The primary panacea for terrorism is counter-terrorism. This prescription is especially applicable to rogue nation, Pakistan, which has become a state-sponsored rendezvous for terrorists and international criminals who reside and preside in luxury, plotting against humanity. Seeing Pakistan’s corrupt, sectarian, strife-ridden landscape, the world’s powerful nations and leaders are veering around the idea of using bullet-for-a-bullet and eye-for-an-eye strategies to eliminate terrorism made in Pakistan. A few years ago, such a thought would have created an international furore with breast-beating peaceniks and never-see-wrong types of NGOs foaming at the mouth with tears and fears. But with the rising numbers of innocents in many countries, including in the West, falling victim to fanatical terrorists, even the most tolerant libertarians are coming around to the idea of using force against terrorism.
The civilised world sees Pakistan as the new laboratory of terror. Rising from its soil, youth bearing lethal weapons are hitting various cities in South Asia. Many countries perceived the Indo-Pak conflict as a subcontinent struggle over Kashmir’s political identity. But not anymore. It has become obvious that gun-toting fanatics are laying waste to democratic institutions. Home Minister Rajnath Singh sensed the growing global anger against India’s malevolent western neighbour during his first and short to Pakistan last week.
Not surprisingly, Pakistan was totally isolated at the meeting of SAARC home ministers held in Islamabad. What was worse for the terror-plagued country was no participating member challenged the Indian home minister’s statement. Plainspeak was the theme de jour; the UN spokesperson warned the host country about the futility of romancing terrorism and converting a bilateral issue into an international imbroglio. For the past few months, the US and its European allies have been talking tougher than India ever did. They are living under the fear of a terror strike any time, any place—offices, homes, hotels and markets. They have realised that terror is reared mostly in Pakistan, which was once their darling. It was not cultural or ideological compatibility that motivated their championing of Pakistan. It once was the strategic pivot for the West to destabilise the now-extinct Soviet Union and, until recently, Iran. But the worm turned. The free flow of dollars and weapons from Pakistan’s protectors found way into the hands of the Taliban and other terror groups, which have, for all purposes, taken over every city in that country today.
Singh drove the nail in Pakistan’s head by telling SAARC delegates that “it needs to be ensured that terrorism is not glorified and 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 in no circumstances should terrorists be eulogised as martyrs. Those who provide support, sanctuary, safe haven or any assistance to terrorism or terrorists must be isolated. 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”. He took the extreme step of boycotting lunch hosted by Pakistan’s PM Nawaz Sharif for visiting home ministers. Reflecting India’s new aggressive attitude towards Pakistan, Singh said disdainfully in the Lok Sabha, “I had not gone there to have lunch.” He had no appetite for Pakistan’s buffet of blood.
Usually, the home minister is not the government functionary who defines the nuance and tone of diplomatic engagement with recalcitrant Pakistan. But Singh’s powerful pulverisation of Pakistan on its own soil reflects the new thinking over the devil next door. Singh invoked India’s former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s remark that “we can’t change our neighbours” and went on to add regretfully, “Yeh padosi aisa hai jo manta hi nahi (we have a neighbour who just doesn’t change).” It was a clear message—mend or be ready to get disbanded. Earlier External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Manohar Parriker and other NDA leaders had used even stronger language against Pakistan. Surprisingly, candle-light marchers and party-loving doves are now conspicuous by their retreat into the shadows.
The government’s reversal of soft policy emanates from the increase in direct interference of Pakistan-funded terrorist activities in Kashmir. Top Pak leaders have been praising terrorists like Burhan Wani as martyrs and pledging to provide full support to those fighting Indian forces and killing innocent civilians. Ignoring PM Narendra Modi’s friendly gestures, Sharif termed the “movement of Kashmiris as a movement of freedom”. Radio Pakistan quoted Sharif as saying, “Pakistan would continue to extend moral, political and diplomatic support for Kashmiris in their just struggle for right to self-determination. Indian brutalities will give impetus to the freedom struggle and Kashmiri people will get their right to self-determination for which the whole Pakistani nation is standing behind them.”
Pakistan’s naked involvement in Jammu and Kashmir also reflects the complete collapse of its institutions of governance, which are held hostage by extremists. With its economy grinding to a halt, terror is Pakistan’s most lucrative export, bringing in billions from a geopolitically trapped US government. After all peace efforts went off the track, terrorism is Pakistan’s new Track III plan. Modi has minimised the role of Track-II diplomacy dominated by pro-Pak doves, who were interested in keeping their relevance intact by globetrotting at public expense. Some retired diplomats, defence officers and academics are unsuccessfully trying to revive back-door channels by swearing their loyalty to Modi. The current environment is perhaps India’s best opportunity to isolate Pakistan internationally like Vajpayee did. In July 2015, Modi and Sharif met in Ufa, Russia, and agreed to revive Track-II dialogue to explore ways to resolve long-lingering disputes and give peace a chance. Twelve months later, Sharif and his partners in duplicity have given dialogue and accord a bloody burial. It is now for Modi to unleash forces, which can effectively silence and bury those who threaten the idea of India.
prabhu chawla prabhuchawla@ newindianexpress.com Follow him on Twitter @PrabhuChawla