Pune bombing unlikely to derail India-Pakistan talks

February 15, 2010

german bakeryThis weekend’s bombing which killed nine people in the Indian city of Pune — the first major attack since the 2008 assault on Mumbai — is unlikely to derail plans for the foreign secretaries, or top diplomats, of India and Pakistan to hold talks on Feb. 25.

The Hindu newspaper — which is well-informed about the thinking in the prime minister’s office where India’s policy towards Pakistan is decided — says there will be no rethinking about the planned talks

“India has no intention of allowing terrorists to dictate the scope and schedule of diplomatic interaction with Pakistan and will not let Saturday’s bombing of a bakery in Pune derail the February 25 meeting of foreign secretaries, highly placed sources told The Hindu,” it says. “With investigations into the attack still under way, officials said on Sunday there would be no ‘knee-jerk reaction’. India knows the situation is complex, they added.”

Indian officials have been circumspect about who was behind the bombing. Early candidates are the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) accused of masterminding the Mumbai assault (for a factbox on the group see here) and the Indian Mujahideen, an indigenous group with close ties to both the LeT and the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

According to The Hindu’s Islamabad correspondent, the Jamaat ud-Dawa, the humanitarian wing of the LeT, had specifically mentioned Pune as a target during rallies across Pakistan on Feb. 5 to mark the annual “Kashmir Solidarity Day”.  Media reports also suggest that American David Headley — whose arrest last year in Chicago on terrorism charges led to renewed fears of LeT attacks on Indiahad visited Pune on reconnaissance missions.

That said, the bombing appeared to have been a relatively simple operation — a bomb left in a bag in a cafe – and in contrast to the sophistication of the Mumbai assault, could easily have been carried out by local operatives without outside help.

But the grim reality — and this is hard to write without thinking about the very real victims of the Pune bombing — is that it does not change the overall picture of the India-Pakistan relationship.

India, which broke off peace talks with Pakistan after the attack on Mumbai, has decided that coercive diplomacy has run its course and is trying to find a way back into dialogue. Yet as discussed here, the two countries will find it hard to make much headway on their core dispute over Kashmir. Time has moved on, and Pakistan is no longer in a position to offer the kind of concessions it made under former president Pervez Musharraf to reach an agreement without risking a backlash at home.

The United States and its allies are focused on turning around the war in Afghanistan just enough to create the conditions for a political settlement that will allow them to start drawing down troops in 2011. Such is the resistance of public opinion to the war that they have abandoned the idea of  a long-term “grand bargain” under which India-Pakistan talks might have created the space for a complete rewriting of the Afghan war.  We are now at the stage of “muddling through” in ways that might — or might not – create stability in Afghanistan, while avoiding any massive surgery on the regional dynamics.

India and Pakistan may yet find a way out of the quagmire that has held them since 1947 — in the many private Track Two initiatives between the two countries, the utopian faith still thrives. The two governments are experienced enough to find a way forward, but they are also susceptible to being tripped up by western governments whose publics want a quick end to the Afghan war.

The tragedy – for the dead and wounded — is that the Pune bombing will make little difference to how those competing influences play out.

Comments

Myra:
Unfortunate terrorist incident in Pune.

With all the big cities in India being targeted before Mumbai, Pune was coming.

I wish India starts looking inside and have these strict laws and speedy trials and quick hangings. Security has to be tight and competent and judiciary need to be efficient and fast. For this, we need US and Israel, not Pakistan.

@Time has moved on, and Pakistan is no longer in a position to offer the kind of concessions it made under former president Pervez Musharraf to reach an agreement without risking a backlash at home.”
—BTW, why pak is not in position? This sounds opposite to what the situation should be. People face terrorism in Pakistan and see Indians (and US/Isrealis) lurking behind doors. Then should they not be seeking peace instead of scaring politicians with backlash. Solving India-Pak relations, if any, would relieve Pakistan from lot of burden, make Indians secure and Kashmiris happy. Perhaps people are not sick and tired of terrorism and love the uncertainty of death an mayhem by terrorism.

What makes Pakistan politicians hold conference in POK? The incorrigible terrorists.

I think Pakistan has gotten used to dangerous combination of spilling blood, baseless whining, begging. Who runs Pakistan is not solved yet?– Gilani, Zardari or kayani? As of today, Indian problems are smaller than Pakistan’s.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive
 

Rajeev, capital punishment was abolished in Europe years ago and I don’t think there is any empirical evidence showing that it led to an increase in violence.

You can see a breakdown of dates here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_pun ishment_in_Europe

And the threat of hanging is hardly likely to deter a suicide bomber or a fedayeen fighter (though admittedly this was not the case in Pune).

