The Guardian’s dubious art of distorting Defence Minister’s statement on terrorism FirstPost 07 Apr 2024 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar


The Guardian’s dubious art of distorting Defence Minister’s statement on terrorism FirstPost 07 Apr 2024

          A couple of days ago, The Guardian, a British publication, released a report, quoting anonymous sources from within both, India and Pakistan, deducing that India’s external agency RAW was behind the killing of anti-India terrorists in Pakistan. Approximately twenty low to medium level functionaries were eliminated in the past few years. Almost none of the cases were solved. The modus operandi projected by The Guardian, mentions Pak locals being trapped and pushed to act, reading more like a Grade III Bollywood drama.

The Indian government refuted these allegations while Indians mocked The Guardian on fake reporting on social media sites, impacting its credibility. Replying to a question on The Guardian report on a media channel, the defence minister, Rajnath Singh mentioned, ‘If they (terrorists) run away to Pakistan, we will enter Pakistan to kill them.’ He added, ‘if someone repeatedly provokes India, commits acts of terrorism on our soil, they won’t be spared.’ His words were evidently aimed at conveying the message that India will retaliate to any terrorist strike on its soil.

          Pakistan responded on expected lines. It had failed to investigate killings of terrorist group members over the years on its soil. Whenever its security agencies came under fire for failing in investigations, they picked a collection of low-level thugs, forced them to confess that Indian RAW trapped or convinced them in a ‘friendly middle eastern nation,’ to commit the crime. The article by The Guardian came as a life-saver and it held India responsible for all such incidents.

          Pakistan’s foreign office mentioned, ‘India’s assertion of its preparedness to extra-judiciously execute more civilians, arbitrarily pronounced as ‘terrorists’, inside Pakistan constitutes a clear admission of culpability. It is imperative for the international community to hold India accountable for its heinous and illegal actions.’ It also linked accusations of Canada on Hardeep Singh Nijjar and that of the US on Pannun desperate to gain traction. This was on expected lines.

Historically, Pakistan has lived with an Indian phobia, blaming it for all its ills, including ongoing terrorist attacks by the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) and Baloch Freedom Fighters. It produces imaginative dossiers of Indian involvement and gifts them to every dignitary including the UN Secretary General. Most end up in dustbins. Even floods in Pak are blamed on India.

          The Guardian, in a subsequent follow up article, misinterpreted the defence minister’s statement and mentioned, ‘India’s defence minister has appeared to confirm that the government carried out extrajudicial killings in neighbouring Pakistan, after a Guardian report on the alleged assassinations.’ It added, ‘Singh’s comments are the first time that India has acknowledged any assassinations by its operatives on foreign soil.’  It also included PM Modi’s recent comments at an election rally when he mentioned, ‘today’s India goes inside enemy territory to strike.’

          While the narrow mindedness of Pakistan is well known and understood, the desperation of The Guardian to defend its ill-investigated article based on anonymous statements was not. It was visualized that a reputed journal akin to The Guardian would comprehend the intent behind Rajnath Singh’s statements.

The defence minister was highlighting the Indian military philosophy of ‘hot pursuit’ as also justifying the officially admitted cross-border strike of Sept 2016 and the Balakote strike of 2019, both in Pakistan and the strike on terrorist camps in Myanmar. Hot pursuit, details of which exist in public domain, implies sending specialized teams across the border to strike at terrorist camps and launch pads as also in retaliation to any attack on Indian troops deployed along the LOC. This has been resorted to on multiple occasions, details of many such incidents being available on the internet.

This is vastly different from targeting terrorists deep within Pakistan in their homes or place of worship. This implies more than just ‘entering Pakistan to kill them.’ The impact of cross-border and Balakote strikes pushed Pakistan on the defensive. Major terrorist attacks ceased. The defence minister was reiterating the same as India is politically vulnerable in days preceding elections. Any terrorist incident at this time would invite a violent reaction.  

          The defence minister, as also the Indian government, has its eyes on top rung terrorist group leaders, all of whom are closely guarded by the Pakistan deep state, not those at tier II or III, which have thus far been eliminated in Pak. These are expendable for the Pak ISI hence remain unprotected and ignored. Eliminating them would give India no major advantage. There are strong possibilities that the 20 eliminated thus far have been killed either by the Pak ISI, having outlived their value, or by their colleagues due to internal squabbles over funds and power.  

Finally, no national government ever admits to its actions, when it comes to eliminating those plotting against it. A number of nations have resorted to it in recent times, Israel, Pakistan, China, North Korea and Russia being examples. The targets are always those high in the hierarchy and never low-level functionaries, as claimed by The Guardian.

While Pakistan’s jumping on the opportunity was expected, the Guardian’s investigative reporting and subsequent myopic assessment of Rajnath Singh’s statement prove it is just another rag and not a publication of repute as it claims to be.