Terrorists should not be allowed to force us into talks either
After a terrorist attack on India in response to an Indian overture to resume dialogue with Pakistan, we often hear the argument that “terrorists should not be allowed a veto over the India-Pakistan peace process”. The assumption here is that the jihadi terrorists prefer a state of hostility and tension between the two countries, and that their objectives are different from those of the Pakistani government, which seeks peace. Ergo, New Delhi should announce that it will pursue “uninterrupted and uninterruptible” dialogue in order to frustrate the designs of the jihadis.
Now, there is some merit in signalling that terrorist attacks will not prevent the dialogue process, but for a different reason. A valid ground for continuing dialogue is if such a move will disincentivise the terrorists from attacking. Terrorists are likely to be so disincentivised if the assumption that their goal is to disrupt dialogue is valid. There is, however, little evidence for this.
Here’s an alternative assumption: that the jihadi groups are instruments of Pakistani policy, in a coordinated routine of good cop/bad cop. The military establishment uses the terrorists as “bad cops” so that New Delhi is pushed to engage and make concessions to the good cop, the Pakistani government. Under this assumption, a terrorist attack works to make New Delhi set aside previous Pakistani transgressions in the interests of the future, in order to “not allow the terrorists to succeed”.
This week’s Takshashila discussion document by Rohan Joshi and Pranay Kotasthane debunks the assumption that “terrorist groups are only loosely associated to some handlers in the Pakistan Army while a large section of the army wants peace with India”. Jihadi groups and the Pakistani military establishment are joined at the hip, and are against the existence of India. In the presence of clear links between the Pakistani army and the anti-India jihadi groups, the argument that the army favours dialogue while the jihadis don’t just doesn’t stand to reason. In the current case, Praveen Swami reports that the ISI revived the Jaish-e-Mohammed in the last few years.
So it is important not to pursue dialogue just because we assume that the jihadis are against it.
Related Link: What the Narendra Modi government ought to do about Pakistan in the light of the terrorist attack on Pathankot IAF base (in OPEN magazine).