Indo Pakistan relations are forever mired in the mutual suspicion of policy makers, cynicism of analysts and antipathy of intelligence operatives. This was more than evident during the debate that ensued following the Havana Declaration establishing an Indo Pakistan Joint Counter Terrorism Mechanism. What irked many was equating terrorism in Pakistan with that in India, which appears to have been a tactical palliative to assuage Islamabad. The roots of terrorism in Pakistan are in tribalism and communal sectarianism unlike in India where perceived grievances have been fanned by support particularly monetary from across the border. A check on the flow of money to many militant protagonists in Srinagar, would see drying up of political underpinnings of the Kashmiri agitation.
The Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistani President have over the past few months been talking of imparting creativity to the bureaucratic stasis in which the Indo Pakistan dialogue process had fallen lately. Thus an out of the box solution was more than expected. Proving the critiques wrong however will be least of the problems that now faces the establishments on both sides as they grapple with the reality of making the seeming grandstanding in Havana work. Given the trajectory of Indo Pakistan relations post Operation Parakram, however there is much reason for hope. Softer borders, assertions in a Lahore court that Hafeez Saeed, the Lashkar chief was putting relations with a neighboring country in a jeopardy, possibilities of intra country banking if not implementation of SAFTA are all indications of the willingness of both sides for a glasnost if not a perestroika.
The Joint Terrorism Mechanism can act as a catalyst for such a restructuring by veering away Pakistan from its strategy of deniability of terror. A major gain achieved by India so far has been to focus the discussion on Terrorism rather than on Kashmir. To convert polemics into pragmatic policies, procedures and mechanisms needs a vast shift in attitudes. The luxury of Commissioners of police raising a finger at Islamabad would have to be given up for a more credible presentation of proof without causing public embarrassment to the establishment across the border, thereby bringing more civility in the relationship as well.
Setting up an organization for interaction and communication channels would be one of the first issues needing resolution. In the case of a dispute on the borders the hot line between the director generals of military operations acts as a very valuable link for exchange of information between armies on both sides. Unlike the Armed Forces, there is no central headquarters of the police which can coordinate the joint terror dialogue. The diffused nature of turfs between the Ministry of Home and External Affairs will also pose a problem. The DGMO hot line is one option which may work, given that the Army controls the uniformed forces in Pakistan, but the same may not be true in Delhi.
Intelligence sharing rather than investigations should be next in priority. Inter agency rivalry between external and internal intelligence organizations needs to be exploited for this purpose, which will overcome apprehensions of both sides about ISI and RAW. Pakistan’s growing interests of controlling hydra headed monsters as the Jamaat ud Dawa which after the Earthquake in Kashmir last year is seen to assume the mantle of Hezbollah in Lebanon needs to be played up to undermine its support to these organizations. Open discussions at the political and police level will have an impact as the Afghan example is denoting, where the NATO commander has not hesitated in discussing the role of ISI directly with Islamabad.
Periodic review of cases is important and the mechanism would have to address the issue of frequency. Selection of personnel to man the joint organization will be crucial to its success. The wet blankets and paranoids are best left to man the rear guard and exceptional officers with adroit skills in negotiations and a positive belief in the peace process can take forward the vision spelt out in Havana. For India, the bottom line remains reining in of the ISI, which will have spin offs for Pakistan as well, for despite having a comparatively low 17 percent population below the poverty line, it faces the ignominy of being amongst the first ten possible failed states in the World, an ill deserved penalty, but an unintended consequence of its hyper active intelligence arm.