Manmohan Singh’s costly lollipop giveway

Reinforcing the Denial in Pakistani society is setback for India

Mirror-imaging is not uncommon in popular conceptions that Indians and Pakistanis have of each other. You hear it from Indian lofty-softies when they declare that Pakistanis are “people like us”. But while Indian mirror-imaging generally stops with an innocent notion of the nature of Pakistani society, Pakistani mirror-imaging extends to the nature of the state and its organs.

Nowhere is this most manifested than in the belief that India’s intelligence agencies play the same role their Pakistani counterparts. Accusing India’s RAW of involvement in any number of terrorist attacks in Pakistan—however illogical it might be—need not concern the Pakistani military-jihadi complex’s propaganda/psychological operations units anymore: for it is part of the Pakistani nation’s denial mechanism. It is far easier to believe that those devious Hindu-Bania-Indians did it rather than to go through the emotionally draining process of uncovering just why are jihadis killing their compatriots and co-religionists.

Even so reading the editorial in today’s Dawn should bring the coffee onto your clothes. On the matter of the dossier on RAW’s covert operations in Pakistan that Yusuf Raza Gilani supposedly handed over to Manmohan Singh at Sharm-el-Sheikh, it notes that “if they are rogue elements within RAW who are acting independently, they must be taken to task forthwith.” The good people on the editorial board of Dawn are generously—possibly sincerely—providing the Indian prime minister with the same escape route that US officials often provide the Pakistani government.

During a week when it was Pakistan which submitted a dossier of Indian misdeeds, and the Indian foreign ministry used the word “baseless”, Dawn’s editorial just completes the picture. As Coomi Kapoor puts it, India went to the “NAM summit as the (victim) of terror and came back with a document which seems to suggest that both countries are on a level playing field when it comes to sponsoring terror in the other’s backyard.”

Allowing Pakistan to insert the words that it “has some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas” in a joint statement has reinforced popular Pakistani perceptions that Indian intelligence agencies are responsible for high-profile acts of terrorism like that attack on the police academy and the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. To the extent that these attacks had galvanised people against the Taliban, the “badly drafted” joint statement damaged the developing resolve against jihadi culture in Pakistani civil society.

The real implication of agreeing to the mention of Balochistan in the joint statement is its impact on Pakistani politics and society, and in turn, the effect this will have on India’s security. (And not so much the handle it gives Islamabad in bilateral negotiations, or indeed, casting itself as a victim of Indian covert operations. More on this in another post, here).

One man—and only one man—is responsible for this setback: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Blaming the foreign secretary and other underlings for the “bad drafting” is pointless. No one but the prime minister himself could have agreed to that reference. He should be held personally accountable for this decision.

Handing Mr Gilani (not even Asif Ali Zardari, and there’s a difference) this lollipop has already had perverse effects: in addition to damaging the prospects of Pakistani society turning against its Talibanisation, it has increased Mr Gilani’s stature vis-à-vis President Zardari. If at all a lollipop had to be given, it should have been to Mr Zardari who had been sounding conciliatory, and not to Mr Gilani who is trying to mask his insignificance as a popular leader by taking hardline positions against India. The decision to reward Mr Gilani and punish Mr Zardari is astonishing: it is either an act of strategic wisdom that ordinary mortals cannot fathom or a clearly discernible act of folly.

The acid test is the next Pakistan-originated terrorist attack: if there is one, Dr Singh must resign. If there isn’t one, or a major attack is averted with the assistance of the Pakistani government, then he deserves our praise.

Update: In his op-ed on July 31st, Pratap Bhanu Mehta echoes these arguments (in greater detail and style)

28 thoughts on “Manmohan Singh’s costly lollipop giveway”

  1. Jagadish

    Hope triumphed over experience. Thought 26/11 was transformative. Might have thought wrong 🙁

  2. “Rogue elements withing RAW…”

    :-))!! I sometimes wonder whether Pak was the result of a RAW experiment horribly gone bad ;-).

