India, US and Pakistan The Excelsior 03 Jul 2023 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar


India, US and Pakistan The Excelsior 03 Jul 2023

The India-US joint statement at the end of PM Modi’s visit to the US mentioned, ‘Prime Minister Modi and President Biden reiterated the call for concerted action against all UN-listed terrorist groups. They 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. They called for the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot attacks to be brought to justice.’ These words light Pakistan on fire forcing it to react.

Just prior to the visit, China had placed a technical hold on a proposal mooted by the US and co-designated by India to declare Sajid Mir, handler and coordinator the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks, as a global terrorist. This demonstrated that China was willing to do go to any length to support its ally, Pakistan. India was expected to react and the best platform was from US soil. Direct accusation of Pakistan for supporting terrorist groups and activities led to a flurry of actions in Pakistan.

Its foreign office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch stated, ‘We consider the Pakistan-specific reference in the Joint Statement as unwarranted, one-sided, and misleading. The reference is contrary to diplomatic norms and has political overtones. We are surprised that it has been added despite Pakistan’s close counterterrorism cooperation with the US.’ SM Qureshi and his party leader Imran Khan criticized Bilawal Bhutto for being silent. Qureshi commented, ‘Our foreign minister says nothing on this?’

What aggravated matters was the mention of ‘(India and US) called upon the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to undertake further work identifying how to improve global implementation of its standards to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.’ This hurt Pakistan more as it had just managed to exit the FATF Grey List and is struggling financially to overcome its economic crisis. Many in Pakistan considered this comment to be a warning from the US that unless it changes its policies, the FATF will be nudged to target Pakistan again. For Islamabad, it was the US ganging up with India against them. A similar message had already been conveyed to Pak through Riyadh and the UAE.

The other fear within Islamabad’s strategic community was that with India moving closer to the US, Pakistan is likely to be elbowed away. In an interview with Politico, Pakistan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar insisted, ‘Islamabad had no appetite to pick a side in the growing global rivalry between Washington and Beijing.’

Islamabad was hoping to continue walking the tight rope between the two, US support and Chinese aid. Pak also complained to the US that its defence deal with India will impact Pak security forcing it to consider other options, a threat which was ignored.  

Pakistan has always played its fake card of being alongside the west in the global war on terror and losing over 70,000 lives (though figures change very frequently) and billions of dollars in losses. The reality is Pak was never involved in a single operation against Afghanistan based terrorist groups. On the contrary, it provided official shelter to Osama Bin Laden and housed the Taliban leadership in Quetta. Its losses were due to attacks by the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) which was created post Musharraf’s flawed attack on the Lal Masjid in Islamabad in 2007. Further, Pakistan was paid handsomely for its efforts as also provided arms and ammunition, which it employs against India.

The US, needing Pak airspace as also its ports to support its operations in Afghanistan, turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s terrorist policies. India cried hoarse but no one listened. Currently the boot is on the other foot. Pakistan’s howling every time it is called out is ignored. This time too, Pakistan summoned the US embassy’s deputy chief of mission to register a demarche.

Pakistan’s attempts to defend itself further misfired when the US State Department spokesperson Matt Miller stated in his daily briefing, ‘we have also been consistent on the importance of Pakistan continuing to take steps to permanently dismantle all terrorist groups and their various front organizations and we will raise the issue regularly with Pakistani officials.’ This damaged Pakistan’s already fragile ego.

What was also aggravating for Pak was that there was no discussion on human rights (it blames India for human rights violations in Kashmir) as also protection of minorities, despite concerns of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. Pakistan failed to realize that India is capable of giving it back to the US as their record of racial discrimination including gun violence remains a matter of concern. Further, the world is aware of Pakistan’s duplicity where it supports Chinese repression of Uighur Muslims while criticizing India. As also, Pakistan treatment of minorities is amongst the worst in the world.

From the time of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in Dec 1979, Pakistan was the darling of the west as it created and armed the Taliban with US funding and weapons. It was free to create anti-India terrorist groups and intercede in Kashmir without fear of consequences. Its claim on Kashmir was backed by western powers such that India was regularly ‘advised’ to settle the issue. Pakistan’s ranting made the world believe that Kashmir was a nuclear flashpoint. It remained so for decades till the US withdrew from Afghanistan.

While their sudden withdrawal did impact India, it also broke Pakistan’s last leverage on the west. It opened doors for criticism of its state sponsor of terrorism policies. Simultaneous was the rise of India as an economic powerhouse willing to challenge Chinese hegemony. With the diving of Indo-China relations post Galwan, India was an ideal nation for the west to partner in Asia. India’s strategic importance grew leaps and bounds, while Pakistan’s receded.

Today India has immense to offer the west in meeting its challenges, while Pak has nothing. While Delhi is an asset, Islamabad is a liability. India is exploiting its strategic relevance, while Pakistan has no relevance. For Pakistan, growing Indo-US proximity implies that western support to it would be plain lip service and it would be ignored geopolitically.