Monday, May 9, 2011



Interested Indian observers should thank Sen.Rehman Malik, a fellow cop like me, who is Pakistan's Interior Minister, for facilitating the visit to Islamabad at this sensitive time in the history of Pakistan of two prominent and widely-respected journalists of the Indian electronic media---Barkha Dutt of NDTV and Suhasini Haider of CNN-IBN--- for reporting on the delicate situation there by asking the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi to issue them visas.

2. It has been reported that on the receipt of a Tweet from Barkha regarding the issue of a visa, he intervened immediately to ensure that Indian journalists based in New Delhi faced no difficulty in getting visas. Barkha and Suhasini were among the initial beneficiaries of his intervention.

3. This was a remarkable gesture by Senator Malik which has made me wonder how we in India would have conducted ourselves in a similar situation. If at the height of a national security situation in India, some reputed Pakistani journalists had tweeted Shri P.Chidambaram, our Home Minister, seeking his intervention for a visa, would he have intervened? If some well-known Pakistani TV journalists had wanted to come to New Delhi to telecast debates on issues relating to India's relations with Pakistan and the US, would we have allowed them in the same way Pakistan's Interior Ministry--- without any apparent constraining intervention from the Pakistani army and the Inter-Services Intelligence so far--- has allowed Barkha and Suhasini to report from Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad? Would we have allowed a Pakistani journalist like Hamid Mir or Ejaz Haider or Hanif Mohammad or any such personality to telecast a live talk show from New Delhi involving eminent opinion-makers in the brilliant way Barkha has been doing from Islamabad for the last three nights?

4. I have been closely following the despatches of Barkha and Suhasini and the live debates organised by Barkha from Islamabad for the last three nights. What has fascinated me is not only the rich contents of their despatches and debates, but also the freedom with which the two have apparently been allowed to report and discuss live from Islamabad.

5. Their despatches and debates are being watched not only by audiences in India, but also by audiences in Pakistan. The Pakistani authorities have till now not shown the least sign of nervousness that the reportage of Barkha and Suhasini could add to their difficulties in dealing with a very sensitive domestic situation.

6. This speaks very highly of the self-confidence of Senator Malik and his colleagues and their keenness not to do anything that might come in the way of reporting by the Indian journalists even if there be a potential risk of creating difficulties for the Pakistan Govt.

7. Thanks to the scintillating debates organised by Barkha----three so far--- and the crisp and well-analysed reporting of Suhasini, we in India have a better understanding of the storm signals from Pakistan --- in relation to domestic affairs as well as its relations with the US. Barkha and Suhasini need to be complimented in equal measure for maintaining a healthy balance and restraint in their reporting and for not letting themselves be influenced by "the Fix Pakistan" syndrome unfortunately seen in many other TV news channels.

8.Indo-Pakistan relations are generally characterised by petty-mindedness, suspicions and chicanerry on both sides. Senator Rehman Malik needs to be complimented for rising above such negative reflexes in facilitating the coverage of the situation in Pakistan by Barkha and Suhasini.

9. If we in India are fair and mentally generous, we ought to recognise the gesture of Senator Malik for what it is and reciprocate it in good measure from our side in the hope of paving the way for a turning point in the attitude of the two Governments towards each other's media. (10-5-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Strudies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )




( Written at the request of the Editor, “Hindustan Times”, New Delhi )

A wave of skepticism and anger in Pakistan has greeted the clandestine raid by US naval commandoes into the place of residence of Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad, near Islamabad, on the night between May 1 and 2, which resulted in his death.

The skepticism has been over the claims made by both the US and Pakistan regarding the operation itself. Large sections of the Pakistani civil society believe that a chopper-borne hit and run raid of this nature could not have been carried out by the US Special Forces without the acquiescence, if not the covert collaboration, of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment.

Barring the technical break-down of a chopper which resulted in its being blown up, the entire operation lasting about two hours ---most of which was spent by the US raiding team either in the Pakistani air space or territory ---- was carried out with clock-like precision. It would be very difficult to attribute the total absence of any engagement between the US raiding party and the Pakistani security forces only to the remarkable capabilities of the US forces for a clandestine operation of this nature.

There ought to have been a Pakistani role ---even if that role was only one of pre-determined inaction till the Americans had killed OBL and left---- which ensured the success of the operation with a remarkable absence of engagement in the air or on the ground and a total lack of any collateral damage. That is what many not only in Pakistan, but also outside believe and this belief will remain strong whatever be the US claims and explanations.

There have been outbursts of public anger, but surprisingly not of rage. The first Friday prayers after the raid on May 6 surprisingly passed off without any serious incident of violence. The anger has been over the US violation of the Pakistani sovereignty and over the suspected Pakistani collaboration with the US for killing a pious Muslim, who is seen by many in the Islamic world not as a dreaded terrorist, but as a saviour and defender of Islam.

It would be difficult to assess for how long this skepticism and anger would last, but so long as it does, Pakistan would remain a vulnerable State---even more than in the past. Its internal security situation could further deteriorate due to a possible rise in acts of suicide terrorism directed against soft as well as hard targets. At a time when the anger caused by the Pakistani commando raid into the Lal Masjid in Islamabad in July 2007 was showing signs of subsiding, there is a danger of its being re-kindled by the US operation in Abbottabad.

Pakistan has been passing through a state of unstable equilibrium for some years now. This equilibrium could become even more unstable in the weeks and months to come as a consequence of the Abbottabad raid. How to prevent this unstable equilibrium from worsening further? That will be an important objective of the US policy towards Pakistan.

Pakistan’s strategic importance for the US will not diminish despite the elimination of OBL. Pakistani co-operation had served US interests well in the past---whether it was in relation to the cold war or the US rapprochement with China. It could serve US interests in the Islamic world equally well in the future. There cannot be a stable Afghanistan without a stable Pakistan and vice versa. The US interest in ensuring the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal will remain as strong as ever. Pakistan will continue to be a key state in the fight against Islamic extremism and jihadi terrorism.

It would be a miscalculation to think that US suspicions and anger over possible local support----official or unofficial or both--- to OBL in Pakistan could result in major changes in the US policy in the sub-continent to the detriment of Pakistan and benefit of India. While stepping up pressure on Pakistan for more sincerity and effectiveness in dealing with jihadi terrorism, the US will eschew any policies or actions which could prove detrimental to its interests in Pakistan.

Instead of hoping to be able to drive a wedge between the US and Pakistan by exploiting the cloud over the sanctuary enjoyed by OBL, India should examine how the OBL incident could be used as one more argument for convincing Pakistan of the need to give up the path of terrorism. These are traumatizing moments for Pakistan and its people. We should avoid any signs of glee. That would be unwise.

The problems faced by us in our relations with Pakistan due to its use of terrorism will continue. We should seek a solution to this problem through our own genius and in our own way through an appropriate mix of policy incentives and disincentives. We need a stand alone policy which will not depend on the US policy towards Pakistan for its success. (9-5-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinert Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi )