What’s a little terrorism between dialogue partners?

The sharam at Sharm-el-Sheikh

Dr Manmohan Singh met Yusuf Raza Gilani at the sidelines of the NAM summit in Egypt and among others, agreed that “dialogue is the only way forward. Action on terrorism should not be linked to the composite dialogue process and these should not be bracketed.” They’ll continue playing dossiers-and-lawsuits.

If this was what India intended to do, it is baffling that the prime minister had to travel all the way to Egypt, meet Mr Gilani there, and declare that “dialogue is the only way forward.” At least, the Indian people could have been spared the shameful spectacle of the prime minister radiating forgiveness and sympathy in the full glare of the international media.

Let’s see how Dr Singh’s policy might be justified. It can be reasonably argued that the Zardari-Gilani disposition is really powerless and engaging them seriously will achieve several things simultaneously. The civilians putatively in power in Islamabad will be ‘strengthened’, India will be able to engage Pakistan where it makes sense and international (read US) pressure can be defused by pointing to a dialogue process.

It might even lead to diplomatic and perceptional benefits arising from Pakistan admitting that it is the source of international jihadi terrorism. So even if this approach doesn’t yield any advantages on containing anti-India terrorism, it will help lower political risk perceptions of international investors, and therefore, there’s no harm in taking this course. Perhaps it will even dissuade jihadis from attacking India, once they learn that their actions won’t amplify into an India-Pakistan standoff.

Maybe. But the problem with Dr Singh’s approach is that it is too reasonable. Every political actor in Pakistan will rest assured that it can inflict damage on India in order to gain an advantage in the domestic power play. The military-jihadi complex, for instance, will be vindicated in its belief that it is strategically inexpensive to stage an attack against India to fend-off US pressure to act against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Zardari-Gilani duo will be less inclined to face down the military-jihadi complex because India has let them off the hook. Sure, the Obama administration will applaud India’s restraint because it’ll clear the decks for the United States to go through with the Af-Pak strategy—but there is no guarantee that it will be sensitive to India’s interests in the region.

This is not to say that resuming the dialogue is a mistake. But Dr Singh gave away too much without getting anything substantial in return. There is a hint that there is some kind of a backroom deal with the Pakistani military establishment but let’s face it, such deals are easily repudiated, unenforceable and won’t last the next major terrorist attack. Arresting, trying and jailing leaders of jihadi groups will not stop Pakistan-sponsored jihadi terrorism against India. But India yielded before Pakistan delivered that minimum of minimums. The Indian prime minister has pulled Pakistan out of the international doghouse yet again without anything to show for it. Dr Singh, of all people, should know that this approach doesn’t work—the ‘joint anti-terrorism framework’ announced at the NAM summit at Havana came to a nought. (See After the Havana appeasement)

What a shame!

29 thoughts on “What’s a little terrorism between dialogue partners?”

  1. What other stance can the PM take? He is dealing with a weak Pakistani democracy at the brink of a civil war with a very real threat of nuclear enabled terrorists.

    How can you argue that anyone, US included, will, given the present situation, take pak-backed terrorism in India lightly? From what I can see there is a general consensus that terrorism cannot be compartmentalized into regions, the taliban-pak-US war is also an India-taliban war.

    What can we get in return?


  2. Who cares. Our Citizens never placed any premium on their countrymens life. You and I can shout all we want from these blogs. But as long as the Idiotic Indian voter develops any sort of brain and think before voting, no ruling dispensation will have any incentives to take action against terrorism. Because as long as they are alive these so called voters don’t give a crap about how many people die of these bomb blasts. So why do we even act surprised if the the puppet singh and his masters decided to surrender to the Pakis. It is the easiest option for them they don’t have to make any hard choices and their vote bank is intact and the people will forget it in 24 hours. And the entire MSM will do its part by spinning this as a greatest victory for peace and how We and Pakis are brothers and Hindutva is the bigger enemy of the nation and how terrorism is a non issue in politics and all that crap. And then there will be more attacks and the cycle will continue. Who cares for a few thousand dead bodies in a country of billion except if the dead is from a particular political family. I am sick and tired of this but can’t do anything because we gave too many stupid people right to vote.

  3. But Dr Singh gave away too much without getting anything substantial in return.

    It is the Indian Way. Pioneered by Ashoka, perfected by Akbar and taken to its logical conclusion by Gandhi. Works well in India – has poor results with folks who don’t get its dynamics. We’re stuck with it – might as well stop wringing our hands in despair.

  4. We are a nation of morons to have elected such morons.

    Is there no one to advise sanity?

