New Delhi should realise that it can’t do business with the impotent, flippant and tiresome characters in Islamabad.
Let’s face it: After Asif Ali Zardari was marginalised by the Pakistani military-jihadi complex through the device of the 26/11 attack on Mumbai there is no purpose—save ‘political rationality’—in talking to the motley bunch of slick political operators that pass off as the Pakistani government. Their lack of empowerment to make any foreign policy or security-related decisions is masked and matched by their proclivity to say outrageous things that might score points with the military-jihadi complex.
It’s not about ‘trust deficit’ as it is made out to be. If a shady character promises to sell you the New Delhi Airport’s Terminal 3, you will be wrong to think that the deal is doable if only the trust deficit—if shady character were somehow less shady—is reduced. Yet that is exactly what Dr Manmohan Singh’s government is doing. Forget dismantling terrorist networks, the Pakistani government can’t even file charges against Hafiz Mohammed Saeed in just one case of terrorism directed against India.
When the Pakistani delegation asks for a timeline for the resolution of Kashmir, Sir Creek and other boundary issues in return for a timeline for the prosecution of those accused in the 26/11 attacks, it shows how powerless its negotiators are. That they had to have a long break suggests that they had to consult people not in the same building.
That said, that Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, should repeatedly defend the Lashkar-e-Taiba shows that the problem goes beyond the Pakistani military-jihadi complex. When asked about India’s demand for action against the LeT chief in April, during the SAARC summit in Thimphu, he dismissed it as the “same old beaten track.” He did worse yesterday, by comparing Mr Saeed’s anti-India vitriol to the Indian home secretary’s comment that the ISI was responsible for 26/11. It is as if he is the foreign minister of the Lashkar-e-Taiba. [See Smita Prakash’s report]
New Delhi must communicate with the Pakistani centres of power: but its language, instruments and channels must change. People like Mr Qureshi are just so tiresome.