There is something predictable about talks between countries being conducted in a “frank and constructive atmosphere”. Usually, it signifies a state of affairs in which neither side is willing to budge.
In the case of India and Pakistan, it can only mean one thing: utter denial, all around. Something along these lines occurred on Thursday when foreign secretaries of the two countries met in New Delhi. The recent deportation of Sayed Zabiuddin—also known as Abu Jundal—from Saudi Arabia and his arrest by Indian security agencies have unveiled one more layer of conspiracy, planning and execution of the 26/11 attacks.
The issue was raised in the meeting, and foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai said: “I emphasized that terrorism was the biggest threat to peace and security in the region and bringing the guilty to justice in the Mumbai terror attacks would be the biggest CBM (confidence-building measure) of all...the ongoing interrogation of Abu Jundal has now added urgency to the matter.”
In what is now a reflexive reaction, his Pakistani counterpart Jaleel Abbas Jilani, a seasoned diplomat and former deputy high commissioner to New Delhi, demanded “evidence” about Jundal’s involvement in the attacks and also offered a “joint investigation” in the matter. This is an old, much used, tactic by Islamabad.
Clearly, there is denial on both sides. India continues to believe that providing evidence to Pakistan will spur it into action; Pakistan, in turn, demands “more” evidence. The charade has been going on for more than three years now. India needs to realize the futility of this approach. Pakistan needs to understand that denying its hand, or that of its agencies and “non-state actors” operating from its territory, will win it no friends in India, leave alone normalized ties.
The problem in Islamabad is that no one—the civilian authorities and the army—wants to give up the single source of leverage they have against India: the use of terrorists as a tool of state policy. There is synergy between the two on the issue. The political class has managed to convince the electorate there that India harbours ill will towards it, and the army, in any case, has its corporate interests in maintaining the “Indian enemy” myth. Unless these links are broken, normalization of ties has a snowball’s chance in hell.
Indo-Pak talks: an exercise in dignified frivolity? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org