    With regard to PM, I’ve a problem with people who were born pre-Independence and pre-partition still leading the country. Time for younger generation to lead. Someone call up Rahul baba ;-).

  3. With regard to “lollipop” for Gilani, I think he is the one who is anyways favored by the Army. So Zardari may say sweet things about India but he may still not have the ability to DO much. I think India is seeking its own favorable “power balance” inside Pak. The recent statement by ISI chief regarding his wanting to meet his counterpart (what would be the equivalent of ISI which is a military intelligence agency in India? certainly not RAW!!) to “discuss something” suggests that “something’s up” in Pak. We don’t know what it is. Need to wait and watch.

  4. Arvind,

    Good Idea. Call Rahul Baba, last time he had a plan to eliminate terrorism in 15 minutes “”

    I am very confused why PC is struggling so hard to solve a simple problem. I am all for replacing PC with Rahul Baba.

    Rahul Baba ki Jai Ho.

  5. link

    Check this related article
    “ISLAMABAD: The Baloch Republican Party (BRP) has rejected the Pakistan government’s allegation that India is responsible for the unrest in the

    BRP president Nawabzada Barmdagh Bugti rebuked the government’s claims saying the Baloch people were fighting for their independence without any foreign help.

    Bugti termed Islamabad’s claims about India’s involvement in the Baloch struggle as ‘baseless propaganda’, saying it wants to divert the international community’s attention from the atrocities being meted out to Balochis.

  6. The acid test is the next Pakistan-originated terrorist attack: if there is one, Dr Singh must resign. If there isn’t one, or a major attack is averted with the assistance of the Pakistani government, then he deserves our praise.

    Lollipop exchange may be a good acid test in a lovers’ game, but not in Islamic terrorism. A “major” terror attack, however defined, whether it takes place, or is averted, with Pakistani State involvement, is of little significance in dissecting this strategic blunder by India.

    Even if we framed cross-border terrorism in South Asia in the simplistic terms of a 2-person repeated Prisoners’ Dilemma, “tit for tat” or “lollipop for lollipop” is nowhere close to a cooperative equilibrium. This is what India has been doing since when – 1948? What India needs is a credible threat of disproportionate punishment for any deviation from cooperation – tat,tat,tat… for a tit – if you will.

    It’s a mistake to frame the conflict between India and Pakistan as a 2-person game between the two respective states and their subordinate agencies. The game is multi-player and multi-layered. The payoffs for the State of Pakistan (granting the untenable assumption of it being a unified team with no rogue players), LeT, Taliban, Hizb ut Tahrir, D-Company, the arms dealers… are varied, as are the strategic alternatives available to these players.

    At the root of it all, however, is a kernel of an idea, and there’s no prize for guessing what I think it is!

  7. Any idea why Lt Gen Pasha is so eager to talk to India? This is the first time Pak Army and ISI want to talk. Though I think at the peak of Khalistan issue when Karachi was also burning (hey no coincidence LOL), there was a tete-a-tete between RAW head and ISI chief. But that was more like an exchange of warnings between 2 sides. There has hardly been “talks” during “normal” times. India should talk and see what these guys wanna say. Army and the ISI are the real power centers in Pak.

    “There is only one country currently in the world that is comfortable in directly dealing with militaries of the world despite its professed love for democracy. And that is the US of A. India should talk to and deal with Pak Army”.

  8. @sudhir

    “The Baloch Republican Party (BRP) has rejected the Pakistan government’s allegation that India is responsible for the unrest in the

    Good now New Delhi should invite him to JNU or Delhi University and ask him to give a talk explaining Pakistan’s perfidy and oppression, and accusation of India’s negligence and inaction, and this talk should be given airtime and a lot of exposure. Let the game begin.

  9. “Rogue elements withing RAW…”

    Hahahaha! Its like a mouse looks in the mirror (that m-word again!) and finds its reflection to be that of a lion.

    Pakistan (regardless of what the intent was) just handed us a written, official statement that our very own RAW is as sinister (in a good ‘wicked’ way) as ISI!

    Thats some imagination.

  10. Congratulations to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Indian diplomats for a completely unnecessary same-side goal.

