India must continue isolating Pakistan so that it cannot wriggle out from the clutches of FATF. We must force a change in its policy of assisting terrorist outfits
In a significant speech early this year, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan talked about inculcating peace and enhancing trade with India. He also claimed that if India took one step forward, Pakistan would take two. However, in the same speech he mentioned that peace would be feasible only after the Kashmir issue was solved. This linking of the Kashmir issue with peace talks has exposed his double standards. And like Kargil after former Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit and Pathankot after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit, Pakistan-trained terrorists carried out an attack at Pulwama and hurled a powerful grenade at a Jammu bus stand on March 7. Again, on February 24 to be precise, he requested his counterpart Modi to “give peace a chance” and proclaimed that he would take immediate action if India provided “actionable intelligence” on the Pulwama attack of February 14 in which 40 Indian soldiers were martyred. Islamabad also approached the United Nations to “defuse tension” between India and Pakistan.
India handed over a dossier with evidence of Pakistan’s involvement in the terrorist act in Pulwama. Islamabad took some token action against terrorist outfits it hosted to neutralise world opinion and on March 8, Khan reiterated that no terror group would be permitted to carry out activities in other countries from Pakistan. Nonetheless, Islamabad is not trustworthy as in the past it has launched several cleansing operations with fancy names like Operation Al-Mizan, Rah-e-Haq, Sher-e-Dil, Zalzala, Koh-e-Sufaid and at present Operation Zarb-e-Azb with no discernible dip in terrorism. In fact, it has allowed blacklisted terror groups to scatter, lie low, regroup and re-emerge with new identities. The Pakistani military establishment, which endorses such groups as they lend it a strategic heft, has even categorised them as “good” and “bad” terrorists. So outfits which carry out terrorist attacks in India and Afghanistan under the instructions of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are considered “good” terrorists and given full protection and assistance. Action is taken only against those terrorist outfits that disobey the ISI, have no use for it or have dared to carry out attacks in Pakistan.
Observers claim that such clampdowns are superficial and taken because of utmost pressure from the international community and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which monitors terror funding and disqualifies errant countries from receiving recuperative aid and loans from world bodies. Pakistan is passing through a grave economic crisis; its foreign reserve is at its lowest ebb and it has requested the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package. The FATF has given Pakistan more than 15 conditions to comply with, including smashing the jihadi factory, by May or else risk getting blacklisted. In that case, neither the IMF or World Bank can sanction a bailout package.
The Pakistani Army-controlled ISI has created a big infrastructure to support diverse terrorist outfits and carry out proxy wars in India and Afghanistan as they are an important part of Islamabad’s foreign policy. Hence it will be imprudent to assume that Pakistan will shun the path of terrorism so easily.
A strong lobby in India emphasises that both India and Pakistan should try to sort out differences through peaceful negotiations. The activists also mention that war is not a solution. However, they forget that Pakistan was created on the basis of the failed two-nation theory and both the countries have already fought three major wars, excluding an undeclared war at Kargil. Besides these wars, there are numerous skirmishes and limited military conflicts between both the countries. These hostilities have created a lot of suspicion and animosity in the ruling elite as well as in people. Pakistan doesn’t believe in giving up the fight, bleeding India with several cuts rather than striking a mammoth blow.
In the past, several attempts were made for restoring peace, especially at the Shimla, Agra and Lahore summits. Few confidence-building measures like border trade, the Delhi-Lahore Bus service and Friendship Express (Samjhauta Express) were also tried but all efforts miserably failed as ISI-sponsored terrorism continued unabashedly. India has always yielded ground, having already surrendered vast areas of Kashmir in 1947-48 and returning the Haji Pir Pass in 1966. The Indus Water Treaty of 1960 is disproportionately in favour of Pakistan. Delhi had given more such concessions in the past but Islamabad never reciprocated or mitigated its hostility. It always took our kindness as our weakness; hence, we must understand that there can be no friendship with Pakistan.
The terrorist organisations, besides ISI, also have a strong public support in Pakistan, claiming legitimacy through social and charitable institutions. Ousted President Pervez Musharraf mentioned in an interview that the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) tried to assassinate him twice but he could not take action against it as the ISI was using the organisation for anti-India activities. In his recent remarks, he even implied that the Pakistani Army was fully seized of the Pulwama attack. If the Jaish can attempt an assassination of the ruling President, who in turn could not take punitive action despite full knowledge of the plot, then it speaks volumes about the ISI’s stranglehold on the region as a whole.
The pacifists also point out that geographically Pakistan is a neighbour and as its location cannot be altered, India should try to inculcate friendship. However, they overlook that Islamabad is diabolically against India and wants to split the country by abetting terrorist outfits in Kashmir and assisting secessionist elements of Khalistan.
India must respond to Pakistan with firmness and determination and should not become a victim of its bullying and blackmailing strategies. Worse, it uses conventions and agreements to suit its own narrative. So while Khan does not talk about the Shimla Agreement, he talks about the defunct UN resolution. Pakistan has conveniently forgotten the Shimla Agreement as it clearly mentions that both sides would not use force on the LoC while Pakistan has been regularly infiltrating terrorists and using fire power there.
Pakistan has already surrendered some areas of Kashmir to Beijing for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that passes through Gilgit, Baltistan and PoK. Given China’s territorial imperialism, this has added a complex layer to the imbroglio. Peaceniks also allege that India does not treat Pakistan equally. However, the contention doesn’t hold as India has signed several agreements with Pakistan as equals. It has never interfered in the internal affairs of its neighbours through covert ops while Pakistan is constantly needling India.
The pro-dialogue lobby must comprehend that Pakistan has an obsession with claiming parity with India without realising differences in size, governance and other markers. When India signed a nuclear deal with US, Pakistan also tried its best to sign the treaty. Islamabad, without considering past records, raised objections to India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). It is also obstructing India’s permanent membership in the UN Security Council. There are several other fields where Islamabad is trying to maintain uniformity with India. Pakistan watchers claim that the country’s economic condition has deteriorated because of excessive expenditure on defence forces.
The all-powerful Pakistan Army has over time given false hope to the masses that funding covert operations was worth it as they would help it snatch the whole of Kashmir from India and merge it with Pakistan. Hence there can be no negotiations with Pakistan on Kashmir. Khan’s offer of peace talks are simply to curry favour with the FATF, IMF and world community. Second, Indian security forces have killed top terrorist leaders under Operation All Out and successfully eliminated a large number of their support agents under Operation Cordon and Search. The infiltration of Pakistani hardcore terrorists is under control due to strict vigil at the borders. At present ISI wants to have peace for some time so that the terrorist outfits can be strengthened.
The arguments for enhancing people to people contacts, trade and cultural exchange have been already tried with no result. Now India must adopt a stern approach towards its western neighbour and after the pre-emptive, non-military airstrikes at Balakot, be ready to take retributive action should another terrorist hit happen on our side. India should continue isolating Pakistan so that it cannot wriggle out from the clutches of FATF without making considerable changes in its policy of assisting terrorist outfits.
(The writer is member, United Services Institute of India, and Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses)