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Is Indian PM Recalibrating Pakistan Policy?
|by Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle|
India’s Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has been frequently accused of being soft towards Pakistan and being overly eager to talk with Islamabad without obtaining reciprocal gains particularly on the counter terrorism front. In the wake of Bin Laden killing and terrorist attacks on Pakistan Naval air base in Karachi for the first time there are indications that Dr Man Mohan Singh may be shifting tack and demanding more proof of Pakistan’s sincerity in dismantling terrorism infrastructure in that country. This may be bad news for those who had been cultivating hopes of a rapprochement for the diehard commitment of Dr Man Mohan Singh was their strongest strand.
It is evident that the safety and concerns of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons after the Mehran base attack may be one of the reasons for the shift, for the reality of an imploding Pakistan may have dawned on Dr Manmohan Singh. Replying to a question on his return air trip from Africa framed by the Prime Minister’s media managers as, “On recent attack in Pakistan and need to re-calibrate our Pakistan policy”, he is said to have stated, “And I hope that Pakistan will also recognise that this monster of terrorism which they unleashed at one time, is hurting them as much as it can hurt our country. And it is in this background that we have to look at our relations with Pakistan”.
The statement by the Minister of Home Affairs on support by Pakistan to terrorist groups who are operating in that country underlined India’s initial position on Bin Laden killing in Abottabad. The Indian Prime Minister was far more circumspect and focused on talks despite the same on hopes that this would veer Pakistani side to dismantle the terror infrastructure against India.
The debate in New Delhi on the continuance of talks with the Pakistani government after the Osama incident has engaged the strategic space over a period. While the PM and his supporters want to continue, the main opposition party the BJP asked Dr Manmohan Singh to have a rethink on the government’s policy of continuing dialogue with Pakistan in view of the killing of Osama bin Laden. The BJP however only cautioned the Prime Minister and not directly stated that it wants to stop engagement per se. The Congress on the other hand is supporting the Prime Minister despite some of the key ministers including the Home Minister targeting Pakistan for not doing enough. Indo Pakistan talks would therefore go slow as the momentum that was gained after Mohali may come down.
The government could have taken a softer stand and like the Chinese attempted to sympathise with Pakistan. This would have no doubt paid rich dividends in improving relations but domestically would not be acceptable particularly so with the Indian media highlighting the trial of David Coleman Headley, the American citizen who provided reconnaissance inputs on various terror sites in Mumbai to the ISI.
The tensions between India and Pakistan in the recent past after the killing of Osama and statements by some Indian military leaders being taken amiss in Rawalpindi and the need to ensure adequate security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal may therefore prevent agreement involving the militaries in the near future. The Prime Minister is also likely to be more cautious in sponsoring Pakistan’s case in the days ahead, for the reality of an unstable if not failing Pakistan may have dawned on Dr Manmohan Singh as well.
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