India prone to playing mischief

It is not happening for the first time and, for sure, it has not happened for the last time. Indian Intelligence agencies have been caught virtually with their pants down. The three Pakistani ‘terrorists’ pinpointed by the union government’s secret service as having infiltrated into Mumbai for causing fresh trouble have turned out to be anything but that. The three, whose photographs had been widely circulated in India for a general ‘look out’ notice, are actually all small businessmen running mobile phone shops right there in their home country. They were not only surprised on seeing their photographs being telecast over Indian channels for ‘public information’ but scared enough to rush to police stations and seek protection. To be fair, the counterparts of Indian sleuths across the border must perhaps be the only lot not surprised by this incident for, it is the most favourite game in their community world over. 

The so-called ‘Establishment’ on both sides of the border has never been at ease with normal situation. More often than not they use their ‘intelligence’ to conjure unintelligent scenarios to deter political bosses in (respective) ‘national interest’. Right now, governments in both the countries have embarked upon a course towards reconciliation. Small steps are being devised and acted upon to improve the climate on the subcontinent. Indeed, some positive results are already evident by way of agreement on the issues of trade and visa. Areas of disagreement over harder issues like Kashmir and terrorism have either been contained or reduced to pave the way forward. Engagement at various levels and covering a broad spectrum of mutual relationship is in progress after a long break resulting from the Mumbai attacks in November, 2008.

It is an open secret that sections with the ‘Intelligence’ community, on both sides, are not comfortable with such a course of events. They are prone to playing spoilsport. However, it needs to be acknowledged that even within the political class there is no homogeneity in such matters but that kind of distraction is harmless because it is mostly out in the open. On the other hand, intelligence feed or ‘input’ has always had the potential to derail normalisation process in so many ways. 

Wide circulation of posters carrying photographs of (make-believe) Pakistani ‘terrorists’ in Mumbai is bound to generate public scare and trigger hostile reaction against attempted reconciliation. Pressure of public opinion has traditionally been a strong factor in determining the respective attitudes of India and Pakistan towards each other, especially at the governmental levels. Thus holding of a (recent) joint conclave of Indian and Pakistani businessmen in Lahore would seem to be incongruent with the run of events conjured by the Intelligence agencies. With photographic ‘evidence’ purported to have been procured by the agencies the very idea of any such reconciliatory engagement would seem to be counter to the ‘national interest’.

Troubled history of India-Pakistan relationship is full of instances where good intentions and doable initiatives have been mercilessly murdered by these Intelligence agencies across the border. Like the tendency in the armed forces to stage fake encounters to win awards, rewards and promotion or to keep up the tension, Intelligence apparatus is notorious for harbouring disruptive thoughts to derail reconciliation in order to assert their supremacy in the decision-making hierarchy. The intelligence input is tailored and there is nothing secret or surprising in it.

However, the cost of such adventurous intervention has turned out to be too heavy to sustain. It costs human lives besides extracting colossal economic price to sustain animosity and confrontation. It is today one of those rare moments in India-Pakistan history where governments on both sides seem to be genuinely committed to reversing the course of that disastrous history and usher a new beginning. Small steps are being taken haltingly and rightly so. To achieve its intended objectives it has become necessary to rein in the Intelligence apparatus on both sides before they succeed in pull ing the pendulum back.