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BRICS declaration may have named Pakistan-based terror groups but India shouldn’t celebrate just yet

There is much euphoria over paragraphs 47 and 48 of the BRICS leaders’ declaration signed at Xiamen at conclusion of the 9th BRICS Summit 2017, that read, “We strongly condemn terrorist attacks resulting in death to innocent Afghan nationals. … There is a need for immediate cessation of violence….We, in this regard, express concern on the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, ISIL/DAISH, Al-Qaida and its affiliates including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb ut-Tahrir.”

The declaration called upon all nations to adopt a comprehensive approach in combating terrorism, which should include countering radicalisation, recruitment, movement of terrorists including Foreign Terrorist Fighters ((FTF), blocking sources of financing terrorism including, for instance, through organised crime by means of money laundering, supply of weapons, drug trafficking and other criminal activities, dismantling terrorist bases, and countering misuse of the internet including social media by terrorist entities through misuse of the latest Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

 On 31 August, China signaled it would defend Pakistan in case latter’s role in sheltering terrorists was brought up during the upcoming BRISC summit. China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying stated at a briefing, “We notice that India, when it comes to Pakistan’s counter-terrorism, has some concerns. I don’t think this is an appropriate topic to be discussed at BRICS Summit.”

China was apparently scared after Prime Minister Narendra Modi described Pakistan as the “mother ship” of terrorism during the BRICS Summit held in Goa last year. This is nothing but the truth.

Besides, China has been ‘sheltering’ Pakistani terrorist (even terrorist leaders at UN), assisting insurgents in India’s North East and providing sanctuary to United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) militants. Chunying would have known this and that this joke of a Chinese signal would not deter Modi. But Doka La apart, when the whole world is concerned about terrorism, why would BRICS not discuss the issue?

A lot had happened in the run up to BRICS meet at Xiamen, which meant China could not afford to obfuscate.

At a time when even the US intelligence was shying away from talking of Pakistani proxies attacking Afghanistan — other than the Haqqani Network — the report released by the UN Assistance Mission Afghanistan (UNAMA) in July 2016, recorded 5,166 people killed / maimed in Afghanistan (Jan to June 2016), total civilian casualties in Afghanistan (Jan 2009 – 30 Jun 2016) 64,000 (23000 killed, 41,000 injured) as “conservative estimates”.

The report stated that “majority of these casualties caused by the anti-Afghan government forces: Taliban and organised armed groups including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Haqqani Network, Hezb-e-Islami, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Islamic Jihad Union, groups identified as ‘Daesh’ (Islamic State) and other militia and armed groups”.

Significantly, the US Intelligence Assessment in February 2016 admitted that the Taliban had largely coalesced and will continue to test the overstretched Afghan National Security Forces, and that Khorasan branch of Islamic State (ISK) formed is an “amalgamation of primarily disaffected and rebranded former Afghan Taliban and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members”.

What was left unsaid is that the coalescing of both Taliban was anchored by Sirajuddin Haqqani, the number two in Afghan Taliban and chief of Haqqani network rooted in Pakistan for the past three plus decades. Significantly, the amalgamation rebranding Taliban into ISK was done in Peshawar region and with leadership of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.

As per Voice of America, Afghanistan officially told Pakistan that Hafiz Saeed, former LeT chief is directing Islamic State operations in Afghanistan.

Then came the clear warning by President Donald Trump while unveiling the new Afghanistan-Pakistan policy. Trump said that Pakistan, which was sheltering terrorists, had to do more “and that will change immediately”. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later told reporters, “We are going to attack terrorists wherever they live. If you are providing safe havens to terrorists, be forewarned.”

He added that the US could consider sanctions on Pakistan or cut off its status as non-NATO ally if Islamabad does not crack down on the Taliban and other extremist groups.

The farce of Pakistan denying it was supporting the Taliban was exposed a decade ago when British Special Air Service (SAS) — that country’s most renowned special forces unit — killed a Pakistani Special Service Group (SSG) officer operating as Taliban commander in Helmand, as reported by Christina Lamb in The Sunday Times on 12 October, 2008. His Pakistani military ID was recovered but the incident was kept under wraps by the British government.

Pakistan condemned the BRICS declaration, issuing a statement by Inter Services Public Relations spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor just before Trump’s speech. The statement read: “There are no terrorist hideouts in Pakistan. We have operated against all terrorists, including Haqqani Network”. But this lie has been Pakistan’s ‘official’ stance from time immemorial.

Though, technically, the claim that there are no terrorist hideouts in Pakistan may be true in the sense that these hideouts or camps are in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) or Pakistan Occupied Afghanistan (PoA) since Afghanistan does not recognize the Durand Line and says Pakistan is illegally occupying Afghan territory, or in Balochistan which is forcibly occupied by Pakistan.

Pakistan’s foreign minister Khawaja Asif recently admitted the presence of LeT and JeM in his country. He didn’t need to admit it. Every one knew it for a fact. Meanwhile, Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa tried to divert attention by talking of “political dialogue” in Kashmir.

This even as he knew that any dialogue backed by the threat of terror is a non-starter and that he cannot disavow terrorism as long as he sleeps with the Frankenstein’s Monster that Pakistan has created.

Pakistan has suspended bilateral talks and visits with the US. Though US has linked financial assistance to Pakistan with action against Haqqani Network, this has been the case for many years. Without much success.

Saimual Haq, the ISI’s protégé heading the Defence of Pakistan Council (DPC) said in a press conference on 23 August that the Pakistan Army would not take any action against the Haqqani Network. He also issued a call for ‘jihad’ to every section of society.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said Beijing stands firmly behind its “iron clad friend”. That’s no surprise, considering Pakistan is vital for China’s plans in the Indian Ocean and it is firmly constrained by its “all-weather friend’s” economic straitjacket.

It should be obvious that no change will likely occur. After all, China wants US and NATO out of the region. And Pakistan continues to expand its “strategic depth” in Afghanistan. For the US, merely suspending financial aid to Pakistan and adding around 4,000 troops to Afghanistan won’t bear much fruit.

If Pakistan was given F-16s and attack helicopters for counter-terrorism operations, the Afghan National Security Forces must be adequately armed to fight the Chinese-backed onslaught from Pakistan’s “irregulars”. Terrorist sanctuaries in PoA must also be wiped out and the genocide in Balochistan being perpetrated by Pakistan must be stopped.

The author is a retired lieutenant-general of the Indian Army

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