  5. I agree. I was startled. Stopping condemnation of such abjectly strategy-armen (German word for poor) is not the right thing to do. It might have been started, practiced, perfected and honed over centuries. It might take centuries to displace it with something resembling self-respect and spunk. But, that is no excuse for not trying. In fact, it is logical then that efforts such as your piece above be redoubled.

  6. So Baluchistan is a bilateral issue and Kashmir is not? Me likee.

    Jokes aside, Our gummint probably realizes that it is talking to a sock puppet. No point in getting worked up over it.

  7. absolutely stupid and shameful. No doubt that the US has fingered India and Pakistan into doing this, before Hillary Clinton’s visit to India during which she will coo sweet nothings to the Indian press and politicos.

    Who’s advising Manmohan Singh?

  8. The unkil leaned on the Sardar and he caved in with the blessings of Sonia mata ofcourse. If you elect eunuchs, expect some nautanki. Paks must be glad terror wont stop dialogue, maybe the next batch of LET vultures have already landed.

  9. Nitin,

    Congrats on the Outlook article. I certainly see that as welcome progress in your journey to a full-fledged commentator on strategic issues. Kudos!

  10. libertarian,

    I am curious what Ashoka and, and especially, Akbar, did that was equivalent to Gandhi.

    Manmohan still hasn’t risen to Gandhi’s level. He’s got five more years to get there – give away parts of J&K and parts of Arunachal for the sake of peace and a prize, perhaps!

  11. Looks like India has not given anything away! I think India is spinning a “joint stmt” a little to cool US 🙂 Now Rice cannot lecture Mr.Singh on dialogue with paksitan – India will point to the “joint stmt”. And India is not going to start the “dialogue” either!

    “Speaking to reporters later, Dr. Singh said Mr. Gilani had been keen to resume the composite dialogue “here and now.” “But I said that the dialogue cannot begin unless and until the terrorist acts of Mumbai are fully accounted for and the perpetrators are brought to book.” Unless this happened, he stressed, “I cannot agree and our public opinion will not agree.” There was no road map for resumption yet, he said, but added: “We have an obligation to engage Pakistan.”


  12. Chandra regarding Ashoka, Akbar and Gandhi I was referring specifically to their idea of preferring peace/non-violence to war/violence. They were all great unifiers. However, extrapolating the idea of using peace-carrots to folks who can only see reason with a stick is a mistake. As the Kenny Rogers song goes “sometimes you gotta fight to be a man”.

  13. The only thing this shameful incident has achieved is that a lifelong Congress supporter like me has moved firmly into the BJP camp.

  14. Humiliating it is, but this looks almost inevitable given our past track record. Pakistan itself has nothing much to gain from these talks except to keep the pressure off from its western allies. And western pressure was always going to diminish with time once we ruled out the military option. The fact is, US and its allies KNOW that we are sissies (or too reasonable, as Nitin puts it) and they make their diplomatic moves towards Pakistan accordingly. We can always be made to see “reason” even under the most intolerable circumstances (remember the parliament attack and operation parakram). This being the framework, keeping the communication lines open is relatively more sensible than not talking, from India’s point of view. What exactly do we gain by not talking – nothing. Atleast, we will be thrown some crumbs by Pak (at the behest of the US) if we do talk.

    What we really need to do is change this framework. We need to prove to the world that we take our sovereignity and our citizens lives very seriously – a seriousness befitting our military and economic might. For once, we will have to actually inflict a huge cost on the enemy (and not just talk, like MMS) – just to tell them that we will no longer allow terrorism to be a low-cost proposition. And to prove to the world that we know how to be unreasoanble.

  15. BTW, does even MMS understand what excatly his strategy is? On the one hand, he says:
    “It has been and remains our consistent position that the starting point of any meaningful dialogue with Pakistan is a fulfillment of their commitment, in letter and spirit, not to allow their territory to be used in any manner for terrorist activities against India,”

    But then he goes on to say:
    “Action on terrorism should not be linked to the composite dialogue process and therefore cannot await other developments.”

  16. Indians should die in Mumbai, so that Americans need not in NYC. Americans need the help of precious little Paks to kill anti-american Al qaeda. We’ll just have to get over the mumbai massacre by the ‘bad boys’ of LET. We have a billion people, farmers kill themselves everyday they are so poor, whats a few hundred in a terrorist attack? Indians are expendable at the cost of Americans. Mr Singh is an ’eminent’ economist, he knows.

    But why blame the Americans when we have had dialogues with the jihadis for a millennium now?

