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Tuhin A Sinha
Thursday , May 12, 2011 at 14 : 11

Dealing with an untrustworthy neighbour


While practical considerations may rule out India doing a Geronimo EKIA on the 26/11 kingpins, Dr. Singh's extra pacifist approach is nothing short of a bailout package for Pakistan

Even as the world finds it impossible to believe that Pakistan was unaware of Osama bin Laden living in the heart of its cantonment town of Abbottabad, Pakistan insists that it was as much an 'intelligence failure' on the part of U.S, as it was on Pakistan. Well, you often don't expect a culprit to own up instantly. But Pakistan's puerile defiance this time round is akin to a student getting caught cheating in his exams and then blaming the teacher for letting him continue the practice for so long.

Considering Pakistan's history of duplicity, its latest bluff on Osama doesn't come as any surprise to the Indian intelligentsia or establishment. What baffles one today is not Pakistan's defiance; one is more puzzled by India's meekness towards the situation. Let's face it: Dr. Singh's extra pacifist approach towards our neighbor has squandered away the diplomatic advantage that we had achieved with our tough, no-nonsense posturing in the immediate aftermath of 26/11. Today the Indian approach comes across as fickle and confused, providing enough reason even to the U.S for not taking us seriously.

There are two glaring blunders that have disadvantaged India hugely. Enough has been written and discussed about the first- the shame of Sharm el Sheikh, as we know it. I would thus delve upon the more recent goof-up: the vacuous cricket diplomacy initiative of Dr. Singh.

Simple common sense tells you that in a deadlock situation, the onus for breaking the ice is on the faltering party, not on the one that has held on to a principled stand.    By initiating cricket diplomacy at a time when Home Minister Chidambaram's persistent demand for action against 26/11 perpetrators was being ridiculed by Pakistan, Dr. Singh scored a self-goal. There are two reasons why Dr. Singh's initiative was dangerous. One, if another terror strike emanating from Pakistan had followed the cricket diplomacy, the Indian authorities this time round, would have had no face to censure Pakistan. Two, had Pakistan won the semi-final, they'd have sneaked into Mumbai once again, this time in full public view and with our PM applauding. It goes without saying that the situation would have been immensely distressing for the suffering families of the 26/11 ordeal.    

The ill-timed cricket diplomacy was fortunately decimated by two important developments which reiterated the futility of such an exercise. The first was 26/11 co-accused Tahawwur Rana admitting ISI's role in the terror strike and then the Osama fiasco. The question today is: why do we still need be beat around the bush when it comes to dealing with Pakistan?

The answer is obviously fraught in the dearth of practical options that we have.

In so far as Geronimo EKIA kind of offensive is concerned, let us be realistic in conceding that our geography does not support such adventurism. Our experiences with adventurism, first in 1962 and then in 1971 have been mixed. However, today the situation has changed drastically and military offensive should rightly remain the last resort. While practical considerations may rule out India carrying out an Osama-like offensive on the 26/11 kingpins, Dr. Singh's extra pacifist approach is nothing short of a bailout package for Pakistan.

Sadly, while we are otherwise perceived as a mature and responsible emerging global power, when it comes to Pakistan, as if on pattern, we first behave like cry babies and then suddenly arrogate ourselves the position of a generous big brother. Pakistan, of course, has remained consistent in its rogue avatar, which we conveniently overlook every time we get into the big brother mode. What we don't realize is that the pattern has become so predictable that the world has lost interest in anything that India and Pakistan do to each other.

The present situation demands a paradigm shift in our approach towards Pakistan. To start off, we need to remind ourselves that sustainable friendship is possible only between equals. It looks perverse when an emerging world power pursues engagement with a failed state, despite snubs. We must quickly forget cricket diplomacy to instead maneuver global pressure upon Pakistan, now that its duplicity on terror stands exposed yet again. However, that will need to be done intelligently- without Pakistan bagging disproportionate importance in the process. Our fight against 26/11 kingpins need not glorify Pakistan at every point.

We must utilize this opportunity to unleash a more spirited global leadership in fighting terror- an approach that befits our status internationally. A viable option could be propagating a new global group to combat terror, say T10. The member nations coming together on this platform should commit to seamless sharing of pre-emptive intelligence, military co-operation in nabbing culprits hiding in member countries, unprecedented access to sources of investigation and unhindered, prompt extradition of suspects, among other things. The idea is to take the fight against Pakistan sponsored terrorism beyond Pakistan and get the world on the same page on the issue. Yet let it be abundantly known that the initiative has been necessitated by an irresponsible nuclear power like Pakistan. The thing about naming someone repeatedly is that it gives the name an undeserved importance.

Dr. Singh's Pakistan policy ought to have more teeth and vision, which is possible only when we stop giving Pakistan disproportionate importance.


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More about Tuhin A Sinha

Tuhin A Sinha is among the best-selling authors in India, a columnist and a screenwriter. Starting in 2006 with his first book, That Thing Called Love, an unconventional romance set in a Mumbai monsoon, Tuhin has written five novels. They include The Captain (formerly 22 Yards), Of Love And Politics, The Edge of Desire and The Edge Of Power. Tuhin is acknowledged among the most prolific Indian writers with a maverick knack to experiment with new genres. While his first book was an offbeat romance, The Captain was a cricket thriller that explored the underbelly of modern cricket. Of Love And Politics was a political thriller. His last two books which comprise the Edge series can be called socio-political thrillers with a strong feminist skew. Tuhin is a screenwriter of several popular TV shows, the most noteworthy being Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai on Star Plus. Apart from his fiction novels and scripts, Tuhin is a keen political observer. His columns on Indian politics appear regularly in India’s leading dailies. Tuhin has a regular blog on ibnlive.com. He also appears frequently on news channels on discussions around politics and cricket.