|Singh at the news conference on board Air India One. (PTI)
On board Air India One, July 18: Admitting that the India-Pakistan dialogue process had “suffered” in the wake of the Mumbai terrorist strikes, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he nevertheless does not see this as a “complete setback” to the peace process.
Talking to reporters on his way back from the G8 summit at St Petersburg, the Prime Minister preferred to opt for a complex approach towards Pakistan.
He still seems to be suing for peace, though this might leave him open to public criticism at home.
Even in the wake of the “ghastly tragedy” at Mumbai, he emphasised the commonalities in South Asia rather than differences, claiming that the destinies of the countries of the region were linked.
He said: “Our countries need peace and stability to realise our developmental potential. And anything that sets this process back is not something that makes me happy.”
It was perhaps possible for him to take a less belligerent view of the relationship with Pakistan after the unstinting support he got on terrorism and its support structures from the world leaders assembled at St Petersburg.
Had the world leaders not shown their “readiness” after the Mumbai and Srinagar strikes “to undertake all necessary measures to bring to justice perpetrators, organisers, sponsors of these and other terrorist acts, and those who incited the perpetrators to commit them”, the Prime Minister’s attitude could have been vastly different.
Had the world treated Mumbai any different from London or Madrid, the loss of Indian lives as less than that in the West, then Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism would be seen as India’s problem alone. Singh then would have had to take a more belligerent stand.
With international support in his pocket, he indicated that the options before India were for exploring peace and not for worsening the relationship. The Prime Minister, therefore, made it amply clear that any setback to the dialogue process would not be a desirable development.
Yet he wanted to say there was no way that India could deal with Pakistan as if the Mumbai terrorist strikes had not happened. He argued that “in the wake of this ghastly tragedy”, there was a need to reflect on “our relations with Pakistan”.
“It was an enormous tragedy in Mumbai ' (with) 200 innocent men, women and children losing their lives, 800 (people being) wounded. It was an onslaught which has to be met and will be met with full force, with full determination,” the Prime Minister said.
At the same time, however, he did not want the war on terror to mean permanent hostility to Pakistan. He did not want to send a message to the international community that India would now refuse to deal with Pakistan.
While the G8 will undoubtedly work to defeat international forces of jihad, it is unclear to what extent these powers would stand by India and put pressure on Pakistan to halt its sponsorship of terrorism against this country. The Indian government seems to think that declaratory intentions will be translated into action. This, however, remains to be seen.