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Like the Italian marines, let's get back Dawood too

Mumbai (2013-03-25): All it took was for the Indian Prime Minister to thunder (well almost) in Parliament that “there will be consequences” unless Italy returns the two marines charged with the murder of two Kerala fishermen, that the signal went out to the European nation that India means business. That and some frenzied diplomatic activity. Rome’s unbecoming decision to go back on its word given to the Indian Supreme Court was a huge embarrassment for the Congress-led UPA government and a violation of every diplomatic treatise.  The marines arrived before the deadline and though they may not be housed in the Tihar jail (where rape undertrials commit suicide) or in the Yerawada prison (where Sanjay Dutt might soon be imprisoned), the fact is that they are back and will be tried in an Indian court.

For all the charge of being lily-livered, the government did manage to salvage the situation via diplomatic channels. A visibly chuffed Minister of External Affairs Salman Khursheed said, “I have repeatedly said that you should not write off diplomacy too soon... So at last I can say that diplomacy continues to work when everybody else thinks that everything is lost and please give diplomacy a little more chance to do things that are important for our country.”

 If some muscle flexing by the Indian government can get back two marines from Italy accused of killing two Kerala fishermen, why is it incapable of similarly coercing Pakistan of handing over Dawood Ibrahim and others accused of mass murdering Indians? Why is it that Italy agreed even though the European Union threw the book at us about Vienna Convention? And yet we coerced Italy to back down. If diplomacy is that persuasive and effective in achieving national security goals, why is it so helpless and weak in dealing with Pakistan?

To invoke Indira Gandhi’s memorable phrase, diplomacy fails with Pakistan because “you can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.” Pakistan does not operate like a normal, responsible state. It is a state that has openly admitted to sponsoring terrorism. In 2009, President Asif Ali Zardari said, “Let us be truthful to ourselves and make a candid admission of the realities… the terrorists of today were the heroes of yesteryears until 9/11 occurred and they began to haunt us as well.” He further added that the terror groups were deliberately “created and nurtured”

as a policy to achieve short-term tactical objectives. And these were to fight its proxy war in Kashmir and to attain ‘Strategic Depth’ in Afghanistan. In 2010, General Musharraf boasted in an interview that militant groups “were indeed formed” in part because of the international community’s “apathy” over the Kashmir dispute. He added, “It is the right of any country to promote its own interests when India is not prepared to discuss Kashmir at the United Nations and resolve the dispute in a peaceful manner.” So, here are two Pakistani heads of state who have no hesitation in admitting that terror outfits have been and are an extension of their country’s national security apparatus.

The way civilised governments operate is that they exhaust all diplomatic options before they choose coercive options. Negotiation and conciliation is part of this engagement. Pakistan too engages with us. But here is the twist. While it uses the regular diplomatic channels for communication and discussing resolution of contentious issues, it also has a parallel channel working against India. This is the real Track-2: the non-state actors who are created and nurtured with sumptuous military, financial, political and logistical support. They receive weapons training, sanctuary and protection from the Pakistani establishment.

Many of them are given diplomatic legitimacy and hosted openly in seminars and conferences. Pakistan's diplomats AND the real Track-2 thumb their noses at India because they know that we, due to our liberal and democratic traditions, will not pay back in the same coin. The argumentative Indian will critique endlessly. Secure with this assurance, terror groups in Pakistan and their sponsors in the establishment continue to hurt India.

Even a suggestion on exercising coercive options makes many Indian commentators uncomfortable. Governments are cautious by nature. Articles and TV panel discussions harping on the morality of statecraft lead the government to maintain the status quo and even employ counter terror measures in the prism of morality. The more amplified such voices are in Delhi, the lesser the chances of coercive options being even considered by the government. And lesser the chances of Dawood Ibrahim being returned to India to face a trial like the Italian Marines.

© copyright midday

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I am the Editor News, at Asian News International (ANI), Indiaís leading Multimedia News Agency and the India Correspondent for Channel News Asia, a Singapore based broadcaster.
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