Tightening the screws on Pakistan

How Indian efforts for international action against its neighbour's terror links have paid off

shankar

Shankar Kumar | February 26, 2018


#International Relations   #MEA   #China   #Financial Action Task Force   #Pakistan   #Terrorism  
PM Narendra Modi
PM Narendra Modi

For the moment, Pakistan is on the grey list of the financial action task force (FATF), an international, inter-governmental body that decides on measures to be taken to combat money-laundering, financing of terrorist activities, and other threats to the international financial system. But will Pakistan be declared a terrorist state?

The point to note is that this isn't the first time Pakistan has been put on the watch list since the FATF was set up in 1989. From 2012 to 2015, it was on the watch list for money-laundering. The latest inclusion came after the Feb 20-23 meeting in Paris. What is different this time is that India's diplomatic efforts to shame Pakistan have paid off: China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which had earlier blocked the US move to put Islamabad on the watch list, agreed to the proposal.

Pakistan has been given three months -- until June -- to act against terror groups, some of which enjoy the support of the ISI (Pakistan's spy agency) and the Pakistani army. If it does not, it will have to face tough times and may find it difficult even access overseas funding, even receive remittances from Pakistanis working in the Gulf or in other countries. There can't be a worse blow than this for Pakistan, which is facing economic problems.

Sources in the ministry of external affairs (MEA) say it took huge backchannel efforts by India, the US and Europe to persuade China to pull back its support to China. Beijing is eyeing the top FATF post. And unless member countries support China, there is no chance it can bag it. India promised to support Beijing; the US too pledged to extend its support for China's bid. Following such back channel moves, which took place over a week in Washington and Paris before the FATF meeting began. Turkey and Saudi Arabia were won over by India through great efforts. Interestingly, Russia, which has recently shown a soft corner for Pakistan, was not too eager to back the proposal against Pakistan. However, after some hyper-diplomatic efforts, Moscow found it difficult not to listen to its long-time friend.

Earlier, Turkey and Saudi Arabia had joined hands with China on the anti-Pakistan motion. China's support to Pakistan was well understood, but Turkey, fresh with terror-inflicted wounds, was a surprise. It's international airport was bombed, an ambassador was assassinated and a nightclub was attacked last year, killing more than one hundred people and injuring several others there, yet under the Recep Tayyip Erdogan administration, Ankara had  chosen to side with Pakistan and not the US-led move against Islamabad. Similarly, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition last year suspended its diplomatic relations with Qatar and imposed trade and travel ban on it after accusing it supporting terrorism. But when it came to putting Pakistan on the  terror-financing watch list, Riyadh put its foot down. More than geo-politics it could have been ideology which tilted Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia towards Pakistan. But then it showed the double face of these countries as they spoke against it when it hurt them and supported it when it suited them. From their actions, it showed that these countries still believed in the binary of good and bad terrorism, a proposition that Pakistan has been making for years to prove that Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Haqqani network and Afghan Taliban are good terrorist organisations, while the Pakistan Taliban and others are bad terrorist outfits.

By sticking to these countries' skin, Pakistan felt that it had escaped coming under terror-financing watch list. Pakistan's foreign minister Khwaja Asif had even tweeted that Islamabad had been let off the hook for three months with the US-led motion at Paris being defeated.  But he could not understand that under the Donald Trump administration, America would not let Islamabad have the last laugh. In fact, the US, once regarded as the "most allied ally of Pakistan", has already geared up to make life hell for Islamabad. In January, the US state department announced that America was freezing $2 billion worth of security assistance to Pakistan. The US is also planning to impose targeted sanctions on Pakistan, including freezing of assets of senior military officers who maintain close relationship with terrorists.

On its part, India should, as per some experts, explore more actions to put Pakistan under pressure. They call for revival of the SAARC by including Iran in place of Pakistan. But it should be borne in mind that Iran is a Middle-East nation and not truly a South Asian nation in geographical sense. Secondly, Iran doesn't have a shared history of South Asia. If Iran, one of the nine observer states of the SAARC, is included in the group then other members may also push the case of China, also an observer state. In 2014, Pakistan had tried its best to include it, but India using the constitutional provision of the group barred its entry. Therefore, efforts to bring Iran into the group would fall flat.

Then it should not be forgotten that SAARC members like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives are today more under China’s influence than India. If New Delhi attempts to bring a change in the SAARC constitution in order to facilitate Tehran's entry into the group, China will easily win over Colombo, Kathmandu, Dhaka and Male for its entry into the group -- in suspense since India boycotted the 2016 summit that Pakistan was expected to host.

Also, it would not be diplomatically prudent for India to openly court Iran in the manner that New Delhi's ongoing engagement with the Gulf countries gets impacted immensely. The region was source of 64 percent crude oil supply and $35 billion in remittance to India in 2017. The UAE has agreed to supply oil for the first phase of strategic oil reserve, already built at Mangalore, Visakhapatnam and Padur in Kerala with combined capacity of 5.33 million metric tonnes. Talks are also on with Saudi Arabia for the supply of crude oil for strategic reserves being built at Chandikhole in Odisha and at Bikaner in Rajasthan.

These two strategic reserves will have a combined capacity of 10 MMT. In recent past, the UAE has emerged as India's most
trusted partner in the Gulf and is ready to participate in the country's growth story by investing money in port, power, road and other infrastructure sector. Oman is another Gulf country with which India enjoys strong defence relations. In days to come, it would not be surprising at all if India develops a military base in Oman's strategically located Duqm port.

Hence, India will have to continue its balancing act while dealing Iran. For the sake of putting Pakistan in the dock, New Delhi will have to aggressively work with the US, the European Union, Russia and the Gulf countries. Even if under the pressure of the US earlier, India stopped raking up in the UN an issue related to imposition of economic sanction on Islamabad, it should revisit the issue now after due consultations with the US, Russia, the UK and France. It is well known that China will create a wall against any sanction on Pakistan in the world body, yet such attempts would not be at all worthless, rather they will force Islamabad's further isolation in the world.

Already, Pakistani nationals have started facing humiliation for being passport holders of this South Asian nation during their visit abroad. Pakistani actor Saba Qamar's revelation before camera about her traumatic experience at Tbilisi airport is not an old story.  "I went for a shoot (of a Bollywood film) to Tbilisi (capital of Georgia) and my entire Indian crew was allowed to go but I was stopped because of my Pakistani passport. I was humiliatingly frisked, investigated and my interview was taken before letting me go," Saba told a Pakistani television channel recently. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, thousands of Americans of Pakistani origin people have been subjected to greater scrutiny at American airports. Up to 45,000 of the estimated 100,000 strong Pakistani community in New York were either deported or left the country voluntarily following the attacks. Pakistan has thus lost its image in the world under the weight of terrorism being spawned and supported by it. If it fails to mend its rogue nation behavior and continues to be heaven for terrorists, it will be not far away when it will be declared a terrorist state by the international community. 
 

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