BY D.C. PATHAK
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done well to push India’s campaign against Pak-instigated terror in Kashmir and elsewhere to a new level internationally by bilaterally telling President Xi Jinping of China at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) Summit at Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan that India could not engage Pakistan in talks unless that country took ‘concrete action’ against terrorism. China is a founder of SCO and President Xi has on more than one occasion described Pakistan as its ‘all weather friend’ – China reportedly did not want Indian Prime Minister to raise the issue of terror at the summit.
In a swift move, however, India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale addressed a news conference announcing to the world how Prime Minister Modi had taken up the issue of Pak-sponsored terror with the Chinese President and conveyed to the latter India’s firm stand against resumption of talks with Pakistan since that country still needed to create an atmosphere free of terrorism. At his subsequent address at the summit, where Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was also present, Modi unambiguously called for concerted action to hold accountable countries that were sponsoring, aiding and funding terrorism.
Without naming Pakistan he was able to shame that country for resorting to state-sponsored terrorism. He urged those who were putting up with the menace because of some political consideration to ‘come out of their narrow purview’. Also, by giving a clarion call to all nations to come together to combat terrorism he further pushed Pakistan towards isolation in the world community.
The Bishkek summit has also proved to be a milestone in the matter of recognition of India under Modi as an important global player in the economic development of the world. In his bilateral meetings with the Chinese President as well as President Putin of Russia mutual economic cooperation was given a big impetus. After the recent Chinese climbdown on the issue of UN declaring Maulana Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Mohammad as an international terrorist — India had pressed for it — and the earlier face-off between India and China at Doklam, President Xi, it seems, would be reluctant to take the Modi regime for granted on security issues and would also not push India to the other side in the ‘trade war’ that seemed to be developing between China and the US.
At the bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Modi and President Xi it was acknowledged that there was a ‘new momentum’ in India-China relations as both sides emphasised the need for preparing for the second informal summit between the two leaders in India next October. A statement from China’s Foreign Ministry quoted President Xi as saying that the two countries should strengthen confidence building measures for stability in the border areas and ‘jointly safeguard free trade and multilateralism’.
Modi’s meeting with President Putin enlarged the ambit of India-Russia relations with Putin inviting Prime Minister Modi to be the chief guest at the Eastern Economic Forum to be held in Vladivostok in early September. With Indo-US relations having touched a new high of friendship during the first tenure of Modi as Prime Minister, it is possible that India could play a balancing role of injecting sanity in US-Russia-China triangle of relationships — both on economic and security issues.
It is gratifying to note that Prime Minister Modi, with his image of being upfront about policy enunciation and committed to building bilateral and multilateral relations entirely on the principle of mutual benefit in both economic and security matters, is making India a global player in promoting world peace and development. The SCO Summit has carried India forward in as much as the Bishkek Declaration echoed and endorsed India’s stand on an important issue like Afghanistan — it clearly called for an inclusive peace process that was led by ‘Afghans themselves’. On the prime threat of terror, that India faces much more severely than all other nations, there is need for us to mentor the world at large to make it aware that the new global terror arising out of Pakistan is an entirely different kind of danger. Its geo-political dimension would keep on growing unless an effective counter to it arose from within the Muslim world itself.
Terrorism by definition is the resort to ‘covert violence for a perceived political cause’ and is propelled by a ‘commitment’ to the ’cause’ which in turn will be determined by ‘motivation’. The world has witnessed terror movements motivated by ‘ideology’ (Maoism), ethnic identity (India’s North East) or insurgency for national freedom. The new global terror of which Pakistan is becoming a fulcrum, is rooted in faith-based motivation fostered through the call for Jehad.
