The allegations of state-sponsored terrorism levelled by the two South Asian nuclear neighbours against each other took centre stage as the foreign ministers of both countries addressed the 73rd Session of UN General Assembly in New York last week. So, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, as usual, resorted to India’s signature terror rhetoric against Pakistan. However, for the first time, Pakistan also chose to proactively implicate India on an international forum rather than being only defensive and apologetic about terror-related allegations hurled at it by India. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said: “Pakistan continues to face terrorism that is financed, facilitated and orchestrated by our eastern neighbour”. “Pakistan shall never forget the mass murder of more than 150 children in a Peshawar School, the terrible Mastung attack and many others that have links with terrorists supported by India”, he further maintained. To substantiate Pakistan’s accusation against India, Mr. Qureshi also mentioned the capture and detention of a serving Indian Naval officer, Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav, who has admitted that “he, on the instructions of his government, financed, planned and executed acts of terrorism and violence in Pakistan”.
Speaking at this year’s session of the UNGA, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that Pakistan’s commitment to terrorism as an instrument of official policy had not abated one bit. She also said that it had become something of a habit with Pakistan to throw the “dust of deceit and deception” at India in order to provide a thin cover for its own guilt. She also maintained that the most startling evidence of Pakistan’s duplicity was the fact that Osama Bin Laden, the architect and ideologue of 9/11, was given safe haven in Pakistan. To support her allegations against Pakistan, she also mentioned the fact of putting Pakistan on notice over terror funding by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). In fact, she also hurled almost similar allegations against Pakistan during her last year’s speech at the UNGA. She called Pakistan “world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity”. She maintained that India had produced scholars, doctors and engineers while Pakistan was only producing terrorists.
Apparently, India’s ‘terror propaganda’ against Pakistan is essentially in line with its diplomatic policy of isolating Pakistan. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has publicly vowed to spearhead a global campaign to isolate Pakistan in the world. As a matter of fact, there is absolutely no comparison between Pakistan and India when it comes to the nature and intensity of terrorism in both countries. One can just count almost all the terror incidents in India on the fingers of one hand – the 2001 Indian Parliament attack, the 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing, the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the 2015 Gurdaspur attack, the 2016 Pathankot and Uri attacks. On the other side, there have been more than 800 major terror attacks in Pakistan between 2001 and 2016, resulting in tens of thousands of casualties. Therefore, Pakistan is not an aggressor but rather the most pathetic victim of terror in the region. Undeniably, there is a visible reduction in the intensity of terror incidents in the country in consequence of Pakistan’s domestic counter-terror measures. However, these measures have yet not succeeded in eliminating this menace from the country. With a score of 8.4 out of 10, the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) has recently ranked Pakistan fifth on the Global Terrorism Index (GTI).
There is also a fundamental difference as to the nature of terror allegations levelled by both countries against each other. India only blames various non-state actors in Pakistan for executing certain terror attacks in India. On the other side, Pakistan has always been maintaining that India and its important state institutions are just pursuing a well-planned policy to destabilise Pakistan by actively promoting and supporting terror is Pakistan. India has adopted the terrorism as a primary tool to articulate and achieve its strategic objectives in the region. For this single purpose, it has already consolidated its position in Afghanistan. The Indian NSA Ajit Doval has publicly admitted these facts some time ago in India. Similarly, in a speech at Dhaka University during his official visit to Bangladesh in June 2015, Indian Prime Minister Modi also formally acknowledged the negative role played by India in bifurcating Pakistan in 1971.
India’s failure to conduct any ‘surgical strikes’ in Pakistan, despite its repeated assertions to do so following the 2016 Uri attack, has somehow established that India is not militarily capable of launching any major offensive against Pakistan. Now India can’t manoeuvre against Pakistan beyond resorting to cross-border shelling inside Pakistan. In the face of balance of power between the two countries vis-à-vis the conventional military as well as nuclear strength, India has chosen to impose a proxy fourth generation war on its arch-foe Pakistan through numerous non-state actors in the form of some pseudo-Jihadists and pseudo-nationalists. India has also been eagerly exploiting various ethnic and sectarian cleavages in Pakistan. Pakistan has also blamed India for interfering in its province of Baluchistan. Similarly, our LEA’s also discovered certain Indian connections behind the deteriorated law and order situation in the city during the last Karachi operation.
Having consolidated its position in Afghanistan and Iran, now India is also pursuing its well-planned strategy of ‘Strategic Encirclement’ against Pakistan. India has also signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan in 2011. India and Afghanistan don’t share a common border. Likewise, currently, there is no significant bilateral trade between the two countries. So, what is the India-Afghanistan strategic partnership all about? In fact, India has no ‘strategic interest’ in Afghanistan beyond harming and destabilising Pakistan.
It is generally believed that the US pivot to Asia strategy is nothing but another important tool of its so-called China containment policy in this region. It only aims at minimising, or rather undermining the rising economic and political influence of China in the world. Now Pakistan has just become an important component of its China containment policy since the CPEC, a flagship project of China’s One-Belt One-Road (OBOR) initiative is just situated in Pakistan. At present, the broader US strategic interests have somehow converged with India’s security doctrine in this region. Therefore, we can observe both ‘regional allies’ jointly calling the shots in Afghanistan to the disadvantage of Pakistan. It is a fact that militancy has mushroomed in Pakistan since the US invasion in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has no apparent interest in destabilising India through terrorist activities. There have been many conspiracies theories regarding the isolated incidents of terrorism in India. Many believe that Indian agencies themselves have orchestrated these terror attacks to mount pressure on Pakistan to tighten noose around a number of Pakistan-based militant outfits associated with the insurgency in Kashmir such as LeT, JuD, JeM etc. Secondly, India has used these terror attacks as an important tool of its international strategy to isolate Pakistan. Thirdly, India wilfully sabotaged the so-called Pak-India peace process by refusing to negotiate with Pakistan over longstanding unresolved issues on the pretext of these attacks. And lastly, through a proactive propaganda against Pakistan, India is just trying to give a cover up to its own state-sponsored terrorism inside the territory of Pakistan.
In the late 1980’s, an indigenous armed insurgency sparked in the Indian-held Kashmir. By that time, ‘Afghan Jihad’ had been successfully concluded. So, a large number of victorious Mujahedeen also chose to participate in the ‘Kashmir Jihad’. Naturally, this Kashmir Intifada was intensified by the participation of these Mujahedeen. At that stage, there is every likelihood that Pakistan could have facilitated these Mujahedeen as part of its state policy. However, after 9/11 incident, Pakistan wholly abandoned this policy. Pakistan is currently extending moral support to Kashmiris who are struggling for their independence from the illegal Indian occupation. The current freedom movement in Kashmir is purely indigenous which has just gained momentum following the death of young Kashmiri freedom fighter Burhan Wani in July 2016.
“There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still’, said Franklin D Roosevelt. There is indeed much recourse for both South Asian neighbouring states to make peace with each other. Therefore, rather than keep evolving terror narratives against each other, both countries should try to resolve their longstanding bilateral disputes through peaceful means. Certainly, when it comes to terrorism, this blame-thy-neighbour game will hardly help set things right in this troubled region.