  17. “Akbar….I was referring specifically to their idea of preferring peace/non-violence to war/violence”

    Akbar surely wasn’t a man of peace, however one cuts it.

  18. @libertarian @chandra

    Bollocks to Akbar and historical explanations! The UPA is screwing up big time and no one, not even the BJP, is hauling MMS over the coals.

    Let’s not lose track of the issue: we are being steered around by a surrender monkey.

  19. @Udayan The UPA is screwing up big time and no one, not even the BJP, is hauling MMS over the coals.

    We lack any credible military deterrent. So hauling MMS over hot coals is useless. The BJP would rant and menace but would be bluffing for the same reason. Till we develop the ability to create real pain for the decision-makers in Pakistan – not the average Ahmed in Karachi – we’ll continue to do our best imitation of large punching bags and be the economically successful military eunuchs. That pain is not inflicted by the marching batallions to the border. It’s made possibly by serious investment in intelligence and in high-value-target black ops.

  20. @libertarian
    What you are suggesting make sense. But what is the incentive for this spineless Government to work towards the policy goals you have suggested. Nothing. They know they can win election after election regardless of what they do and don’t do regarding terrorism. Because most of the Indian electorate are idiots anyway they can’t think beyond their own wallet. And now terrorism became an acceptable face of life for those idiots. They simply don’t care.They don’t understand the fact that you can’t be a successful economic power without a good security framework to defend it. Ultimately they will pay the price for it both physically and economically but they are too stupid to understand that. Also the media is completely under the control of CON party loyalists they can throw some patronage their way and these Media idiots will be loyal to the Gandhi family for another 100 years. So the spineless MMS has zero incentive to take any action against Pakis because the electorate don’t give a damn. Infact if he takes action then there is a chance in their mind that they will loose their vote bank so the CON party will never ever do anything you outlined on their own.At least if the BJP makes some noise about it then there is tiny 1% chance that Govt will be forced to answer some question. (Not that they will change their stance atleast it will be a lil embarrasing for the Govt.)

  21. I don’t want to blame Mr. Singh alone. What were the babus and officials at the MEA doing? No, seriously, what the heck are they thinking? I don’t get it. Maybe it’s SO CHANAKIAN that a simpleton like me cannot get it.

    Why was Baluchistan included in the “joint statement”? And with one statement, again India and Pak are BOTH victims of terror and India = Pak. Game over. We can all now forget about 26/11. Nothing is gonna be done (in case some one wishfully thought something was going to be done till now). Shameful. So India can wait for the next attack from Pak, God knows what form it will be. Sometimes I think India deserves what it gets from Pak. It is karma (interpreted as INACTION) only u see.

  22. @libertarian

    “We lack any credible military deterrent. So hauling MMS over hot coals is useless. The BJP would rant and menace but would be bluffing for the same reason.”

    This is LAZY POSTURING. No one (not even VHP or Bajrang Dal) is suggesting going to war with Pak. But that does not mean u have to keep giving concessions to Pak diplomatically. That makes India look stupid. “India and Pak are both victims of terror”. My foot. Why do u need to keep saying that every time? Is this because of US pressure? If so we shouldn’t care. I mean seriously what has this admin (I do think last admin by Goerge W understood Islamic terrorism directed at India from Pak and did not differentiate between AQ and Taliban and these guys but current admin is back to smoke and mirrors and Kashmir) done for India?

    Now some people say words do not matter, action does. But that is not completely true. Words can force a person to take the action that u want him to take. This is what we call DIPLOMACY. Not giving stupid statements after wine and cheese parties.

  23. @libertarian

    “Till we develop the ability to create real pain for the decision-makers in Pakistan – not the average Ahmed in Karachi…”

    Doesn’t RAW have the capability to do even this? I mean, in the current “free for all” environment in Pak, is it that difficult to put out a “supari” on Hafiz Saeed? If an “intel agency” can’t even do this, why have it in the first place, we can as well shut shop! Just have IB.

  24. Am fully expecting the next 26/11 to be 10x the last one. Pak has just confirmed it can get away, literally speaking, with anything now.

    The silver lining, such as it is, is that at least the country was spared the expense of another expensive but ultimately pointless military buildup like Op Parakram after the parliament attack.

    If Pak tries a Kargil now, they might even get away with the territory sans any fightback. The PM was ok with an Indian climbdown over Siachen but the MoD babus managed to stave off disaster that time.

    Would be nice if India and the US exchange no more diginitaries. Their coming and going leads to more pressure which in turn leads to this kinda rut.

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