The Chicago court, which was hearing the case of Tahawwur Rana involved in various terror-related cases, has acquitted him of charges of plotting the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack. At the same time, the court has charged Rana with supporting the Pakistan-based terrorist organization of Hafiz Saeed, the Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT), and planning a terrorist attack in Denmark. The court verdict came on 13 June 2011 and shocked India, which had expected the court to convict Rana on the basis of David Headley’s depositions which clearly suggested Rana’s involvement in the Mumbai attack that cost nearly 200 lives.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi opined that the controversial verdict would not only impact Indo-Pakistan relations, but would boost the morale of terrorists who have bloodied the Indian political scene umpteen times. “They would now seek trial in US courts hoping for a favourable verdict,” he said. He ridiculed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and questioned the policy of the Indian Foreign Office towards the United States.
The bottom-line of Modi’s reaction was that India should not expect a fair deal from Washington, as it is committed to defending Pakistan at any cost, and that the Congress-led UPA is responsible for India’s disappointment and diplomatic defeat. It is no secret that the United States wants to exploit Pakistan to the hilt to ensure a safe exit from restive Afghanistan. It is universally known that the US forces are operating from Pakistani soil in order to eradicate the Taliban active on the Afpak border, and within Pakistan and Afghanistan. Similarly, it is well-known that Pakistan has compromised its sovereignty to help the United States.
The Government of India reacted meekly, saying the Chicago verdict holding the Pakistani-Canadian not guilty for the 26/11 Mumbai attacks “is not a setback” as India does not rely overtly on persecution of terror suspects in other countries. “I do not see it a setback as our case (India) is still under investigation… Prosecution in India against Rana and his co-accused David Headley depends on our own investigations which is being done by Indian investigating agencies…We have to rely on our own strength… The issue is still under investigation. When the probe is over, we will produce the evidence in the court… The National Investigating Agency (NIA) is likely to file a charge sheet against Headley and Rana in the 26/11 case and the probe is currently going on,” so said U.K. Bansal, Secretary, Internal Security, Ministry of Home Affairs.
Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna, expectedly, cut a sorry figure. He had no words in his diplomatic dictionary to explain what led the Chicago court to acquit Rana, and mumbled: “You know, you know, we are not fully satisfied with the judicial process followed by the Chicago court.”
The Government of India’s response should not surprise anyone, though Bansal did make one valid point: “India does not rely overtly on persecution of terror suspects in other countries.” No nation ever depends upon other countries for protecting its own interests and taking on those working against it.
But how could anyone expect a strong reaction from a government that says investigations in the issue are still on and that “NIA is likely to file a charge sheet against Rana and Headley.” How much time is needed to complete the investigation and file the charge sheet? The Government simply doesn’t have the will and capacity to expose American policy towards India; to take on and isolate Pakistan whose involvement in Mumbai attack is neck-deep. Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi are not for any action against those involved in the 26/11 terrorist attack. They perhaps believe that any action against them would annoy their particular constituency and upset their applecart, as also the so-called peace process to which Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi are religiously committed. This is one of the main reasons that has prevented the UPA Government from bringing to justice Afzal Guru, convicted in the December 13, 2001 Parliament terror attack case.
It’s true the UPA Government abandoned the composite dialogue process with Pakistan in the wake of 26/11, but it is also true that Manmohan Singh did so with considerable reluctance. Only the national mood forced him to stop talking to Pakistan. Manmohan Singh and the then Foreign Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee declared that terrorism and dialogue could not go hand-in-hand and that New Delhi would resume the stalled composite dialogue process with Pakistan only after Islamabad brought the butchers of Mumbai to justice.
That Manmohan Singh and his government were simply buying time to allow the dust to settle and remained committed to holding talks with Pakistan in order to appease Washington, Islamabad and other anti-India nations became clear on May 2, 2009, when our Prime Minister confirmed former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s version on Kashmir solution: “In fact, General Musharraf and I had nearly reached an agreement (on J&K), a non-territorial solution to all problems, but then General Musharraf got into many problems with Chief Justice and on other fronts and, therefore, the whole process came to a halt”.
What was this agreement? It was obviously designed to empower Islamabad to exercise co-equal powers with India in Jammu & Kashmir. It was aimed at diluting Indian sovereignty in the state and negating the supreme sacrifices of our army and paramilitary forces. It would not be out of place to mention here that Musharraf and Singh reached an agreement on J&K which envisaged four major changes:
– Irrelevant Line of Control
– Joint management/joint-control over Jammu & Kashmir and
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Mehbooba Mufti call it self-rule. It is coupled with supra-state measures, including shared sovereignty.
That Manmohan Singh was committed to jeopardizing Indian interests and accommodating Pakistan became abundantly clear on 16 July 2009, when he met his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani in the Red Sea resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh (Egypt) and signed a statement that was an out-and-out negation of his stand after the Mumbai carnage: “action on terrorism should not be linked to the composite dialogue process and these should not be bracketed.”
Not only this, our Prime Minister allowed his Pakistani counterpart to include in the joint-statement a reference to “threats in Baluchistan and other areas” in Pakistan. He thus accepted Pakistan’s outrageous suggestion regarding involvement of India in subversive activities in Baluchistan and other parts of Pakistan. He equated the epicenter of terrorism (Pakistan) with the victim of terrorism (India).
