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Joint Mechanism: Will it Work?

How do you construct a ‘joint mechanism’ for counter-terrorism with the principal sponsor and propagator of terrorism in South Asia, and perhaps, the world? Each new major terrorist attack generates a brief hysteria of investigation and analysis to fix responsibility on one of the now-familiar array of jihadi organisations operating in India – Lashkar, Jaish, Harkat, Hizb, etc. – all based in and operating from Pakistan. However, the central fact that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) is the principal terrorist organisation in South Asia, and that all these others are nothing more than its agents, has largely been brushed under the carpet. Many have been seduced by the invention, actively fanned by the Pakistani establishment (including General Musharraf), that some ‘renegade’ elements or retired ISI officials ‘may’ be involved in supporting terror. The truth is, the ISI is an integral part of the ruling military establishment, and its operations fall into a closely held chain of command that goes up to the Army Chief and President himself. There have, of course, been conspiracies against Musharraf – the December 2003 assassination attempts included – in which some military personnel were involved, but the sheer ruthlessness with which these were punished and the organisations sanitized demonstrate the integrity of this command. Within this structure, terrorist operations controlled by the ISI would have Musharraf’s implicit nod, and are part of a relentless national strategy which finds a parallel reflection in Afghanistan as well.

There are several practical obstructions to this ‘joint mechanism’, and these are already evident in the charges and counter-charges around the Indian ‘list of most-wanted’ and Pakistan’s demands to be included in the investigations into the Mumbai blasts. At this juncture, moreover, no ‘mechanism’ actually exists in terms of specifically designated institutions, structures and processes, and it is impossible to create a working system given the mutual suspicion and hostility and Pakistan’s continued support to terrorism.

The most charitable interpretation of the Indian decision to enter into this charade of a ‘joint mechanism’ is that this was a tactical decision intended to further expose Pakistan’s duplicity, but this could easily cut both ways.

(Published in Economic Times, New Delhi, October 9, 2006)





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