Nothing in recent times has been more stunning than the acceptance by Pakistan or the charge that the jehadi attacks on Mumbai on 26/11 were planned and subsequently launched from Pakistan soil, and that some of the perpetrators were from the Lashkar-e-Toiba. There are two explanations for this change in the Pakistani mind-set: the obvious one is that what Pakistan has done is the very minimum it had to do, to get the world off its back and there is nothing to be particularly pleased with. The argument is that hatred of India and Hindus will continue to be part of the Pakistani psyche and Delhi should be warned not to be complacent.
Indeed, one section of popular opinion holds that India must not relax, but should continue putting additional pressure on Islamabad to force it down to its knees in abject surrender. That reflects a vengeful spirit that may turn out to be counter-productive. It is well to remember that Pakistan has, over the last three months, disowned persistently to accept responsibility for the Mumbai attacks to the point of saying that the ten jehadists involved may not even by Pakistanis.
One can very well imagine what must have transpired between the civilian government led by Zardari and army officials led by Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani who have lent their support to every terrorist attack on India. Has there been any change of mind among the generals in recent weeks? If yes, was it, again, as a result of pressure from Washington, or the dawning of a new wisdom that the time has come for Pakistan to forget the past and henceforth work towards healing wounds self-inflicted or otherwise? Certainly, the astonishing degree of cooperation?no matter how it is judged by cynics?from Islamabad'scivilian government, evident in the meticulous way in which it has reacted to the dossier handed over to it by India in early January, can only mean that winds of change are blowing in Pakistan, no matter how slowly.
Can it be, as the English poet Arthur Hugh Clough put it so plainly that as things have been so ever they will remain? Will Pakistan ever continue to be the sworn enemy of India? And for how long? Another sixty years? Another hundred? Or will there be a change of heart even among the Generals? As far as Pakistan is concerned, should we always remain cynical? Can it be that, perhaps, even Pakistanis have begun to realise that they have wasted their lives these last six decades, and more especially after the historic 1972 Bangla Desh War and have only hurt themselves in promoting hatred towards India?
Can they possibly be considering that the time has come for reconciliation? Conceded that one always have to be chary of one'sprofessed enemy, but miracles to happen. Can it be that a miracle is due to happen? But for a miracle to happen, one must prepare the ground. There is always a rationale behind every miracle and it is for India to provide the rationale. This can be done easily, if our leaders have the moral courage and the statesmanship to think in positive terms. This calls for deep reflection, such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee exhibited, when he set out on his journey to Lahore. It may not have succeeded?indeed it didn?t?because the Generals had already embarked on their Kargil adventure and talk of Indo-Pakistani cooperation was chimera. But hasn'tthe situation changed?
The current reaction of the civilian government indicated that some deep changes are taking place in Islamabad that are plainly irreversible. In the circumstances it is important that India'sapproach is not unduly inflexible. India has to recalibrate its relations with Pakistan in such a way that Islamabad'sreactions will be equally positive and rewarding. If Jean Monnet could envision the formation of a European Economic Community and ultimately a European Union that included two long-time enemies, France and Germany, surely one can envisage a South Asian Community?call it Confederation?with India and Pakistan as its leading members?
The idea is not as far-fetched as it may seem. But one might ask: Is it worthwhile? In any Confederation, won'tPakistan be an unbearable burden? According to no less a person that President Asif Zardari, the Taliban has established itself across a large part of Pakistan. It has set up its own Sharia rule in Swat Valley, leaving Pakistan weakened and the world in a daze. What it means is that, for all practical purposes Islamabad'sinfluence and authority does not cover Swat. Taliban rule could indeed soon extend to Punjab as well and then Pakistan'ssecurity forces will have to decide where they stand.
A clash between the Taliban and the Pakistan Army is not out of question. In the circumstances, is Pakistan on the verge of collapse? An impression exists that Sind would any day be happy to rejoin India and thus be spared Taliban rule. What would be left of Pakistan then would be a Baluchistan that would go its way, a North West Frontier Province out of Islamabad'scontrol and Punjab in deep distress. Would it be wise for the United States to give any kind of aid, economic or military, to a truncated Pakistan? Giving military aid to Pakistan at this point in time would be particularly counter-productive. It can only end up in a ghastly civil war with the Taliban getting the upper hand. That, surely, wouldn'tbe doing any good to India?
A huge Pakistani Army, suddenly orphaned, could be a greater menance than one would care to admit. Worse, a Talibanised Army with access to nuclear weapons and missiles could turn out to be a menace not only to the United States but to neighbouring India, as well. In other words, Pakistan today is in a situation worse than ever in the past. It is on the point of dissolution. Is one being over-imaginative?
Is Zardari lying when he says that large part of Pakistan is now under Taliban control, merely to seek more US aid? That seems unlikely. The terrorist chicken that the US recklessly sponsored, are coming home to roost.
The US is now sounding very disturbed, if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton'scomments on recent events are any indication. For India, now in a transition mode, the next few weeks are going to be very crucial.
Delhi has to work out a wholly new approach to Pakistan, weighing in the newest developments in the entire tribal region west of Punjab. What, if any, are the Taliban'splans? What effect can the Taliban'ssuccess possibly have on Muslims in India? We have on hand, a wholly new problem that calls for fresh thinking in Delhi'spolicy-making circles. One presumes that India'sintelligence sources are alert to the situation in Pakistan. Delhi must consider all options open to it and be ready and willing to act firmly as the changing situation demands in the weeks ahead. Hopefully, Holbrook'svisit has helped to clarify matters and to draw appropriate plans to meet the challenges that lie ahead.