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.
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.