India will have to deal with Pak problem on its own: Pranab


NEW DELHI: India on Monday made plain its displeasure with the US and UK for not doing enough to get Pakistan fulfill its promise to take action against jihadi terrorists behind 26/11 and other terror attacks, saying that it would be forced to disregard the call for restraint if Islamabad was not made to behave.

The blunt warning, indicating that the country was chaffing at the calls for restraint, in face of Pakistan's continued cussedness, was sounded by foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee, drawing a belligerent response from his counterpart in Islamabad. "If war is thrust on us, then we have all the rights to defend," Shah Mahmood Qureshi had said in an exchange that reminded of the build-up after the attack on Parliament which almost triggered a full-scale war.

Mukherjee, who was addressing a global conference of over 122 Indian envoys, said that India will have to "deal with this problem" on its own, since international action against Pakistan has not been enough.

"Much more needs to be done and the actions should be pursued to their logical conclusion... We will take all measures necessary as we deem fit to deal with the situation," said the foreign minister in remarks which were interpreted by many to suggest that India was considering unilateral steps.

The growing resolve to punish Pakistan's outrageous behaviour irrespective of the international concern about a flare-up between two nuclear armed nations came amid clear signs of India's waning patience. On Saturday, the political leadership discussed the option of precision strikes against terrorist targets on Pakistan-controlled territory. This marked the end of India's restraint, in the face of Pakistan's assurances made under pressure from the international community, particularly the US and UK.

There were also indications that the US might be aware of India's readiness to strike targets across the border. On Sunday, the US, which had publicly expressed satisfaction with Pakistan's response to India's demands, suddenly switched gears with secretary of state Condoleezza Rice stating that it could not be brushed under the carpet. The US would not have tried to lean hard on Pakistan at this juncture, had it not been convinced that India meant business.

In another development which mirrored the gravity of the situation, the US joint chiefs of staff Mike Mullen visited Islamabad for the second time in the recent past to convince the Pakistanis. It is believed that Mullen warned Pakistan in no uncertain terms that things would go out of hand if it did not respond to India's demands.

Pakistan's behaviour has been along known lines. Its rulers have used promises of good behaviour when faced with threats from India and others only to revert to their usual ways once the pressure was off. India has made it clear that it would not be taken in by pledges, signalling to the world that it would not hesitate to use force if Pakistan continues with the "shift and deflect" manoeuvre. India has now put everything with Pakistan on "pause", said sources.

Mukherjee said India has asked the international community to "put pressure on Pakistan to deal effectively with terrorism. We have highlighted that the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan has to be dismantled permanently... This terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan is the greatest terrorist danger to peace and security of the entire civilized world."

While the warning marks a disappointment with US and UK, it is also a warning against Pakistan's all-weather friends China and Saudi Arabia. Mukherjee said India would no longer only rely on the rest of the world. After the attacks, sources here said, India had spoken to key countries with influence on Pakistan, particularly China and Saudi Arabia. The foreign minister of Saudi Arabia is expected here later this week and India wants them to exert their influence on Pakistan to give up some terrorists.

India articulated the outcome it wants from Pakistan. "We need effective steps not only to bring those responsible for the Mumbai attacks to justice, but also to ensure that such acts of terrorism do not recur," said Mukherjee. India also wants Pakistani terrorists, for Mumbai and earlier, to face Indian justice. Sources said it would give "evidence" to Pakistan after the investigation into the attacks was over.

So far, India has asked for Maulana Masood Azhar and Omar Sheikh but it will be more aggressive and add the names of the Mumbai perpetrators after the investigations are over. Sources said Pakistan had enough evidence against earlier fugitives like Azhar, and they could be handed over. But Pakistan too is playing its own game. India believes Pakistan's big feign about "evidence" is all intended to drag things on until election fever takes the sting out of the Indian position.

The real problem as India sees it, is that the Pakistan of end-2008 is very different from the Pakistan of end-2001. Then India was dealing only with Pervez Musharraf, a sort of one-stop shop. But now, in India's assessment, Pakistan is a fragmented establishment and all the parts are moving in virtually independent ways. "There are many Pakistans," said sources.

The formal authority in Pakistan (read civilian government) is different from the real power (read military-intelligence establishment). The multiple centres of power also explain the different statements and the "flip-flop". But Mukherjee on Monday kept the pressure on the civilian government in Islamabad. "We expect civilian government of Pakistan to take effective steps to deal with elements within Pakistan who still continue the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy. We have so far acted with utmost restraint and are hopeful that international community will use its influence to urge Pakistani government to take effective action."