By Dr Subhash Kapila
The ‘Heart of Asia’ which Afghanistan really is, continues to be brutally bled by Pakistan’s bloody terrorism strategies, which five ‘Heart of Asia’ Summits so far have been unable to restrain.
Simply, this arises from the stark reality that the United States, China and Turkey deeply involved with Pakistan politically and militarily have not rapped Pakistan hard on Rawalpindi’s knuckles to desist from such disruptive terrorist adventurism against Afghanistan and India.
The ‘Heart of Asia’ Summit necessarily should be Afghanistan-centric in terms of that brutalised nation’s development. Afghanistan’s brutalisation has been at the hands of Pakistan-facilitated terrorism. Pakistan state-sponsored terrorism is not only Afghanistan but also targets India and therefore there is a duality of convergences on this Pakistan-facilitated terrorism between Afghanistan and India.
Afghanistan’s security and stability are prime national security interests of India and thus India has a legitimate security interest in Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s stability is constantly being undermined by Pakistan’s incessant terrorism attacks. India must therefore be expected to be blunt in naming and shaming Pakistan for its refusal to dispense with its disruptive terrorism strategy against Afghanistan.
Afghan President’s strong vocal denunciation of Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorism by name arises from Afghan President Ghani having learnt bitter lessons after his initial policy of humouring Pak Army Chief General Raheel Sharif by a personal visit to his office in Rawalpindi, presumably under US pressure then. President Ghani’s political outreach to Pakistan in his initial presidency years has been met by an intensification of Pakistani state-sponsored terrorism.
In striking contrast to Afghanistan President Ghani’s strong denunciation of Pakistan’s unremitting strategy of terrorism at the Summit, Indian PM Modi fell short of naming Pakistan, though his oblique references to Pakistan were clear. If the India PM was attempting this as a subtle political strategy then too it would be disappointing for the Summit participants and to Indian public opinion in general. More specifically for the Afghan President who walked the extra mile to denounce Pakistan by name, something which India always desired.
India as the co-chair and host of the ‘Heart of Asia’ Summit 2016 held at Amritsar was expected to come out strongly to denounce Pakistan as in 2016 India had suffered intensely from Pakistan’s terrorism-disruptive strategies as much as Afghanistan has suffered.
Pakistan’s strong joint denunciation by Afghanistan and India would have sent a stirring regional and global message that strong convergences existed between Pakistan’s flanking countries in terms of combatting Pakistan’s terrorism directed against them. Not that Pakistan would have been deterred by such a strong joint message conscious of the fact that such signalling absent of ‘biting teeth’ was empty rhetoric by India and Afghanistan.
Indian PM Modi’s calibrated speech of not naming Pakistan by name as the source of all disruptive regional terrorism emanating from Rawalpindi would have been music to Pakistani ears.
Somehow the impression that one gets from PM Modi’s omission to name Pakistan by name analytically conveys an impression that India is contemplating opening peace dialogues with Pakistan once again. This would be reminiscent of Congress PMs approach which was in severe disconnect with Indian public opinion. It would also amount to the Indian PM back-tracking from his declared policy of ‘No Dialogue with Pakistan without Pakistan Ending Terrorism’. Such an Indian opening can be best termed as ill-advised.
The Afghan President while indulging in unambiguous denunciation of Pakistan’s terrorism however seemed at pains to repeatedly emphasise the contributions that Turkey and China have made to the Heart of Asia and the Istanbul Process.
Surely the Afghan President would be fully aware that both Turkey and China are strong backers of Pakistan. With Pakistan critically dependant on Turkey and China for politically and military support, both Turkey and China can severely restrict Pakistan’s terrorism against Afghanistan and India.
Since the above is an irrefutable fact, the Afghan President in his stirring message could have made calls on Turkey and China to restrain Pakistan’s terrorism strategies at such a multilateral Summit.
Comparatively, one would be not far too wrong in asserting that India’s contribution to the comprehensive development of Afghanistan far outweighs that of Turkey and China in terms of scale and spread even though India may be in the fifth position in the donors list.
China is only interested in Afghanistan on three counts, namely access to Afghanistan’s vast and rich mineral resources, Afghanistan not giving sanctuary to Xinjiang rebels and prevailing over Afghanistan to accommodate Pakistan’s national security interests, The latter aim being that Afghanistan should limit Indian presence in that nation.
India could not have hoped to garner much multilateral support for its initiative to highlight Pakistan’s dubious record of sustained terrorism against Afghanistan and India as most of the participating members in the Heart of Asia Summit are also members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which stands dominated by China and Russia. Expectedly, these Central Asian countries could not be expected to stand up against China’s support for Pakistan and further seconded by Russia.
Indian PM’s call at the Summit to punish those who facilitate regional terrorism and those who support it, without naming Pakistan, will not find any echoes or responses from the Major Powers which could restrain Pakistan’s terrorism strategies as instruments of state policy.
Concluding, one would like to observe that it is for consideration whether India makes any tangible gains from participating and hosting such Summits where China will impede any initiatives to name and shame Pakistan for its reprehensible stratagems of state sponsored terrorism against its neighbours, attributes of a “Rogue Nation.”
P.S The Amritsar Declaration issued minutes ago while naming Pakistan-based terrorist groups by name as threats to regional security again falls short of naming Pakistan specifically as the facilitator and financier of the terrorism activities of these groups against Pakistan’s neighbours. While some headway seems to have been achieved, the China factor seems to have prevailed.