By Gaurav Dixit*
Ideological obligations had enormous impact on the foreign policy of many countries during the Cold War era and maintain their impact even today in some countries. It has been true for many countries, including Pakistan, which was born out of an ideology of the two-nation theory.
Underneath the excessive depth of impact ideological politics have on Pakistan’s policy lay the ideological superstructure of Islam and tendency to support Islamic militants which are perennial determinant of its policies. The Pakistan state has all the incentive to back terrorist groups acting against India as it serves a broader range of objectives — including domestic and ideological as well as international.
Pakistan’s identity, its existence and its survival are linked to India. An ideological nation, born on the idea of Islam, it sees India as an existential threat. Pakistan, South Asia expert Aparna Pande says, needs to threaten India and feel threatened by it to maintain its national identity. India has to remain the enemy — and Kashmir must continue to be the casus belli to mobilise Pakistani nationalism.
Its national security imperative is to bleed India through a thousand cuts.
The compulsion to rake up the spectre of threat from India every time it is pushed to the wall on the issue of terrorism is nothing more than its ideological manifestation — however, the most disconcerting is the level of acceptance at the international community. No major country is willing to accept the fact that Pakistan has drowned South Asia in a kind of security quicksand, from where the world will be unable to revive if not checked in its current state.
Reflecting on the experience with the US during the 2002 stand-off between India and Pakistan, former Indian External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh told Steve Coll, author of ‘Ghost Wars’: “Hereafter, I really will never ask the United States for anything as far as Pakistan is concerned.” And during a crisis, he added “obviously, now I won’t even send messages” through the United States to Pakistan.
Jaswant Singh’s experience is the experience of many Indian politicians and diplomats, who have tried to convince the US about the evil design of Pakistan — experience also exposes India’s frustration in convincing the US to deal with the Pakistan problem.
The international community neglected India’s demand to take strict action against Pakistan-backed terror groups, as it was a strategic partner in the war against communism first, and later the War on Terror. After years of the US turning a deaf ear to India’s demand, the tentacles of the Pakistani Jihad mindset have grown to a disproportionate level, and have spread to each and every corner of the world.
Foreign policy author Ahmed Rashid has written extensively on the flawed US policy towards Pakistan. One of the underlying themes of his book ‘Descent into Chaos’ is the lack of a coherent policy in the US towards Pakistan, which has led to catastrophic dependency on the most dangerous of allies.
Much water has flown under the bridge since 2002. India and the US share a better relationship now, and there has been consistent decline in the US-Pakistan relationship — and yet, US policy towards Pakistan-sponsored terrorism is confusing.
Meanwhile, rejecting India’s concern as a ploy for political gains, China has put a technical hold on India’s bid at the UN to ban terror outfit Jaish-e Mohammad’s chief and the mastermind of the Pathankot terror attack Masood Azhar. China’s generosity towards Pakistan points towards its economic and political interests in the region. Other is its strategical interest to counter India’s rise by shielding Pakistan’s misadventure in the region.
Asia expert Andrew Small in his book ‘The-China-Pakistan Axis-Asia’s New Geopolitics’ suggests that Pakistan plays a balancing role in China’s foreign policy. It not only keeps a large number of Indian troops away from the Chinese border, it also ensures that India is kept off balance and distracted, absorbing diplomatic, political and strategic energies that could otherwise be directed against China.
India’s diplomatic push to isolate Pakistan received a minor setback when China blocked India’s attempts to include the names of terror groups like JeM and LeT in the BRICS’ Goa Declaration. What hurt India most was Russia’s disinclination to support India’s stand against Pakistan. In fact, what the two powerful nations of Eurasia avoided was done by the BIMSTEC member-nations.
The problem is that despite the continued state sponsorship of terrorism, we lack the political will for conceptualising both the terrorist and its state sponsorship. The process by which different nations designate an individual/organisation terrorist and states sponsor of terrorism are charged with politics of interest and hence we have a flawed concept of terrorism.
Forget about the international community, with respect to relationships between Pakistan state and terrorist groups, the tendency is to separate the state from the non-state actor in India too. It is obvious that such differences can easily derail India’s fight against terrorism.
The world hardly needs any more evidence to suggest there is no difference between state and non-state actor.
Lack of singular definition of terrorism and its sponsors is hampering the global war on terrorism, and no other country’s prospect of development is disturbed as much as of India. Therefore, it is for India to take the battle against terrorism to its logical end, and not wait for the international powers to clean the mess.
*Gaurav Dixit is an independent analyst. Comments and suggestions on this article can be sent on: [email protected]