In general, terrrorism usually only stops with a political settlement and that is a long and difficult process.

As for why Pakistan is not in a position? I’ve covered this in earlier posts and stories, but it has already faced a very severe backlash from the Pakistani Taliban. If you were running the country, would you seriously want to take all the different groups on at once? Especially when some of them enjoy a large measure of public sympathy?

Posted by Myra.MacDonald | Report as abusive
 

Myra,

I think more than just the capital punishment, its about speedy trials, slipshod investigations and implementation of the law that is more relevant. We have a terrible record and that was, I think, Rajeev’s point.

Getting to the subject of the talks, frankly I find myself unable to show any enthusiasm. This reminds me a lot of the Musharraf visit to Agra, without any agreed upon agenda. The result was an exercise in futility. I think this will go the same way too. If not talking was a knee jerk response, this certainly seems even more so.

Just look at the statements you have quoted “India has no intention of allowing terrorists to dictate the scope and schedule of diplomatic interaction with Pakistan ..” so why did it do exactly that till two weeks ago? “India knows the situation is complex” I found myself saying Oh really? How clever of India. Frankly I am now just bored with these semantic gymnastics.

The one point I do want to make is about the leads about Pune. While the hysteria displayed by the Jehadi leadership recently and the mention of Pune as also the Headley visit were sure indicators, I also feel there was, unintentionally, a sort of green signal given by the Pak PM a few weeks earlier.

He had mentioned to Gates that Pakistan cannot guarantee that there will not be any more attacks on India. I am not implying he even knew or encouraged the Pune attack. The statement, even then, seemed negative, defensive and provocative to me. It does give out a signal to say that we shouldn’t be blamed or held responsible in future. A more positive and conciliatory tone could have been achieved if he had instead said that Pak would endeavour and do its utmost to prevent future attacks. That tone and attitude would by itself have been encouraging. I think it is this problem of always having to play to the gallery, trying to be always one up over India, which is responsible for a lot of anti talk sentiment today.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive
 

“the two countries will find it hard to make much headway on their core dispute over Kashmir.” Myra

What chance is there of any headway on the other core issue of cross border terrorism” Lets forget the counter terror mechanism already in place, for a few years, which has been significant for its total inertia.

I also agree that its best that we count out the US or anyone else being able to step in and make any sort of contribution. In fact any meddling would make things worse, as it always does.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive
 

Myra:

I am talking about India, not Europe. Capital punishment is rare in India but is legal. Speedy trial and strict laws would have ensured that Azhar Mahmood (not that I am implicating him in Pune) and his fellow philanthropists are given the maximum possible sentence before they are released by their terrorist bros in Pakistan (see photos of hijackers on Indian Embassy site and read Ahmed Rashid). Azhar Mahmood formed Jaish-e-Mohammed and right away after the plane hijack went to Pakistan and blasted Kashmir in India. so much for political settlement efforts of pakistan!

I am not suggesting a one point recipe for avoiding Pune or Mumbai. These terror incidents are that something media got interested recently. These buggers are doing this since 3 decades and are continuing if you watched the celebration of Kashmir solidarity day in POK. Pakistani politcians are picnicking with terrorists while the civilized west (Huh!) watches that UN-declared terrorist groups are roaming there freely.

No single policy is enough. while political settlement ping-pong continues, India can do what is in India’s hand. All I am saying is not to be soft. You show mercy to terrorists and they will laugh at you.

@As for why Pakistan is not in a position? I’ve covered this in earlier posts and stories, but it has already faced a very severe backlash from the Pakistani Taliban. If you were running the country, would you seriously want to take all the different groups on at once? Especially when some of them enjoy a large measure of public sympathy?”
—just because it faced backlash does not mean it was better for Pakistan to stay the way it was. Regarding anti-India terrorists, it is in Pakistan’s long term interersts to stop the support these anti-India terrorists from Pakistan and seek political settlement.

May be like you gave that funny logic sometime ago that it is better that JeM LeT chiefs are under watch of Pakistan than not. They are not not only under watch but are fed and supported.

At least you agree here that there is large measure of public sympathy for these terrorist groups against India. So you really believe that the opposite of ” would you seriously want to take all the different groups on at once?” is giving them support in POK during Kashmir solidarity day celebration? Come one Myra!

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive
 

“If you were running the country, would you seriously want to take all the different groups on at once? Especially when some of them enjoy a large measure of public sympathy?”