  11. This too shall pass. Our honorable MMS will emerge out of this as a decent but strong leader thanks to the ELM. Jai ho

  12. I am one of those guys who never knows what the government is doing to reciprocate acts of terror….dialogue and diplomacy is good, but someone’s got to show some b***s.

    So, despite what is largely viewed as a blunder, same-side goal, bad drafting, I am strangely comforted in knowing (almost for sure) that we are doing >>something<<. I am no expert to understand the consequences, but, as an individual, if what is implied in the joint statement about Indian support to the Balochis is true, then it makes me think better of ourselves.

    As for the Pakistani public, they will accept whatever the Army propaganda tells them, irrespective of the amount of truth in it – exhibit A is the attitude towards Taliban and swing in popular support for the campaign against them or the whacky conspiracy theories after 26/11 floating in Pakistan. I can’t help thinking that what we do (or don’t do) doesn’t really impact that. That’s another reason, why I do not feel so bad about the implied admission of our involvement in Balochistan – I am sure they are equally misinformed about the Baloch problem in the first place..

    And lastly, there must be something that made the PM and his FS accept the statement – something we don’t know…a lot of people don’t know. I cannot comprehend how such a huge deviation from our usual (official) stand can be termed as bad drafting – it is too lame an excuse. Something to appease the locals… But should we be really so ready to accept this as a ‘blunder’ at face value – for what it seems?

  13. Manmohan Singh is an ultra moron guy who simply doesn’t know how to act as a primeminister. What he did in 2004 by declaring that India & Pakistan are equal victims of terrorism ( Victim= Killer) & this time at Sharm el sheikh he surpassed all limits. Congresss govt is working overtime against India’s interest. But that’s not a wonder, afterall, their minority appeasing tactics makeup for all misrule & win them elections.

  14. “The acid test is the next Pakistan-originated terrorist attack: if there is one, Dr Singh must resign.”

    Whoever thinks that there isnt going to be another terrorist attack in India, sponsored, trained, executed, by and for the terrorist state of Pakistan is deluding themselves. Ultimately this will come to us in the form of a mushroom cloud sent by convenient ‘non state’ actors.

    Singh is beholden to the Italian Bahu and his new yamriki masters, the terrorist victims past and future, mean nothing to him.

    The only way to stop this is to bleed pakistan till it hurts. To relentlessly hit the Military-Jihadi-complex thru pakistan’s malcontents to hurt them, economically(we can print fake notes too, no?), politically(not 1 but 6 pakistans), and militarily.

    Like Isreal we cant ‘do a lebanon’ militarily because there are nukes involved, but covertly we can do much worse. If we dont we will be a Lebanon, with a foreign country basically controlling parts of our nation and a dhimmi sarkar unable and unwilling to do anything about it.

  15. Manmohan Singh’s judgement and comprehension of important matters are suspect. Even more sorry was the attempt to hide behing the “bad drafting” excuse. Well well, we know who was not being very diligent in Egypt. It’s amazing how soon he forgot the havoc wrecked by terrorists in Mumbai when he spent sleepless nights on at least one other occasion. He simply must go. Completely unsuited to be our leader.

    And that will pave the way for yuvaraj, which apparently seems to the grand Congress plan at the moment. Wheels seem to be in motion.

    And N Ram’s deliberate misinterpretation of the situation is galling to say the least.

  16. This is all part of a carefully scripted gameplan where MMS will quickly become the proverbial boiled frog.
    The said dish will then be cast aside for the main course .. drumroll… rahul baba.

    This will be our staple for the next 30 years.

  17. I have a question for you Nitin. Or rather questions. Would be great to have your views on them.

    From what I have seen and read, there are multiple spins being put on the ‘situation’ we have here. But there are 3 prominent interpretations being given. While I am not absolutely certain of the first two, the third one is without a doubt a definite implication of this ‘joint statement’.

