Tough line on Pakistan is only natural
At the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek, Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued a stern message that countries sponsoring, aiding and supporting terrorism must be held accountable. This was a direct message to Pakistan which was represented by its premier Imran Khan at the summit. In fact, Modi made the statement in Imran’s presence. There was no formal meeting between the two leaders as New Delhi continues to stick to its position that terror and dialogue cannot go hand in hand.
This isn’t surprising since Modi’s BJP just won another huge mandate in the recent Indian general elections on the strength of its national security position. The Pulwama terror attack and the subsequent Balakot surgical strike on Pakistani terror camps greatly shored up BJP’s electoral prospects in the polls. Therefore, it is unlikely that the Modi government would consider talks with Pakistan without concrete concessions by the latter on terror. But that, as we all know, is easier said than done for Islamabad. The situation in Pakistan is such that it won’t be able to divorce its terror infrastructure overnight. I have previously written about this at length and how Pakistan’s constitutional infirmities and certain policy missteps created the present situation. Today, the terror groups in Pakistan are enmeshed in that society and are seen to perform three functions – give Pakistan an asymmetric asset to militarily irritate India, take in scores of uneducated and unemployed youth, and undertake charitable activities to augment the poor government services in that country.
The only way Pakistan can rid itself of terror groups is if Pakistan becomes richer and confident. And that can only happen, under the current circumstances, if the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor succeeds. Sure, ideally, if Pakistan can turn off the terror tap it will be flooded with investments from around the world. Its relationship with India will also improve, unlocking huge opportunities and growth for the region. But the way I see it, Pakistan won’t get rich by turning off the terror tap – it is simply unable to do this. It has to get rich first to turn off the terror tap. And the only country that can help them is China.
As far as India is concerned, we must continue to take a hard line on Pakistan-based terrorism. We must shore up our defences in Kashmir and further enhance our intelligence-based counter-terror operations. In short, India needs a solid defensive game to counter the asymmetric threats emanating from Pakistan. Imran might want peace with India, but he is in no position to guarantee such a peace at this point. It is the Pakistani military-ISI complex that calls the shots in Islamabad’s policy towards India and strategically uses the terror groups to “bleed India”. The recent attack on the CRPF in Anantnag exemplifies this point.
In conclusion, India cannot have any official dealings with Pakistan at this point. It is for Pakistan to figure out and resolve its own internal situation. India must beef up its defences to prevent further terror attacks and insist that dialogue and terror can’t go together. And let’s hope that China, given its resources and stakes in Pakistan, can change that country for the better.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.