A Lonely Stance

That Pak­istan sup­ports ter­ror­ists is a com­mon com­plaint. Pak­istan must make strong ef­forts to shed this global per­cep­tion or it may run into more trou­ble.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By S.G. Ji­la­nee

Pak­istan could do well to open more bridges of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with its neigh­bours.

In­dia has mounted a re­lent­less cam­paign to smear Pak­istan as a spon­sor of ter­ror­ists.rror­ists. It uses ev­ery gim­mick to em­bar­rass ar­rass and ev­ery fo­rum to vil­ify Pak­istan. n. The lat­est oc­ca­sion was the Heart of Asia Con­fer­ence in Amritsar, where Afghanistan pres­i­dent, Ashraf Ghani al­soo chimed in to give an ear­ful to Pak­istan’s n’s del­e­gate – the PM’s for­eign af­fairs ad­viser, dviser, Sar­taj Aziz.

Ear­lier, In­dia boy­cotted the SAARC sum­mit to be held in Is­lam­abad, pulling Bangladesh

and Afghanistan as well with it. The meet­ing had to be can­celled. Next, Prime Min­is­ter Modi again re­viled Pak­istan at the BRICS sum­mit in Goa.

In­dia’s defam­a­tory drive has led to two, par­al­lel, per­cep­tions. One, that it is a das­tardly at­tempt on In­dia’s part to di­vert world at­ten­tion from In­dia’s on-go­ing atroc­i­ties in Kash­mir. This is Pak­istan’s of­fi­cial viewpoint.

But this ar­gu­ment does not stand the test o of ground re­al­i­ties. In­dian bruta bru­tal­i­ties lities have been go­ing on since July 8 when Hizb ul Mu­ja­hedeen leader Burhan Muzaffar’ Wani, was shot dead by troops and, as a re­sult, the en­tire Val­ley erupted in protest. Five months have gone passed and is still a cur­few and har­tal. About one hun­dred pro­test­ers have been killed and more than one thou­sand blinded by pel­let guns, yet there is no sign of any let up in the in­ten­sity of the ag­i­ta­tion.

But the in­ter­na­tional

community has taken no no­tice. Even when Pak­istan sent 22 of its law­mak­ers round the globe to nar­rate the hor­rors In­dia is per­pe­trat­ing on the in­no­cent peo­ple of Kash­mir, in or­der to jolt its con­science out of its slum­ber, it re­fused to wake up. The the­ory of In­dia try­ing to di­vert world opinion is, there­fore, otiose.

The other as­sump­tion - and one which sounds more re­al­is­tic - is that this is In­dia’s re­ac­tion to the ter­ror­ist at­tacks on its mil­i­tary camps in Pathankot and Uri, which it blames on Jaish-e-Mo­ham­mad chief Masood Azhar, safely en­sconced in Pak­istan and treated by its es­tab­lish­ment as a val­ued as­set.

In­dia finds a re­cep­tive au­di­ence when it com­plains about ter­ror at­tacks from Pak­istan on its soil be­cause it backs its al­le­ga­tions with tan­gi­ble ev­i­dence. By con­trast, when the Pak­istan claims be­ing vic­tim of ter­ror­ism and cites 5,000 troop losses, there is not even a sigh of sym­pa­thy, much less a moist eye or a word of con­do­lence from any quar­ter. The re­sponse, at best, is a few words of praise for its re­lent­less fight with ter­ror­ists. And Pak­istan gov­ern­ment goes over­board with glee. The “ap­pre­ci­a­tion” of Pak­istan’s anti-ter­ror­ism ef­fort is splashed across the front pages of the coun­try’s news­pa­pers.

The rea­son for the lack of sym­pa­thy is that Pak­istan is not the tar­get of at­tack by for­eign ter­ror­ists like In­dia. Here, the ter­ror­ists are home-grown. There­fore, the world out­side, treats Pak­istani ca­su­al­ties as a con­se­quence of, what for­mer Sec­re­tary of State, Hil­lary Clin­ton called, “rear­ing snakes in the back­yard.”

On the face of it, though, it looks like In­dia wants to pun­ish Pak­istan for the ter­ror­ist at­tacks on its soil by try­ing to iso­late it in­ter­na­tion­ally. And it seems to have at least par­tially suc­ceeded in its plan, given the amount of sym­pa­thy it re­ceives world­wide.

