Time to keep an eye on Sino-Pak designs

Diplomacy dilemma: Indian diplomacy faces sharper curves as Pakistan and China come closer

The year 2016 dawned on India with enough indications (remember the terrorist strike on the Pathankot airbase in January) that Pakistan-based terrorist outfits would not let us fully concentrate on issues which can help realise our dream of emerging as a developed nation by 2020, as envisioned by the 11th President of India, the late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. While Pakistan has been doing all it could to create roadblocks on the way to growth to distract India’s attention, China too has been helping in this design in its own way.

Terrorists from across the Indo-Pak divide have been successful in striking against India’s interests anywhere, anytime obviously because of Pakistan’s disguised complicity. Pakistan has been maintaining double standards on the issue of cross-border terrorism. While it has promised many times to the world community not to allow any territory under its control to be used by terrorists, it has been behaving entirely differently when it came to dealing with India-centric extremists and terrorists.

India has pointed out time and again that the training infrastructure of Pakistan-based extremist outfits like the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Taiyaba remain intact, but the authorities on the other side have remained unmoved. These extremist organizations have been found to have been collecting funds openly in the name of “jihad”. Those involved in India-related extremist activities have been changing the names of their organizations, but their anti-peace projects remain unchanged.

The oft-repeated argument of Pakistan that it too has been a victim of terrorism and that it has launched drives to eliminate such elements carries no meaning when extremist masterminds like Masood Azhar and Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed can be seen roaming around as free citizens of Pakistan. Every time India suffers a terror strike the world gets proof of Pakistan’s claim of acting against terrorist outfits being hollow.

In view of these realities, it was not surprising that the outgoing year began with the first major terrorist attack by Pakistan-based extremists on the Pathankot (Punjab) airbase on January 2. Six security personnel got martyred in the process of neutralising the terrorists till January 3. Pakistani personnel, too, were allowed to become part of the enquiry that began to establish how all this happened and who were the elements involved in the planning and execution of the nasty programme. It did not take much time for the investigators to find out that the daring attack was the brainchild of Masood Azhar of the Jaish-e-Mohammed. Now in the last month of the year, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has formally charge-sheeted Masood, his brother and some other people found to have been involved in the incident.

Whenever and wherever there is a discussion on terrorism, Pakistan’s name figures prominently in a negative manner

While the wounds caused by the terrorist strike at the Pathankot IAF base were yet to be healed came another and bigger terror attack at the Uri Army camp (in Jammu and Kashmir) resulting in the loss of lives of 17 Army jawans. The attackers were none other than those based in Pakistan who were indoctrinated and trained in the training camps which continue to exist despite this ugly reality having been highlighted by the media time and again. India was convinced that these elements could not have entered this side of the border without support and guidance provided by Pakistani security personnel.
Ultimately, India declared that enough was enough and its defence forces decided to launch a major surgical strike to send across the terse message that India would now find its own effective solution to handle the terror menace emanating from Pakistan.

Islamabad’s policy of showing leniency to India-centric extremist elements caused a grievous blow to the peace constituency in the subcontinent. All the efforts made to end the atmosphere of distrust and enmity in the larger interest of eliminating the common enemy of people — widespread poverty in the subcontinent — got nullified.

The well-appreciated idea of making the borders irrelevant to banish poverty from the region has very few takers today. Under the changed circumstances, it has become impossible to talk of promoting people-to-people contacts and business dealings between the two sides.

The idea of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) too suffered considerably. The scheduled Islamabad summit of the SAARC could not become a reality as three other members rallied behind India when New Delhi decided to stay away from it because of the terrorist monster having been unleashed from Pakistan. India’s clearly stated response (“Regional cooperation and terror don’t go together. India pulls out of the SAARC Summit in Islamabad.”) moved Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Bhutan to express their inability to participate in the November SAARC Summit.

After India, it was Bangladesh which did not mince words to declare, “The growing interference in the internal affairs of Bangladesh by one country has created an environment which is not conducive to the successful hosting of the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad in November 2016.”

China, Pakistan’s so-called “all-weather friend”, cannot go too far with Islamabad on the issue of terrorism and religious extremism. Beijing’s use of its veto power in the UN Security Council to block the declaration of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a UN-designated terrorist twice this year (in April and October), as sought by India, cannot be regarded in Pakistan’s long-term interests. Once elements like Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Taiyaba acquire a larger-than-life image, they will not hesitate in challenging the Pakistan establishment on extremist ideology-related issues.
Beijing has been trying to convey a strong message to India on different occasions: New Delhi cannot get free from its Pakistan problem because of the unaltered position of religious extremism in the Af-Pak region and the China factor becoming a major reality in almost all the SAARC countries.

China, perhaps, feels that it can easily realize its dream of emerging as another superpower, if not the sole superpower, if India remains tied up with issues related to Pakistan. China’s opposition to India’s efforts to find an entry into the strategically significant Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) as also to the move to broad-base the Security Council in view of the changed global reality is basically aimed at ensuring that India does not acquire a status threatening to shatter the Chinese scheme of things in Asia and the rest of the world. China has never felt comfortable with India getting closer to the US, particularly after the signing of the 2008 civilian nuclear deal between Washington DC and New Delhi.

India, therefore, will have to conduct its affairs in the coming year in a manner so that it can spare enough time to concentrate on issues related to China. Remaining preoccupied with handling only Pakistan cannot serve India’s long-term regional and global interests. A coolly planned drive backed by an all-encompassing ideology will have to be initiated to weaken the hold of the extremist ideology in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Allowing the Taliban to become part of the power structure in Afghanistan without making them end their extremist path will embolden such forces in Pakistan to continue to work on their destructive programmes against India. This scenario fits in well with the anti-India designs of China and Pakistan.

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