India Must Make Peace With Pakistan to Stop Terrorism

06/08/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Since founding, Pakistan has supported insurgencies and terrorism, training and funding groups as a tool of warfare against a burgeoning giant next door, India. In 1947, barely two months into independence, Islamabad ordered lashkars -- or insurgent armies -- to raid Kashmir after the Maharaja decided that the Muslim-majority state would join India, cementing a pattern Pakistan's establishment would follow decades later. Pakistan to this day covertly aides Kashmiri insurgents (though recent reports suggest that the support is now at an ebb), and India refuses to negotiate over Kashmir until Pakistan rids the region of terrorism. It is the lack of a permanent peaceful solution between India and Pakistan that provided -- and provides -- the impetus for Pakistani terrorism.

Pakistan's reliance on insurgents, however, isn't part of some maniacal proclivity for Islamic fanaticism. Rather, it is a calculated national security decision rooted in its particular position. Neighboring Indian boasts a population nearly ten times that of Pakistan's, and its armed forces are more than double in size. Dwarfed by the Indian elephant, Pakistan's generals have chosen to use jihadists in the cause of the country's security. Islamabad's support for terrorism in India and in the region must be understood in this light.

Although Pakistan has an undeniable terrorism problem, for New Delhi to fixate on the tree -- terrorism -- rather than the forest -- the strategic environment that fosters terrorism -- is a misstep. Indian diplomats insist that Pakistan must end terrorism before talks can begin. But such an assertion assumes two things: firstly, that Pakistan can indeed "end" terrorism; and secondly, that Pakistan will merely end support for terrorism if New Delhi urges it to.

The phenomenon of terrorism is a complex one, and to believe that Pakistan's intelligence services exercise reasonable control over the region's various extremists is foolish. In 2009, nearly 3,000 Pakistani civilians died as a result of terrorist attacks, while various military and intelligence officers and bases were targeted -- and they still are. If Pakistani authorities knew how to end terrorism, they would do so. And recent crackdowns on militant groups in the country's northwest and the Punjab attest to a growing conviction in Pakistan's national security apparatus that terrorism must be defeated.

However, the question of whether Pakistan continues to support insurgents in Kashmir -- including Lashkar-e-Taiba, responsible for the Mumbai attacks -- remains open. So long as Pakistan perceives India as a threat, it will continue to covertly support anti-Indian elements. Irresponsible and unsubstantiated recriminations lobbed against Pakistan by New Delhi don't help either. They instead fuel Islamabad's bellicosity. But by addressing the root cause of Pakistan's use of jihadists -- its security dilemma -- the two can move forward.

Indians are understandably frustrated with Pakistan's past support of insurgencies and terrorist groups. And, as the trial of Mumbai attack plotter David Headley revealed, presently serving individuals within Pakistan's military and intelligence apparatus provided vital support to the group that attacked Mumbai in November 2008. New Delhi should continue to press Pakistan to prosecute and arrest the perpetrators. But to secure that cooperation India must realize: enemies don't work together, friends do.

Instead of holding the Indo-Pak peace process hostage to the singular issue of terrorism, India should embrace Pakistan's call for a composite dialogue that puts all the issues -- including Kashmir and terrorism -- on the table. By assuring Pakistan that India means well, and that it is willing to settle a dispute that has formed the core of Pakistani foreign policy since inception, New Delhi can build the foundations for a peaceful South Asia. An overture to Islamabad would calm the nerves of Pakistan's generals, which will in turn lead to a strategic reorientation in Islamabad -- that is, a renunciation of terrorism at both the official and unofficial levels.