    1. Manmohan Singh’s view: The inclusion of Balochistan in the ‘joint statement’ ensures that whenever they raise the issue of Kashmir down the line (which is a certainty), we have the opportunity and the ‘reciprocal’ ‘right’ to raise the issue of Balochistan. In fact it doesn’t even have to be reciprocal now. This statement ensures the right to make unilateral declarations from our side.

    The problem with the this view is that why was internationalisation of the Balochistan freedom struggle necessary? Sure, the intentions are understandable but how does that stop the venom of terrorism which Pakistan spews at us? Why was it necessary NOW? Was Manmohan thinking that the Pakistan government would not raise the Kashmir issue because of our ability to raise the Balochistan issue and also due to this inability to raise the Kashmir issue without they would shut down the terrorist factory they have there? But then again, did we really need a ‘joint statement’ to simply RAISE an issue regarding Balochistan?

    2. Mainstream view: This is the view doing the rounds as you can see from the comments posted here. That the UPA government has vertitably recognized
    a. the ‘possibility’ of there being rogue elements in RAW
    b. that the Indian government is not always in control of their own security agencies.
    c. that India ‘might’ have something to do with the freedom struggle in Pakistan.

    I don’t think that I will raise any questions over this interpretation here. That has been done in abundant fashion in the mainstream media.

    3. Scholarly view(?): I came across this view on the blog of noted security expert, B. Raman. What he says is indisputable. The VERY INCLUSION of Balochistan in the ‘joint statement’ (even if India had not given any undertakings or not) now DELEGITIMIZES the freedom struggle there! India by being party to this statement has recognized that the Baloch freedom struggle is not really such. Instead they are terrorists. So, keeping things in perspective, wouldn’t this annihilate the Manmohan Singh theory? How can one internationalise the issue when they think of it as a terrorist movement and NOT a freedom struggle?

    Would be great if you could comment on the abovementioned views. Thanks.

    P.S. No offense to the aged, but I think this country deserves more dynamic and younger people at the policy making level. Me and dare I say millions of Indians have no confidence in thse septugenarians that have NO connection with the people they govern. Especially that failure of an NSA, M.K. Narayanan.

  18. “MK Rasgotra’s defence of Manmohan Singh makes good points”


    That we can’t do much with Balochistan anyway due to our good neighbourly decency and so let’s abandon it? Better yet, let’s declare them terrorists? Instead of tinkering your policy and adapting it to make sure that Balochistan remains a thorn in the Pakistani flesh?

    Pakistan has initiated action against the culprit? Really? How so? By letting Hafeez go free? And just because our judicial system happens to be ill-suited to meet the needs of our litigous society, that is taken a JUSTIFICATION of going slow on taking action against the murderers who hatched 26/11? Howcome the judicial processes speed up when action is demanded by the US? What happens there?

    Ummm. Nitin. Please re-read the article.

  19. Arvind,

    Jihad logic states that no matter how irrational and self-destructive an act may be, it is divine if a mullah has sanctioned it. Mullah decree can miraculously convert an obvious defeat to victory.
    Jihad logic makes tat,tat,tat irrelevant. Palestine anyone?

  20. @Vickey Vice

    “Jihad logic states that no matter how irrational and self-destructive an act may be, it is divine if a mullah has sanctioned it.”

    Maybe true. But “jehadis” are only a tool, their handlers aka Pak Army and ISI are pretty smart tactically (though strategically don’t underestimate their ability to score same-side goals like Bangladeshi genocide and Kargil War where they were forced to retreat by India). So you have to hit back at these handlers at least covertly. They should feel the pain. Otherwise terrorism is only gonna increase because Pak will escalate more and more knowing its impunity. For all their bluster, 90000 Pak soldiers surrendered shamelessly in Bangladesh. So I think looking at the whole Pak population not to say the Pak Army and ISI as somehow “motivated jehadis” who will come and destroy you no matter what u do is utterly simplistic and naive IMHO. And please let’s not bring in Palestine here. There are lots of differences in the 2 scenarios.

  21. Buffoons! how difficult it is for Pakistan to stage a terror attack and pretend helping avert it??

    Bloody corrupt indians don’t get it

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