Scarcely a soul envisaged last week's "trust deficit" discussions between Pakistan and India producing any results worth a fig. Unfortunately, they failed to achieve even that. Outside of the obvious attempt to assuage U.S. leaders, the biggest riddle is why India would ever agree to meet with Pakistan to discuss issues of trust in the first place, when India now has definitive proof in hand that Pakistan's intelligence agency, army and navy were in league with the hateful Islamic jihadist group responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks that led to the deaths of 173 people.
A bigger riddle is why U.S. head of state Hillary Clinton handed Pakistan a check for $500 million in development funds yesterday while Pakistan provides a safe haven for Taliban and al Qaeda leaders. Even more surreal is Mrs. Clinton giving Pakistan's leaders said aid and shortly after asserting in an interview that someone in the Pakistani establishment knows where Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar have taken sanctuary (by chance, is anyone else tearing their hair out?).
If anything, the precarious relationship between India and Pakistan deteriorated after the countries' two foreign ministers haggled in daylong sessions on July 15 - not over substance but over what issues they would discuss and when they would discuss them.
The day ended with an uncomfortably contentious press conference as India's cool-hand-Luke Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna deflected questions darted at him from a hostile Pakistani press corps. Mr. Krishna kept his dignity but while watching the video of the circus it at times looked like Krishna was secretly praying for anyone or anything to abort the proceedings as the madman to his left, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, defensively gyrated with eyes widening as he over enunciated every word while smacking his lips and jabbing his finger in the air emphatically several times - looking less the part of a senior diplomat at a press debriefing and more the part of an amateur thespian at Shakespeare in the park.
The tension was firmly established on the eve of the trust-a-thon when Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai was quoted in the Indian Express saying David Coleman Headley, the Chicago-based Pakistani-American who conspired with terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) to launch the Mumbai siege, disclosed that Pakistan's intelligence services controlled and coordinated the terrorist barrage from beginning to end.
It's no wonder that Mr. Qureshi seemed so awfully fidgety. Though Qureshi had plenty of time to come up with a decent response to this particular accusation, his pathetic rejoinder consisted of an ad hominem attack against Pillai, comparing him to the founder of LeT, Hafiz Saeed, who is basically the equivalent of Osama bin Laden to India.
Both the Indian and Pakistani press chastised Mr. Pillai's ill-timed public divulgence, though it doesn't diminish the veracity of his statement in any way. Nor does it detract from the confession that Headley gave to India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) during the course of a 34-hour interrogation from June 3 to June 9. Headley, who is still in FBI custody, informed Indian authorities that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was involved in planning the attacks, clearing weapons, funding the surveillance of targets in Mumbai and acquiring boats.
Yet, the world should have been spared from Mr. Qureshi's histrionics because India should have demanded no trust-building exercises would take place until this issue was completely resolved. During post-game diplomatic trash talking, Mr. Qureshi had the gall to accost India for not talking about what Pakistan wanted to talk about and he seemed genuinely irritated India dare try and stick to the pesky issue of the overwhelming evidence that Pakistan attacked them. But Qureshi's "cherry-picking" invective was the first untruth he told the media because India's foreign minister went above and beyond his technical mandate and offered to discuss all of the issues, including Kashmir, Jammu, Siachen and Sir Creek.
What Mr. Krishna was not willing to do was commit to a time-bound issue resolution roadmap, so Qureshi blasted Krishna afterwards for being "selective" during the discussions. He went so far as to insultingly suggest Krishna was not mentally prepared.
The second lie Mr. Qureshi told was a dense one - the type of fib that has zero upside and is so easily refuted it elucidates a certain underlying pathology, when he claimed Krishna was continually being interrupted with phone calls and getting orders from New Delhi. Qureshi then began to boast about his own diplomatic preparedness:
"I led Pakistan's team. I didn't need to make even a single phone call (to Pakistan leaders) during the daylong talks. If Krishna is principal for directing Indian foreign policy why were directions from Delhi being sent repeatedly?"
Mr. Krishna was also perplexed by the erratic Mr. Qureshi's accusation, saying: "I never used any telephone... It is an extraordinary statement to make that I got calls. I didn't talk to anyone." Pakistan's own former foreign minister Gauhar Ayub called Mr. Qureshi's deviant behavior childish and inappropriate. Days later, Qureshi backtracked and said he never said Krishna himself was on the phone. (How I wish I was there to ask a quick follow-up: "Mr. Qureshi sir... then how did Mr. Krishna receive the orders from New Delhi?")
During the press conference, considering Pakistan will not hand over the suspects of the Mumbai attacks (the reason why becoming clearer every minute) claiming Islamabad would bring them to justice, Mr. Krishna politely fished for an update and suggested that the biggest confidence-building measure would be the complete unraveling of the Mumbai conspiracy.
Qureshi's weak non-response was better left unsaid - a "let me get back to you on that one" would have sufficed. Instead, the Pakistani foreign minister flinched and declared there was little that could be done to speed things up and emphasized that "both India and Pakistan" had independent judiciaries and governments could not dictate to the courts. Mr. Krishna did not seem to appreciate the civics lesson.
According to insiders from India, Mr. Krishna probably appeared calmer than one would expect - although he is mild-mannered by nature - because he knew all of this was coming. Days before a senior diplomat gave Krishna a tip that the process was being driven by the Pakistani army or as CNN-IBN's Paarull Malhotra put it: "Rawalpindi was the puppeteer and Islamabad the puppet."
India must awaken to the reality that Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani smells blood and thinks he can knock India out of the box in Afghanistan and he certainly isn't going to wait for the trust talks to come to fruition. The U.S. desperately needs Pakistan - evidenced by the mad cash the U.S. has dished out - and Kayani knows this and is going to make sure Pakistan has a foothold in Kabul when the dust settles. It's a good wager the wise General isn't going to let a minor issue impede progress, including the fact that Pakistan's entire armed forces have been implicated in a terror plot.
If India continues down too diplomatic a road they are going to lose out in Kabul as the U.S. continues down the path of least resistance until it finds a feasible remedy. India has stated they would not participate in full blown official diplomatic discussions with Pakistan until the extremist groups in Pakistan are fully dismantled, which would entail the dismantling of the Pakistani state. Perhaps it's time for India to try and convince the U.S. a dismantling of this sort is the best remedy possible.
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