Conflict & Justice

India-Pakistan talks: Accuse, accuse, accuse, deny, deny, deny


Pakistan Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani gestures after arriving at the IGI airport in New Delhi on July 3, 2012. Foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan will meet in New Delhi when talks have been undermined by political flux in Pakistan and renewed tensions over the investigations in the 2008 Mumbai attack. Indian officials said the country's Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai will hold the second round of peace talks with his Pakistani counterpart Jalil Abbas Jilani with the sole aim of keeping the "dialogue process on track."

As Pakistan's foreign secretary arrives in New Delhi for yet another round of high level talks, this time for the sole purpose of keeping the "dialogue" on track, it looks more and more as though the two nations have nothing to talk about.

This week's discussion will be dominated by the supposed revelations of captured terror suspect Abu Jundal, aka Zabiuddin Ansari, who has reportedly told his Indian interrogators that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency was directly involved in coordinating the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai.  Jundal/Ansari knows this, according to interrogation-room leaks, because he was sitting in the "control room" in Karachi from where the ISI officers and members of Lashkar-e-Taiba issued instructions to the attackers by telephone.  Moreover, he taught them Hindi in Pakistan to help them blend in before the attack.

According to CNN/IBN:

"Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai will forcefully raise the role of Pakistani state agencies in helping terror group Lashkar-e-Toiba carry out the November 2008 attack on Mumbai. Mathai will also focus on several other issues, including nuclear confidence building measures and India's demand to free Sarabjit Singh during his interaction with Pakistani Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani."

But as the public sparring over these allegations has indicated, this "dialogue" is going to take a familiar form for India-Pakistan negotiations: Accuse, accuse, accuse, deny, deny, deny.  India plans to hand over what its officials believe is a damning dossier of evidence. But even if they had live footage of Ansari eating kebabs with the head of the ISI, convicted Mumbai terrorist Ajmal Kasab and Osama bin Laden himself, and an audio recording of the lot of them planning the Mumbai assault, nobody would acknowledge it as a smoking gun.

Bottom line: There is absolutely zero chance that Islamabad will take any action based on the evidence that India is collecting -- even if New Delhi takes the more prudent path and waits to present it in a fully considered and vetted package after the interrogation and investigation of Ansari / Jundal's claims is completed.  (It's not clear Islamabad could actually do anything, even if we accept that they might desire to).

If anything, all that is at stake is the public relations battle (for the international audience), in which India is forever concerned with making sure that it appears the rational, peace-seeking partner in this tired dance.  And, quite frankly, there's no point to that either. The days when Pakistan could confuse the issue of cross-border terrorism with insistence that it is the wronged party in Kashmir are over. And even though Hillary Clinton was forced to apologize for accidental-on-purpose drone strikes to get Pakistan to reopen NATO supply routes into Afghanistan, the writing is on the wall as far as where Washington's thoughts are headed on the US-Islamabad-New Delhi triangle.

As such, this was a perfect opportunity for India to cancel their invitation.

They may say talking is good. But it's pointless and counterproductive to negotiate for negotiations' sake, or simply to keep up appearances for other countries that are needlessly apprehensive about a full-scale shooting war.