The point is not about taking them all on simultaneously. The issue is one of wanting to take them on at all, singly or simultaneously. When the game plan is studious inaction through playing verbal games, there are no expectations of this set up to do anything concrete. For them to holler about making progress and solving issues through dialogue is the issue itself. They don’t want to go beyond that. The pot must continue to boil.

Myra, it is not just public sympathy that is a constraint. The real constraint is that the Pak establishment considers these organisations their trump card against India. They can go so far and no further with this monster they have created, otherwise it turns on them.

I think one can keep churning out excuses every day for Pakistan’s inability to really go after the anti India Jehadi outfits. The bottom line remains that it is this very military – jehadi nexus which is the oxygen that fuels anti India poison amongst the public.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive
 

Myra:

The solution to this struggle is mix of “bullet for terrorists”, “rallying mass support with development programs (something which terrorists cannot do)” and “good politics from the concerned parties”.

None of the three factors is completely taken care of and the last one is the most problematic since it involves good intention of the parties.

Frankly speaking I have no hope from Pakistani politicians with the reason that they are rendered powerless by PA to solve the problem but made competent to create more problem. Add to it the state of Pakistan itself which is confused about what its identity should be, it is near impossible to expect from Pakistan, which could not stand on its feet in 60+yrs, to solve someone else’s problems.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive
 

Umair:

Mushy does not think before he shoots. By saying that he spent US money on wherever he deemed fit irrespective of the purpose it was meant for shows he is politically retard. he did no service to Pakistan when he said he spent US $$$ on India and add to it the fact that he saved Taliban (now in UK he says kill them). he is major reason for K-L Bill. US does not trust Pakistan anymore and they wanted to lay down rules with aid. kayani cried in vain and when asked to say NO to money he could not say NO. Had Mushy been intelligent Pakistan would not have seen K-L Bill.
_____________________________________

@Musharraf is a convincing liar. He can lie …..”
He was born in Delhi, that’s why.
Posted by babag

–Oh, so it is people like you that Muhajirs are scared of.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive
 

@I think more than just the capital punishment, its about speedy trials, slipshod investigations and implementation of the law that is more relevant. We have a terrible record and that was, I think, Rajeev’s point”
-dara

Dara: Thanks for explaining. Yes that’s precisely the point. Speedy trials. Perhaps special courts for such cases if possible. Time has changed and the judiciary will have to keep pace with this. Uniform national policy by all political parties on terrorism, so that laws do not change every 5 yrs, would be helpful.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive
 

http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx  ?264286

Dialogue Or Jehad 2.0?
Amir Mir

“Indo-Pak talks threaten to resume, and then they let the LeT chief off the leash. What’s up?”

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive
 

This attack may not delay talks. But it won’t prevent them from being moribund either.

This is going to sound rather cold, but at this point, what incentive does India have to negotiate with a Pakistan that is tearing itself apart? For every successful bombing in India there are a dozen or more in Pakistan. The thousand cuts seems to be falling on the wrong hand.

Aside from that, I really don’t even know what concessions the Pakistanis could make to facilitate some kind of grand bargain. I am starting to doubt the level of control they really have over these anti-India jihadis. They might be able to turn back the heat on Kashmir but can they really stop LeT, JeM and the like from conducting another Mumbai? And if they don’t have that power what use is negotiation with Pakistan anyway? How much authority and suasion do the Pakistanis have when they can’t pacify their own backyard?

Really, if you were an Indian negotiator largely concerned with making security gains for India, given the present conditions in Pakistan on various fronts (security, governance, social divisions, etc), what do you think is achievable out of these negotations? I don’t see much.

Still, to quote a gent far more intelligent than me, I suppose, it’s better to “Jaw-jaw than war-war.”

Posted by kEiThZ | Report as abusive
 

@I am starting to doubt the level of control they really have over these anti-India jihadis. They might be able to turn back the heat on Kashmir but can they really stop LeT, JeM and the like from conducting another Mumbai? And if they don’t have that power what use is negotiation with Pakistan anyway?”
Posted by kEiThZ

Keith: I tend to agree with you that Pakistan can ask them to pause but not completely stop them. They paused if one looks at the terrorist bombing in major Indian cities before Mumbai and the silence for more than a year once Mumbai happened.

This is the reason that India wants Pakistan to shut the valve of terrorists permanently. There is no way to know if Pakistan will ever stop doing that. So far Pakistan has not seen punishment for their misdeeds. That begs the question should there not be a global level effort at this. Then opposers of this will say terrorist vs freedom fighters thing. It is not hard thing to see that an act such as blowing up a train full of commuters is not a fight for freedom. Solid evidence better than Mumbai case will not come so easily. This all will push for political process, PERHAPS.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive
 

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