No significant change in Pakistani mindset
Far too much attention, in the policy
establishment, think tanks and media, is placed on quibbling details
of what particular political players say from day to day, and far too
little on what is actually happening on the ground.
This is the ‘seduction of process’ that
leads to persistent errors of assessment and response, and that has
characterised much of India’s orientation to Pakistan-backed terrorism.
President Zardari’s reported statement
describing the militants in J&K as ‘terrorists’ has inspired a storm
of interpretation in India.
This is despite the fact that the remark
was quickly denied by Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s information minister,
who declared: "The President has never called the legitimate struggle
of Kashmiris an expression of terrorism", and reiterated that Kashmir’s
"struggle for self-determination has been a consistent position
of the Pakistan People’s Party for the last 40 years."
Nevertheless, there are still some observers
in India who continue with unfounded speculation that Zardari’s statement
represents a radical policy shift in the Pakistani establishment.
The reality of Pakistan’s support to
terrorism on Indian (and, on the other side, Afghan) soil, as well as
to the ‘global jihad’ has been repeatedly demonstrated in terrorist
If violence, specifically, in J&K
has declined, this is essentially a consequence of international pressures
and of growing internal difficulties confronting Islamabad, which have
forced the establishment to calibrate the terrorist movement in that
state at a lower level.
A scrutiny of trends and circumstances
demonstrates that there is, in fact, no significant change in Pakistani
intent, though current capacities to sustain a high intensity terrorist
campaign have been eroded.
Pakistan continues to provide safe haven
and support to the principal terrorist groups operating in India, who
remain loyal to the Pakistani establishment.
This fact is in no way undermined by
the reality that Islamabad is itself an increasing target of terrorism
engineered by various groups that were created or supported by the ISI,
but that have now gone renegade.
There is, as yet, no evidence that Pakistan
has, in fact, abandoned the instrumentalisation of Islamist extremism
and terrorism as a tool of internal political management and external
(Published in Economic Times,
New Delhi, October 10, 2008)