While our nation is evaluating the best course of action to pursue to punish the perpetrators of the various terrorist attacks that took place in the past year, it is also important to focus on the message that we would like to convey to the people of Pakistan. We should be clear in mind that we need to address two different parties inside Pakistan: the people and the government/ army. We should not forget the fact that till recently Pakistan was a nation ruled by a military dictator despite widespread disapproval by the people. There is a possibility that the Pakistani army is supporting terror groups targeted at India without any support from the people.
The message that we have conveyed so far to the general public in Pakistan leaves a lot to be desired. The government for its part has been allaying any fears of war between the two countries through the external affairs minister. But there have been instances where esteemed parliamentarians or defense personnel have conveyed an alternate opinion. To add to the problem the Indian media is running an opinion poll or panel discussion every other day centered on the war theme.
In the face of increase in the number of terror attacks in the past year, the government has decided to put on hold all ties with Pakistan. The message to the whole of Pakistan so far has been ‘Take action on the terrorists hiding in your country because it is good for India.’ This approach is not bound to yield favorable results. Instead we should be appealing to the Pakistani people with the message ‘Take action on the terrorists hiding in your country because it is mutually beneficial to both India and Pakistan.’
In recent times the common people in Pakistan have become victims of terrorists hiding within their own country as much as India is a victim of Pakistan based terror groups. The terror attack on Pakistan’s Marriot preceded the terror attacks on India’s Taj & Oberoi by several months. The government should bear in mind that in addition to creating destruction in India the other major goal of terrorists who carry out attacks on India is to disrupt any level of friendship from developing between India & Pakistan. In an environment of growing friendship and mutual trust between these two countries, there would be no need for the Pakistani army to wage any proxy war against India which would diminish the dependence of the Pakistani army on these terror groups which would be detrimental to the interests of these terror groups.
Therefore it is necessary for the government of India to provide every opportunity for friendship and trust to develop between the people of both the countries. As a part of this process the government should allow people to people contacts like sports and cultural events. In addition the government should advise the Indian Media not to provide too much focus on the possibility of war between the two countries.
It is important for us to keep in mind that the post-Musharaff democratic era in Pakistan is still at a nascent stage. The public support to army in Pakistan till recently was at an all time low and Musharaff relinquished his power due to adverse public opinion. Any fear of war with India will once again force the people of Pakistan to support its army which will only weaken the standing of the democratic government in Pakistan vis-à-vis the Pakistani army. Therefore it is imperative that we should help democracy in Pakistan to flourish. For this to happen, the general public in Pakistan should feel that the Indian army as less of a threat compared to the association of its own army with terror groups.
While the Indian government should continue to pressurize the Pakistani government to take action against terror groups hiding in Pakistan through diplomatic means, the message that we convey to the Pakistani people through the general media should be that India wants friendship with the people of Pakistan but the terrorists hiding in Pakistan are trying to play spoilsport.