in asserting that Pakistan had no hand in the killing of Osama appears to escape the attention of some people. The possibility that the US and Pakistan may have chosen the time and venue of Osama's killing is beyond their comprehension. They will not even dream that there may well be a deal between the two countries on the eventual dispensation in Afghanistan.

The whole exercise may have been timed to help the re-election of President Obama as the one who saved American lives and money by ending the war. If things move according to their plans, India will be left alone to fight terrorist groups, with an added threat from an unfriendly outfit in Kabul. This is the time for ruthless planning to face the situation rather than to express sympathy and understanding for our hapless neighbour. 

Pakistan's repeated lament that it is deeply hurt by the violation of its sovereignty by the United States is hollow since the states of Pakistan and Afghanistan were turned into a battlefield, named Afpak region, with Pakistani acquiescence. Pakistan's old ambition to see the Durrand Line disappear came to life with the new appellation. The US troops decided to have a field day in this area, when the Americans found that Pakistan was playing a double game.

When the US troops took the law into their own hands and began to stage attacks deep in the territory of Pakistan, the only choice that Pakistan had was to protest against violation of sovereignty. When Pakistan allowed the Americans eliminate their prized possession, it knew that it could resort to the sovereignty issue to cover their complicity. No other country, not even China, appears to have defended the sovereignty argument.

The other canard that seems to gain currency in India itself is that the US-Pak relations will take a nosedive as a consequence of the Abbottabad killing. The very basis of the relationship between the two countries was that Pakistan was as much a victim of teh Al Qaeda as the United States was and the avowed role of the US was the elimination of its leadership.

When the objective of a joint struggle is accomplished, the relationship should become stronger, not weaker. Pakistan needs the US more than ever before and for the US, a Muslim non-NATO ally is the most valuable comrade in arms to fight fundamentalism and terrorism.

We should not count on a deterioration of the US-Pak relationship in making our next moves. We should presume that the relationship will improve, once the objective of distancing Pakistan from the Osama killing is accomplished. John Brennan, the White House Counter Terrorism coordinator, just reiterated that "Pakistan is a strong counter terrorism partner", though he said in the same breath that it would be a mistake to rely on Pakistan to investigate anything. The investigations on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the 26/11attack had not reached anywhere, he said.

Our prime minister was not among the world leaders that President Obama called to discuss the killing of Osama. But Dr Manmohan Singh may have congratulated President Obama on his success in a phone conversation that took place later. It cannot be forgotten that Osama had told the entire Muslim world that Kashmir was a cause for which they should "give away themselves, their money, their experiences and all kinds of material support". The Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, turned Osama into a martyr and said that he "represented a thinking which opposed foreign occupational forces."

Whatever may be Pakistan's tactics in the handling of Osama, our views on him cannot but be diametrically opposed to those of Pakistan. We may have a certain meeting ground with the United States, but not with Pakistan.

India is determined to continue with the dialogue process, though we have no clue as to what to expect from it. If the objective is to bring the Mumbai attackers to book, we should expect more rigidity after the killing of Osama. The US pressure on Pakistan will also be less intense. Pakistan will be still nursing its wounds and dealing with the "mother of all embarrassments" when the Indian delegation arrives. It may still be prudent to delay the meeting for a while lest misplaced sympathy should hurt rather than help the peace process. 

T P Sreenivasan is a former ambassador of India to the United Nations, Vienna, and a former Governor for India at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna.

He is currently the Director General, Kerala International Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, and a Member of the National Security Advisory Board.

For more articles by Ambassador Sreenivasan, please click here.

T P Sreenivasan