Here are my replies to three questions received from a British journalist:
Thanks for your E-mail. Here are my replies to your three questions. Regards. B.Raman
1. How important is this trial for those who watch the India-Pak relationship. Are we really going to learn something new?
Answer:In the case of Headley, who has made a detailed plea bargain fully admitting his role in connection with the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai and the planned terrorist strike in Copenhagen, we are unlikely to learn anything new during the trial. In the case of Rana, he has not made a confession and hence is not the beneficiary of a plea bargain. We already know a lot about his role based on the confessions made by Headley and the FBI's interceptions of Rana's phone conversations. What we do not know as yet is what defence Rana is going to take. Media reports emanating from Chicago on April 12,2011, had indicated that his main defence would be that he had no links with Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and hence he was not involved in terrorism. At the same time, it was reported, he would admit his links with the ISI and his performing some tasks in India at the instance of the ISI.His defence would most probably be that his helping the ISI would not amount to his helping LET terrorism If he takes up such a defence, as reported in the media, we may get a little more about the ISI's role in addition to what has already come out.
2. Manmohan Singh has gone out of his way to reach out to the Pakistanis; do you believe those efforts could be undermined by any revelations from the trial?
Answer: I do not expect the Chicago trial to have any impact on Dr.Manmohan Singh's peace initiative towards Pakistan. He took the initiative in the last week of March. By that time, the Govt. of India had already known what Headley had been saying. It might have already been told by the FBI of what Rana might be telling the court. The fact that MMS took the peace initiative in spite of the considerable details regarding the role of the ISI already known at that time would indicate that he may not allow the Chicago trial to come in the way of the peace process
3. How possible is it for there to be good relations between India and Pakistan while the military continues to back militant groups.
Answer:The Pakistani military and the ISI are not going to give up the use of the LET and other anti-India jihadi organisations as strategic weapons against India so long as they don't achieve their objective of forcing India to agree to a change of the status quo in J & K. The Govt. of India knows fully well that the end of Pakistani sponsorship of anti-India terrorism is not for tomorrow. I do not expect any renunciation of this weapon by Pakistan at least for another five to 10 years.What India would be hoping for is that even if Pakistan continues to retain this weapon of terrorism, it will refrain from using it so long as it sees the peace process as moving forward. The hope would be that a tactical process of incremental improvements in bilateral relations could ultimately acquire a strategic dimension, resulting in Pakistan giving up the sponsorship of terrorism. Many skeptics of MMS policies feel that his expectations would be belied. His skeptics would want a flexible peace process to go side by side with a robust, activist counter-terrorism response. MMS appears to be disinclined to accept any advice for a robust and activist counter-terrorism response to give teeth to the peace process.