LAST month the media published excerpts from Obama’s memoirs but it omitted two of his key statements in those chronicles: that he ‘could not afford to look soft on terrorism’ and that he was ‘likely to be a one-term president’ if the Abbottabad raid had failed. Earlier, Modi had bombed Balakot with no evidence of our complicity. That attack proved futile and our response humiliated him, but he got what he wanted: his re-election. Clausewitz’s theory that ‘war is continuation of politics by other means’ is evident in both cases. By analogy, terrorism is war by other means too—and therefore politics; the burden of which is carried by politicians. In November, the civil population in AJK was terrorized by India through indiscriminate firing and Pakistan presented substantial and irrefutable evidence of Indian state sponsored terrorism, elsewhere in Pakistan. We also impelled the UN to censure India but in-vain. India’s regional and extra-regional sponsors are not repenting either.
This state begs two crucial questions: First; can we knockout epicentres of Indian terrorism, when we have convincing proofs of its government’s involvement in them? Doing so will be perfectly legitimate, however, as a peace loving state, we are expected to show prudence and restraint, though this logic is eroding our conventional and nuclear deterrence. Second; what if our victimization persists and our testimonials and sacrifices go unheeded, as these have been, since 9/11?The reply depends on the vicissitudes of the obtaining milieu, of which the first vital component is the outcome of recent US elections. Since Trump’s policy of ‘controlling’ Pakistan through India, aid cut and politico-diplomatic pressures has failed and our role in the Afghan peace process remains crucial, we could expect an impartial US policy in South Asia, henceforth. Both Biden and Harris have also spoken out against India’s human rights violations, particularly in Kashmir, with Harris having said in Oct 2019: ‘We have to remind Kashmiris that they are not alone in the world…’Next: Indian economic and military potential stands diluted and dispersed, due to trade rivalries and escalation of its border disputes with China, and its Kashmir policy gaffe. Further; Indian economy suffered earlier owing to demonetization and is now in recession, due to mismanagement of Corona, while Pakistani economy is slowly stabilizing, despite the pandemic. Finally; Indian image is tarnished globally due to rising religious fanaticism, intolerance, and human rights violations.
This environment has moderately enhanced Pakistani liberty of action to take the following ten diplomatic and security initiatives: Invoking violations of UNSC resolutions numbers 1267, 1456, 1566 and 2462 on terrorism and terrorist financing by India and stressing its efforts to mislead and misuse the FATF platform to coerce Pakistan; Raising these concerns formally and individually with the secretariats of the OIC, FATF, UNSC, UNGA, and NATO, ISAF countries in Afghanistan and UNAMA; Giving a demarche, to the Afghan government to apprehend leaders of terrorist outfits like the TPP, BLA, BLP, BRA etc and to hand them over to Pakistan, dismantle all Indian epicentres of terrorism, located at their consulates and elsewhere in Afghanistan, declare unconditional support for our border fencing and create conditions for the return of Afghan refugees. Failing this, earnestly consider the partial or total closure of the Pak-Afghan border indefinitely, besides flagging these concerns at all deliberations about the Afghan peace process; Communicate serious concerns to UK for ignoring Indian misuse of its territory for financing terrorism against Pakistan and granting asylum or protection to Pakistanis, convicted by our courts for acts of terrorism, money laundering, sedition and corruption etc. and asking for the speedy return or extradition of such persons.
Since an unstable Pakistan isn’t in the UK’s interest, it will hopefully oblige us, despite its present unhelpful policy on the matter; Augment our counter terrorism capacity and permit our security institutions to respond to the threats from India in a flexible and pro-active manner; As a flagship project of the BRI, the CPEC be secured jointly by Pakistan and China, with diplomatic support from the 138 member countries, whose economic interests are connected with the BRI. Besides, China and Pakistan must clearly warn India and the UN, that henceforth, any efforts by the former to sabotage the CPEC, in future, would invite appropriate reprisals against Indian state institutions, responsible for their planning and execution. High level related consultations, like the recent visit of the Chinese Defence Minister, Wei Fenghe to Pakistan, to give ‘practical meaning to safeguard regional security’ is a timely and welcome development; Due to the inability of the UN or its Military Observers to investigate and prevent the CFL violations, Pakistan must lower its tolerance threshold of non-combatant casualties in AJK and exhibit the will to stop these, even at the cost of measured conflict escalation.
The hybrid war, imposed upon us must be won through preemptive neutralization of the terrorist’s virtual and actual networks, within and outside Pakistan and adequate financing of our information and physical security domains; our laws must adapt to deter terrorists, while our citizens and society must feel responsible to assist the LEAs to counter this menace. Finally, the coming US administration must be asked to prevail upon India to halt its terrorism inside Pakistan, in AJK and IOJ&K, to save the peace process in Afghanistan and prevent a nuclear conflict in the sub-continent. Pakistan has been tough on terrorists on its soil but soft on their internal and external sponsors. This status quo is unsustainable and needs substitution with an audacious national security strategy. This change is also desired and expected since long from the rulers, by the masses. But the new paradigm must be owned and implemented by the political leaders, not to win elections, as in US or India, but to save Pakistan and its people. Sans such commitment, the fresh evidence dossiers, of our archenemies delinquencies, could also fade into oblivion, as mere rhetoric.
— The writer, a retired Lt Gen, is former President of National Defence University, Islamabad.