By K.N. Pandita
President Barack Obama’s visit to India as the chief guest on our 66th Republic Day parade is an historical occasion to be remembered for long time to come. He is the first US President who came as chief guest on the Republic Day parade and he is also the first US President to visit India twice during his tenure in the office.
For long, political commentators in both the countries and abroad will seriously discuss the results of the visit and the impact of bilateral talks and agreements that have been arrived at in the course of presidential visit.
The US and India have held meaningful talks on some serious bilateral matters like nuclear deal, arms deal, trade and commerce, immigration etc. But what is uppermost in our mind and also in the mind of millions of innocent people is how top world leadership intends to meet the challenge and deliver mankind from a threat that has the potential of disfiguring human civilization. Therefore in this essay I will focus on the issue of terrorism only.
This event and the statement of the US President on the occasion have great significance when scrutinized in the background of unusual international situation obtaining at present. Perhaps exacerbation of terrorism and jihadist activities in specific regions of the world, especially the Middle East, sub-continent and more recently France, is intently contributing to closer cooperation among the democratic and liberal countries of the world to think constructively about global cooperation among nations to meet the challenge.
Before proceeding on his visit to New Delhi, President Obama emphatically messaged Pakistan to control terrorism on her soil. The US warned Pakistan that no infiltration bid or LoC firing should take place during the days Obama team was in India.
This message from the US official circles was received in India with mixed reaction. Though most of the Indians appreciated timely warning of the US to Pakistan, others asked why the order was effective only for three days of President’s visit. Did it mean Pakistan would go with its terrorist agenda after three days of Obama’s stay?
It looks queer that such an advisory should have come on the eve of Presidential visit. The bigger puzzle is that Pakistan and her military establishment did not fail to show due respect to the advisory; something against the very grain of Pakistan ruling elite.
But it was in his press conference in New Delhi, where, in the context of Pakistan as the churning factory of terrorism, President Obama was more forthright in raising his finger towards perpetrators of 26/11 massacre in Pakistan. The wording of the joint statement is notable. It says, “The leaders reaffirmed the need for joint and concerted efforts to disrupt entities such as Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e- Muhammad, D-Company and the Haqqani Network, and agreed to continue ongoing efforts through the Homeland Security Dialogue as well as the next round of the US-India Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism in late 2015 to develop actionable elements of bilateral engagement.”
This and other remarks are clear indications that there is noticeable change in US’ stance on Pakistan-based terror directed against India. Mentioning the Pakistan-based most pro-active terrorist organizations by name is a clear message to Pakistan that the US no more doubts India’s allegations of Pakistan’s involvement in cross-border firing and shelling and repeated bids for infiltration.
In reality, the Presidential message is to the military leadership of Pakistan and indirect support to the elected government in Islamabad which is in the stranglehold of the Generals. The ISI and Pak army are patronizing these terrorist groups whose activities a
The point is further clarified by the comment of the Indian Prime Minister who said, “We agreed that we need a comprehensive global strategy and approach to combat with it. There should be no distinction between the terrorist groups. Every country must fulfill its commitments to eliminate terrorists’ safe havens and bring terrorists to justice.”
After Peshawar Army School killings, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif formally announced that he was lifting moratorium on capital punishment and also said that he has given up the distinction between good and bad Taliban. He had also said that the government would go after the terrorist leadership and bring it to book.
Short of telling him that he was yet to translate his commitment into practice, Obama commented that the chief conspirator of Mumbai carnage name Rahman Lakhvi had to be handed over to India for prosecution. This has put Pakistan in an embarrassing situation because handing over Lakhvi to Indian authorities would further strengthen India’s demand that Dawood and Hafiz Saeed are also handed over. Not handing them over to India would bring same repercussions in trail just as repercussions of not handing over Lakhvi are bound to be unpredictable.
Islamabad will not fail to read the writing on the wall. Two important inferences have to be stated. One is that both leaders have hinted at the need for comprehensive global strategy and approach to combat terrorism and the second is of further enhancing counter-terrorism capabilities including in the area of technology.
With the rise of Islamic State armed movement and its brutality against the minorities, Shia as well as Christians, slaughtering of one American and one British news channel correspondents, the event in Paris in which about a dozen journalists/cartoonists were gunned down, and lastly the threats doled out by the ISSI to democracies like the US and India, comprehensive global strategy becomes inevitable. Notably Russia and China, too, are faced with terrorist threats, and countering terrorism is among one of the five fundamental objectives of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) of which both the countries are members.
This paves the way for comprehensive global strategy for containment of religion based terrorism with its epicenter in Af-Pak and Punjab regions. Among Asian Muslim countries, Iran cannot adopt antagonistic stance to any foreseeable comprehensive global strategy owing to the fact that Jundullah, the Pakistani Wahhabi terrorist organization poses serious threat to the Shia population in Iranian province of Baluchistan where border skirmishes have already taken place more than once. There are good chances that the global strategy against terrorism isolates Af-Pak and West Punjab region for various sanctions that will dry up terrorist feeders. An important component of the proposed global strategy would be drying up financial sources of the terrorist organizations.
The second inference is related to further enhancing counter-terrorism capabilities including in the area of technology. Almost all affected countries have one or the other counter-terrorism capability in place at the moment. But once meeting the challenge on global level is approved, these capabilities will have not only to be coordinated but also upgraded. For example, India is likely to go in for unmanned vehicle or the prototype of the drones to be put into operation if and when needed.
We need to note that the US and western countries have much advanced anti-terrorism technology at their command and this has not been put to full use so far. Proliferation or transfer of this kind of technology could become a component of anti-terrorism strategy.
Thus, at least from the point of view of growing threat from terrorism and determination of countering the threat in a way that it is eradiated lock, stock and barrel, we may conclude that the visit of Obama was specifically a significant step towards paralyzing terrorism. Benefits of democratic dispensation cannot be misused by those who have escaped autocratic, arbitrary or theocratic regimes and sought shelter in the safe havens of democracy in western or the Asiatic world.