Modi-Obama meeting underplayed

By K.N. Pandita

I think the significance of Modi-Obama one to one interface in the white House has been under played by the India media. Is it by design or by the rush of more exciting events connected with the visit, I cannot say. But if it is done by design, the logic in doing so is infallible.

I believe US-India statement issued at the end of Prime Minister Modi’s US visit has much to do with Pakistan contrary to general view that Modi carefully circumvented the Pak item.

On October 2, the Dawn of Karachi succinctly summarized the implications of the statement and desired its readers to try to read between the lines.  

On the face of it, we say that there was no direct reference either to ISSI or to the jihadi organizations active in Af-Pak region. It is enigmatic if it is true. Obama had, only a little earlier, said that the US may not get involved in fighting in Iraq-Syria war scenario but it would certainly pound the radicals who have unleashed reign of terror in parts of Iraq and Syria.

However, in regard to terrorist groups in Pakistan, let me cite one paragraph of what Dawn wrote. It said: “The [US and Indian] leaders stressed the need for joint and concerted efforts, including the dismantling of safe havens for terrorist and criminal networks, to disrupt all financial and tactical support for networks such as Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, the D-Company and the Haqqanis. They reiterated their call for Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai to justice.”

It is what New Delhi had been asking for over a period of time but there was only veiled and wobbled response from the US President. Why has the US now come out of its cautious mood and named the organizations with two new additions of Haqqani Group and D-Company?

It will be reminded that al Zawahari, the current chief of Al Qaeda, has openly declared that all jihadi groups will converge on Islamic movement in India in near future. This is not something to be trivialized but has to be taken seriously.

The bomb explosion that occurred three or four days ago in the house of a Muslim MLA of Trinamul Congress should be a pointer to the widespread network of Al Qaeda and IM combine to unleash subversive activities in India.

The strongest democracy in the world is already on the hit list of the jihadis and in fact they began their forays from that country al 9/11. And now the world’s largest democracy has been directly threatened. In other words the very philosophy of democracy stands threatened. This is an ideological war.

The simple logic behind this radical change in the US’ thinking is that the good and the bad Taliban concept is a myth and has to be abandoned.

In a sense, the two democracies have developed an understanding about the targets they must concentrate upon and the strategy they must chalk out. The democracies have nothing to do with Islamic radicalism as long as it does not hurt them. But since it aims at routing them as ideological springs, the democracies must react.

Significantly, the statement also refers to the necessity of drying up their financial resources. Sources of funding of terrorism in the US and in India are more than one. In the beginning they remained hidden, but as their activities proliferated, these sources could no more maintain their secrecy.

But one has to note that it is very difficult to control these sources of funding because they work very subtly. Honestly though Indian authorities handling counter terrorism have come across a number of cases of hawala transactions but they have not been able to impose foolproof ban on this type of clandestine activity.

The two leaders have called upon Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of 2008 Mumbai attack to book. This again explains success of the meeting between the two leaders. This part of statement established in the eyes of the US that Pakistan is directly involved in the Mumbai carnage, that Pakistan is dilly-dallying judicial inquiry into the case and that Pakistan has interests in shielding the perpetrators of terror from their soil.

Another significant outcome of the statement is that it explodes the bottom of Pakistan’s claim that Dawood Ibrahim, the terrorist wanted by India, is not hiding in Pakistan and Pakistani authorities know it very well as they knew about Osama. Any action against these terrorist organizations will also extend over D-Company and Dawood may no more remain safe anywhere in the world.

The last and very significant part of the statement is that Haqqani Group has also been bracketed with other Pakistani terrorist groups and it will also receive the same treatment.

It should be reminded that ISI has been using Haqqani group in Afghanistan to target Indian Mission or kidnap; Indian technicians in Afghanistan. Haqqani has long been on the pay roll of ISI and during the Afghan Mujahedeen war, the Americans gave him long rope and credibility as a nationalist leader which he never was. Haqqani and his son both are most important pawn of ISI in Pakistan’s Afghan policy. In fact Pakistan has been insisting on giving Haqqani a place in multilateral negotiations for peace in Afghanistan.

In final analysis one can say that after Prime Minister Modi’s interaction with Obama, there is far better understanding among US policy planners about the threat emanating from Pakistan=based terrorist organizations to peace in entire South Asia. Undoubtedly, it will have its impact on US-Pakistan relations.

Indian media persons who accompanied Prime Minister Modi to US for covering the historic visit, very ably focused on an important perception that the time was ripe for the US to reconsider its traditional policy of hyphenating India and Pakistan for any strategy oriented perception. Secondly, they have also succeeded in creating confusion in the US administration that the role of Pakistan in post withdrawal period in Afghanistan has to be taken into account in the background of Pakistan army’s close connections with Pakistan based radical groups and their counterparts in Afghanistan.

Major policy shifts do not happen quickly. But there has to be a shift in US’ Pakistan policy; in whatever form and format it happens, remains to be seen. This is also the sum and substance of the commentary of Dawn newspaper’s write up on the meeting between the two leaders. Will Pakistan’s saner elements read the writing on the wall?

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