‘Isolating’ a country like this, it would seem, should not be difficult. And yet, the ground reality is somewhat different.

Indias Pakistan Conundrum How do we deal with the Ivy League of Terror
Voices Opinion Friday, October 07, 2016 - 09:30

This is the first of a three-part series

How can two countries, born from the womb of the same mother, turn out so differently? Massive development challenges notwithstanding, one went on to become the world's largest democracy. It is and it will continue to be cited as a textbook case of a success story of how an economy subjected to colonial exploitation for 190 years is now a two-trillion-dollar economy with one of the fastest rates of growth.  

The other, born at the same time, has allowed democracy to be smothered.  Even when democratically elected governments have been in office, real decision making has required a nod and more formal vetting and clearance from General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi.  So powerful is the GHQ that in respect of the one major issue that defines the army’s rationale for power - relations with India - it has allowed and blessed its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to create, control and nurture an elaborate network of non-state military actors that today qualifies to be characterized as the 'Ivy League of terror’.

Hillary Clinton famously said this to Pakistan a few years ago. "It's like that old story - you can't keep snakes in your backyard and expect them to only bite your neighbours. Eventually those snakes are going to turn on whomever has them in in the backyard." 

Indeed, those snakes have bitten the Pakistan state as well, apart from causing extreme embarrassment.

‘Isolating’ a country like this, it would seem, should not be difficult. And yet, the ground reality is somewhat different. After all, Maulana Masood Azhar, the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM,) just to cite one example, provided 400 jihadis to Osama bin Laden in Somalia in the early 1990s. He is the man who preached jihad at the mosques in the midlands in the United Kingdom thereafter. It should also be relatively easy to 'isolate' the country that that harboured Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks, at a military cantonment in Abbottabad. The world is expected to believe that apparently this happened without the knowledge of the military high command and the government.

This hard truth to swallow is that Pakistan has been sufficiently shamed by the nuclear ‘proliferation’ activities of the AQ Khan network, by its use of terror as an instrument of policy and of harbouring and assisting terror attacks against India. But it continues to be in denial.

In an ideal, or even a normal, less-than-perfect world it should be easy to isolate such a country.  And yet, a ‘reality check’ is desperately required.  First, Pakistan is not the only country that supports terror networks.  The actions of one of its major patrons, Saudi Arabia, is also receiving priority attention in the US Congress.

The cozy relationship it has enjoyed with the United States has just been rudely shattered with the US Congress overriding President Obama’s veto on the draft legislation permitting families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for its complicity in the attacks on the twin towers.  Even if the bill is now ‘fixed’ because of the need to ensure continued Saudi cooperation in counter-terrorism, the main reason for doing so will be to avoid or preempt the United States, its armed forces and intelligence agencies being similarly sued in other parts of the world.

The short point is that many countries have and continue to fund programmes to train and arm militant groups.  The term ‘terror’ is normally affixed by the party/country at the other end.  The use of force in Libya and Syria has been accompanied by a shameless arming of rebels, sometimes embarrassingly called a ‘moderate opposition’.  A 500-million-dollar American programme to do so in Syria had to be abandoned when it was found that the newly trained and armed fighters had defected to the 'other' side.

Does this mean the United States and other countries are supporters of terrorism? No. It is just that at ‘some point of time’ it was thought that getting rid of Assad is more important, and for that reason arming the ‘moderate’ opposition could be considered a step in that direction.

China has just extended its technical hold on the listing of Masood Azhar as a designated entity under the United Nations Security Council’s 1267 Sanctions Committee.  If this is how the real world operates, what are the realistic choices India has in dealing with a western neighbour bent on destabilizing India?

Read part two of the series here.

The author has had a four decade long distinguished career in diplomacy, is one of the few Indians to have presided over the United Nations Security Council and the only Indian to have chaired its Counter Terrorism Committee.

He is the author of Perilous Interventions: The Security Council and the Politics of Chaos (Harper Collins)

Note: The views expressed here are the personal opinions of the author.

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