‘India does not want to play into the hands of terrorists by shunning dialogue.'
In a telling commentary on the dilemmas faced by New Delhi in dealing with Pakistan especially when a civilian establishment is at the helm of affairs in Islamabad, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon told U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill in February 2010: “We are dealing with many Pakistans, so we need to run many Pakistan policies at the same time.”
It is a reflection of one of India's constant problems in doing business with a civilian government given the supremacy of the Pakistan military, particularly on matters related to defence and foreign affairs.
India's stated position vis-à-vis Pakistan is that New Delhi would deal with ‘whoever' is in power. However, when there is a government headed by a civilian politician in place, pragmatism dictates that New Delhi factor into its policy the inclinations of the military and its powerful wing, the Inter-Services Intelligence.
Mr. Menon's interaction with Ms. McCaskill on India-Pakistan relations brings out India's constant worry over whether or not the Pakistan establishment and the military are on the same page. In simple words, even assuming the political establishment has the best of intentions, whether it is in a position to deliver on its promises on the Indian concerns.
A cable from New Delhi dated February 25, 2010 (250737: confidential) sent by U.S. Ambassador Tim Roemer quoted Mr. Menon outlining the rationale behind the Indian decision to resume the composite dialogue with Pakistan after the December 2001 Parliament attack.
He reminded that New Delhi restarted the dialogue on the basis of former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's assurance that India would not be targeted by terrorists as long as the talks continued.
“This dialogue process entered into a pause in 2007 at Musharraf's request when he was faced with difficult domestic challenges, which ultimately led to his ouster.”
Mr. Menon noted that in India's long history of dealing with terrorism “most attacks lead back to Pakistan,” but he stressed that even after the Mumbai attacks India did not sever trade or travel ties with Pakistan because these elements of the relationship were important to achieving eventual peace with Pakistan.
“As a true democracy, public opinion defined the limits of India's forebearance, but Menon stressed that India did not wish to play into the hands of the terrorists by shunning dialogue,” the cable said.
“Since then, India endured serial bombing attacks throughout 2008, two attacks on its embassy in Kabul (one he attributed to the Haqqani Network and the other to Lashkar-e-Tayiba), and then the November 26, 2008 attacks in Mumbai, known as 26/11.” It was in 2008 that the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) led by Asif Ali Zardari took the reins of power.
The issue of Pakistani soil being used by militant outfits to target India figures prominently in a series of conversations between the Pakistan and American establishments prior to and after 2008. The stock response from the Pakistan side every time the issue came up was that terror camps targeted at India were a thing of the past.
However, the Indian government not only remained sceptical about Pakistan's claims but also told the American interlocutors in categorical terms that Islamabad had not only not given up terror as an instrument of its foreign policy but also it was incapable of doing so.
Musharraf on Kashmir
In a candid confession to the Americans in May 2008, President Pervez Musharraf conceded that successive governments had turned a “blind eye to Kashmir terror training camps” which have since been shut down.
A series of American cables sent from Islamabad and New Delhi show that the civilian government in Pakistan led by Mr. Zardari had complained to the Americans that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was unaware of what it took to “change the mind-set of Pakistan's establishment,” given Pakistan's short history of fragile democratic regimes toppled by the military.
In a meeting with U.S. National Security Adviser James L. Jones in June 2009, Mr. Zardari grumbled that Dr. Singh was unaware what it took to change the “mindset of Pakistani establishment.”
A cable on the meeting from Islamabad dated June 30, 2009 (214563: secret), sent under the name of Ambassador Anne W. Patterson, quoted Mr. Zardari as telling Mr. Jones that “Singh is an excellent economist,” but he was not convinced whether the Indian Prime Minister understood the constraints under which he was operating.
“Helping Singh to understand them was of import, hinted Zardari. NSC Senior Director Don Camp said the Indian perspective was to question GOP (Government of Pakistan) activism and to ask what it had done to quash terrorist organizations.”
A cable dated May 28, 2008 (155753: confidential), sent under the name of Ms. Patterson on the meeting between Gen. Musharraf and Senator Russ Feingold two days earlier, detailed their conversation centred on the extremist Kashmir groups.
In response to a question by Mr. Feingold on whether he believed that Kashmir-based extremist groups were aligning themselves with al-Qaeda, Gen. Musharraf admitted that the Government of Pakistan had turned a blind eye to indigenous Kashmiri groups in the past but were now firmly committed to a political dialogue with India.
Gen. Musharraf in his meeting with Mr. Feingold had contended that he considered himself a target of the “remnants of the Kashmir terror groups” whose terror camps on Pakistan soil were closed down.
“The time is ripe for resolution of the Kashmir issue, Musharraf concluded, asking that the U.S. put more pressure on India to negotiate,” the cable said.
The Pakistan Cables are being shared by The Hindu with NDTV in India and Dawn in Pakistan.
The article has been corrected for a factual error.