x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

No war and no peace

Pakistan accuses India of warmongering, while India says its neighbour is in the grip of war hysteria as a frenzy of war talk animates the media on both sides of the India-Pakistan border. Washington assures Islamabad that its satellite surveillance of the region reveals no evidence that India is preparing for war. But if physical preparations are absent, the rhetorical signs are more ambiguous.

While a frenzy of war talk has animated the media on both sides of the India-Pakistan border, Washington has assured Islamabad that its satellite surveillance of the region reveals no evidence that India is preparing for war. But if physical preparations are absent, the rhetorical signs are more ambiguous. An editorial in Pakistan's The News International said: "Continued rumblings from the Indian side of the border keep tensions high. Sonia Gandhi, the chief of the Congress Party, has been the latest to warn Pakistan that her country is capable of delivering a 'befitting reply' to those who harbour terrorists. She has stressed India's love for peace is not a weakness. The tone from Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee also remains threatening, demanding action even as Pakistan maintains that it lacks evidence on the basis of which it can take any. "The tensions have been elevated to their highest level in six years. But the war hype is also being taken forward by hawks in both countries. The media has played its part. Evening papers, even though few people any longer believe their hysterical headlines, warn of Indian invasion. On the Indian side, many of the television channels and publications have been no less high-pitched; indeed in many cases they have gone further than their Pakistani counterparts. In cyber space chat rooms, Indians and Pakistanis banter and bully each other, comparing military readiness. Some of these exchanges are mock-serious; others seem to be in earnest. Tales of patriotic feats by citizens are told in many places, as if a mental preparation for war is taking place. Hawkish elements everywhere seem to be revelling in the current climate." AFP reported that on Monday, India's foreign minister made it clear that New Delhi's patience had limits. He pointed out that that India had so far acted with the 'utmost restraint' but said it could not afford to just stand back and rely on others. "Ultimately it is we who have to deal with this problem," he said. On the question of whether military action is under consideration, he reiterated the line that India was exploring 'all options'. Yesterday, the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh attempted to lower tensions by saying 'nobody wants war'. His remarks came the day after Pakistan had placed it air force on high alert and conducted exercises over Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. "Offices of newspapers and television channels were inundated with calls from people asking whether the exercises, which caused delays in some civilian flights, were a response to airstrikes by India," The Washington Post reported. "A Pakistani air force spokesman, Commodore Humayun Viqar, said in a statement, 'In view of the current environment, PAF has enhanced its vigilance.' "The air force's action coincided with the arrival in Islamabad of the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, who met with Pakistan's army chief, Gen Ashfaq Kiyani, and the head of its Inter-Services Intelligence agency, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha. "Mullen thanked both men for their efforts, and the efforts of the Pakistani government, to arrest members of the outlawed Islamist group Lashkar-i-Taiba and other extremist organisations suspected of involvement in the Mumbai attacks, according to his spokesman, Navy Capt John Kirby. Mullen also reportedly urged them to support judicial efforts to prosecute the cases fully and transparently." Pakistan's efforts continue to be viewed with scepticism by India. An editorial in The Times of India said: "A week after Pakistani defence minister Chaudhary Ahmad Mukhtar confirmed that Maulana Masood Azhar, chief of the terrorist [organisation] Jaish-e-Mohammed, was under house arrest, foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the government had no idea where he was. Shades of Dawood Ibrahim, of whose whereabouts Islamabad denied any knowledge even as reports were appearing in the Pakistani press about the don's presence at a plush bungalow in Karachi. "This pattern was repeated when President Asif Ali Zardari denied that Ajmal Amir Kasab, the surviving terrorist among the perpetrators of 26/11, was from Pakistan, despite Kasab's own testimony that he was from Faridkot in Punjab. This testimony is corroborated by reports in the UK and Pakistani press based on interviews with his father who is a resident of Faridkot and who recognised Kasab from his photographs in the media. That should be enough to spark an investigation in Pakistan, but security agencies have instead stopped the entry of outsiders and journalists into the area. Even as Islamabad calls on New Delhi to provide further 'proof' against the 26/11 terrorists, proof that has already persuaded the UN Security Council to ban the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) as a terrorist organisation, actions such as cordoning off Kasab's village bely any hope that evidence provided by India will be taken seriously." At the same time, India itself faces criticism regarding its own investigations into the Mumbai attack. "India has given no information about last month's attacks in Mumbai to Interpol and information passed to media by Indian investigators should be shared if it is accurate, the police agency's chief said on Tuesday," Reuters reported. "Pakistan, under pressure over Indian accusations that the 10 gunmen who attacked Mumbai came from Pakistan, has complained that India has yet to provide it with any evidence to push its investigation forward. "Interpol Secretary General Ronald K Noble told a news conference in Islamabad until Indian authorities shared information, police around the world would be unable to make any determination about the identity of the attackers. " 'To date, India's government has not authorised India's police agencies to enter any data relating to the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai in Interpol's databases,' Noble said. " 'The information Interpol has about what happened in Mumbai is the same information that you have. It's information that we've read in journals, that we've read on the Internet or that we've seen on TV,' he said." The New York Times said: "India on Monday gave Pakistan what it called proof of Pakistani involvement in last month's terrorist attacks in Mumbai. The move built public pressure on India's neighbour, where the senior-ranking member of the American military arrived for talks for the second time since the attacks. "The Indian Foreign Ministry announced late Monday that it had given Pakistani officials here what it described as a letter from the lone surviving attacker. In the letter, the Indian ministry said, the gunman, Muhammad Ajmal Kasab, said he and his nine accomplices were 'from Pakistan'. India did not make the specific contents of the letter public." In the journal, Foreign Affairs, Barnett R Rubin and Ahmed Rashid describe the fundamental problem that India and the US face as they now attempt to exert pressure on Pakistan: "the concept of 'pressuring' Pakistan is flawed. No state can be successfully pressured into acts it considers suicidal. The Pakistani security establishment believes that it faces both a US-Indian-Afghan alliance and a separate Iranian-Russian alliance, each aimed at undermining Pakistani influence in Afghanistan and even dismembering the Pakistani state. Some (but not all) in the establishment see armed militants within Pakistan as a threat - but they largely consider it one that is ultimately controllable, and in any case secondary to the threat posed by their nuclear-armed enemies. "Pakistan's military command, which makes and implements the country's national security policies, shares a commitment to a vision of Pakistan as the homeland for South Asian Muslims and therefore to the incorporation of Kashmir into Pakistan. It considers Afghanistan as within Pakistan's security perimeter. Add to this that Pakistan does not have border agreements with either India, into which Islamabad contests the incorporation of Kashmir, or Afghanistan, which has never explicitly recognized the Durand Line, which separates the two countries, as an interstate border."

pwoodward@thenational.ae