Pakistan continues to back cross-border terrorism: Is the US really serious about it?
Recently, Pakistan Army Chief Asim Munir undertook his first-ever visit to the US, held talks with senior officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyed Austin
Last week in a terrorist ambush in Poonch in J&K, India lost five soldiers. Pakistan’s hand in it was evident. A day later, an infiltration bid was foiled in the same region. It is said that Pakistan is attempting to recreate terrorism below the Pir Panjal to add to India’s internal security concerns, as the north is largely under control. The incident occurred just when General Asim Munir, the Pakistan Army Chief, was concluding his visit to the US.
The visit, the first by Munir to the US, came at a time when the Indian Supreme Court upheld the government’s decision on Article 370. A common subject raised throughout the visit in every interaction was resolution of Kashmir based on UNSC resolutions. Pakistan has always ignored the fact that the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore declaration have made the UNSC resolution redundant, hence no country nor the UN has ever offered to mediate.
Surprisingly, no handout on any meeting mentioned the US lecturing Pakistan on supporting anti-India terrorist groups, despite India and the US being strategic allies. Nor was Pakistan spoken to about human rights, enforced disappearances and subverting democracy, subjects where Pakistan fails miserably but India is accused of. After all, Asim Munir is the de-facto ruler of Pakistan.
Pakistan’s problems on its western borders, where the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) and Baloch are active, were aptly amplified by Hillary Clinton to the Pakistan leadership, when she stated, “you can't keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours. Eventually those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard,” a lesson Pakistan never learnt. To hide its own failure, the Pakistan leadership has been claiming that there is an Indian hand behind the growth of terrorism within the country, including the TTP, hoping this will justify their backing of anti-India terrorist groups.
Currently Pakistan is home to a collection of anti-India terrorist groups, leaders of whom have been designated as global terrorists, but roam free in the country, protected by the deep state. It also supports the so-called Khalistan movement, which largely operates from the US and Canada. Interestingly, the leader of the SFJ (Sikhs for Justice), Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, is a citizen of the US and Canada, based in New York, while being funded by Pakistan.
The US raised with India inputs on an attempt on Pannun’s life, resulting in a high-level probe, but despite multiple requests, it has failed to curb his anti-India activities. There are allegations that Pannun is a CIA asset and hence, he is protected by the state.
The two attacks on the Indian consulate in San Francisco in March and July this year by the supporters of Pannun are still being ‘investigated,’ by US security agencies. India’s National Investigating Agency (NIA) has already identified ten of the attackers from CCTV footage and sought information on then.
The inputs would have been shared with the US but this has come to a dead end. This indicates that the US continues to protect those involved in the arson. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a quasi-independent US body, demanded that the US government designate India as a “Country of Particular Concern,” for its actions to ‘silence activists, journalists, and lawyers abroad.’
It was referring to the Pannun case. This would have been at the behest of influential US lawmakers. No such demand was made on Pakistan during the visit of Munir to the US, despite Pakistan’s brutality on its own population including minorities and killings of Baloch activists in Europe and Canada. It gave the impression that the US was silently holding Pakistan’s hand.
While India-US government to government relations continue to grow, there are elements within the US bureaucracy, largely career personnel, spread across the state department and intelligence networks, which dislike India’s growing strategic autonomy and rising power. They are backed by strong anti-India individuals like George Soros.
The current Indian dispensation has carved India’s own region of influence around the globe which may not be in line with the US. Historically, the US has never allowed any of its allies to adopt an independent approach. It always reined them in to toe its line. Europe is a prime example of US control, which despite the economic power of the EU, follows the American diktat. India cannot be an exception.
The one way to keep India under check is to ensure that it remains embroiled in internal security issues, fueled by external sources, beyond the power of the Indian state to contain. It is here that Pakistan can play a key role. Thus, apart from ignoring Pakistan’s actions of supporting terrorism, the US also refuses to criticize its subverted democratic process and human rights abuses.
The timing of Munir’s visit, prior to elections in Pakistan and India moving into the election mode, does send forth messages. Firstly, Pakistan’s next leader has already been decided and approved by the US and will be elected by rigging in the forthcoming elections.
Secondly, Pakistan will continue with its hybrid system, where the army runs the show. The US will never accuse Pakistan of subverting democracy, while others, including Bangladesh and India would be held accountable.
Thirdly, the US would turn a blind eye to Pakistan supporting anti-India terrorist groups. Finally, Pakistan’s support to the so-called Khalistan movement will also have US backing. Pannun and other leaders of his organization based in Canada can function freely as India’s retaliation has been largely curtailed.
Thus, as Indian elections draw close there would be an enhancement in terrorist activities in J&K, always kept below India’s level of tolerance. There would be increased attempts by the so-called Khalistan functionaries based in the US and Canada, alongside their Pakistan based allies to provoke violence and protests in Punjab. The intent is to remove the advantage the current Indian dispensation enjoys from the masses, while compelling India to toe the US line, in case it wants them to curtail Pakistan’s activities.
Through all these actions, Pakistan’s next Prime Minister, possibly Nawaz Sharif, will continue proposing talks to resolve Kashmir.
*** The writer is a security and strategic affairs commentator; views expressed are his own