In the aftermath of the Mumbai attack of July 13, which killed 21 and injured 140, India is trying not to escalate the tension with Pakistan. Despite the feeling that behind the triple blasts there is once again the shadow of the Pakistani intelligence (ISI), both countries are trying to move ahead with peace talks on the disputed region of Kashmir. India broke off the peace process with Pakistan after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 164 people and wounded at least 308, and were blamed on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba group, the cat's paw of the ISI. As the Indian Home Minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, told a press conference: "We are not starting the investigation on the basis of any predetermined assumptions … We are not pointing our fingers, at this stage, at this group or that group."

Improvement of Pakistani-Indian relations

Particularly significant was a recent speech delivered by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who, on a visit to Mingora, Swat, the cradle of the Taliban revolt, pledged that his government would seek the normalization of relations with India. "Pakistan views India as its most important neighbor and desires a sustained, substantive and result-oriented process of dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues, including the core issue of [the disputed region of] Kashmir."

This improvement in bilateral relations finds the firm opposition of extremist groups who are not ready for any kind of compromise when it comes to the territorial disputes concerning Kashmir. According to most observers, the major aim of the bombings in Mumbai was to sabotage any Pakistani-Indian peace process that might have come onto the track. "India has engaged with Pakistan in a peace process in the last five months; there have been signs that both countries want to work towards durable peace," said Rahul Roy-Chaudhury of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. "Militants could feel that this would be a threat to them, if there is successful engagement between India and Pakistan." As Al-Arabiya.net put it: "improved Indian-Pakistani relations pose an existential threat to Pakistani terrorist groups who thrive on tension between the two countries."

A peaceful Pakistan is essential to India's economical development

Although the firm will of the two countries to continue their dialogue can be seen as a positive development, there is a widespread feeling that what brings Pakistan and India together, more than a newly found sense of trust, is the fear that a deterioration in the relations between them might plunge the region into a dangerous period of tension and violence. The latest attacks could not have come at a worse time: Pakistan is on the brink of violent disintegration and of economic collapse. Further, the growing rift between Pakistan and the U.S., particularly after the killing of Osama bin Laden, is sending shock-waves throughout the region, threatening to destabilize it.

A destabilized Pakistan is the last thing the Indian government wants. The so-called Manmohan doctrine, named after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, holds that a peaceful Pakistan next door is essential to India's rise in the region as an economic power. The situation in Pakistan, however, reveals a split-personality country, uncertain about whether to continue on the path of modernity or the path of radical Islam.

What does one do with Pakistan?

India is now facing a dilemma: what to do with Pakistan. Bharat Karnad, a research professor at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, writes that the "Pakistan army runs a 'secret account' enabling the prosecution of 'black operations' by the Directorate of the ISI," and mentions the possibility of Pakistan's assassinating inconvenient political leaders at home, orchestrating militant campaigns in Kashmir and in India, and sustaining the Taliban's resistance against the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. "Pakistan's asymmetric warfare capabilities are in fighting trim. It is not a tool Pakistan is likely to give up," Karnad writes, suggesting that India's behavior toward Pakistan should be prudent and that India will require economic large-heartedness. "India can afford a free trade regime intended to improve Pakistan's economic prospects, which is in India's interest. It will show good faith, and incentivize the Pakistan army into reforming its adversarial attitude." In this way he says, a free-trade regime would the diminish Pakistan's need of China, and the possibility that Beijing would play a bigger hegemonic role in the region.

ISI's obsession with India

If appeasing Pakistan could be a solution, the ISI does not seem to be looking for a peaceful solution with its neighbor, despite the efforts of Pakistan's government. The Hindustan Times reports that the slain Pakistani investigative reporter, Shahzad, in his book, Inside al Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond bin Laden and 9/11, hit Pakistan as well as revealing a worrisome ISI plan. Shahzad writes that the intentions of the 2008 Mubai's terrorist attack -- as is probably also now true of the triple blasts in July -- was to push Pakistan and India towards a regional war that would force Pakistan to move its troops out of the tribal areas and redeploy them on the eastern border. The Taliban in the tribal areas would then be freer to expand its influence in Pakistan, as well as to strengthen the tribal areas as safe havens for terrorists in Afghanistan. After the 2008 attack in Mumbai, the Taliban declared that it would fight India together with the Pakistani army -- an offer that, the book says, was welcomed by ISI chief General Shuja Pasha.

Although any rapprochement between Pakistan and India would be welcome, it seems clear that the ISI will keep on endangering the relationship between the two countries. Indian editorialist Sreeram Chaula has written that the ISI will do anything needed not to have Pakistan mending its relations with India; this is why the July attacks in Mumbai might end up having the ISI's signature. As Chaula wrote: "Like gangster kingpins who need to display exemplary brutality to keep the faith of their doubting subordinates, the top brass of the ISI and the Pakistani army could have given the green light to the Mumbai attacks to assure all dissident internal voices that their shared agenda of jihad against India has not been forgotten."

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