Tuesday, Nov 29, 2022

Pakistan’s half a confession: Holbrooke’s first success?

C Raja Mohan | Raja-Mandala<br> Even the most sceptical of Indian analysts will have to concede that Pakistan has taken an important step forward Thursday in acknowledging that at least part of the planning for the Mumbai outrage took place in Pakistan.

Even the most sceptical of Indian analysts will have to concede that Pakistan has taken an important step forward Thursday in acknowledging that at least part of the planning for the Mumbai outrage took place in Pakistan.

Islamabad’s half a confession on Thursday is an important gain for the UPA government which had chosen the diplomatic route to pressurise Pakistan rather than a military confrontation that many hotheads in New Delhi wanted after the Mumbai aggression.

The Manmohan Singh government,however,has a long way to go before it can claim victory. Nevertheless,it does have a few options now to generate a politically satisfactory outcome from its patient post-Mumbai diplomacy.

In admitting the Mumbai link to the Lashkar-e-Toiba and revealing that some arrests have already been made,Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has taken significant political risk. A simple question,then,is: Why?

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It will be difficult not to see the connection between Pakistan’s significant announcements on Mumbai and the U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke’s trip to the region this week and President Barack Obama’s call to Zardari on Wednesday night.

New Delhi had known all along that Islamabad’s response would not be driven by the credibility of the evidence that New Delhi had marshaled on the master-minding of the Mumbai attacks from across the border. The key factor in Pakistan’s reaction was the kind of political space that Zardari could muster vis-a-vis Pakistan’s permanent establishment dominated by the Army. Equally important was the kind of international pressure that India could mobilise,especially from the United States that is Pakistan’s principal external benefactor.

The many vacillations of Pakistan’s civilian leadership after the Mumbai attack suggested that the Army might have succeeded in whipping up popular sentiment against India and forced Zardari to fall in line.

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The prolonged presidential transition in Washington after the November elections meant,India had to wait until the Obama Administration settled in and crafted its own much-promised new approach to the Subcontinent.

In appointing Holbrooke as the special envoy and dispatching him to the region quickly,Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signaled their intent to waste no time in devising a new and integrated regional strategy towards Afghanistan,Pakistan and India.

As Holbrooke demonstrates the capability to deliver some results on Mumbai from Pakistan,New Delhi must get ready to outline a supple strategy that takes into account the rapidly evolving internal dynamic in Pakistan and Afghanistan and the new direction of American policy towards South Asia.

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(C. Raja Mohan is a Professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies,Nanyang Technological University,Singapore.)

First published on: 13-02-2009 at 05:06:55 pm
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