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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Dec 2014

The noose is tightening
Hindustan Times
June 26, 2012
First Published: 22:35 IST(26/6/2012)
Last Updated: 01:18 IST(12/7/2012)

The lesson Pakistan should draw from the arrest of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative best known as Abu Jundal is that international tolerance for its sponsorship of terrorism is waning. His arrest and subsequent rendition to India is the consequence of a multinational operation in which Saudi Arabia, one of Pakistan's closest allies, played a major role. The US has already made the jump when it comes to the LeT. It treats the militants as enemy organisation and extensively shares intelligence with India. Though Islamabad can count on China to block international sanctions against the LeT in bodies like the United Nations, even Beijing is not above expressing irritation at Pakis-tan's inability to control the Frankenstein monsters it has created. The triad of US intelligence detect.ing a Pakistan-based terrorist, a third country apprehending the figure and India being the end recipient of the suspect or his confessions is now commonplace.

Pakistan should reflect on why the countries it counts as its closest friends have become increasingly willing to take India's side on the terrorism issue. One is that fewer countries are prepared to differentiate between groups like Lashkar and al-Qaeda. The US now treats the two as peas in a pod. Saudi Arabia's involvement in Abu Jundal's arrest indicates a movement in the same direction. Second, Pakistan's use of terrorism has spilt over into countries other than India. Beijing is infuriated that Pakistan's safe havens have become homes for radicals targeting China. Kabul barely distinguishes between the Taliban and Pakistani soldiers. The US-Pakistan relationship would be a state of war with almost any other two countries. Third, there are few countries left who are prepared to sacrifice their interests in India for their interests in Pakistan. The US has broadly come to that point of view. The Abu Jundal arrest tells us how much Saudi strategic opinion about India has changed. There are reasons for this:  the world's biggest oil exporter is set to lose its most important client, the US, in the next few years. India and China are obvious new clients-in-waiting. This, ultimately, makes Riyadh willing to bend its long-standing strategic linkages with Pakistan and hand over a Lashkar operative to India.

Pakistan's militant groups and their official sponsors will take comfort in the view that India remains too weak and the international community too distant to exert direct pressure on activities inside their borders. Even now, no one in India expects Abu Jundal's confessions to make much difference to Pakistan's lackadaisical prosecution of those behind the Mumbai 26/11 attack. Islamabad needs to recognise that the noose is tightening. Its own ability to withstand outside pressure is weakening, that India's capacities are trending upwards. And at some point this contradiction will mean a reckoning of some variety.


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