Islamic extremists have already created a history of covert offensives across the world — 9/11 in US attributed to Osama bin Laden of Al Qaeda, 26/11 Mumbai attack organised by Lashkar-e-Toiba of Maulana Hafiz Sayeed, Pulwama attack on CRPF in Kashmir owned up by Jaish-e-Mohammad of Maulana Masood Azhar and Easter Mass bombings at and around Colombo carried out by ISIS affiliates. Jehad is strong enough as the motivation that enabled the masterminds to produce suicide bombers and ‘lone wolves’. Laden, Hafiz Sayeed and Masood Azhar were all based in Pakistan and even the National Tawheed Jamaat of Sri Lanka involved in Colombo blasts has links with South India as well as Pakistan. Perpetrators in all these cases enjoyed patronage of Pak ISI. Pakistan is now clearly the global hub of the new terror which is a development of mounting concern for India.
There is little likelihood of Prime Minister Imran Khan doing any better than the previous regimes in putting down the advocates of Jehad entrenched in his country. He himself is a staunch practitioner of faith, is inclined to side with the Islamic radicals in the ‘war on terror’ that the US had launched against them and is an advocate of the Pak army — notwithstanding the collusion that exists between the army and the Islamic extremists.
He has been parroting the line scripted for him by the Pak army-ISI combine on the issue of resumption of India-Pakistan talks. At Bishkek, he reiterated the need for dialogue on Kashmir in the interest of peace in the region but did not speak against violence in the name of Jehad prescribed by the likes of Hafiz Sayeed, Masood Azhar and Syed Salahuddin on the Kashmir front. He has not talked of action against these leaders of Islamic militancy — all that he could do was to tamely say that any act of terrorism originating from Pak soil would only harm the interests of Pakistan.
It is a matter of deep concern for India that it is in the tenure of the Imran Khan regime that Pak agencies are exploiting the entire spectrum of militants — from the Islamic radicals of Al Qaeda and ISIS brands to the extremists of LeT and Jaish to queer the pitch for India. Pakistan continues to rely on its friends in the Muslim world as also in the US-led West, besides the ‘all weather friend’ China, for bailing it out of the serious financial trouble that it faces at present internally and helping it to mitigate the loss of image that it has suffered in the international community for providing safe havens to terrorists on its soil.
Islamic extremists are confronting ‘Godless’ regimes, the Christian world of US-led West and the idolatrous people of Hindu or Buddhist persuasion. Fundamentalist Islam embraces the entire life of a Muslim — personal, social and political — and this makes it easy for the Ulema and the communally driven elite to influence the Muslim masses for their own brand of politics and vested interests. Faith-based terror will never be effectively countered unless the leadership in the Muslim world openly disowns Jehad as an instrument of politics in today’s world. Tinted views on Islamic militancy that considered some extremists to be better than others will not help. Prime Minister Modi’s call at Bishkek for a concerted move by all nations to oppose this new terror carrying the stamp of Islam has not come a day too soon.
India has the historical grasp of how the country’s independence became coterminous with a partition that was forced in the name of religion and also a ringside view of the rise of fundamentalism and extremism in the Muslim world around it. Intelligence sharing with the democratic world outside on matters of national security has its importance. However, this needs to be backed up by an ongoing exchange of analytical information originating from credible forums on the trends and expanse of faith-based terror witnessed in the Islamic world.
All this is happening primarily because of the political nexus between the Ulema and the communal elite that was enjoying power in Pakistan and many other parts of that world. The Indian scene illustrates how the communal divide and tension resulting from it was used by many sections of the community leadership to instigate and justify faith-based militancy that would provide the run-up to terrorism in the name of Islam.
Indian Mujahideen, an offshoot of the indigenous Jamaat-e-Islami, linking up with Islamic radicals of Al Qaeda’s umbrella was a noted example of this drift. It is hoped the new Home Minister of India will find a way of strengthening the study and monitoring of the threat of radicalization and establishing informal links to liaise with Homeland Security of US and other equivalent agencies of other friendly democratic nations in this regard.
(The writer is a former Director Intelligence Bureau. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
BY D.C. PATHAK