Nothing could have been more embarrassing for Islamabad than Thursday’s joint Indo-US statement issued on the conclusion of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US visit. It mentioned, “They [US President and Indian Prime Minister] strongly condemned cross-border terrorism, the use of terrorist proxies and called on Pakistan to take immediate action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for launching terrorist attacks”[Emphasis added], and “They called for the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot attacks to be brought to justice.”
That Washington’s expression of unconditional solidarity with New Delhi in calling out Islamabad’s duplicitous approach to terrorism would enrage Islamabad is but natural. However, if it felt that this indictment was incorrect or motivated, then one expected Islamabad to have rebutted the same by demanding proof to substantiate the damning charges made in the Indo-US joint statement. However, rather than doing so, Pakistani Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has conveniently tried to wriggle out of a tight corner by attempting to deflect the issue.
He has responded to the joint Indo-US statement attacking Pakistan for sponsoring cross border terrorism by accusing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of leading a “campaign of state sponsored terrorism in Kashmir”. That an erudite politician like Asif could make such a ludicrous statement, and that too not even a month after New Delhi hosted the well-attended G20 Tourism Working Group meeting in Srinagar that gave foreign delegates an opportunity to visit Kashmir and get first-hand knowledge from ‘ground zero’, defies comprehension.
And here lies the irony. On June 23, the Pakistani defence minister in his tweet accused New Delhi of unleashing “state sponsored terrorism in Kashmir,” without providing any evidence. On the other hand, with Indian security forces gunning down four heavily armed Pakistan trained terrorists who were attempting to infiltrate into Kashmir across the Line of Control [LoC] on the night of June22/23, New Delhi had physical proof of Pakistani sponsored terrorism in J&K which vindicated the joint Indo-US observation on use of “terrorist proxies” by Pakistan.
With this being the second such major infiltration attempt thwarted by the Indian army in as many weeks and the third one during this month alone, Islamabad can’t get off the hook by dismissing it as an aberration! But how could the Pakistani defence minister make the humongous blunder of levelling a counter-allegation that has already proved to be a dud just four years ago, is rather intriguing.
Isn’t Pakistan’s defence minister aware that after New Delhi abrogated Article 370 of the Indian constitution in 2019, Pakistan’s then Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had pompously announced that “We have decided to take Kashmir case to the International Court of Justice [IJC],” adding that “The decision was taken after considering all legal aspects”?
Could it be also be possible that Asif is unaware that Barrister Khawar Qureshi [Pakistan’s lawyer at ICJ] had himself admitted to the media that Pakistan has no credible evidence to support its claims of genocide in Kashmir, and “ in the absence of these pieces of evidence, it is extremely difficult for Pakistan to take this case to the ICJ”?
So, when Islamabad admittedly doesn’t have any worthwhile proof to substantiate the laughable allegation regarding a “campaign of state sponsored terrorism in Kashmir,” the Pakistani defence minister’s response is obviously worthless.
It would however be naïve to expect that Pakistan would stop sponsoring terrorism in J&K as a result of being jointly exposed by India and Washington. While its legislature may be amenable to mending fences with India as it would provide cash-strapped Pakistan a host of cost-effective commercial opportunities to check its financial downslide, Rawalpindi, for its own vested interests, is hell bent on sabotaging any initiative encouraging rapprochement between the two countries.
So, come what may, Pakistan army will never abandon its terrorist proxies, and this isn’t mere speculation but a logical inference drawn from Rawalpindi’s enduring love for what it considers to be its ‘strategic assets’.
Readers may recall that in 2014, while heads of all SAARC nations invited for Modi’s oath taking ceremony confirmed their attendance, Islamabad’s response was inordinately delayed. It was also reported that Pakistan’s then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s brother Shehbaz Sharif [who was then the chief Minister of Punjab] had met army chief Gen Raheel Sharif and “informed” him about the Prime Minister’s decision to visit India for this purpose. However, this explanation isn’t very convincing for two reasons.
One, where was the need for Shehbaz to travel all the way to Lahore merely to ‘inform’ the army chief about his brother’s decision to visit New Delhi, when the same could have been communicated through a phone call? Secondly, the media reported that the Shehbaz- Gen Sharif meeting went on for about half-an-hour, and so, it’s obvious that Shehbaz had dashed to Lahore to seek permission for his elder brother’s New Delhi trip, and not to merely apprise him of the prime minister’s decision.
Islamabad’s inexplicable delay in confirming that Sharif would be attending Modi’s oath taking ceremony, followed by Shehbaz’s half-an-hour long confab with the army chief before Islamabad’s official confirmation of the Prime Minister Sharif’s New Delhi visit clearly suggests that Gen Sharif wasn’t quite happy with this visit, and this palpable apprehensive soon became evident.
Just three days before Modi’s oath taking ceremony, four heavily armed terrorists made an unsuccessful attempt to storm the Indian consulate in Herat, Afghanistan. Besides New Delhi and Kabul, even Washington [which carried out an independent inquiry] confirmed that the attackers belonged to Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT], which is known to be Rawalpindi’s most trusted terrorist group.
The timing of this attack clearly indicates that its aim was to inflict heavy casualties on the security personnel and staffers of the Indian consulate. This in turn would arouse such strong anti-Pakistan feelings within India that Sharif would be dissuaded from visiting India, and that’s exactly what the Pakistan army wanted. Some may question as to why would Rawalpindi not want Prime Minister Sharif to visit New Delhi? The answer is simple.
By wholeheartedly approving the path breaking Delhi-Lahore Bus service initiative in 1999, Sharif had demonstrated his determination to normalise Indo-Pak relations as it benefitted both nations. However, Rawalpindi’s agenda was different. Having skilfully created the illusion of an omnipresent threat from India, it has managed to grab extra constitutional powers, and so, peaceful relations with India would threaten Rawalpindi’s supremacy over other organs of the state, which the Generals can never accept.
Then there’s the famous 2016 exposé about a secret meeting of government officials and senior military officers carried by Dawn, which reveals how “In a blunt, orchestrated and unprecedented warning, the civilian government has informed the military leadership of a growing international isolation of Pakistan [due to Rawalpindi’s support to terrorist groups] and sought consensus on several key actions by the state.” [Emphasis added].
This blow-by-blow account of this incident [which earned the sobriquet of ‘Dawn Leaks’] and cost Nawaz Sharif the prime minister’s chair explicitly illustrates that Rawalpindi has no qualms in even comprising national interests just in order to protect its private army of terrorists! And so, if Pakistan is today being pilloried by the US and India for using ‘terrorist proxies’, it’s got no one else but Rawalpindi to blame.