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IndoPak: Will America's Hafiz Saeed bounty scuttle Zardari's hopes for Delhi visit?

Former Pakistani ambassador suggests $10 million bounty on Lashkar-e-Taiba leader will tie Zardari's hands

So the US has clarified the meaning of the $10 million bounty on Hafiz Saeed, the man India says still heads Lashkar-e-Taiba and helped plan the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai:

It's essentially an encouragement for Pakistan to arrest him, not license for US troops to target him for a drone strike or Seal Team Six to whisk him away in a black helicopter.

But what does THAT mean?

For some reason, most Indian newspapers cheered the move as a sign that the US is moving further toward India's position that Pakistan knowingly protects and harbors terrorists (though Wikileaks has already shown that Washington can hardly move further, since the US is in total agreement on that score). There was a suggestion or two that the US was throwing India a bone to temper all the pressure to comply with the unilateral sanctions on oil purchases from Iran, too, though that hardly seems like much of a trade-off.  (I can offer $100 million, and it won't cost me a penny if I never plan to pay out).  

And on Thursday at least one paper (the Times of India) argued that, far from throwing a monkey wrench into the works, the bounty on Saeed will somehow open an opportunity for Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari and India's prime minister Manmohan Singh to engage in a frank and friendly conversation over lunch this Sunday.  (Actually, it does pretty likely that Zardari would like to see somebody cash in on that $10 million, but he won't be saying that to anybody but his pillow anytime soon).

But with Saeed using the bounty to boost his following in Pakistan, holding rallies rather than going into hiding, and Zardari still perceived as a US-sponsored flunky, the bounty seems not only pointless but also ill-timed, as former Pakistani ambassador  Karamatullah K Ghori argues in the Asia Times online. Pakistan's pessimists are "are worried that Washington's bounty on Saeed could well influence the agenda of Zardari's visit to Delhi adversely and recalibrate the Indian priority to focus mainly, if not solely, on their grouse against Pakistan for not doing enough to bring Saeed and others of his ilk to book for their crimes in Mumbai," Ghori writes.  

Meanwhile, as Pakistan's "right-wing religious parties have already whipped up a mass frenzy on the issue" putting a bounty on Saeed's head "is as good as showing the red rag to an enraged bull," and as a known friend of the US, Zardari "cannot insulate himself from the heat of the fire lit by his ill-advised friends."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/india/india-pakistan-hafiz-saeed-bounty

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