New Delhi: It is all too familiar. Pakistan has denied Jaish-e-Mohammed’s involvement in the Pathankot attack. It has rejected Indian evidence implicating Masood Azhar’s terrorist organization. David Headley’s confirmation via teleconference from the United States of Lashkar-e-Toiba’s central role in the 26/11 attacks will meet like fate. What should India do?

More of the same.

India has indefinitely deferred Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan. This is just right. Those talks constitute an advance over conversations between India and Pakistan’s National Security Advisors on Pakistani terrorism. The conversations should continue. Pressure against Pakistani terrorism should be inexorably built up. Government must be firm that incremental relations depend on Pakistani actions against terrorist groups.

David Headley’s testimony gives a push to India’s case against Pakistan. Caution is urged against excessive dependence on it. Headley didn’t depose on Indian soil which carries all the weight. The deposition suggests US authorities had a change of heart and were persuaded of India’s allegations against Pakistan. This carries risks.

Foreign governments are guided by self-interest to pursue or abandon a line. In the US case, the line could change with the administration. America is headed for elections. The elections will be bitterly fought. It is open to question how many of the outgoing administration’s policies will be followed by the new one.

It is not sensible, therefore, to pin too much on what David Headley says, although it tallies with what we know. In any event, his leads should be re-examined to make a watertight case. Pretty standard. Unfortunately, Indians are carried away. Before they celebrate Headley’s confession, the government should sound the caution. Having him here would have made all the difference.

Which is to say India is alone in the fight against Pakistani terrorism. This is not bad at all. Russia is fighting terrorism alone and so is China. Iran is battling militant Wahhabism without external assistance. Countries in the West may cooperate in intelligence-sharing but are essentially fighting their own battles. India is not doing anything special in that way.

The country has devised its own schemes to fight Islamic State propaganda and internal recruitment. This is no place to discuss the schemes but to simply note their success. Indian ingenuity must be applied against Pakistani terrorism as well. The Indian NSA is a deep man.

Foreign assistance should not be spurned but not wholly depended on either. The United States has considerable interests tied to Pakistan to pursue fiercely independent relations with India. It is best that India accepts US limitations to prod Pakistan. It would then be compelled to think and act for itself.

What should India do in the short- and middle-term? On the ground, it should aim for a policy of zero infiltration. It is common to hear that the LoC cannot be sealed. Perhaps not by physical deployment of soldiers but certainly by technology. Every technological means should be rushed to this project.

Beyond that, border, local and military force defences backing on the LoC and international border must eliminate chance infiltrations and disable Pathankot-style attacks. State governments should show high levels of pro-activity with the Centre in these matters. In border districts facing Pakistan, it may not be outre to have Jammu and Kashmir-type counterterrorism mechanisms overseen by state governments.

At the political level, engagement with Pakistan should continue. The benefits of disengagement are negligible. There is no harm for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to meet Nawaz Sharief in foreign gatherings since the troublemaker is the Pakistan army. Summit meetings are best avoided. NSAs can meet but only to discuss Pakistani terrorism.

The long-term answer to Pakistani terrorism is India’s economic growth and rise which will exert more pressure on the country than it can withstand. Iran is headed to being a middle power in the Middle East which would impact Pakistan further. Afghanistan in the Northwest is no longer a pushover and shows greater resistance to Pakistani terrorism to preserve nascent democracy.

Sooner or later, Pakistan has to abandon terrorism and become a normal state.

India should say the course.