India still willing to give benefit of doubt to Pakistan government

August 15th, 2008 - 8:10 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Pranay Sharma
New Delhi, Aug 15 (IANS) The series of terrorist attacks in different parts of the country and the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul last month notwithstanding, India is still willing to give the benefit of doubt to the ruling coalition in Pakistan. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made it clear in his Independence Day speech Friday that the attack in Kabul had cast a shadow on the ongoing peace process between India and Pakistan.

But he was clever in keeping the Pakistan People’s Party-led coalition government in Islamabad out of the attack by only implicating elements in the Pakistani establishment who were backing the terrorists to shatter the peace between the two neighbours.

“The recent blasts in our embassy in Kabul have cast a shadow over our efforts to normalize relations with Pakistan and to bring a lasting and honourable peace in our region,” Manmohan Singh said in his address to the nation.

The attack on July 7 had killed nearly 60 people, including an Indian brigadier, a serving officer of the Indian Foreign Service and scores of Afghan civilians.

Making it clear that he needed the cooperation and support of the Pakistani government in the effort to fight the terrorists, he added, “The terrorists and those who support them are enemies of the people of India and Pakistan, of friendship between the two countries and of peace in the region and the world.”

“We must defeat them,” he said.

His remarks reflect what had been the subject of debate in the establishment here for the past several months - almost from the time the PPP-led coalition won and formed the democratically elected government in Pakistan early this year.

Some sections in South Block are of the opinion that using ‘terror as a tool’ against India has become part of Pakistan’s foreign policy. They feel, the army, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and the government of the day, all play their part in making this policy workable.

“The time for meaningful engagement with Pakistan is perhaps over for this government. Because Pakistan is unlikely to resolve its internal political consolidation in the short run,” K.C. Singh, a former secretary in the ministry of external affairs who has dealt with the Pakistani establishment, told the IANS.

But there are others in the Indian establishment who are still willing to give the benefit of doubt to the Pakistani government. They are of the opinion that despite resistance from within the establishment, the ‘constituency for peace’ in Pakistan has been growing in the past few years. Therefore, India should continue to make the distinction between those who want to encourage terrorism against New Delhi and those who are for peace.

“I don’t think we have an option but to engage with the Pakistani government,” a senior official who did not wish to be quoted by name said.

“Despite some recent violations along the Line of Control, the ceasefire between our countries is still holding. If we stop engaging with Pakistan it could lead to the derailing the peace process and I don’t think that would serve our purpose better,” he added.

Officially Pakistan has not yet reacted, and a senior official of the Pakistani high commission in New Delhi expressed satisfaction at the prime minister’s speech.

“It was a very balanced and good speech; it was reconciliatory, not confrontationist and showed the respect he has for the government and people of Pakistan,” the diplomat, who did not want to be identified as he was not authorized to speak publicly on behalf of the mission, told the IANS.

Though, on the Kabul blast he made it clear that so far there was no clinching evidence to suggest that elements within Pakistan were behind the terrorist attacks. “We have told the Indians that we are willing to seriously address the issue-which in any case we are doing, if they provide us with the evidence,” the official added.

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