A Job for Modi and Obama

They should make counter-ter­ror­ism their top joint se­cu­rity en­deav­our

The Economic Times - - World View - Bruce Riedel

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama should make counter ter­ror­ism their top joint se­cu­rity en­deav­our. At the top of the project should be the de­feat of Lashkare-Taiba and re­lated groups based in Pak­istan be­fore they can launch an­other ma­jor at­tack. Al­most six years ago, the city of Mum­bai was at­tacked by 10 Pak­istani ter­ror­ists in the most im­por­tant ter­ror strike since 9/11. The men who mas­ter­minded the at­tack are still free in Pak­istan and are plot­ting more at­tacks. In­dia and Amer­ica re­main at risk from them. Years of good po­lice work and in­ves­ti­ga­tion have es­tab­lished clearly that the plot was the joint work of LeT and the Pak­istani in­tel­li­gence ser­vice, ISI. In the last five years some good work has been done by In­dia and Amer­ica to bring to jus­tice some of those in­volved like David Headley, the Amer­i­can who did the re­con­nais­sance for the at­tack, and Sayed Zabi­ud­din An­sari alias Abu Jun­dal who was in the Karachi con­trol room in 2008 over­see­ing the mas­sacre. But the Pak­istani mas­ter­mind of the Mum­bai plot, LeT’s leader Hafiz Saeed, re­mains free in Pak­istan where he continues to be a dar­ling of the ISI and reg­u­larly calls for more at­tacks on In­dia and Amer­ica. He has al­ready mocked Modi’s elec­tion. There is an Amer­i­can bounty for in­for­ma­tion that could lead to his ar­rest but it seems un­likely that he will be brought to jus­tice any time soon by Pak­istan. Mean­while his LeT ap­pa­ra­tus is still train­ing le­gions of ter­ror­ists like the 10 sent to Mum­bai and op­er­ates closely with the Pak­istani deep state. The ISI of­fi­cers in­volved in the plot­ting are also free. Some have sug­gested that ISI in­volve­ment was prob­a­bly only low level and that the top army com­man­ders did not know what was go­ing on. As a for­mer pro­fes­sional in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer, I find that ar­gu­ment ridicu­lous. Run­ning an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen like Headley for years was a ma­jor ISI oper­a­tion that would have been over­seen and mon­i­tored, if not mi­cro-man­aged, by the very top of the ser­vice. They knew what the plan was and they ap­proved it. The govern­ment of pres­i­dent Asif Zar­dari was never strong enough to try to tackle the ISI and Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif has done noth­ing about the Mum­bai mas­ter­minds or the ISI pa­tron ship of ter­ror. Obama has been partly con­strained in deal­ing with Pak­istan for the last five years by the Afghan war: he needed Pak­istani lo­gis­tics and sup­ply lines to feed and arm NATO forces in Afghanistan. That era is com­ing to an end. The United States will be less de­pen­dent on Pak­istani good will and less con­strained to use its in­flu­ence. Modi has pledged to seek bet­ter re­la­tions with Is­lam­abad but only if it cracks down se­ri­ously on ter­ror­ism. He has sig­nif­i­cant po­ten­tial eco­nomic car­rots and sticks to use with Sharif, who knows Pak­istan needs to dra­mat­i­cally im­prove trade with In­dia if it is to get its econ­omy mov­ing. So the en­vi­ron­ment is ripe for a ma­jor ef­fort to per­suade Pak­istan to crack down se­ri­ously on LeT, Hafiz Saeed and other such ter­ror­ists and groups in Pak­istan. Their train­ing camps should be per­ma­nently shut, Saeed ex­tra­dited and the ISI should end its role in help­ing ter­ror.

If Is­lam­abad drags its feet again, then Wash­ing­ton and New Delhi should use eco­nomic sanc­tions like those now be­ing used against Rus­sia for an­nex­ing Crimea. Tar­geted sanc­tions should also be ap­plied to mem­bers of the ISI who sup­port ter­ror. In­tel­li­gence co­op­er­a­tion, much im­proved since 26/11, should be fur­ther ex­panded and broad­ened to in­clude help from the Bri­tish and other gov­ern­ments. More than five years af­ter Mum­bai, jus­tice has yet to be served. The small fish have been brought to ac­count for their role, but the big fish are still free and dan­ger­ous. The US and In­dia should take a pre­emp­tive ap­proach to fight­ing LeT.

If not, it is all but cer­tain that the group will stage an­other at­tack and force Modi and Obama to re­act af­ter the ou­trage. That could put the en­tire sub­con­ti­nent on the brink of catas­tro­phe. Bet­ter to act to­gether sooner than later. The writer is di­rec­tor of the In­tel­li­gence Project at the

Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion

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