A neighbour not very nice to India

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A neighbour not  very nice to India

Rajnath Singh is right: Pakistan does not want to improve ties with India. Hence, the need is to engage with military option, which will involve making Pakistan's adventurism too expensive to persist with

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s recent statement that, Pakistan’s repeated violation of the ceasefire agreement with India made it evident that it was not keen on improving its ties with this country, once again underlined a harsh fact: New Delhi has to continue living with a hostile neighbour across its north-western border. The reasons are well-known. The ceasefire violations are aimed at facilitating the passage of terrorists from organisations like the Lashkar-e-Tayeeba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which, Islamabad’s principal intelligence agency, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) mothers  across the Line of Control and the international border, to perpetrate terror strikes in Jammu & Kashmir.

This, again, is a part of Pakistan’s continuing unconventional war against India to annex Jammu & Kashmir. Its obsession with Kashmir has been vastly heightened by its desire to settle scores with India for the latter’s role in the liberation of Bangladesh, following this country’s comprehensive victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war. The humiliation of defeat still rankles with Pakistan’s military establishment. This again has sharpened the other major cause — the effort to implement its strategic doctrine in respect of India which aims at balkanising this country to reduce its salience in South Asia.

An important focus of this doctrine is the detachment of the north-east Indian States from the rest of the country. Islamabad’s efforts to do so began almost immediately after independence when it started supporting secessionist Naga rebels led by AZ Phizo by training and arming them. Subsequently, it extended support to Mizo and Manipuri rebel groups as well.

The emergence of a sovereign Bangladesh in place of East Pakistan meant the elimination of the bases from which Pakistan was arming and training such rebels. The military dictatorships, naked or camouflaged, that came to rule Bangladesh after Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s dastardly assassination, were, however, pathologically anti-India and pro-Pakistan. These provided full support to secessionist organisations like the All-Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) and the Peoples Liberation Army of Manipur (which also received assistance directly from the ISI).

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s  (BNP) Government (1991-96), led by Begum Khaleda Zia, and the coalition Government, comprising the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh (2001-2006), continued the policy which came to an end only after the second coming of Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League to power in 2009. She tried but did not succeed in stopping assistance to the north-east Indian rebel groups during her first term in office (1996-2001) when pro-Pakistan elements were too strongly entrenched in the Directorate-General of Forces’ Intelligence, the country’s equivalent of Pakistan’s ISI, for her to intervene effectively.

Even before it was denied opportunities to operate out of Bangladesh, and India’s signing of peace accords with Mizo and the dominant group of Naga insurgents, Pakistan had begun concentrating its focus on north-western India. Its emergence as the principal coordinator of the jihad the mujahideen were waging, with military and financial support from the United States and Saudi Arabia, against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, provided it with an ideal opportunity.

Pakistan recognised this and forged ahead using, among other things, the camps for training mujahideen also for training terrorists from India, and barred the Americans from inspecting them. Youssef Bodansky writes in his pioneering work, Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America, “The main reason the ISI decided to keep the Central Intelligence Agency out of out of the camps was the extent of training and support non-afghan ‘volunteers’ and others were getting in these camps. Most numerous were the thousands of Islamist trainees from Indian Kashmir and to a lesser extent the Sikhs from Punjab.”

The suppression of terrorism in Punjab, with Punjab police leading the charge under the leadership of KPS Gill, led to Pakistan directing its activities mainly at Jammu & Kashmir along with attempts at headline grabbing strikes at cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Pune to rattle the Union and the State Governments concerned. The 59-hour-long attack, that began in Mumbai on the evening of November 26, 2008, and left 164 persons dead and 308 injured, was the most lethal example. The blast at German Bakery Pune (17 killed and 60 injured) on February 13, 2010, and the serial explosions in Mumbai on 13 July, 2011 (26 dead and 130 wounded), caused nation-wide stir, as did the one outside Delhi High Court’s Gate No 5 (17 killed and 76 injured) on September 7, 2011.

The attacks, by the LeT, JeM, the Hizbul Mujahideen, their proxies in India, as well as organisations like the Indian Mujahideen, continue. The latest outrage that made headlines was the attack on Amarnath yatra pilgrims in Kashmir that left seven dead and six injured on July 11, 2017. Rajnath Singh is clearly right. The terror strikes, the cease-fire violations across the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir and the international border indicate that Pakistan has no desire for improving ties with India. The ceasefire violations and the terror strikes in India will continue. What should India do?

Replying strongly to these violations is the immediate response, which India has fittingly provided. That, however, is no substitute for a long-term diplomatic and military approach. Diplomatically, India’s efforts as well as Pakistan’s own misdeeds in Afghanistan, Central Asia and elsewhere, have caused it to be seen as a promoter of terrorism.

An important component of US President Donald Trump’s Afghan strategy, outlined in his speech on August 21, is its tough approach to Pakistan. He had said, “We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars, at the same time they are housing the same terrorists that we are fighting,” and noted “that will have to change.”  He made it clear that non-compliance could mean cuts in aid and the revocation of Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally. It could also mean sanctions on Pakistani Government officials with ties to terrorist organisations, the United States warned on August 22.

What impact this has on the ground or whether it has any impact on Pakistan’s support to the LeT and JeM, remains to be seen. This also applies to the naming, for the first time, of the above two, in the Xiamen declaration issued at the end of the recent Brics summit, as being among terrorist organisations whose violence was causing concern about the security situation in the region.

For all one knows, no change will follow. Hence, the need is to engage with the military option, which will involve making Pakistan’s adventurism too expensive to persist with. Retaliatory surgical strikes need to be backed by fomenting discord in Pakistan’s own backyard, reminding it that two can play the game. Finally, India must be prepared for a full-fledged war should the exchanges lead to one. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has her work cut out.

(The writer is Consultant Editor, The Pioneer, and an author)

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