Nucleus of Indian Foreign Policy: Isolating Pakistan

By Shahzad Masood Roomi

Indian Prime Minister’s visit to the US was yet another vivid display of Indian foreign policy which is being driven by the Hindutva-inspired ultra-nationalism and hegemonic mindset where Pakistan is being considered an ultimate challenge in Indian ambitions of becoming a regional power hence needs to be dealt with.

While addressing the joint session of the US congress on 8th of June, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made it crystal that the idea of isolating Pakistan, under the pretext of harbouring terrorism, is the nucleus of Indian foreign policy but that is not the only objective India is eyeing as far as “fixing” Pakistan is concerned. India wants world against and at war with Pakistan. The text of Modi’s speech leaves very little to believe other than that, and this has become ‘the strategic’ goal of India.

Modi set the stage for his argument by presenting an argument that terrorism is the major problem not in Afghanistan but elsewhere in the world as well.

“A commitment to rebuild a peaceful, and stable and prosperous Afghanistan is our shared objective. Yet, Distinguished Members, not just in Afghanistan, but elsewhere in South Asia, and globally, terrorism remains the biggest threat.”, He said.

This argument is far from the reality as the real failure in Afghanistan was the inability of the US to appreciate the political aspirations of the Afghan Pushtun populace which forms the majority of Afghan society. A foreign solution in the form of parliamentary democracy was imposed on a society which, prior to 9/11, had never experienced any political system like it. While deploying this political scheme in Afghanistan, the US failed to appraise the history of Soviet-Afghan era when the former Soviet Empire tried to appoint Communist puppets in Kabul as Afghan rulers who failed miserably one after another. This led to massive governance failure in Afghanistan despite the availability of every type of resources in abundance and presence of military might of 48 nations.

But Modi’s argument attained credence in the US congress, establishment and media as it by default exonerates the US and masks Washington’s failure in Afghanistan. Building on these remarks on terrorism, he identified Pakistan as the epicentre of this menace.

“In the territory stretching from West of India’s border to Africa, it may go by different names, from Laskhar-e-Taiba to Taliban to ISIS.

But, its philosophy is common: of hate, murder and violence. Although its shadow is spreading across the world, it is incubated in India’s neighborhood”, Modi continued.

He then directly connected Pakistan by global terrorism by commending the members of the US congress for preventing Obama administration from selling F-16 fighters on subsidized cost which Pakistan had requested for its own anti-terror operations in remote FATA regions due to their sophisticated precision strike capabilities. In this way, Modi actually tried to incriminate the state of Pakistan which itself has been bleeding due to Indian supported state terrorism from Afghanistan and Iran. Arrest of serving Indian Navy officer Kalbushan Yadev from Balochistan and his confession has exposed the Indian role in fomenting terrorism in Pakistan still impudent Indian Prime Minister described the US congress’s move as first step in holding Pakistan accountable.

“I commend the members of the U.S. Congress for sending a clear message to those who preach and practice terrorism for political gains. Refusing to reward them is the first step towards holding them accountable for their actions.”

And then came the response strategy by Modi and like many earlier failed US policies it also calls for fighting terrorism without the need of defining it first and that is self-contradictory. Modi wants to ignore the line between good and bad terrorism. But reality on ground is, India has just released Hindutva terrorists who previously had confessed their role in communal violence in India, that includes terrorism, anti-Muslim and anti-Christian atrocities and the burning of Samjhota Express in which 60 Pakistani passengers were burnt alive by RSS fanatics.

“The fight against terrorism has to be fought at many levels and, the traditional tools of military, intelligence or diplomacy alone would not be able to win this fight. We have both lost civilians and soldiers in combating it. The need of the hour is for us to deepen our security cooperation and base it on a policy that isolates those who harbor, support and sponsor terrorists, that does not distinguish between “good” and “bad” terrorists; and that delinks religion from terrorism.”

At the end of Modi’s visit a joint statement was issued by the White House which includes 5 clauses relevant to terrorism. These clauses began with condemnation of terrorist incident around the world from Paris to Pathankot and call for elimination of terror infrastructure, countries which support them and bring the terrorists to justice. Joint-statement reiterated the need to “deepen collaboration against full spectrum of terrorist threats”. It also unveils that both India and the US would “collaborate on UN terrorist designation” which means India will have complete US backing in putting any militant outfit on global terrorist list. According to joint statement, “in this context, they directed their officials to identify specific new areas of collaboration at the next meeting of U.S.–India Counter-terrorism Joint Working Group.”

It is really intriguing what these “new areas” would be and what would be the scope of collaboration in them in pure operational sense? Would India and the US consider possible joint covert operations against their designated terrorists in the region (i.e. in Pakistan) or there would be contemplation of non-kinetic ways (say sanctions) of punishing those who harbour terrorists? This will become clear in the coming months but in either case this is a bad news for Pakistan with its current diplomatic efforts and this is what India might be possibly hoping to gain through this terrorist oriented, Pakistan specific diplomacy as next step after isolating it globally. A careful analysis of Indian strategic security template in post 9/11 scenario also vindicates this possible strategic discourse by Delhi.

Moving on, the joint-statement applauded the “arrangement to facilitate the sharing of terrorist screening information” between India and the US as an important milestone. It also called for Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai and 2016 Pathankot terrorist attacks to justice.

