Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani met with his Indian counterpart, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on the sidelines of the sixteenth South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit in Thimphu, Bhutan late last month. It was widely expected in both capitals that this meeting would take place, though the outcome thereof was quite uncertain. In the event, the two decided to resume bilateral talks at the foreign minister level.
The last round of bilateral talks, held earlier this year in New Delhi, had taken place at the level of foreign secretaries and had accomplished little or nothing. The declaration at the conclusion of the talks that the two sides had agreed to stay in contact for a future meeting had sharply underscored the obvious lack of progress on any substantive issue.
The decision to hold talks at the political level and without India’s customary insistence on Pakistan ending its support for terror has left some hawkish Indian commentators all but apoplectic. They have again accused Prime Minister Singh of inadequately safeguarding India’s vital national security interests owing to his failure to include the issue of Pakistan’s involvement with terror.
Their indignation notwithstanding, there could be a compelling reason other than sheer pusillanimity for Singh’s reticence to publicly hound Pakistan for its unwillingness to cooperate with India on handing over those suspected in the terror attacks on Mumbai in November 2008. Singh, a man of no small intelligence, probably realizes that this endeavour is little more than a fool’s errand.
Publicly hectoring Gilani to cooperate on this issue may well appeal to a segment of the Indian electorate understandably indignant with Pakistan’s utter disingenuousness on the matter. However, such berating is unlikely to accomplish very much. Gilani, quite frankly, is far from being the master of his own house and is in no position to take on the behemoth Pakistani security and intelligence establishments. It’s they, not Gilani, who will decide when and if the time is apt for abandoning what seems to be a key element of the country’s defence policy toward India, namely the careful cultivation of jihadi terror.