By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent
NEW DELHI: Though India retains its stand on involvement of Pakistan-based elements in Mumbai-terror strikes, of late there has been slight change in the diplomatically aggressive stance adopted by it earlier against Pakistan. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh strongly criticized Pakistan while addressing a daylong conference of Chief Ministers on Internal Security (January 6). During his inaugural address, Singh referred to Pakistan at least nine times. â€œA holistic approach to our security concerns is definitely called for,â€ Singh emphasized. â€œOur problems are compounded by the fact that we have a highly unpredictable and uncertain security environment in our immediate neighborhood,â€ he said. Referring to Mumbai terror case, he described Pakistanâ€™s â€œresponsesâ€ to â€œvarious demarchesâ€ from India as suggestive of it acting in an â€œirresponsible fashion.â€ Describing terrorism as the most â€œserious threatâ€ faced by India, Singh divided it into three categories: â€œterrorism, left-wing terrorism and insurgency in the northeast.â€ â€œLeft wing extremism is primarily indigenous and home-grown,â€ Singh said. He blamed neighboring countries, â€œmainly Pakistanâ€ for terrorism and insurgency in northeast.
â€œThe terrorist attack in Mumbai in November last year was clearly carried out by a Pakistan-based outfit, the Lashkar-e-Taibaâ€ with â€œsupport of some official agencies in Pakistan,â€ Singh said. He also blamed Pakistan for â€œwhipping up war hysteria.â€ Giving stress to implementing the policy of â€œZero tolerance of terrorism with total commitment,â€ Singh said: â€œWe must convince the world community that States that use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy, must be isolated and compelled to abandon such tactics.â€
India apparently was (and perhaps still is) counting on securing influence of United States and other friendly countries to pressurize Pakistan in taking action on the dossier of evidence Delhi has given to Islamabad regarding the Mumbai-case. Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon handed over evidence to Pakistani envoy Shahid Malik (January 5). The Indian envoy simultaneously handed over the evidence to Pakistan Foreign Office in Islamabad. â€œWe have handed over to Pakistan evidence of the links with elements in Pakistan of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai on 26th November, 2008,â€ India External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement. Describing the Mumbai-case as â€œan unpardonable crime,â€ Mukherjee stated that India is briefing all its â€œfriendly countriesâ€ on it. â€œI have written to my counterparts around the world giving them details of the events in Mumbai and describing in some detail the progress that we have made in our investigations and the evidence that we have collected,â€ he stated.
Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram was subsequently scheduled to leave for US in a few days time to convince Washington about Pakistanâ€™s role in Mumbai-strikes. The change in Indiaâ€™s approach in building up pressure against Pakistan at the diplomatic level is suggested by postponement of Chidambaramâ€™s visit. â€œBalancing everything, it was decided three days ago that I stay back,â€ Chidambaram said (January 9). The decision to cancel Chidambaram may have been partly shaped by India facing internal problem over strike in petroleum sector, by the truckers and also the Satyam-fraud case. Besides, with the White House heading for a major change, criticism was voiced in various circles on what did Chidambaram expect to gain from his Washington-trip.
The decision on Chidambaram not heading for US over Mumbai case cannot be de-linked from the subtle but definite shift in aggressive posture adopted earlier by the government. India has come out more assertively than before (since the Mumbai case) in ruling out any military strike against Pakistan over Mumbai case. Rejecting option of India taking any â€œIsrael-typeâ€ action against Pakistan over Mumbai terror strikes, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said: â€œI do not agree to that. Because this is totally wrong. The situation is not at all comparable.â€ â€œI have not gone and occupied any (of) Pakistanâ€™s land which Israel has done (in Palestine). So, how can the situation be comparable,â€ he said during a television interview (January 10).
Suggesting that India is keen on exercising its diplomatic options rather than reach the war-stage, Mukherjee said: â€œWe have not reached the end of the road.â€ â€œWhen I say all options are open, all options are open. There is no need of picking up option a, option b, option c, option d. No need of that. I am not responding to that. What I am responding to is options are open.â€ The options being considered by India at present are a response from Pakistan on â€œevidenceâ€ given by India regarding Mumbai-case. â€œWe have given them (Pakistan). We expect them to act on it. If they do not act on it, then what follow up steps we will take and in what space of time it will take place, future course will decide,â€ Mukherjee said.
Amid the backdrop of criticism voiced against too many verbal missiles being fired in the subcontinent over the Mumbai-issue, the change in Indian governmentâ€™s approach isnâ€™t surprising. The government has no option but to tone down its aggressive posture. Besides, United States seems to believe that New Delhi should give some time to Islamabad to act on the evidence given to it. This is suggested by comments made by US envoy to India David C. Mulford over the past week. Regarding Pakistanâ€™s approach towards â€œevidenceâ€ presented by India, he said: â€œYou have, after all, a situation where there is a civilian government, a very strong military, a very strong intelligence agency and a media and other players. And I think you have to take a view that it is going to take little time to percolate to see what really is the outcome.â€ On how long should India should wait for Pakistan to respond, he replied: â€œIt is not a question of time, although time is important, because to get into a situation where so much time passes, it makes them look uncooperative.â€ Describing it as a difficult task for Pakistan, he said: â€œSo, frankly I think it is going to take time, it is not going to be easy, and it is not only going to take time and patience but some considerable restraint on the one hand and a continuing willingness to try to cooperate on the other.â€