Pakistan triumphs in India
The good cop-bad cop routine is a common practice that investigative and interrogating agencies adopt to break a suspect. This technique is often used by others — politicians and diplomats — to convey a message and deny it subsequently. Pakistan has perfected this to a fine art.
We saw evidence of this when Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s adviser on interior affairs, visited India a few days ago. The only thing was that this time, the affable and free-talking Malik was playing both roles with aplomb.
The Pakistani visitor was coming ostensibly to sign a liberalised visa agreement between India and Pakistan. Aware of the kind of statements he has been making in his own country about India in the past, it was not difficult to anticipate the kind of statements he could make. As good Indian hosts, we gave him that opportunity, he took it, sounded arrogant, made insensitive remarks at first and then pretended to back-track, claiming injured innocence.
Mr Malik was thus able to assert that Abu Jundal, deported from Saudi Arabia as he was wanted by the Indian authorities, was an Indian. Thus implying that the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks were not an act of the Pakistan state but non-state actors from India, Pakistan and the US. We should have known that Pakistan would continue forever to obfuscate and procrastinate on terrorism and on many other bilateral issues. As always, Mr Malik was evasive on Pakistan’s terror icon, “Mr” Hafiz Saeed, and that group, but promised to send a judicial commission to examine witnesses like Abu Jundal. Upon his return to Pakistan, Mr Malik also claimed that in his discussions with the Indian authorities he had taken up the issue of Indian interference in Balochistan.
Inevitably, our media picked up the controversial statements and while the visitor complained that the media was interested only in TRP ratings, actually he was loving it because, as usual, a visiting Pakistani politician, general or diplomat only says things here to be heard in his constituency or by his mentors back home. In this case it is not an elected constituency that Mr Malik was addressing but the khaki and Islamists, both of whom have to be kept happy.
A statement of assertion is one way of making oneself heard, but it is far better to create a controversy because then heated debate is sure to follow. So every time 26/11 is now mentioned, so will be Abu Jundal the “Indian”. The effectiveness of this ploy is Goebbelsian in a way. Mr Malik played it well and we fell for it. He gave us nothing and took away the triumph that 26/11 was a non-state conspiracy among malcontents from India, Pakistan and the US. With Ajmal Kasab dead, it is now the end of story, bar the shouting.
It was advantage Pakistan when we agreed that both India and Pakistan were victims of terrorism, forgetting that the only common factor was that both Pakistan and India were victims of Pakistani terrorism. This allows Pakistan to club the one-off Samjhauta Express with sustained terrorism from Pakistan. It was advantage Pakistan again when we agreed that terrorism would not affect bilateral talks. This has enabled Pakistan to talk of the alleged Indian involvement in Balochistan, deny that 26/11 was a Pakistan-sponsored attack and yet continue talks with India. More than anything else, the references Mr Malik made to various incidents in India, like the Babri Masjid demolition, reflects a certain mindset that exists in the ruling circles in Pakistan. He was definitely not batting on his own when fielding questions.
Our failure to anticipate the likely stance and behaviour of a government with whom relations have remained difficult is inexplicable. Mr Malik was representing Pakistan’s interests and not Indian interests and, by his book, he did it well, because we let him. Nevertheless, the anger and exasperation in India is justified and the only way to avoid such situations would be to stay away from insensitive neighbours as much as possible.
It may be worth recalling Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s antics during the visit of external affairs minister S.M. Krishna to Islamabad in July 2010 and the controversial press conference. Or, earlier in February 2010, when the visiting Pakistan foreign secretary dismissed the Indian dossier as being so much literature. In 2001 many of us saw Pervez Musharraf speak to a select gathering of very senior members of the Indian media in what was quite clearly a press conference by subterfuge and a scoop by some standards. It did precious little to improve bilateral relations. Things soured soon after that in Agra. My column of March 24, 2009, in this paper, which was a commentary on what Mr Musharraf said at one of the media events in New Delhi in 2009 was appropriately headlined: “The general spoke here to be heard in Pakistan.” Pakistani politicians have often used India as a platform for anti-India statements to score points at home. Our fetish for correct behaviour as gracious hosts and polite guests leads us into these awkward situations at home and abroad.
Unless, as the Pakistanis will tell you, this is a typical devilishly clever Indian ploy to make Pakistan look the spoiler, but actually the Indians wanted to create this situation by using the media. You cannot win either way.
The writer is a former head of the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency