Message from Gurdaspur: Never allow terror to tame dialogue.
Security and other experts have expressed largely three kinds of views: the Dinanagar incident is linked to the recent terrorist killings in Kathua and Samba in the Jammu region in J and K. This line of thinking takes one to the dormant 'Khalistan' movement which continues to have its vestiges in Pakistan though it has been eliminated by India's security forces.
The second kind of views find a connection between the Dinanagar attack and the execution of Yakub Memon, who met his nemesis at 7 am on July 30 as scheduled, despite attempts through the legal process to prevent it.
The third kind of opinion is that what happened in this small town near Gurdaspur was aimed at nullifying the fresh efforts made at Ufa (Russia) on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to revive the dialogue process for peace between India and Pakistan. This argument has more takers than the others given by security experts. It is quite convincing.
A close study of major terrorist killings involving Pakistan-based terrorist outfits like the Laskar-e-Taiba brings out the truth that whenever the leaderships in India and Pakistan have come to the negotiating table in the past, the forces of destabilisation have struck at a place which fitted in their design to ensure that the two neighbours continue to remain at daggers drawn. Such a situation, if allowed to persist, is bound to prove more harmful for India than Pakistan. It can keep India entangled in a hyphenated scenario where its energies will be spent mainly on managing Pakistan. India has to look beyond Pakistan as an emerging major power.
The best example that is cited to highlight this point is the terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008 which jeopardised all the achievements made for the normalisation of relations between New Delhi and Islamabad. The extremist elements caused a severe blow to the composite dialogue process, which got abruptly snapped. India, however, saw through the game-plan of the Pakistan-based anti-peace forces and tried to revive the process after some time when the Congress-led UPA was in power but in vain. What happens after the Ufa talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif remains to be seen.
These destructive elements have so far succeeded in their negative designs because of the policy paralysis in Islamabad. The Dinanagar killings, like the Mumbai mayhem, have brought to the fore the fact that the Pakistan establishment continues to have elements in powerful positions which do not want India and Pakistan to have normal relations. These forces are also Taliban supporters and sympathisers, and they have been nursing the negative feeling that their interests will be threatened once peace comes to prevail in South Asia.
These forces seem to have become active in the wake of the meeting in Ufa (Russia) between Mr Modi and Mr Nawaz Sharif. The two leaders had very meaningful discussions covering most aspects of the snapped India-Pakistan dialogue process. Their efforts revived the hope of return of the atmosphere which prevailed before the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist strike. The development was appreciated by the peace constituency on both sides of the India-Pakistan divide.
South Asia experts believe that history will not forgive the rulers in both countries if they fail to make use of the opportunity that has come their way with the BJP being the ruling party in India and the Pakistan Army calling the shots in Islamabad with very cordial relations between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif. India can succeed in making Pakistan realise under the current politico-military dispensation that it must prepare itself to invest its maximum energy in a South Asia peace project so that the region begins to economically grow faster to be able to take on the common enemy - poverty - clearly visible all over the area.
India today has roughly 40-50 per cent of its population living in poverty. Very few Indians have been able to reap the benefits of modernisation and globalisation.
According to the Mahbub-ul-Haq Human Development Centre, widespread poverty remains Pakistan's most persistent and urgent problem. Using even the simplistic definition of lack of adequate food or income or the broader definition of lack of access to opportunities, Pakistan has around a half of its total population as poor.
Clearly, there is lack of focus on job creation and other poverty alleviation programmes on both sides of the border. The emergence of the problem of religious extremism has added a new dimension to the poverty-related scenario in South Asia. This problem is mainly the contribution of Pakistan because of its strategy of using terrorism as an instrument of state policy to achieve its larger geo-political objectives. It has employed terrorism to cause a thousand cuts to bleed India despite Islamabad's promise of not allowing its territory to be used for terrorist purposes. Extremist outfits still remain active in Pakistan, targeting not only India but Pakistan too as terrorism is a two-edged weapon.
What India can do is to keep Pakistan always engaged in some kind of a dialogue process so that the peace constituency continues to grow and become stronger and stronger. Efforts must be made to make the ordinary people develop greater stake in economic growth. If the border is softened and people-to-people contact is allowed to grow, the atmosphere of enmity and suspicion can give the way to an atmosphere of trust and reliance. In such a situation, terrorist outfits will find it difficult to get fresh recruits to their projects of destabilisation. Development in such a scenario will emerge as an anti-dote to extremism and terrorism.
However, under all circumstances India cannot afford to be lax in intelligence gathering. It will also have to create a mechanism so that the authorities act swiftly on actionable intelligence which was reportedly not done in Punjab, leading to what happened in Gurdaspur's Dinanagar town. This is a powerful message from the killings on that black Monday - July 27. ( The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist. )
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Indian Currents.
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