My day began with an interesting twist; I had to run to the US State Dept for a press briefing. The new guy -- well, the new old guy -- PJ Crowley, spokesperson, was addressing the press about the issues of the day. Predictably, US policy in the Middle East because of Obama's visit ("why does he call it the 'Muslim' world, as if they are all one") and US policy on China, given the anniversary of Tienanmen Square ("China has a come a long way in terms of human rights") were the highlights, but there was a different reason I was there.
I was to ask Crawley what the US response to Hafiz Saeed being let off was. You know the story -- Saeed (Pakistani) is the leader of Jamaat ud Dawa, which India believes is not really a charity organization but a front for the LeT. The UN put sanctions on the charity in December 2008. Well, our lone terrorist, Ajmal Kasab, in his confessions said that Saeed was one of the many people who visited the terrorist camps while they were being trained in arms/explosives, in the run up to the Mumbai terror attacks. India, being the restrained force that she is, decided to pursue a diplomatic track and not attack Pakistan, and with some pressure from the US on Pakistan, Saeed was put in jail. And Pakistan did agree that Saeed had a role in the attacks.
Now, Saeed has been released. I've read a lot about this and I'm quite unsure what the US can do -- well, in an obvious way. But let me explain what I mean. Pakistan claims there is not enough evidence to hold Saeed under house arrest anymore and has let him go, but voices within Pakistan have come out to say that they will appeal this order by the Lahore High Court as this will tarnish the reputation of Pakistan in the international community. We obviously expect the US to be aghast on our behalf, but it isn't saying much. I have read views in India that the government should release evidence against Saeed so that the Pakistanis can detain him, but it seems we are not doing that. Nor does it seem likely that Pakistan will, as we would love, send him to India for trial.
So back to Crawley. I asked him if the US wasn't worried that this move to build up Indo-Pak tensions, after all, the US has been trying to convince Pakistan to shift its focus to the Afghanistan/Taliban problem. Crawley gave me a long winded answer about respecting Pakistan's rule of law, and that they continue to impress upon Pakistan the need to carry on with the Mumbai attack investigations, but that right now Ambassador Holbrokes focus is on the humanitarian crisis resulting from the Swat attack in Pakistan. That was that, another journalist pressed on, but he did not take the bait.
I had to come back to work to file the story. As it turned out, the client was Times Now, and so I sent them a report from Washington saying that the US is not involving itself in this legal matter and that in Washington (really) this is hardly a concern. But, as Crawley had mentioned, Holbroke will have private discussions and this matter could be discussed. Times Now ignored that part of my report and chose to highlight that the US is asking Pakistan to continue with the 26/11 investigations. Fair enough, but they didn't stress that, what they stressed was that they were not going to do anything about it.
What is clear is that Pakistan attacking the Taliban is the biggest thing over here, and India is not going to ruin that for them by crying about the release of Saeed. I woke up in the morning to find out that a travel advisory had been issued against INDIA because, I believe a LeT operative was captured in Delhi. My father, who I spoke to on the way to work, said that the Congress had been voted in for non performance, and why was SM Krishna the minister for external affairs and not Kapil Sibal, Pranab or even Shashi Tharoor -- people more vocal and forceful?
What exactly is the US position on India? I know people are waiting for Hillary to come in July to get a clearer position. In fact, a few months ago (or was it weeks) when she made statements which seemed to reflect the situation in South Asia correctly (that Pakistan need not be obsessed with India and that Pakistan has not been using the money the US has been giving them for the intended purpose), it seemed that there might be a policy shift, finally. But as of right now, it is frustrating to find that it is not.
Holbroke has now said that other countries should also give aid to Pakistan -- he's appealing to the Europeans and Muslims. (Ah, there you go lumping all the Muslims together). But the real point is that it seems, poetically, in their eyes, they are saving a Muslim country from the brink of extremism and really, unless we have the exact same problem, we will just have to get in line.
After all, the problem child gets all the attention while the good kid sits in his room, seething.