Sunday, January 18, 2009
Dodging the dossier
Jan 8th 2009 From The Economist print edition Exasperated with Pakistan, India tries international diplomacy—for now EVER since the attack on Mumbai in November that left over 170 people dead, India has thundered against Pakistan’s complicity in the atrocity. But this has produced neither a full Pakistani admission of responsibility nor the requested surrender of terrorist suspects to India. This week India stepped up its efforts. It released a dossier of evidence to Pakistan and other governments. And it sharpened its accusation against Pakistan’s government. More than simply ignoring or conniving at preparations for the attack, argued India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, some of its agencies must have been actively involved in an operation of such sophistication. The dossier includes the interrogation of the one surviving attacker, intercepted communications, and the evidence of their weaponry. Pakistan had insisted it had seen no evidence linking the government—or indeed, until this week, any Pakistani citizens—to an attack it blamed on “stateless actors”. And it suggests that India might be planning military reprisals. India has denied this, but Pakistan has moved troops from the Afghan border in readiness. Indian diplomats say the talk of a threat from India is a smokescreen to divert attention from Pakistan’s failure to tackle the real issue: its nurturing of terrorists. They do not spell out the implication of their analysis (though many private Indian commentators do): that if elements of the Pakistani army and government were involved in the attack, their intention was precisely to create friction with India. This would enable them to move troops from an unpopular war on the Afghan border. And it would reassert the dominant role of the army and its intelligence service over a notionally civilian government. This puts India in a bind. If it responds belligerently, it plays into Pakistan’s hands. But if it rules out military action its threats are toothless. Hence it has mounted a concerted diplomatic drive to persuade Pakistan’s allies—notably America and Britain—to put pressure on its government and army to roll up the terrorist networks. Pakistan will respond by emphasising the fragility of civilian rule; the army’s self-proclaimed role as a bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism; and its vital contribution to the West’s war in Afghanistan. In the past, these arguments have enabled Pakistan to withstand efforts to confront the terrorists. Now, however, public anger in India is such that if the government has nothing to show for its diplomatic blitzkrieg—or worse still, if there is another attack linked to Pakistan—it may be forced to bare its teeth after all.