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Mainstream, VOL LI No 44, October 19, 2013

India, Pakistan Should Discuss Joint Action against Al-Qaeda, Taliban

Monday 21 October 2013, by Kuldip Nayar


In his reply to my letter, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said: “I look forward to a time when Pakistan and India will be able to shed the debilitating baggage of the past and focus more on the future, when opportunities, rather than challenges, define the relationship between two proud and sovereign nations.” His meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is an evidence of his ardent desire to make up with India.

Hostility between India and Pakistan is so proverbial that any movement towards lessening it comes as a relief. The meeting between the two may not have spanned the distance between the two countries. Yet it has broken the ice and it is a good beginning.

The skeptics are hard to please, particularly when Nawaz Sharif did not assure Manmohan Singh on the terrorist training camps in Pakistan (they number around 30). The meeting is a step forward. Both Prime Ministers were under great pressure from their domestic lobbies of opposition. Still they stood the ground and met for an hour. Both should be complimented for preferring a dialogue to the cancellation of the meeting which would have damaged the prospects of peace.

I have not been able to understand the logic of those who have opposed the meeting. Is there any other option? Both sides can defer the talks, but they have to engage themselves sooner or later. And the outcome of the meeting has been positive. Both Prime Ministers have rightly pinpointed the priority: to firm up the ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC).

The agreement reached in 1993 on the ceasefire has stood the test of time for a decade. It is unfortunate that the Taliban could penetrate in Jammu and Kashmir and kill five Indian soldiers. Now the two Prime Ministers have directed their respective Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) to meet and work out arrangements to ensure the ceasefire is not impaired. The two DGMOs should also find out why the violation took place in the first instance. True, the Taliban, not the Pakistan armed forces, did it. But how did the Taliban come to use the Pakistani territory to shoot their way into India? Some connivance by some is obvious.

The Taliban menace, which has made practically every place in Pakistan unsafe, has to be met squarely. Chief of Army Staff General Parvez Kayani has declared that the Pakistan Army would stay in Swat, a part of Northern Waziristan, near the Afghanistan border. At the same time, he has differed with Nawaz Sharif on talks with the Taliban. He should recognise the fact that the entire region has come to be threatened by the resurgence of the Al-Qaeda directing the Taliban.

The situation may get aggravated when the Western troops withdraw from Afghanistan next year. Already the Al-Qaeda is recruiting young men and training them for strikes after the withdrawal of troops. I have my doubts about the capability of the Afghanistan Army and the police, trained by America, to withstand the Al-Qaeda onslaught.

I think that the Al-Qaeda’s ideology of fanaticism has not been properly spelled out before the Pakistan public. The country has had a taste of it when the Swat Valley was occupied by the Taliban for some time. The music shops were closed and so were the education institu-tions for girls. The veil was compulsorily imposed and the general expectation was that women would stay indoors. And there was not even an iota of free expression allowed, much less liberal thought. 

Madrasas and mosques in the region have become the breeding ground of the Taliban and their ideology of fundamentalism. I cannot understand why some Muslim countries are financing them. The outcast Libya is reportedly supplying them with arms. The Muslim countries seem to have forgotten the Arab Spring when the youth and liberal elements came on to the streets to confront the fundamentalists. At that time, every Muslim country began chanting the mantra of democracy. The fundamentalists were able to create division in the ranks of students and defeat the demand for democratic regimes. The Al-Qaeda’s fundamentalist ideology can revive the spirit of the Arab Spring.

I wish Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif had discussed the resurgence of the Al-Qaeda. Both India and Pakistan, particularly the latter, have to ponder over the vacuum created after the Western forces quit. If combating terrorism is a priority for the two countries, the Al-Qaeda and its instruments of tyranny, the Taliban, should be on top of their agenda. In fact, the Taliban in the shape of the mujahideen are already operating in India. The situation is still under control. But the birth of the Hindu Taliban should be a point of concern for India.

I wish the two countries would realise the gravity of the situation and discuss a joint action. New Delhi should be able to anticipate the situation it could face if Islamabad goes under or functions at the behest of the Taliban. Even Kenya and Nigeria have not been able to escape the Al-Qaeda’s fury. Peshawar, the capital of the North Western Frontier Province, has been a target three times in the last week, killing roughly 200 people.

Pakistan is still not coming hard on the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Hafiz Sayed, its chief, is leading prayers at the government-controlled Gaddafi Stadium and inciting people against India. Nawaz Sharif, when asked by Manmohan Singh about action against the terrorists who struck in Mumbai on 26/11, said that the case against them in the court would progress now that Pakistan’s judicial commission had visited India.

Against this backdrop, the diatribe by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi against the Congress and non-BJP governments was in a bad taste. He depended on a Pakistani anchor’s prankish remark that Nawaz Sharif compared Manmohan Singh to a ‘dehati (rural) woman’. No such remark was made as it turned out to be later. Modi, aspiring to be the country’s Prime Minister, should be cautious in what he says. But then he gets lost in his demagogy.

The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is

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