Can India trust Pakistan?

Article Source: India News Network

The spontaneity of Pakistan’s offer of peace is quite baffling, especially after a strike on the Jaish-e -Mohammed terrorist training facility in Balakot by IAF in February 2019.

There was no doubt, a perceptible sense of relief in the global community when it heard Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa promoting normalization of relations with India and offering to “bury the past and move forward”, which Prime Minister of Pakistan , Imran Khan followed up with equal felicity.

Pakistan came up with an unilateral ceasefire on the LOC and the IB, which Indian Armed Forces adhered to in spirit and letter. India reciprocated with appropriate words and in kind permitted the aircraft carrying Imran Khan to traverse Indian Air Space on his way to Bangladesh.

The spontaneity of this offer was nevertheless quite baffling, especially after a strike on the Jaish-e -Mohammed terrorist training facility in Balakot by the combat planes of the Indian Air Force in February 2019. And which was in response to the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF Jawans were killed and claimed by Jaish-e -Mohammed.

In hindsight, we now learn that the political leadership in the United Arab Emirates played cupid between both countries and even visited New Delhi in their alleged pursuit of a thaw. Although it is yet another matter which may have affected Pakistan’s action as officials of the Pakistan government were in panic mode after the UAE demanded its $1billion back.

The deadline to return this whopping amount was March 12, now overdue. Was this the UAE’s plan of action to recover their money, obviously prompted by Pakistan? As UAE maintains good relations with India. Or was it ward off the excruciating pressures of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The UAE is a powerful member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and this organization is deeply influential.

Therefore, at this juncture we must look at some concurrent events linked with FATF which affected Pakistan very substantially and which may also have spurred Pakistan to alter its strategic stance. We are aware that Pakistan has been on the FATF’s grey list since June 2018 and the government was given a final warning in February 2020 to complete the 27 action points by June in the same year. A review by FATF is due any time.

Pakistan seemingly has sustained economic losses amounting to a total of $38 billion due to FATF’s decision to place the country thrice on its grey list. And it could not continue on this path any longer as it would devastate its economy. Till now they have survived with the support of China, Turkey and Malaysia. And what could then be a more contributing step than a conciliatory gesture towards India which most intensely bore the brunt of all terrorist action by groups based and operating out of Pakistan?

I feel this is a conundrum faced by India. Whether to totally overlook its long outstanding demands to bring culprits of 26/11 Mumbai attack , masterminds of terror group who attacked Pathankot Air Force base in 2016 and subsequent attacks, including one on the Indian Army camp in Uri, to book. And not to forget that the perpetrators of attacks on Mumbai local trains in 1993, albeit Indian nationals, were provided armed combat training in a terrorist training facility quite similar to the one at Balakot under the tutelage of the Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI).

This shady organization groomed by the ISI provided explosives and weapons and assisted the train bombers in receiving the materials through its nefarious system of smugglers’ shows at Indian shores. Such shows were also used for the 26/11 Mumbai Attacks although in this misadventure Pakistan Nationals, trained by their Pakistan Army’s Special Forces, had commandeered Indian dhows to reach Mumbai City. The owners of the dhows were shot dead.

The Lashkar –e- Taiba (LeT) , led by Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed, was held responsible for conceiving and promoting the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people, including six Americans. Hafiz Saeed received a ten year sentence for terror financing but not for his culpability in Mumbai attacks.

Mumbai attack planner and LeT operations commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi who had conducted the Mumbai operations was eventually sentenced to fifteen years in jail in January 2021 on Friday by a Pakistani anti-terrorism court in Lahore in a terror financing case but not for his actions for Mumbai attacks. Ironically, the UN Security Council’s 1267 Al Qaida Sanctions Committee allowed for a monthly payment of 1.5 lakh Pakistan Rupees for Lakhvi to meet his personal expenses. And this was ten days before his arrest and trial.

Most surprisingly his trial and sentencing were finished in a day. There is a great merit in Indian assessment that this farcical charade was performed for the benefit of the FATF at the behest of the Pakistan Army.

Despite these revelations there is no assurance that the terror infrastructure in Pakistan has been dismantled. Its reach is all pervasive including in Afghanistan where India is likely to play a very prominent role. The simplistic explanation that resolution of Kashmir was the only dispute which needs to be resolved can no more remain the issue at hand. At the heart of the matter would continue to be the strategic doctrine espoused by Pakistan State with respect to India.

Author: Prashant Dikshit | The author is a strategic affairs commentator; views expressed are his personal.

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