Killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan by U.S. has sent reverberations worldwide. South Asia as a hotbed of Islamic terrorism is exhibiting its own frustration. The jubilation in the American cities following confirmation of Osama’s death is understandable. However, a sense of disappointment prevails in South Asia. It is a fact that Osama was concentrating terrorist activities in Afghan-Pak territories since September 2001. Undisputedly, his killing will have huge symbolic impact on Al Qaeda, the most-feared terrorist organization.
It has been intensely debated whether Osama’s killing in Pakistan will negatively impact on already strained U.S.-Pakistan ties. The focus of this post is to see how Indo-Pak relations will be affected in Bin Laden’s aftermath. In the same vein an attempt will be made to find out the immediate implication of Osama’s death on prospects of peace in South Asia. Arguably, peace in this region has remained hostage to adversarial relationship between India and Pakistan.
A cursory look at some of the statements coming from Indian establishment exposes the depth of mistrust and suspicion that symbolize Indo-Pak relations. Against the background of Osama’s hiding in a mansion located close to Pakistani military institutions, a valid question has been raised. Will Pakistan be able to pursue its dual policy of supporting some militants and simultaneously cooperating in counterinsurgency measures?
India’s Union Minister of Home Affairs, P. Chidambaram has stated, “We take note with grave concern that the fire fight in which Osama was killed took place in Abbottabad deep inside Pakistan. This fact underlines our concerns that terrorists belonging to different organizations find sanctuary in Pakistan.”
India has grumbled that Pakistan did not bring the perpetrators of 2008 Mumbai attacks to book. 166 innocent lives were lost then. The revelation of Osama’s sanctuary has vindicated India’s allegations. Pakistan’s official denial of harboring any terrorists is more confusing. Last year Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Rehman Malik said , “I categorically deny the presence of Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, and even Mullah Omar in any part of Pakistan.”
New Delhi will certainly follow what transpires between Islamabad and Washington according to Sumit Ganguly. Alarmingly he points out that if the U.S. continues to dissemble about Pakistan’s evasive approach to counterterrorism, Indo-U.S. relations could also reach a stalemate. Nonetheless, nothing supplants the continuing U.S.-Pakistan codependence in the fight against terror. The U.S. has to exit Afghanistan in an orderly fashion and Pakistan has to contain its domestic insurgencies. In meeting these objectives both U.S. and Pakistan need to cooperate with each other.
India and Pakistan have started the bilateral dialogue process though it remains shattered since 2008. However, any effective fight against Islamic terrorism in South Asia that undermines elusive peace is possible with continued assistance from Islamabad. The inevitability of Indo-Pak cooperation to stamp out terrorism from the region may paradoxically nudge both neighbors to bury mistrust and resume their stalled peace process. In their endeavor the U.S. may be a constructive player as usual.