As the news of the capture the world’s most wanted man Osama bin Laden spread and the implications of what had just happened became clearer, there was a sense of satisfaction in India. For over two decades India had consistently said that Pakistan was harbouring terrorists but the world had not paid much attention. It took the horror of the attacks on the twin towers on September 11, 2001 for the US to wake up to the reality. There were several terror attacks around the world since then and inevitably a Pakistani link was found in most of them.
When 26/11 happened in Mumbai in 2008, the Pakistani connection was laid bare. Not only had the terrorists come to Mumbai from Pakistani, they had been in touch with their handlers in that country throughout the attack. India had given several dossiers to Pakistan with evidence but so far there has been no concrete measures from the other side to bring the masterminds behind the Mumbai attacks to book. Indeed, Pakistan has often claimed that many wanted names - and ace criminal Dawood Ibrahim and his aide Chhota Shakeel are among them - are living in Pakistan, despite this fact being reported in the local media there.
So when Osama was killed in a surgical operation by crack American troops, the world realised that Pakistan’s word could not be trusted. Think about it-the world’s most wanted man living less than a mile away from the country’s top military academy, in a town full of retired generals. Can something like that happen without some degree of complicity with the security establishment. The Americans made it clear that they had not taken the Pakistani military into confidence before carrying out this operation-they were worried if they had, word would have leaked out.
Immediately, the cries went up in India that we too must do something similar-send a crack team of commandos to Pakistan and either kill or capture Dawood Ibrahim and a few others who are wanted here. Retired army men and experts started talking of hot pursuit and surprise attacks. Indian generals added fuel to the fire by saying India had the capability to carry out such an operation. Television channels, always ready to whip up jingoism added to the din.
But let us stop and think for a moment. Do we really have that level of skills, equipment and knowhow? What if such an operation is mounted and the troops are caught-it could lead to an international incident and may be interpreted as an act of war. The US is big, has the weaponry and the technology and most important, has tremendous leverage in Pakistan. Pakistan has had to swallow this humiliation. Would they do so if a country like India, their mortal enemy did something similar?
Besides, that is no way to conduct international affairs. True, diplomacy appears slow and futile, but the alternative is not a Hollywood style raid deep in the heart of a hostile country. Firstly, it is an infringement of another country’s sovereignity. Second, it is risky. Most of all, just because one such operation has succeeded does not mean others will. Much as we want to get our hands on Dawood Ibrahim, this is not the way to do it.
In fact, the use of proper judicial process to finally nail Ajmal Kasab has won India a lot of international praise. He has been through proper trials and has been found guilty. He has appealed and that will take its own time. We have not hanged him instantly-democracies do not believe in summary justice or revenge but in the rule of law. However frustrating it sounds, this is the correct way.
However, the events in Abbotabad have certainly given India a lot of additional leeway to raise the question of fugitives such as Dawood Ibrahim with the Pakistani authorities. Their bureaucrats and generals may be sabre rattling and making warning noises towards India, but they know that India now has the upper hand and can demand that Pakistan hand over wanted terrorists to us. It may not happen, but such a demand will carry more weight today and the world will take it more seriously. India is right in saying our diplomatic talks will continue but this is the time to press home our advantage, at least in the propaganda war. No longer can Pakistan hide behind the purdah of denying the existence of wanted men on their soil.
Thus, let us stop talk of emulating American and complaining about how we don’t have the guts to do something similar. That may not be the best solution at all, at least not for us. At the same time, let us take full advantage of Pakistan’s dilemma and press home our point. In the current climate, when the world is looking at Pakistan with hostility and suspicion, that may be the best policy.
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