“Rewarding Thugs”

By Vice Admiral Shankar (retd.)

(This article was first published on the Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies website on 16 August 2016.)

On 12 July 2016, a long delinquent inspiration struck key members of the US Congress concerned with terrorism, non-proliferation, and trade. In concluding the hearing of the Joint Sub-Committee of the Committee on Foreign Affairs on “Pakistan, Friend or Foe in the Fight against Terrorism,” the Chairman, Mr Matt Salmon drew an unequivocal inference: “For the record, I personally believe that we should completely cut off all funding to Pakistan. I think that would be the right first step. And then, a State Sponsor of Terrorism declaration. … Right now we have the worst policy that we could possibly have; all we are doing is rewarding thugs.”

The expert’s panel was led by Zalmay Khalilzad, former US ambassador to Afghanistan. His testimony was woven around what the Pakistani strategic calculus was and how its aims were the anti-thesis of the global war on terror; the exposition was substantiated by facts. Pakistan, he said, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, was coerced into providing support to overthrow the Taliban; this was, at best, backhanded support roused more by survival instincts rather than conviction. Fifteen years and $14 billion of funding later, Pakistan has shed all pretensions of being an ally in the war on terror and its blatant duplicity stands exposed. Khalilzad surmised “One may conclude now that Pakistan is a State Sponsor of Terror.”

Within the Indian security establishment, there has been little doubt that the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies provide the substructure for terrorist operations both in Afghanistan and India. It is also well known that the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) and a host of other jihadists are virtual arms of the Pakistan military and their deployment a cardinal feature of strategy. Former President Musharraf more recently has boasted that Pakistan trains and equips the Taliban and Haqqani Network for operations in Afghanistan; while his military, through the devices of the LeT, HuM and JeM, were actively training, bankrolling and stoking the insurgency in Kashmir and terrorism elsewhere. The fact is that leadership of the Taliban form the Quetta and Peshawar Shura and are located there; while the LeT, Harkat-ul-Mujahidin (HuM) and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) operate freely between Karachi, Lahore and Muzzaffarabad from where they control terror activities in India. Both are denotive of the extent to which Jihadists hold sway within the state of Pakistan.

It is apparent that global policy to tacitly accept Pakistan’s deceit and characterize terror groups as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and then neutralize the ‘bad’ while venturing to reform “well-disposed” groups (well-disposed to who? One wonders) has failed. And failure, to a large extent, has been machinated by Pakistan towards preserving, what they consider instruments that served them well during the Soviet occupation, current Afghan campaign and insurgency in Kashmir. With Pakistan’s stratagem now laid-bare, the time has come to impose penalties for its perfidy. The irony is that the state continues to believe that they can dupe the world at large, get aid in billions of dollars, while selectively nurturing Islamic terror outfits. The reality, however, is that these very terror organisations have infiltrated every limb of the establishment. Global peril raised by a nuclear state in this form has now become their central bargaining chip for relief, despite the obvious fact that derangement of Pakistan has already occurred!

The recent drone attack on Mullah Mansour in Pakistan, capture of Let terrorist Bahadur Ali in Kashmir, flagrant inflammatory activities of wanted terrorists Hafiz Sayeed (LeT), Massod Azhar (JeM) and Sayeed Salahudeen (HuM) and Prime Minister Modi’s strategic shift to expose atrocities in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Gilgit and for bludgeoning the Baluchistan independence movement provide a pivotal moment to work a change in the UN policy towards Pakistan. India must now direct its diplomatic efforts to bring the USA on board (to some extent this is already happening) and then orient its strategic exertions along three prongs:

  • Politically, orchestrate through the aegis of the UN, isolation of Pakistan from international collaboration and impose sanctions on the military and the ISI in their ability to move freely out of country through the instrument of a UN resolution specific to that country (on the lines of UNSCR 2255 concerning terrorist threat to international peace and security).
  • On the economic and financial fronts; embargo trade with Pakistan except for humanitarian assistance. Terror financing must be traced and cut (UNSCR 1373).
  • On the military front, action must be stepped up targeting terror leadership and infrastructure. In this context for Pakistan to be designated as a “major non-NATO ally in the war on terror” is strange; rather, Pakistan must be placed internationally on the list of sponsors of terrorism.

Pakistan’s strategic calculus has to be debunked on all counts; particularly the conviction that Afghanistan, with the pull out of NATO troops along with the drawdown of US combat forces, once again provides the space for a return to the “happy-days”. It must not be allowed to thrive under the belief that it can be both the legatee of international largesse and cavort with Jihadists. The international community and India have taken some measures to challenge Pakistan; it began with UNSC resolution 1373 in the wake of the 9/11 terror attack which proscribed terrorist organisation, to the more recent UNSC resolution 2255 that identifies threats to international security by terrorism. Blockage of military sales, cutting financial aid, calling to attention atrocities in Baluchistan, Gilgit and POK, increased attacks on terror leadership are all representative of these measures. In this context how does one see Pakistan’s all weather friend China respond? The question ought to be: Can China really afford to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds (it appears to be distancing itself from North Korea)?

As Indian and U.S. perceptions on terrorism converge and the growing disquiet over Washington’s bottomless and ineffectual aid to Pakistan attains critical mass, India must work vigorously with America and the UN to ensure that “thugs”, in fact, are not “rewarded.”

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