Coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ism through Indo-Pak talks

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi

If In­dia re­laxes its stri­dent ap­proach to­wards Pak­istan, the lat­ter can pay more at­ten­tion to the tribal ar­eas that are the hub of ter­ror­ism, and it will be bet­ter placed to adopt a firmer pol­icy to­wards the Pun­jab-based mil­i­tant groups that fo­cus on In­dia and In­dian-ad­min­is­tered Kash­mir. The cur­rent stale­mate in In­dia-Pak­istan re­la­tions has neg­a­tive im­pli­ca­tions for Pak­istan's ef­forts for coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ism in and around Pak­istan. This makes it dif­fi­cult for the Pak­istan govern­ment to rein in the mil­i­tant Is­lamic groups that fo­cus on In­dian-ad­min­is­tered Kash­mir and main­land In­dia.

The ex­pe­ri­ence of In­dia-Pak­istan re­la­tions since Septem­ber 2001 shows that In­dia's co­er­cive diplo­macy does not ad­dress In­dia's griev­ances against Pak­istan. In the af­ter­math of the ter­ror­ist at­tack on the In­dian par­lia­ment on De­cem­ber 13, 2001, In­dia re­sorted to mil­i­tary mo­bil­i­sa­tion against Pak­istan, froze diplo­matic ties and sus­pended trade and other rou­tine in­ter­ac­tion with Pak­istan. There was no sig­nif­i­cant change in Pak­istan's In­dia pol­icy. This stand­off con­tin­ued till Oc­to­ber 2002 when In­dia's prime min­is­ter de­cided to grad­u­ally pull back In­dian troops.

In­stead, the ac­tive di­a­logue be­tween the two coun­tries dur­ing 2004-2008 pro­duced pos­i­tive changes in their poli­cies. Now, af­ter the Mum­bai ter­ror­ist at­tack on Novem­ber 26, 2008, In­dia moved its troops from peace­time lo­ca­tions to­wards the Pak­istan-In­dia border and sus­pended the bi­lat­eral di­a­logue. This ac­tion may have sat­is­fied In­dia's do­mes­tic pub­lic opin­ion, but it has not forced Pak­istan to take a firm ac­tion against the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT)/Ja­maatud-Dawa (JUD), as de­manded by In­dia.

By in­sist­ing on Pak­istan to sat­isfy fully on ter­ror­ism as a pre-con­di­tion for the re­sump­tion of bi­lat­eral talks, In­dia is mak­ing the same mis­take that Pak­istan made in the past. For years, Pak­istan in­sisted that there could not be any mean­ing­ful in­ter­ac­tion with In­dia, in­clud­ing trade, as long as In­dia did not solve the Kash­mir prob­lem. Pak­istan re­alised the fu­til­ity of this ap­proach and changed its pol­icy. Hope­fully, In­dia also recog­nises that a sin­gle-is­sue con­di­tion­al­ity will take these two coun­tries nowhere.

Pak­istan ar­rested seven se­nior lead­ers of the LeT in De­cem­ber 2008 who were ac­cused of in­volve­ment in the Mum­bai in­ci­dent. The court re­leased one of them, Hafiz Muham­mad Saeed. The oth­ers are still in de­ten­tion. How­ever, the Pak­istani court is find­ing it dif­fi­cult to con­vict them on the ba­sis of the doc­u­ments supplied by the In­dian govern­ment with­out giv­ing an op­por­tu­nity to the de­fence lawyers to ques­tion the ev­i­dence and its sources. Even if the first trial court con­victs them, they are likely to get re­lief at the higher ju­di­cial level un­less the court is sat­is­fied with the ev­i­dence avail­able at the time of the ap­peal.

In­dia is fo­cused on the above-named mil­i­tant group but Pak­istan has to cope with a very com­plex in­ter­nal se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion that in­volves sev­eral Is­lamic mil­i­tant groups and their break­away fac­tions, spread over the tribal ar­eas, Khy­ber-Pakhtunkhwa, Pun­jab and Sindh.

Pak­istan has lost over 2,273 army and para­mil­i­tary per­son­nel in coun­ter­ing these ter­ror­ist groups since the be­gin­ning of 2002. This num­ber is higher than the losses of Amer­i­can/NATO troops in Afghanistan. Over 3,000 civil­ians have been killed in sui­cide bomb­ings in var­i­ous parts of Pak­istan in the last four years. Add to this the civil­ians killed in road­side bomb­ings or bomb­ing raids.

In­dia needs to ap­pre­ci­ate the com­plex­ity of the ter­ror­ism chal­lenge for Pak­istan and how it has coped with it since 2009 in Swat/Malakand, South Waziris­tan, other tribal ar­eas and parts of main­land Pak­istan. The sit­u­a­tion in Pun­jab is more dif­fi­cult be­cause these groups, in­clud­ing the LeT, are based in pop­u­lated ar­eas and have de­vel­oped strong so­ci­etal links.

The Pun­jab-based groups, in­clud­ing those fo­cus­ing on In­dian-ad­min­is­tered Kash­mir, can be dealt with more ef­fec­tively if In­dia shows some co­op­er­a­tion. The re­sump­tion of the bi­lat­eral di­a­logue with the ob­jec­tive of nor­mal­i­sa­tion of re­la­tions will con­trib­ute to check­ing hard­line Is­lamic groups and ter­ror­ism.

If In­dia re­laxes its stri­dent ap­proach to­wards Pak­istan, the lat­ter can pay more at­ten­tion to the tribal ar­eas that are the hub of ter­ror­ism, and it will be bet­ter placed to adopt a firmer pol­icy to­wards the Pun­jab-based mil­i­tant groups that fo­cus on In­dia and In­dian-ad­min­is­tered Kash­mir.

The trou­bled state of In­dia-Pak­istan re­la­tions and es­pe­cially the stale­mate on Kash­mir pro­vides the Pun­jab-based mil­i­tant groups, in­clud­ing LeT, good rea­sons to mo­bilise pop­u­lar sup­port for them­selves. Their anti-In­dia rhetoric and the re­peated dec­la­ra­tions to lib­er­ate Kash­mir helps them win sup­port in Pun­jab.

If the In­dia-Pak­istan di­a­logue re­sumes and their re­la­tions im­prove, these groups will find it dif­fi­cult to draw pop­u­lar at­ten­tion. This will cre­ate rea­son­able space for the Pak­istani au­thor­i­ties to adopt a tough pol­icy to­wards them, es­pe­cially the LeT/JUD. It is fu­tile for In­dia to think of sur­gi­cal air strikes, limited war and a rapid mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion to cap­ture some Pak­istani ter­ri­tory as a pun­ish­ment to Pak­istan for not elim­i­nat­ing these groups.

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