Pathankot attack: Is Pakistan doing enough to convince India on foreign secretary-level talks?

There are less than 48 hours left to decide.

Pakistan has stated they have made some arrests and conducted a few raids. The texture and extent of both are not yet known and it is up for grabs whether they are minions and foot soldiers while the masterminds have gone underground.

Will talks resume? AFP

Will talks resume? AFP

Investigate the Pathankot attack speedily, said US Secretary of State John Kerry to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Fine and thanks very much! But these actions might just be placatory in nature. A sort of ‘look, we are doing things we have never done before’. At the end these are all hyper activities with little steak and more sizzle.

But India has to fight her own battle and not seek salvage from third parties.

The time is very short to really assess how authentic the response is for India to go back to the meeting on Friday between the two foreign secretaries. It is vital to see exactly who has been arrested and how far up the pyramid it goes. India would need names and face, not numbers.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh says there is no reason to distrust Pakistan’s sincerity. That is a trifle naive if we dredge the history of such assaults on Indian territory. There are developments we are not privy to perhaps the only reason India could go to the meet in these circumstances is to get a bird’s eye-view of the element of ‘sincerity’ and then take a call on the future of the relationship. Eyeball to eyeball contact and body language give one a fair amount of insight into the sincerity factor.

Let's not underestimate this aspect. It is unlikely anything further is coming India's way.

But Singh’s statement is at a sharp variance with the sabre rattling by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar who has practically gone on record indicating an eye for an eye is the only way forward. His advocacy that India must inflict pain can hardly be sitting well across the border and it pretty much signposts the fact India will postpone the meet at the last minute.

If India intends to continue with the meeting it does not make sense to have its defence minister beating the drums of conflict so graphically.

It is dramatically provocative and populist and difficult to match for a complete absence of diplomatic niceties.

What will be the delivery system for delivering that pain is unclear.

Except for six deaths, four days of attrition, two missing (possible) terrorists and a great deal of finger pointing especially at the Punjab Police and the role played by SP Salwinder Singh nothing much will change in the long run if Sharif is playing about with smoke and mirrors and giving out an illusion of great anxiety.

If India returns to the table without something tangible to sweeten the pot there has to be a concern that it will be a tacit encouragement to other elements to engage in more such sorties. Why would it not be? We were attacked arbitrarily. We lost lives. We have phone numbers connecting the terrorists to the home country, we don’t even know how many more there are roaming around and still haven’t brought to ground the cell on our side of the border that helped this lot.

So what have we gained? It is tough to find much to cheer about in the fact that Pakistan has lost a little more credibility seeing how that commodity comes out of an easy squeeze tube for it when dealing with India. They just put a tab and screw the cap back.

Perhaps it is time to be unilateral and engage in the new war. At present the trade between the two countries is a little over $3 billion and we can afford to freeze it in toto.

It has been projected at a potential of $50 billion if both sides relax their rules and Pakistan needs it. Stunt pro-growth unless terrorism is a rider in this rain.

An isolationist policy for a while might help in that we will be sending a message that we don’t just sit on our hands and make mewling sounds. Skip sport, the arts, science, exchange programmes and make a small but effective point. Islamabad must learn to take Indian responses to such incursions seriously.

Two years ago Michael Kugelman, Senior Program Associate for South and Southeast Asia, at the Woodrow Wilson International Center said, “This is the tragedy of India-Pakistan relations. Regardless of how much progress is made, and regardless of the various diplomatic efforts to inject momentum into a peace process, all it takes is one big terror attack in India, traced back to Pakistan that can squander all of the goodwill. The key is for the two sides to generate sufficient goodwill and trust, so that the bilateral relationship can weather and survive a traumatic act such as a Pakistani-hatched terror attack on Indian soil."

He could have been referring to this week.

Short of confessing involvement, accepting accountability and cracking down on militants and activating India’s ‘wish list’ of ‘wanted’ individuals, there is nothing more Pakistan can do in these two days to validate India’s participation... unless India elects to give the bilateral pitch for peace one more shot.

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Updated Date: Jan 12, 2016 17:50:21 IST

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