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India Should Immediately Resume Composite Dialogue with Terror-Struck Pakistan

Tuesday 14 April 2009, by CPI (ML) Liberation

March 27 was another fateful day for our western neighbour. As the US president was unveiling his new strategy to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda” and its allies in Pakistan, Pakistanis were cleaning up the debris of an explosion inside a mosque near the town of Jamrud in the Khyber agency region — an attack that killed some 50 Muslims offering prayers on Friday the jummabar and wounded dozens more. Only days before that, Pakistani Taliban fighters and their Afghan counterparts were distributing an agreement to bury their differences in order to counter the new American-led offensive. Incidentally, Pakistan’s security officials had recently concentrated forces in the Khyber region, and especially the Jamrud area, to fight militants attacking convoys carrying supplies for the NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The Jamrud explosion was preceded by another murderous suicide attack in Ameer Hamza Khan mosque in Dera Ismail Khan, the well-known attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore and another incident where Taliban militants shot dead three men in Pakistan’s restive northwest tribal belt after filming them confessing to spying for the United States. (Almost every week now, militants kidnap and kill tribesmen, accusing them of spying for the Pakistani government or US forces.) While leaders in Islamabad were forthright in their condemnation of the March 27 blast, Khyber administrator Tariq Hayat echoed the voice of popular masses when he called the terrorists « infidels » and "enemies of Pakistan, enemies of Islam”.

Within a couple of days after the killings in Jamrud, Taliban militants attacked and destroyed vehicles and offices loaded with supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan while another group of militants abducted 12 police officers in a pre-dawn swoop on a tribal police check post. The kidnapping took place after Pakistani security forces on Saturday arrested four Taliban insurgents and destroyed two suspected hideouts. And then came the sensational seizure of a police academy in the Manawan area on Lahore’s outskirts early Monday, highlighting once again the war between the terrorists and the pro-US Pakistani state. All along, American drone strikes in North West Pakistan, which clearly violate the country’s territorial sovereignty and bring grist to terrorist mills, continued with growing ferocity.

On the very next day after the Friday mosque attack, President Asif Ali Zardari renewed — for the umpteenth time — the request of early resumption of the composite dialogue process that was stalled at India’s instance after the terror attack on Mumbai. Once again, India turned it down. Instead, New Delhi welcomed the new US strategy to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan and sought a role in the US campaign as a “responsible power” with a stake in defeating extremism. And what was that strategy ? Under this new regional strategy in the « Af-Pak theatre, » President Obama promised a « surge » of troops into Afghanistan and also to send an additional 4,000 troops into Pakistan under cover of « training » recruits for the Afghan National Army. He also agreed to further enhance economic aid to Pakistan, but observers believe the carrots are likely to be more than cancelled out by the military stick he has chosen to wield.

It is easy to understand why the Congress- led government refuses to talk to a bleeding neighbour which is also a victim of terror attacks. With elections round the corner, it does not wish to give the BJP a handle to blame it for being soft towards Pakistan. Moreover, it does not wish to let go the opportunity to further harden the hard state and trample democracy on Indian soil on the pretext of fighting « Pakistani-inspired » terror. But the people of India cannot allow this to go on. It is necessary to understand that the US project is designed solely for regional military domination and resource extraction vis-à-vis its geopolitical rivals Russia and China. Afghanistan and Pakistan stand at a nexus of pipeline and trade routes between the Middle East, Russia, China and the Indian subcontinent, and US domination of these two countries together with strategic partnership with India would give it decisive influence over the entire region. But this is not our agenda, this is not in our national interest. We must pressure the government to dissociate our country from this imperialist game-plan and to try and sort out all our outstanding issues which Pakistan through bilateral negotiations.

Breakdown of dialogue only strengthens the hand of those elements in Pakistan’s multilayered ruling dispensation that are believed to be assisting the terrorists, while sustained engagement can go a long way in allaying each other’s concerns. It is a common fight against terror that the twin nation states in this subcontinent are engaged in, and despite all reservations we must fight it together.

CPI (ML) Liberation