United States ambassador to the United Nations Nimrata “Nikki” Randhawa Haley’s statement of the US playing a proactive role in promoting India-Pakistan engagement to lower tensions between the two neighbours has been rejected by New Delhi. Gopal Baglay, the MEA spokesperson said that bilateral dialogue to redress all the outstanding issues could only be possible in a terror- and violence-free environment.
From someone whose parents were immigrants from Amritsar, Haley’s statement shows a remarkable lack of understanding of ground situation in South Asia, particularly Pakistan. The million-dollar question now facing national security experts within the Narendra Modi government is not whether to have a dialogue with Pakistan to prevent cross-border terrorism, but whether Pakistan has the capacity to control the jihadists groups targeting India without imploding on its own.
Islamabad watchers believe that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in a cleft stick situation. If he stops Islamists based and nurtured in his country to stop targeting India or Afghanistan, then Sharif and the Pakistan army runs the risk of these groups taking on the establishment itself. The September 29, the surgical strike across the Line of Control in Kashmir by Indian special forces was based on the realisation that Islamabad has no longer control over radical Islamist groups and it was better for New Delhi to counter jihadists on its own.
Haley must realise that 46 terrorists/extremist groups operate in Pakistan with Salafists Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and al-Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent, Wahhabi Islamic State (IS), Deobandi groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed, Taliban and Takfiri group Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) being the major ones with significant cadre. While there are fears within Pakistan that the LeT cadre may mutate into IS on a common Islamic ideological platform, the JeM is playing a larger game of influencing events in Afghanistan through its umbilical relationships with the Taliban. But the biggest threat to Pakistan is coming from the TTP, which is threatening the fundamentals of the nation by questioning the wisdom of its Shia founding fathers, like Muhammad Al Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan.
On June 23, 2015, then TTP chief Haq Fazlullah Khorasani addressed so-called Taliban special services group commandos at an event organised at the completion of their training. Khorasani said: “I want to ask my countrymen: Why have our people sacrificed so much? Hundreds and thousands of people sacrificed their lives just because the essence of Pakistan was La ilaha Illallah….otherwise it would have been better to live with the humwatan Hindus. We did not fight for this country just to pray, fast, go for Haj and open madrasas…If a country becomes Islamic just by allowing its citizens to offer prayers and go for Haj then India is also an Islamic country, so are Europe and America. Unless and until the state is ruled by Sharia, a country cannot be called Islamic.” This clearly shows that the TTP is out at war against Islamabad, and not India, as it wants to impose Sharia.
The larger call for Islam also resonated in Kashmir in March with Zakir Rashid Bhat, a commander of the Pakistan-backed Hizbul Mujahideen, asking stone pelters to wage war for Islam — not for Azaadi — in the Valley. The JeM planned its attack on the Pathankot airbase — which would have forced India to retaliate had it not been for alacrity on part of national security adviser Ajit Doval — on the day Modi landed in Lahore, on December 25, 2015. The whole idea was to scuttle any chance of bonhomie between the two countries.
Back channel negotiations between the two countries were brought to a naught in 2016 with the LeT launching an attack on the Uri brigade on September 18. Targeting India takes a back seat when you realise that the JeM cadre tried to assassinate the then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in 2003 and 2008. The LeT attacked Mumbai on November 26, 2008, while Pakistan foreign minister was on an official visit in New Delhi.
The above examples make it amply clear that if anyone needs support for neutralising terror groups and terrorists and pave a way for dialogue with India, it is Pakistan.
Haley and US President Donald Trump would have enough data collected by its National Security Agency to understand that threat to Islamabad is not New Delhi but Islamists in Pakistan themselves. Modi, in his April 2 Udhampur rally, was blunt enough to say that those who (Pakistan) cannot take care of themselves were behind the unrest in Valley.
Haley would be well-advised to consult former secretary of state John Kerry who suggested dialogue with Pakistan to Modi on the sidelines of Vibrant Gujarat summit in 2015. Modi snubbed Kerry: “Aap humhe (India-Pakistan) apne haal par chhod do. (Leave India and Pakistan alone)” If US intervention is at all required, it is in Pakistan.