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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 incidents.

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 power projection.

(Published in Economic Times, New Delhi, October 10, 2008)






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