Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who returned to India on Thursday evening after delivering a compact speech at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) home ministers’ meeting in Islamabad, has been taken to task by some critics that by targeting Pakistan for its role in Kashmir in what is an international or regional gathering, he has weakened the growth of the regional organisation.
To be precise, Singh did not name Pakistan. But he made it pretty obvious when he emphasised that no type of terrorism or support to it could be justified and called for immediate and effective action against all those who support or encourage international terrorism, "whether state actors or non-state actors”. In fact, by talking of attacks on Pathankot (and earlier, Mumbai), he clearly was referring to Pakistan, even though he also talked of the menace of terrorism in Dhaka and Kabul.
“It also needs to be ensured that terrorism is not glorified and is not patronised by any state. One country's terrorist cannot be a martyr or freedom fighter for anyone. I also speak for the entire humanity — not just for India or other Saarc members — in urging that under no circumstances should terrorists be eulogised as martyrs. Those who provide support, encouragement, sanctuary, safe haven or any assistance to terrorism or terrorists must be isolated. The strongest possible steps need to be taken not only against terrorists and terrorist organisations, but also those individuals, institutions, organisations or nations that support them. Only this will ensure that the forces engaged in promoting the heinous crime of terrorism against humanity are effectively countered”
And here, he had obviously in mind how the Pakistani government under Nawaz Sharif has conferred on Burhan Wani, a Kashmiri commander of the terrorist outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, the status of a “martyr”.
It has been argued by some analysts that Singh should not have raised what are essentially bilateral issues between India and Pakistan at an international meeting. But two questions are noteworthy here:
Is terrorism in Kashmir a bilateral matter?
Secondly, was it Singh who raised it first in the Islamabad meeting?
Let me answer the second question first. It all began with Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the host. In his introductory address, Khan lambasted the "use of excessive force to suppress protests in held Kashmir”, without naming the Indian government. “Using torture against innocent children and violence against civilians qualifies as terrorism,” said the Pakistani minister, adding that there was a need to end an “extremist” mindset. He said that “like the attacks in Pathankot, Kabul, Mumbai and Dhaka, Pakistan too has lost many innocent lives due to terrorism. The use of blame game has not benefited anyone for the past six decades.”
Just imagine what an Indian home minister would have done in his response to such an welcome (and here, one is not looking at the demonstrations against his visit by the all the hardcore terrorist organisations based in Pakistan) by his Pakistani counterpart? Viewed thus, Singh’s was a fitting response.
Now let us come to the first question — that of whether terrorism in Kashmir should be seen strictly as a bilateral affair? The answer to this should be seen along with two other important developments concerning Pakistan today (Thursday) itself.
One is the decision that China is to set up an anti-terrorism alliance with Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, “to boost coordination with neighbours to tackle what it says is a growing domestic militant threat.” Fang Fenghui, a member of the powerful Central Military Commission that controls China's armed forces, had hosted a meeting with his counterparts on Wednesday in Urumqi, capital of the western Xinjiang region. According to Chinese news agency Xinhua, the four countries recognised the serious threat of terrorism and extremism to regional stability, and they agreed to set up a "four-country mechanism" for intelligence sharing and training. "All parties reaffirmed they will cooperate to respond to these forces, and safeguard all member countries' peace and stability," Xinhua said. Apparently, Afghan army chief of general staff, General Qadam Shah Shaheem, Pakistani army chief General Raheel Sharif, and the Chief of General Staff of the Tajikistan armed forces, Major-General EA Cobidrzoda took part in the talks.
The point here, thus, is, that Pakistan’s decision to be a part of the Chinese sponsored group means that it realises that growing domestic militant threat (in this case, battling Islamist militants) cannot be fought alone and that there is a need for coordination with other countries in general and neighbours in particular. And if this is the case, what crime has Rajnath committed when he spoke of a regional imperative to tackle terrorism in South Asia, including Kashmir?
If anything, it only reflects Pakistan’s double-talk on terrorism. As is very well-known, terrorism is an instrument of Pakistan’s foreign policy, particularly vis-à-vis India and Afghanistan. So, apart from China, nobody takes Pakistan seriously and its growing international isolation is being debated in various Pakistani think tanks these days. And another bit of concrete evidence — and this is the other major development of the day — of this was Pentagon’s decision not to pay Pakistan $300 million in military reimbursements after US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter decided not to tell Congress that Pakistan was taking adequate action against the Haqqani Network (a Pakistani-funded and guided terror outfit in Afghanistan fighting the democratic regime there).
It may be noted that of late,the US and Pakistan have been at loggerheads over the latter’s unwillingness to act against extremist groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network. The $300 million comes under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), a US Defence Department programme to reimburse allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations. Pakistan is the largest recipient. The decision to withhold funds comes in the wake of the growing resistance in the US Congress to send money to Pakistan. In fact, in March, Republican Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had threatened to bar any US funding for Islamabad’s purchase of $700 million of Lockheed Martin Corp F-16 fighter jets.
Instead of finding fault with our home minister’s speech, our so-called liberals should impress upon the Pakistani prime minister not to play with fire.
Thursday marked also another important development in the Pakistani capital. Raheel Sharif called on Nawaz Sharif at the prime minister's residence and they exchanged views on “Indian atrocities in the occupied Kashmir”, news reports said. Therefore, despite whatever our bleeding heart liberals say in our news outlets, the fact remains that Pakistan now seems determined to complicate our problems in Kashmir by diplomatic, financial and military support.
Nawaz Sharif has shown his true colours once again by saying that “the Kashmir issue is the main pillar of Islamabad's foreign policy”. Let it be remembered that it was Sharif under whose premiership the invasion of Kargil in 1999 had taken place. And it was during his first tenure as Prime Minister (1990) that Sharif had gone to the extent of “establishing a fund for the liberation of Kashmir”. In fact during his election-campaigns that year, Sharif had pointed out how Benazir Bhutto as the prime minister was a security threat as she had revealed to India the identities of Sikh insurgents who had links with Pakistani intelligence. As Pakistani scholar-diplomat Husain Haqqani has written, Sharif had also promised “Kashmir’s liberation by arms”.
If anything, Sharif’s present policy towards Kashmir reflects his unchanged mindset. So instead of finding fault with our home minister’s speech, our so-called liberals should impress upon the Pakistani prime minister not to play with fire.