The arrest by the US intelligence agencies of Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, a US citizen of Pakistani origin who is the head of the Washington based Kashmir Affairs Council (KAC) has aroused considerable interest in India for a variety of reasons. These include the linkage between the KAC and the Pak ISI and the fact that some well-known Indian media personnel and activists have accepted invitations from the KAC and this in turn has been taken up by the opposition BJP party to embarrass the UPA government.

This arrest of Dr Fai comes in the wake of the Oslo terror attack and the just concluded visit of US Secretary of State Ms Hillary Clinton to India and various patterns/interpretations are being discerned. One dominant view is that this arrest of Dr Fai by the US FBI marks the beginning of a new chapter in US-Pak relations and that the double-game of the Pak ISI is finally over.  This in turn is being seen as a major advantage for India, which has long sought to persuade the global community about the Pak military’s support to terror –and the 26/11 tragedy of Mumbai is case in point.

However these views may be hasty and misplaced. The arrest of Dr. Fai by the US has no doubt led to considerable heart-burn in Pakistan and they in turn have accused the USA of waging a slander campaign against the ISI. Dr Fai and the KAC he heads is accused of obtaining financial support of a foreign government (the Pak ISI) up to US $ 4 million plus for covert activities.  These  include monetary donations to US lawmakers and active advocacy of  the ‘core’ issue of  Kashmir and the dissemination of propaganda that is in conformity with what the Pak ISI has been trying to project to the world against India.

The most damaging revelation is the exposure of certain names of senior Pak military personnel including a serving Major General as the main ‘controller’ of the KAC. These covert Pak ISI-KAC linkages come against the backdrop of the Osama bin Laden Abbotabad operation in May and the US legislature is increasingly irate about Islamabad’s support to terror even while being a US ally in the global war against terror. The case is now listed for Tuesday (July 26) and this will be the second high profile legal case in the USA after the Headley/Rana trial in Chicago.

Will the USA finally succeed in making the Pak ISI sever its linkages with ALL groups that support such jihadi terror and violence? The answer perhaps was contained in Ms. Clinton’s remarks when in Delhi, wherein she noted that while the US was with India in the campaign against terror – she was not sure about the degree to which US leverage would be effective in making the Pak military comply.

The fact of the matter is that as long as the US keeps its troops in Afghanistan, the White House is dependent on the Pak military for ensuring that the US supply line from Karachi to Kandahar is kept open. Thus the transactional nature of the US-Pak relationship will remain on track and the contestation – whether Ghulam Fai or Raymond Davis – is about the price to beextracted by either side.

What  is more germane is the emerging lattice that links the global terror network and here I would link the Fai arrest with the Headley/Rana case and the  Oslo  attack, whose responsibility has been claimed by the Ansar al Jihad al Alamai. The KAC in Washington DC is one front of the vast network that has been created and immediately investigators are looking at KAC type fronts in London and Brussels. The deeper global anxiety, now further heightened by the Oslo attack is that many sleepers have been embedded in different parts of the world who share the radical ideology that was associated with OBL and the al-Qaeda.

As the world moves uneasily towards the 10th anniversary of 9-11 in September this year, the urgent but unarticulated question is: ‘after Oslo, which is the next target?’ It is here that the remarks of Ms. Clinton at Chennai resonate in a positive manner. She noted of the challenges to be addressed: “So we look to the Pakistani Government to press insurgents to join the reconciliation process, to prevent Pakistani territory from being used for attacks that destabilize Afghanistan or India and to deny al-Qaida the space to regroup and plan new violence.”

The choice of word has been careful – it is ‘insurgent’ – and not terrorist – whose violence seemed random but was pre-meditated, as in the case of Mumbai’s 26-11. India has been consistent since the Vajpayee-Musharraf agreement of January 2004 that Pakistan must desist from supporting terror groups. It is this commitment that must be redeemed by the Kayani led Pak Army and there is little cause for optimism on this front.

Hence India must hope for the best but be prepared to deal with worst case scenarios – particularly as the US prepares to reduce its troops in the Af-Pak theatre. But as the July 13 attack in Mumbai revealed – the Indian institutional response is still mired in red-tape. In relation to the Fai arrest, for the Indian political parties to remain fixated on editors and activists attending a KAC conference in the USA will be to miss the wood for the trees.