The last point in the joint-statement regarding terrorism, is really intriguing and loudly expounds why the global terrorism is not going to end any time soon. It read,

“The leaders affirmed their support for a UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that advances and strengthens the framework for global cooperation and reinforces that no cause or grievance justifies terrorism.”

This clause seeks to abolish the universal principle of investigating into the core-reasons of perpetual violence in the world. The vary reason why those who feel oppressed revolt against and challenge the global status quo. This is exactly why the so-called war on terror has spiraled out of control of the US. Now it is not only putting unprecedented stains on its economy but also proving to be a key factor behind changing global order in which now the US is faced with an assertive Russia and emerging China.  After 9/11, the US took unilateral actions against those who she identified and designated as global terrorists unilaterally, and ironically many of these groups were her allies in good old days of the Cold War.

Pakistan itself was close aide of the US in Cold War against the Soviet Union but after the demise of Soviet Empire, the US moved on to Middle East to take out former Soviet allies one by one starting with Iraq in the first Gulf War. Meanwhile, Pakistan failed to adjust its national strategy according to new geopolitical realities of those times and continued to support certain Pashtun elements in Afghanistan to rein on Kabul. Pakistan ignored the non-Pushtun elements in Afghanistan, particularly after the emergence of Taliban in 1990’s and that proved a fatal strategic miscalculation. India exploited the situation and found friends in Northern Alliance. After 9/11, when Americans used the NA against Taliban, India got its strategic foot-print there and suddenly Baloch insurgency which was in hibernation since 1970’s came to life and at the same time, Pakistan began to face yet another existential threat in the form of TTP; an Indian backed insurgency well supported by Afghan intelligence setup which was now in complete control of elements of former Northern Alliance.

It took Pakistan considerable time to learn the lesson and it was only in 2010-11 when Pakistan began to readjust its Afghan policy but the rise of Hindutva-inspired ultra-nationalistic political right wing of RSS, BJP proved impedance in Pakistan’s overtures. Modi became Indian Prime Minister after contesting an election on a dangerous agenda of making Pakistan pay for its support for terrorism, and turning India into a pure Hindu homeland. Isolating Pakistan, thus, is just a mean to an end and not the end itself as far as Modi’s doctrine is concerned, and what that ultimate end of this Indian strategy is? Well, it is not that difficult to fathom by considering sudden spike in India’s defence expenditure, its massive build-up of its forces near Pakistani borders and its honing of “Cold Start” doctrine under the new name of Pro-active War Strategy!

But to what extent has India achieved her initial goal of isolating Pakistan under the pretext of terrorism despite the lack of any pro-active efforts to thwart this Indian diplomatic onslaught?

Not as much as Delhi had thought initially!

Saudi led misadventure by few GCC states last year, put Pakistan into an awkward position diplomatically but for the first time Pakistani parliament took a decision of not to be a party of this war despite the strong pressure by Saudi Arabia and other GCC states. India tried her best to replace Pakistan as a strategic ally in GCC and Saudi Arabia. These diplomatic overtures of Modi in Middle East against Pakistan gave an impression as if Pakistan has lost its traditional allies in the region. In 2016, the war in Yemen is nowhere near any end and UAE, a strong Saudi ally in this futile war, has just pulled its military out of this conflict while on the other hand, Saudi economy is faced with severe strain after decline in oil prices and this protracted war in Yemen and Indian promised “cooperation” is nowhere to be found.

Now is the time for Pakistan to take the initiative and make fresh diplomatic overtures of its own to make our traditional allies in Arab world to identify their mistakes in strategic miscalculations. Iran’s animosity towards Arab world is more ideological than political or military and same is true vice-versa. Neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia assaulted each other and this is something Pakistan must use to present the regional scenario in correct strategic perspective. This will not only eliminate the possibility of any future conflict like Yemen but would also help Pakistan regain its position among the Arab comity of nations. Pakistan has taken the first step already by becoming part of 34 nations strong Saudi led military alliance against terrorism. Pakistan’s participation in Thunder of North exercise was a step in the right direction.

According to latest reports, the US congress has also rejected a bill seeking to make India a strategic partner of the US. This partnership is crucial for India for its strategy of “fixing” Pakistan after isolating it globally. Not only that, US congress also approved US$800 million under the new ‘Pakistan Security Enhancement Authorisation’ fund.

It is evident that so far India is finding it very difficult to isolate Pakistan completely though Indian PM’s efforts might give an impression that Pakistan is being isolated. In reality India is far from achieving its goal but this does not mean that India has any plan to give up this grand strategic design against Pakistan. Pakistan is the ultimate hindrance in Indian plan to emerge as hegemonic power in the region. As a consequence, of Indo-US strategic partnership, it is for the first time, the security interests of both China and Pakistan have merged. Pakistan-China cooperation has emerged as natural counter to Indo-US joint efforts of encircling China and replacing it with India.

Pakistan cannot afford this scheme to succeed and this realization is there now in Islamabad as well. Pakistan has rejected US pressure on its missile and nuclear program and has made it clear to Afghanistan, after recent clash at Torkham, that there will be no peace in the region as long as Kabul sees Pakistan through Indian lens. Overall direction of Pakistan’s policy is correct but it needs to add some optics to give a greater confidence to the nation. Appointment of a full time foreign minister and weekly briefing to the world media can be two most obvious choices to start with.

 

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