I woke up to an irritating din of chanting grief on July 12, 2012, when this newspaper carried my article, titled, “The Parthasarathy doctrine”. By the time the day was out, about a 100 odd Indians of the 1.2 billion, including some with Pakistani names, had put up an orchestrated protest on the website of this publication finding fault with my not being aware of an Indian intelligence group, the NIA having met India’s witness of choice, David Headley (not Kasab, mind you). It meant zilch to the larger argument I was making in that article, but no, when you are orchestrated as a hired hand by a central authority, you do as you are ordained and conveniently overlook the niceties of any argument.
Seemingly, some sleuths from India visited Headley in April, 2011, which was then reported in The Hindu, in June, 2011, that I had missed taking note of. One, I don’t follow The Hindu; in fact, I don’t follow any Indian newspaper for their boringly similar reporting on Pakistan, which mirrors India’s official position. Heck, there are more Pakistanis fighting India’s cause in many more innovative ways than what the world’s largest democracy can put together in a resurgent progressive-liberalist mould. And two, India herself could only get to learn of the earth-breaking development two months later. By then, there were far more pressing things happening in Pakistan than to bother with a double, or a triple, agent, Headley.
Now to the more substantive, legal aspects of the Headley testimony: what is the value and health of the evidence that is gained when accompanied by the handlers of a witness, in their lair? Next, what value does handed-down evidence — one, which has not been directly acquired by the prosecution — hold? The Headley testimony was third-hand, since India handed the dossiers to Pakistan without having had any access to the witness. Is such evidence reliable enough to admit allegations of Pakistani state’s complicity — India’s pervasive gripe — when the witness is a proclaimed double agent? These are legal issues that need to be brought to the fore. India has balked at any attempt to flesh these out in a joint bid, instead hoping to dictate the process. As a consequence, we remain stagnated and stunted.
Mumbai was a horrible reality — the entire Pakistan has repeatedly come out loud on this — and the two players, Kasab and Ansari, are living proofs of it. In a very legal sense, they can lead us to others who connived to enact this monstrosity. Pakistani prosecutors should be enabled unfettered access to the prime witnesses and without accompanying minders please. With evidence — Kasab and Ansari — in India, convictions cannot take place in Pakistan. For convictions to take place, India will need to seriously shift modes from being confrontationist and prescriptive to being cooperative, if indeed closure is what India seeks.
But, does it? My postulation is she doesn’t. Cavalier playfulness instead rules the roost. Every evening the Indian media rises in a hate-Pakistan crescendo drowning out reason or logic to forge common ground. Those seeking peace are vilified and excommunicated (“Wagah candle-kissers”?). Track IIs put forth a constant set of people who remain too scared to venture beyond official refrain. The people of both nations wallow in the misrepresentative narratives that are happily left untreated in the name of popular public space, viciously setting forth degenerative entrenchment of resident animosity. The establishments on either side relish in this perpetual slander of the other in a most diabolic double-speak, even as they ostensibly work to cure what ails the relationship.
When Pakistan’s foreign secretary was en route to Delhi for a most crucial dialogue with his counterpart, it was Abu Jundal who dominated the airwaves, taking away any good that could be had from this interaction. India’s media, in cahoots with vested interests, preempts any possibility of progress with persistent vituperation aiming to defile Pakistan as a dysfunctional, terror-sponsoring nation in the eyes of the world; this, despite Pakistan paying in blood and treasure in this war on terror in proportions unmatched by any other country in the world. That does not bring closure any nearer in this India-Pakistan circus to the many ailments that bedevil this increasingly sickening relationship. The prognosis remains ominously dark under such trends.
The dialogue process continues without much success. If a few months back, there seemed to be progress on visa facilitation and Sir Creek, it now seems held back by India’s exploitatively evolving position on Siachen. Its silent but catastrophic impact is likely to seriously impair any progress in the foreseeable future, including progress attained till date on trade issues.
Bilateralism, the underlying approach to conflict-resolution between India and Pakistan as per the intent and design of the Simla Agreement, is increasingly losing relevance despite what US President Barack Obama indicated in his latest remarks. If bilateral engagement between the two remains as non-productive as it has in all these years, it is likely that Pakistan will go the route of international mediation, and it need not be through the US. If that is the route taken, expect water, Siachen, and Kashmir again before the world agencies as issues ready to threaten the uneasy peace. Pakistan had chosen to move beyond Kashmir, but the recent discovery of unmarked secret graves of thousands of Kashmiris is once again likely to figure as serious human rights violation needing immediate international attention. The debate on states sponsoring terrorism as a tool vis-a-vis states indulging directly in terrorism, as in the case of Syria and India, too, will heat up. Pakistan remains averse to India cherry-picking trade and visa facilitation, while rubbishing Pakistan’s priority on resolving Siachen and Sir Creek. There is an increasing likelihood that Pakistan will now pursue a packaged approach seeking simultaneous resolution of all four issues.
Without the necessary toleration to imagine two sides to a story, any story, India’s proclivity to prescribe and dictate resolutions to the vexing problems countervails the well-intended effort of the dialogue process. It may actually have regressed South Asia down the slippery slope to older paradigms.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2012.
More in OpinionCombating congestion