Public anger strains Indian-Pakistani cooperation
The Mumbai attacks have brought old suspicions to the fore. Indians suspect militants from Pakistan; Pakistanis reject what they call a typical blame game.
New Delhi; and Karachi, Pakistan
Akash Maheshwari has no doubts about what will happen in the standoff between India and Pakistan. The Indian businessman says his country will present its evidence that Pakistani-trained militants carried out last week's attacks in Mumbai (Bombay) – and Pakistan will do nothing.Skip to next paragraph
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Years of diplomacy have not stopped the violence, he says, adding: "If we don't take military action, then the government is a fool."
In Pakistan, however, no one has seen this evidence, the name of the surviving terrorist sounds odd, and no one in his reported hometown has ever heard of him.
In Pakistan and India, old suspicions have reemerged after the Mumbai attacks, and there are signs that public anger on each side of the border is shaping diplomacy. The political posturing threatens to polarize the situation further, imperiling four years of steady progress between the two nations.
"It seemed as though the stage was being set for substantive advances," says Najmuddin Shaikh, a former foreign secretary of Pakistan. "Nothing could have been less welcome at this time."
Just in recent months, the two countries had agreed to open trade between Indian and Pakistani Kashmir and to begin work on loosening visa restrictions. The thaw had led President-elect Barack Obama to suggest that perhaps even the issue of Kashmir could finally be resolved.
The United States took the lead in diplomatic triage this week, primarily to avert a military escalation, but also to salvage this momentum that has grown since a 2004 ceasefire. It dispatched Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to New Delhi and Islamabad, where she demanded that Pakistan be cooperative and warned India not to retaliate hastily or risk "unintended consequences."
India: heeding public's anger
But since the attacks, middle ground has been hard to find, as each government is mindful of a populace angered by the others' actions.
This began last Thursday, when – with the attack still continuing – Indian Prime Minister Majmohan Singh blamed "elements" from Pakistan and promised retribution. With elections ongoing, and the ruling Congress Party being attacked for being soft on terrorism, Mr. Singh's accusations struck some in Pakistan as playing politics.
It "was a little premature," says Mr. Shaikh. "People in Pakistan would otherwise have been more understanding of his position."
Now, the opposition in the Indian Parliament, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is pressing further. Wednesday, the BJP spokesman said India should go to the UN Security Council to seek authority for strikes "to destroy the edifice of terrorism in Pakistan," according to the Hindustan Times.