March 11, 2007Foreign Affairs

Truth before reconciliation

Normalisation of relations with Pakistan can never be complete until it comes clean on terrorism

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Japan has been spending billions of dollars in providing foreign aid to East Asian countries, many of which suffered under the brutal yoke of its military occupation during the Second World War. And even after it changed its contemporary military posture into something slightly more assertive, no one can argue that its designs are aggressive. Yet, its refusal to accept the reality of its past and apologise unambiguously isolates in international opinion—both in East Asia and in the West. True reconciliation, everyone agrees, cannot take place unless Japan makes a clean breast of its past by acknowledging the truth.

One can understand that well-meaning Pakistanis are anxious to put their country’s role in nurturing international jihadi terrorism behind them. The Pakistani government, which for its part, is still—perhaps inextricably—mixed up with the culture and machinery of international terrorism would like nothing better than to keep its official involvement shrouded not only from the world, but from its own citizens. To get it off the ground, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed to keep Kashmir off the agenda of the India-Pakistan Joint Mechanism on Terrorism. But even this did not satisfy the Pakistani government. They want to keep all the older’ terrorist attacks off the table. For them, the joint mechanism is yet another platform to issue denials and make counter-allegations from.

That Pakistani authorities should behave in this manner should not surprise anyone, although reports describe Indian officials as being disappointed’. But what is more troubling is that Pakistani civil society, on which much hope lies, should argue that a reconciliation between India and Pakistan should come at the cost of India closing an eye to terrorists and criminals living under the protection of the Pakistani authorities. It would be one thing to suggest that India must formally pardon them. It is totally another to propose that their crimes and Pakistan’s complicity be swept under the carpet.

There will be spillover categories that will bother the ‘mechanism’ meetings for some time to come. The Jaish-e-Muhammad that tried to kill President Musharraf — he says that in his book — admitted to first attacking the Assembly in Srinagar. But if the Indians demand that the Jaish chief Azhar Masood be handed over to them, Pakistan is not likely to comply. The same will apply to a couple of other mujahideen leaders who the Indians think did mischief in Mumbai.

Then there is the most embarrassing case of the Indian national called Dawood Ibrahim who blew up Mumbai in 1993 in retaliation for the Babri mosque demolition in 1992. Ibrahim is a wanted man in India, which says he is hiding in Pakistan. But India must learn to forget about him too if it can’t bring itself to forgive him, if only for the sake of cricket. Dawood Ibrahim and the great Pakistani cricketer Javed Miandad, who the Indians love to hate for that last ball sixer in Sharjah, are relatives by marriage now!

The bilateral ‘mechanism’ for the sharing of terrorism information must be based on an understanding of the past when Pakistan did not hate its ‘freedom-fighters’ as it does now. [DT]Bringing terrorists like Masood Azhar and Dawood Ibrahim to justice is a moral and legal imperative for India. Well-meaning Pakistanis would be amiss if they were to believe that lasting reconciliation is even possible without this. Well-meaning Indians, who may be tempted to let bygones be bygones’, would do well to remember that if Pakistanis do not reconcile with the truth, they cannot reconcile with India. Nor can internal reconciliation in Jammu & Kashmir be complete without a full account of Pakistan’s malicious role in fomenting terrorism in the state.

Six decades and billions of dollars later, reconciliation is still eluding the Japanese. India will have itself to blame if it ignores why.

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