But In­dia is not alone in its cru­sade to dis­credit Pak­istan. Afghanistan is an­other. AfghanistanPak­istan re­la­tions had started on the right note with Ashraf Ghani tak­ing over as the new pres­i­dent. There were ex­changes of friendly vis­its and much dis­play of cor­dial­ity on both sides. It was a clear de­par­ture from the time of Pres­i­dent Karzai, who spared no op­por­tu­nity to cas­ti­gate Pak­istan. Then re­la­tions took a down­turn as Taliban at­tacks on Afghan troops in­creased and Kabul started to blame them on Pak­istan. To­day the re­la­tions are so strained that the Afghanistan pres­i­dent spurned Pak­istan’s re­cent of­fer of $500 mil­lion as­sis­tance.

The of­fer of fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance was a mega goof on part of Pak­istan, pri­mar­ily be­cause it was peanuts com­pared with the bil­lions In­dia is pump­ing into Afghanistan. In­stead of try­ing to com­pete with In­dia, there­fore, it would have been more use­ful had Pak­istan tried to ad­dress Kabul’s ba­sic griev­ances. So long as these com­plaints re­main un­re­solved, friendly bi­lat­eral re­la­tions are not pos­si­ble.

Afghanistan’s im­me­di­ate griev­ance is the at­tacks on its troops and in­stal­la­tions by ter­ror­ists en­joy­ing safe havens in Pak­istan. Next is the im­port fa­cil­ity for goods from In­dia across Pak­istan. Cur­rently, Pak­istan al­lows such a fa­cil­ity for Afghan ex­ports to In­dia. But it does not al­low In­dian goods to go to Kabul. Pak­istan wants to hurt In­dia, but in the process it hurts Kabul more be­cause, Afghanistan is land-locked.

Kabul’s de­pen­dence on im­ports from In­dia is so acute that both coun­tries are said to be planning trans­porta­tion of goods by air. This amounts to off-set­ting Pak­istan’s re­stric­tion on In­dian ex­ports to Kabul. How Pak­istan re­acts to this plan will be clear when the op­er­a­tion starts. To en­force its ban against In­dia it would have to deny its air space to In­dian planes, which would open a Pan­dora’s box of con­flict.

How­ever, though In­dia seems to be in the van­guard of the an­tiPak­istan smear cam­paign, the United States too seems to have grown cold. It is on the same page with In­dia on the is­sue of Pak­istan’s sup­port of ter­ror­ists, with its lin­ger­ing al­le­ga­tion of pro­vid­ing a safe haven to the Haqqani net­work for their at­tacks on Afghan and US troops.

In con­se­quence, Amer­ica mol­ly­cod­dles the “En­emy No.1” of its “most al­lied ally.” It en­ters into a de­fence pact with In­dia and lends sup­port to In­dia’s mem­ber­ship of the NSG. The sit­u­a­tion cries out for ur­gent at­ten­tion of Pak­istan’s pol­i­cy­mak­ers, who should also take note of the fact that Xi Jin­ping, pres­i­dent of Pak­istan’s “all-weather friend,” China, re­ceived In­dia’s Prime Min­is­ter, Naren­dra Modi, at his fa­ther's home prov­ince of Shaanxi, in cen­tral China, the first for­eign leader, ever, to be so in­vited. Ear­lier, Modi had hosted Jin­ping at his home in Gu­jarat. By con­trast, the sprawl­ing Rai­wind Palace, dec­o­rated with mar­ble tigers, re­mains wait­ing for Jin­ping to visit.

How far Pak­istan is re­spon­si­ble for the un­happy sit­u­a­tion it faces to­day is a moot point. Cor­rec­tive steps are re­quired to ar­rest the drift. Con­flict with In­dia may be an eter­nal com­mit­ment. But, it is not the same with Afghanistan and Amer­ica. Here the is­sues are spe­cific and can be ad­dressed with some straight­for­ward­ness. Afghanistan does not ac­cept Pak­istan’s ex­cuse that it has no lever­age with the Afghan Taliban to bring them to the ne­go­ti­a­tion table, be­cause, it is plain that if Pak­istan de­nies them sanc­tu­ary or they could not carry out their at­tacks. The same ar­gu­ment holds with re­gard to the US griev­ance about the Haqqani net­work.

One en­emy at a time may be man­age­able. But to con­front more ad­ver­saries si­mul­ta­ne­ously would be patently un­wise. Time is calling for a re­al­is­tic re­view of Pak­istan’s re­la­tions with In­dia, Afghanistan and USA.

The of­fer of fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance was a mega goof on part of Pak­istan, pri­mar­ily be­cause it was peanuts com­pared with the bil­lions In­dia is pump­ing into Afghanistan.

The writer is a se­nior po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and for­mer editor of Southasia.

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