The joint statement was described in India as a spectacular diplomatic victory of Islamabad over New Delhi. It not only endorsed Pakistan’s motivated and baseless charge that “India is fomenting troubles in the frontier areas” of Pakistan, but indicated that India had taken a complete U-turn on the perpetrators of 26/11, notwithstanding the official clarification to the contrary. The outraged nation described the joint-statement as “shame of Sharm-el-Sheikh.”
What Manmohan Singh did at Sharm-el-Sheikh was nothing but a reiteration of his July 2006 Havana (Cuba) stand on terrorism. Dr Singh had met the then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on the sidelines of the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) Summit after the July 2006 Mumbai train blasts and stated: “Pakistan, like India, is also a victim of terrorism.”
The worst aspect of the situation has been the Prime Minister’s mind-boggling insistence on dialogue with Pakistan overlooking its belligerence and hate-India campaign. One can cite a number of instances to show the failure of the Indian Foreign Office to take on Pakistan, hold its ground and defend Indian sovereignty and territorial integrity. A few references would be enough to prove the point.
One, the 15 July 2010 Islamabad talks between Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna and his then Pakistan counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi. The talks collapsed due to Pakistani belligerence. The Pakistani Foreign Minister virtually humiliated and taunted the Indian Foreign Minister and ridiculed India during the joint press conference and equated Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai with Hafiz Saeed of Jamat-ud-Dawa/ Lashkar-e-Toiba, who had plotted against India and master-minded the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. Qureshi said, “Pakistan has no control over Hafiz Saeed.” Back in India, Krishna, instead of exposing Qureshi, publicly snubbed Pillai and held him responsible for the collapse of the talks! Krishna moaned that the talks failed because Pillai vitiated the atmosphere on the eve of talks by making a statement on David Headley, who was privy to the conspiracy hatched against India by Hafiz Saeed & Co. and certain elements in the Pakistani Army and ISI. Krishna’s meaning was loud and clear: Talks with Pakistan would go on at any cost.
Two, if the talks between the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers took place in a surcharged atmosphere in July 2010, the environment was not salubrious on 6 February 2011 when Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir held talks at Thimpu (Bhutan). A number of developments had taken place in Pakistan just on the eve of the Foreign-Secretary level talks and vitiated the atmosphere:
– Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari stated that Islamabad’s stand on Jammu & Kashmir “is very clear” and that it would want a settlement consistent with the age-old Pakistani stand – merger of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan.
– Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani stated that Kashmir “is a core issue” for Islamabad and Pakistan could not alter its stand.
– Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Abdul Basit accused India of not bringing to justice the “Hindu extremists” involved in the terrorist attack on the Samjhauta Express. “India seems to be lacking courage to unearth culpability of Hindu extremists and their links with some Indian Army personnel,” he said in Islamabad.
– Hafiz Saeed addressed a public rally in Lahore on 5 Feb. and spewed venom on India. Quit Kashmir or face nuclear attack, he hurled at the Indian Prime Minister.
– In Pakistan-occupied-Jammu & Kashmir, Syed Salah-ud-Din, Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) chief and head of the United Jihad Council (UJC), made highly provocative statements and threatened India of dire consequences in the event of New Delhi not quitting Kashmir.
The attitude of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and those who managed relations with Pakistan did not change, and they still send Nirupama Rao to Thimpu to prepare ground for another round of talks between the Foreign Ministers of the two countries. So, in this surcharged atmosphere, Nirupama Rao held talks with Salman Bashir. Commenting on the outcome of the talks, had said: “We had a good meeting, useful meeting. We were able to discuss a number of issues of relevance with the (Indo-Pak) relationship…I’m satisfied…”
These are only two instances which prove that the Indian Prime Minister and the Foreign Office have little or no regard for paramount national interests and are out to condone all Pakistani crimes in a desperate bid to please the United States and Pakistan. The vague response of Foreign Minister Krishna and Secretary, Internal Security, Ministry of Home Affairs, and the proposed talks between Rao and Bashir in the last week of June 2011 must be viewed in this context. No wonder this vague response evoked strong reaction in India.
“Indians compromised once again. America betrays India again. Court verdict a slap on the face of India. Court sides with ISI. First the US shielded David Headley and now it has shielded Rana, who himself admitted that he was an ISI agent. Obama’s last year’s Indian Parliament statement that US and India stand united on the issue of terrorism was all humbug. It is quid-pro-quo between US and Pakistan. It is a massive foreign policy failure. USA lets off ISI. There must be a deal between US and Pakistan. USA’s greatest betrayal since 26/11. US President Obama sacrificed 6 Americans to help Pakistan. India did nothing in the Chicago court. It’s lack of seriousness on the part of India. Now at least we should wake up. Why did not India become party as government in the case in Chicago? We have to do what we have to do. Ajmal Kasab convicted in the 26/11 terrorist attack case is enjoying all facilities in the Indian jail. Why blame Americans? Blame yourself. Why focus on Headley and Rana? Focus must be on Pakistan and ISI. Attack Pakistan and defend India.”
– These are some Indian reactions to the response of the UPA Government to the verdict of the Chicago court.
The moral of the story is that our own rulers are acting in an irresponsible manner, enabling Pakistan and the US to affront our self-respect. What they are doing is disgraceful and against the national will.
The author is former Chair Professor, Maharaja Gulab Singh Chair, University of Jammu, Jammu, & former member Indian Council of Historical Research