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Mainstream, Vol. XLVII, No 41, September 26, 2009

Latest Moves by Islamabad and Beijing


Saturday 26 September 2009, by SC


Recent developments in Pakistan relating to Hafiz Saeed, the founder-leader of Jamat-ud-Dawa-cum-Lashkar-e-Taiba, have been cautiously welcomed by India.

On September 16, the police in Pakistan’s Punjab province registered two cases against him in Faisalabad for glorifying jihad and soliciting funds for it. The cases were unconnected to the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008. But what is significant is that for the first time cases were filed against him by the Punjab Government under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

What is more, on September 19 Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik told a press conference in Islamabad that Pakistan was pursuing the leads provided by India on Hafiz Saeed, adding:

I have not rejected the leads… if there is evidence against (him) during our investigations… he will not get out of the clutches of law.

And on September 21 the police in Lahore confined Hafiz Saeed to his house, but did not arrest or detain him; however, he was prevented from leaving his home to lead the Id prayers at the Gaddafi Statium in the city.

All these constitute a half-step. And given the Pakistani administration’s past record there is no guarantee “that justice is at last being done”, as has been observed in The Hindu. Nonetheless it would be futile to dismiss this half-measure as of no consequence whatsoever. In the words of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram,

He (Hafiz Saeed) has been charged under two FIRs unrelated to 26/11. If this is a face-saving technique, I have no objection. My demand is that he be interrogated… on his role in the 26/11 attacks.

This a correct and appropriate response shorn of any trace of jingoism and deserves to be acclaimed.

However, the government’s sharp criticism of the media for expressing legitimate apprehension on Chinese intentions in view of Beijing’s latest activities on the Sino-Indian border is inexplicable, to say the least. In this context the words of former Chief of Army Staff General Shankar Roy Chowdhury in The Asian Age are noteworthy:

India’s responses (to Chinese moves—S.C.) have been non-confrontational and even passive, sometimes to the point of apparent deference. The psyche of the Han race… is another factor to be understood when interacting with China, irrespective of the political system prevailing… Xenophobic by natural mindset, the Han consider China as the “middle kingdom” of the world, superior to those countries and peoples on the periphery, which in current perspective includes India. The underlying inflexibility in matters of territory considered national, no matter how long ago in history, has its origins in this perception, and applies to territorial frontiers, whether Taiwan, Vietnam, the South China Sea, or in India’s case the Sino-Indian border in Tibet…

…the “trust but verify” mantra needs a little modification in the context of China. How about an alternative: “Speak softly but carry the big stick”?

The words merit serious consideration of all concerned.

September 23 S.C.

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