EDITORIAL (February 12 2009): Given the mutual hostility spanning their entire existence as independent states prosecuting a crime committed on Indian soil and blamed on elements based in Pakistan is not as simple as New Delhi would like to project to the world. Add to this the absence of an extradition treaty between the two and one would understand the inability of the Pakistani authorities to hand over to India, the so-called 'masterminds' behind the November attacks in Mumbai.
The fact that some modern-day democracies do not hesitate in putting up shows of their military muscle - Israeli invasion of Gaza is a telling example - as accompaniment of their electoral campaigns further complicates the situation. Clearly, when India handed over a dossier containing questions for Pakistan to answer it accepted the efficacy of forensic evidence for successful prosecution. Courts admit of no room for political considerations and diplomatic compulsions; they have to be presented with hard evidence that can withstand the test of examination and cross-examination.
All of this serving as an instructive backdrop the Indian leaders' prompt 'rubbishing' of Pakistan's decision to seek elaboration of some of the questions in the dossier appears to stem more from the gut rather than the brain. May be New Delhi is thinking of backing out of the position it took in the dossier?
After a thorough scrutiny of the report prepared by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Monday last, the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC), the highest forum in Pakistan to handle issues of national security, found the Indian information in the dossier "insufficient" to bring the perpetrators of Mumbai attacks to justice.
Therefore, it has decided to ask the government to seek Indian elaboration/clarification of some of the questions that are more in terms of strengthening the forensic aspects of the case than merely counter-questions. For instance, Pakistan has asked for the reports of DNA tests of Ajmal Kasab so that these could be matched with his family members, if so what is the problem?
Similarly, if Pakistan wants more information on the weapons the attackers allegedly used, or details of the mobile phone calls allegedly taped by Indian security personnel why New Delhi should be reluctant in providing that information. Then there are reports, one such report is attributed to none other than Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, hinting at the likelihood of attackers having received internal assistance in mapping out the Mumbai carnage.
Is Pakistan asking too much if it wants to quiz these suspects? Pakistani authorities would also like to know details of the alleged killing of some naval officers by the alleged attackers in mysterious circumstances. Unless hubris stands in the way, India's positive response to questions that Pakistan intends raising would indeed greatly help the due process of law in prosecuting the criminals involved in the killing of 179 innocent people.
No sensible Indian leader should expect that Pakistan would hold kangaroo court to oblige India by handing down punishments without due process. It is just not possible. But in case the accused get sentenced after a fair and open trial the Indian charge would get vindicated on the soil of Pakistan.
India must respond and provide Pakistan with information that would strength the forensic aspect of the case. Once Pakistan will have received answers to the questions it would register the FIR; the present information on the case as reflected in the Indian dossier is too superficial to earn successful prosecution.
Instead of ridiculing the FIA report the Indian authorities should exhibit their seriousness by a positive response. In the meantime, it is hoped Indian leaders would exercise patience and not vitiate the atmosphere by shrilly threats of war. Is India a bigger victim of terrorism than Pakistan? War or peace, the choice is with India. History would judge its leadership in the light of the decisions it makes now.