Test of "Pakistan’s intentions"

Modi's restrained reaction to the terror attack leaves a window open for talks with Pakistan.

January 03, 2016 12:07 am | Updated November 17, 2021 05:07 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Adopting a restrained tone on the Pathankot attack, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today called the attackers “enemies of humanity who can’t stand to watch India develop”. The PM’s statement, which didn’t name any organisation directly, was significant as it leaves a window open for the dialogue process with Pakistan to continue that PM Modi gave a personal boost to with his visit to Lahore just a week before the attack.

Officials told The Hindu , India had expected “some attempts” to derail the talks, but it is now a “test of Pakistan’s intentions” on terror. “What is key is how Pakistan responds to the attack, and whether we see only bland denials of the past, or an offer to fight terror together.” The official indicated that in the past Pakistan had walked the talk briefly, when it cracked down on some operatives of the Hizbul Mujahideen in 2004 after then President Musharraf made his famous speech. “They only have to follow through on that commitment now.”

Officials also said much would depend on which way the evidence leads, and whether there was a direct link between the attackers to Pakistani intelligence, and whether the newly formed NSA mechanism could be used to track the perpetrators.

In its official statement condemning the “terrorist attack”, Pakistan too made it clear that it understands Pathankot operations would have a bearing on talks between the two countries, noting that it wished to “build on the goodwill created by the high level contacts between the two countries.”

Pakistan also said it was committed to “partner with India” to “completely eradicate the menace of terrorism”. The statement, that refers to the attack in India as a “terrorist attack” is rare, especially given its support for groups attacking India, and came even as the fighting was underway.

However, if the attack constitutes a test of Pakistan’s reactions, it is also the first test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s outreach to Pakistan. In the past, India has reacted differently to various incidents: from PM Vajpayee mobilising troops after the parliament attack in December 2000, to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pausing the talks after the Mumbai attacks in 2008 and calling them off altogether after the beheading of Indian soldiers in January 2013, when he said there can be no “business as usual” after the attack. However just 9 months later, he restarted talks, and went ahead with meeting Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in New York after the Samba camp attack in September 2013. “We will not allow the enemies of peace to derail dialogue,” Dr. Singh said at the time.

Will Mr. Modi’s latest peace pitch to Pakistan and statement on not allowing the “enemies of humanity to succeed” mean talks between between the foreign secretaries who are due to meet in Islamabad in mid January, are still on track? "This process cannot be destroyed due to one attack... Pakistan is our neighbour." Union minister Prakash Javadekar said to the press, indicating the dialogue wouldn’t be called off immediately but would be “focussed on terror”.

The Ministry of External Affairs itself stayed away from any comment, saying only during the attack that the “immediate focus” was on resolving the situation, adding that it would be “premature to say anything more at this point”.

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