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Subir Bhaumik
Date of Publish: 2016-02-13


Clear this policy confusion


The policy confusion over how to handle Pakistan and Nepal is beginning to impact on India's image in the neighborhood. For a country that aspires to be on the global high table ( UN Security Council) , the inconsistency and flipflop on how we handle our neighborhood is doing huge damage. We need to get over this policy confusion.  If this policy confusion persists over China and Myanmar as well, as it seems to be case now, this will have serious implications for Northeast.

Just after the attack on Pathankot, I had advocated a three pronged strategy to handle Pakistan  I had said it was important to keep the talks going with Nawaz Sharif and develop closer interaction with civil society, trade chambers, education and cultural personalities and facilitate student exchanges to undermine the army’s demonisation of India.  The second front of action was to bring huge pressure on the US to push Pak army –ISI to stop using terrorists against India .The third front was to revice our capability for striking back with non-state actors and fight proxy war with proxy war – back to former RAW chief A K Verma’s line of ‘three blasts in Karachi for one blast in Amritsar or Srinagar’.

It now seems NSA Ajit Doval has worked extensively on the second – pressurize US to not only push Pakistan on the terror issue but also get David Headley to cough up.  A day before 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks convict David Coleman Headley will depose in court, his confession has nailed Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence and Army's role in the attacks.  On the basis of National Investigation Agency's interrogation report available with this writer , Headley said 26/11 attacks were launched with Jamaat-ud-Dawa Hafiz Saeed's approval. He said attacks were executed with the help of ISI and the money was given for recce. He said in his confessions, apart from Mumbai ,   he had recced residence of the Vice President, India Gate and CBI office in the national capital.

Headley further said that ISI's major Iqbal and Sameer Ali were my handlers. He also said that LeT's Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi's handler was ISI brigadier Rivaz and added that ISI chief Shuja Pasha visited Lakhvi after his arrest, post-26/11 terror attacks.  It was a major major success for India in 26/11 case after Headley turned approver through efforts of NSA Ajit Doval.

Headley is the first one to depose before Indian court from foreign soil. Sources said Headley had initially refused to confess and after which Doval met US officials four months ago.  According to the sources Doval put pressure on US to make Headley turn approver.

The sources said that Headley's confession will help India isolate Pakistan completely.  But we need a proper strategy to make best use.

All this comes just a few days after US President Barack Obama sent a strong message out to Pakistan on terrorist groups operating from its soil and lauded India's efforts to reach out to its neighbour.

He had said, "Pakistan should de-legitimise, disrupt and dismantle terrorist networks on its soil. Both Modi and Sharif are advancing a dialogue on how to confront violent extremism and terrorism across the region. India can be an anchor of stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region."

Headley is currently serving 35 years in an American prison after being convicted of being involved in the planning and execution of the Mumbai terrorist attacks on November 26, 2008 in which 166 persons were killed.

My latest book ‘ Agartala Doctrine’ advocates appropriate response in the neighborhood – so if Pakistan behaves , like Bangladesh has under Sheikh Hasina, we must walk the extra mile to befriend them, but if it resorts to Mumbai or Pathankot type attacks, it is time we hit back at military targets inside Pakistan.

'Agartala Doctrine' is based on appropriate response , neither overkill nor complacency . It is opposed to both the American Monroe Doctrine of neighborhood dominance nor the Gujral doctrine of unilateral magnanimity. It has been developed on the basis of Tripura's long record of proactive action in the neighborhood . And much as it has space for reciprocating friendship ( a la Tripura's response to Hasina's overtures) by walking the extra mile , it also advocates strong covert action to neutralise security threats on lines of Tripura poilice's sustained transborder offensive against separatist bases in Bangladesh. between 2001-2004.

Translated into action in Pakistan, that would mean we need to engage Nawaz Sharif's government and Pakistan civil society, business chambers , cultural and educational circles. But we need to hugely pressurise the US to get the Pakistan army to turn off the terror tap and finally to recreate India's covert action capabilities .

Otherwise Rajnath's 'befitting reply ' to Pathankot will remnain a hollow threat , a poor oft-repeated cliche.

 Subir Bhaumik

(  Subir Bhaumik is a veteran BBC journalist and author of three well acclaimed books on India's Northeast including the "Agartala Doctrine" that has just been published)


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