A former intelligence official and member of the two-man R.D. Pradhan committee which probed the police response to the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai has said the resumption of dialogue with Pakistan will help marginalise the terrorists responsible for the incident and is the only way to contribute to peace in the region.

In a statement to a Track-II India-Pakistan meeting convened in Delhi last week by the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation, V. Balachandran, formerly a special secretary in the Research & Analysis Wing, said, India must be mature rather than “prickly” in its diplomacy. Reiterating an assessment he made in 2004 that the “security-oriented containment strategy” of Pakistan had failed to deter terrorist incidents, Mr. Balachandran said that 26/11 had not changed the situation.

The answer, he said, lay in New Delhi pushing for the creation of a “peace constituency” by encouraging trade and people-to-people contact, especially of journalists, sportspersons, artists, writers, lawyers, human rights activists, film stars and traders. India should also avoid over-reacting to insignificant pronouncements from across the border and “rein in rabid politicians and ‘security specialist’ hawks” whose statements tend to challenge the integrity of Pakistan.

“Any Indian unilateral measure against Pakistan will only hurt a segment of peace-loving Pakistani population, which is not desirable for long-lasting peace. It will also hurt India… Only a sustained India-Pakistan dialogue will contribute to South Asian peace. It will also help in marginalising jihadi and fundamentalist elements who are supporting each other in both countries and elsewhere.”

Mr. Balachandran said it was quite clear the Mumbai attacks were planned by the Lashkar-e-Taiba leadership in Pakistan. “The Indian public is, however, quite convinced that the ordinary citizens and intelligentsia in Pakistan are not involved in this. It is only a small misguided group, perhaps with official or semi-official patronage that is waging this terrorist war against India.”

While Islamabad must do more to put down terrorist activities against India, Delhi’s policy must be based on the fact that Pakistan’s “power brokers”, like the army, do not stand to gain by peace, he said. “It is the majority middle class, intelligentsia and divided families who suffer the maximum by strained relations… We need to cultivate this segment by unilateral concessions if necessary by way of visas, facilities for medical and technical education, cultural, sports and film delegations etc.” He added that the “paranoia of our security services that this would facilitate infiltration of subversives needs to be ridiculed as they are already cross over in droves”.