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Required - Regional Counter Terrorism (CT) 'Action' against Pakistan

March 6, 2019 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army


Post the truck bombing in Kabul on August 7, 2015, killing 15 and wounding 400, Afghan clerics had declared jihad against Pakistan, saying, "Afghan people are Muslims and Jihad is eligible against Pakistan's military intelligence – Inter Service Intelligence and Punjabi military; the country's army and intelligence is directly involved in the ongoing violence and savagery in Afghanistan." Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) said the attack was carried out by elements of the Pakistani army with the help of their mercenaries – Haqqani terrorist network. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on United States and the West not to support Pakistan's military intelligence – Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), blaming it for sponsoring terrorism in Afghanistan. But that was three and a half years back. Afghanistan has been ravaged by many more deadly terrorist attacks since then, latest one being in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan in which some 25-30 Afghan National Army (ANA) personnel were killed. The continuing human tragedy in Afghanistan is of mammoth magnitude, with Pakistan largely responsible for it.

That Pakistan is home to Al Qaeda and another 20 plus terrorist organisations is also well known. According to Pervez Hoodbhoy, nuclear physicist, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, "Bin Laden was the 'Golden Goose' that the army had kept under its watch but which, to its chagrin, has now been stolen from under its nose. Until then, the thinking had been to trade in the Goose at the right time for the right price, either in the form of dollars or political concessions". It is very obvious that US knew Pakistan's ISI was protecting Osama bin-Laden. Radicalised Pakistan has been systematically targeting Shias in Afghanistan as well as Shias and Ahmediyas within Pakistan. It is for the same reason that Pakistan has been undertaking terrorist attacks in Iran. It is also well known that Saudi Arabia and countries like Qatar have been funding Pakistan's terror export to Afghanistan, Iran and India, notwithstanding the India-Saudi Arabia overt camaraderie. UAE funding Pakistan also helps support Pakistan terror. For that matter, the recent jingoism over EAM Sushma Swaraj being invited at the recent OIC meet, fell flat the very next day with: one OIC resolution describing Kashmir core dispute, human rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir, "extra judicial killing of Burhan Wani and "Indian Terrorism", and; second OIC resolution welcoming Imran Khan's offer of dialogue with India and releasing Wing Commander Abhinandan.

As pointed out in these columns earlier, the near simultaneous recent car bombings in Iran and India (Pulwama) coinciding with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman's visit to Pakistan was no coincidence. Iran has blamed Pakistan for the car bombing attack in which 27 personnel of Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRG) Corps were killed and 13 wounded. Iran's Commander of the IRGC Quid Force, General Qassem Soleimani issued warning to Pakistan by saying, "I have this question for the Pakistani government where are you heading to? You have caused unrest along borders with all your neighbours and do you have any other neighbour left that you want to stir insecurity? Are you, who have atomic bombs, unable to destroy a terrorist group with several hundred members in the region? Pakistan should not test Iran's resolve". Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, Chairman, Iran's Foreign Policy Commission was quoted as saying that Iran wanted to build a wall on its border with Pakistan, and promised Tehran would take action inside Pakistan if it was incapable of doing so to stop cross border attacks into Iran. There is no denying that Pakistan's economic condition is in dire states though the firm support of China, Saudi Arabia, UAE etc will not permit it to collapse economically. Even the US is unlikely to desire so. However, denying Pakistan further IMF loan and placing it on the 'grey' list will certainly help. Whether Masood Azhar is dead or alive and whether he will be designated 'terrorist' by the UN makes little difference to Pakistan.

Countries including the US may share terrorist-related information and intelligence with India, depending on what help furthers their individual national interests, but by and large India must prepare to fight Pakistan's proxy war by itself. However, the moment is more than opportune for India, Iran and Afghanistan to coordinate this fight, even though the general idea has been there for quite some time. According to a report dated February 17, 2019, in our media, India and Iran have enhanced their counter terrorism (CT) cooperation in recent years, which is slated to be the top agenda between the two countries when they next meet. The report goes on to say that Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale was scheduled to travel to Iran over the weekend, but the trip was postponed due to the India-Pakistan crisis.

While CT cooperation as part of diplomacy must continue, have we examined what its limitations are, how has it affected Pakistan so far despite the solace we draw from the effort, and what are the end results we want to achieve, aside from influencing vote banks? Prudence demands that concurrent to diplomatic parleys, need of the hour is to examine setting up a combined India-Iran-Afghanistan CT 'Action' Planning Group (IIA CT APG) to plan and execute effective sub-conventional response to Pakistan's deliberate export of terrorism. The IIA CT APG must include CT professionals with hands down experience to examine the actions required in totality. This group must meet regularly, preferably at quarterly or six-monthly basis. Even a cell of the IIA CT APG could be established in the three countries, if agreed upon. It is 'diplomacy' backed by 'action' that is required. Meanwhile, India must develop and execute its own pro-active plan at the sub-conventional level, beyond short-distance direct-type attacks and air strikes.