The standoff between India and Pakistan is going to complicate the situation not only between the two countries but also at the global level. The F16 used by Pakistan has violated the US protocols of not using the weapons and jets without prior permission and also for escalation or offensive purpose. It puts America and Islamabad into a tricky position given the fact that the two countries had recently set on a ‘reset’ mode in their deteriorating relationship.
The international community has asked India and Russia to restrain and stay calm. Russia, India’s special and privileged strategic partner, has extended its support to New Delhi’s counter-terror measures as self-defence.
During the Russia-India-China meeting this week, all the foreign ministers have agreed that for a closer policy coordination to eradicate the ‘breeding grounds of terrorism’.1 The joint statement at the end of the meeting also pointed out that ‘those committing, orchestrating, inciting or supporting terrorist acts must be held accountable and brought to justice in accordance with existing international commitments on countering terrorism’. 2
Meanwhile, in the 2018 Qingdao declaration of Shanghai Organization Cooperation (SCO), all the members, including India and Pakistan, in the joint statement noted that use of ‘terrorist, extremist and radical groups for one’s own purposes is unacceptable’. It called for the implementation of treaty on long-term good neighbourliness, friendship and co-operation. 3
Similarly, during the BRICS joint statement in July 2018, stated that the member states ‘condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations wherever committed and by whomsoever’. 4 Despite all these declarations nothing much has been achieved especially between India and Pakistan. Irony of the fact is both are SCO members and have been committed to good neighbourliness, friendship and cooperation.
Russia and China have condemned the terrorist attack on India and however both the countries have restrained themselves from accusing Pakistan as a country who sponsors terrorist activities on Indian soil. Beijing has not supported India’s call in the United Nation to declare Masood Azar, head of Jaish-e-Mohammed, as a terrorist though Russia continues to support New Delhi. However, given the close cooperation between New Delhi, Moscow and Beijing under the Russia-India-China format, Russia and China should be able to pressure Pakistan on not having double standards against fighting terrorism.
The cooperation against terrorism amongst all these countries under the various multilateral forums is been going on, including the August 2018 counter-terrorism exercise under the SCO banner. Pakistan also held the first SCO anti-terrorism meeting in May last year however, nothing has changed.
The basic problem which lies in combating terrorism is the various national interests being in stake for all countries. For some countries, terrorists can be categorized as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ whereas for some there can be no good or bad terrorists. This basic difference weakens the resolve to fight this menace. Secondly, each country looks at its own national interest first and then on the common goal of rooting out terrorism. Beijing still has not been able to declare Mr. Azar as a terrorist despite the evidence against him. It talks a lot about China’s commitment to fight against terrorism. It shows the selective approach of the country.
For China, Pakistan is important because of the huge economic and strategic stakes including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Russia has been supportive on fighting terrorism and has also military intervened to fight against it such as in Syria. However, Islamic State (IS) being the main threat to it’s and the region’s security might be uncomfortable. Serious cooperation from all countries is needed against fighting terrorism as well as the various issues related to this phenomena including the socio-economic problems.
Pakistan who claimed earlier that it had shot down two Indian war planes has retracted in its claim. It has also promised to release the Indian pilot who was arrested. But point remains against Pakistan, particularly in this standoff, is that the reaction against India.
The very fact that Jaish-e-Mohammed, a terrorist group claimed the February 14 attack on India should have been more than enough reason to extend the help of cooperation as a SCO member who jointly declared to fight against terrorism and share good neighbourliness rather than counter-attacking India.
It is a positive thing that Pakistan and India has restrained themselves from any kind of escalation because the beneficiary of the standoff between the two countries would be the various terrorist groups residing in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan or in the region. The reason behind this restrainment from Islamabad’s side could be the breaking of the US protocol in using the F16’s. Under the US protocol, these fighter jets could not be used for offensive or escalatory actions against any country without any prior permission from America.
The relationship between US and Pakistan has not been steady though it had recently switched on the ‘reset’ button. But things are still shaky more because US is showing keen interest to India for the many interests of America including the Indo-Pacific. US President Donald Trump being tough on Pakistan had made the country move closer to Russia but the perpetual problem of terrorism and Pakistan’s unwillingness to seriously tackle it along with Moscow’s special and privileged strategic partnership with India will make it difficult for Pakistan to garner support in this standoff.
To gain confidence in the international community, including with Russia and US, it would be good if Pakistan would take quick action against Mr. Azar and Jaish e-Mohammad group along with the other terrorist groups which are budding in the country.
*Dr. Indrani Talukdar is a Research Fellow at ICWA, New Delhi. The views are that of the authors and not of the Council.
- Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, “Russia-India-China coordination to combat terror”, Economic Times, February 28, 2019. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/russia-india-china-coordination-to-combat-terror/articleshow/68193994.cms.
- “Joint Communique of the 16th Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation, the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China”, Ministry of External Affairs, February 27, 2019.
- “Qingdao Declaration of the Council of Heads of State of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation”, Shanghai Organization Cooperation, June 10, 2018. file:///C:/Users/Dr%20Indrani/Downloads/Qingdao_Declaration_2018.pdf.https://www.mea.gov.in/bilateral-documents.htm?dtl/31097/Joint_Communique_of_the_16th_Meeting_of_the_Foreign_Ministers_of_the_Russian_Federation_the_Republic_of_India_and_the_Peoples_Republic_of_China .
- “10th BRICS Summit Johannesburg Declaration”, Ministry of External Affairs, July 26, 2018. https://www.mea.gov.in/bilateral-documents.htm?dtl/30190/10th_BRICS_Summit_Johannesburg_Declaration