Why Pakistan Must Be Isolated

Earlier this month, Pakistan released the alleged 26/11 mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi from prison, much to the chagrin of India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in Paris that day, managed to elicit a statement of condemnation from France. The US responded in similar strong terms. But that was all. About a week after the episode, the 26/11 trial continues to flounder in Pakistan and China’s President Xi Jinping has come calling to Islamabad with presents worth $350 billion!

The release of Lakhvi is not just an insult to New Delhi; it is also an insult to the many foreign tourists, most of whom were American, who suffered at the hands of the brutal terrorists who attacked Mumbai in 2008. The men who ambushed Mumbai did not come with the sole purpose of hurting India. It was a carefully planned attack on the reigning world order.

The victims, therefore, came from a host of nationalities, and the attack itself was carried out on one of the most globalised cities on earth. If 9/11 was a global event that warranted a global war against terror, this stands on the same ledge. Yet, the world’s response to Pakistan post 26/11 has been anything but similar to its response to several targets post 9/11.

Over the years, Pakistan has established itself as a notorious haven for terrorism. In 2011, most famously the United States found out that Osama bin Laden had been hiding for years not in Afghanistan, but Pakistan — living within a stone’s throw from one of the premier establishments of the Pakistan Army. But terrorism isn’t merely a non-state activity, as Islamabad has often claimed. A programme developed by the University of Maryland to study the structure of terrorist organisations found high involvement of former and current Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officers in the framework of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). In the past few years, ISI-linked terrorists have also played a prominent role in the revival of the Taliban in Afghanistan, killing civilians in both the countries.

Despite all this abomination, Pakistan has been the recipient of over $20 billion of military aid (and counting) from the US since 2002. Contrast that with the Cubans, who lost their security threat value decades ago, and were still subjected to embargoes and sanctions from Washington DC spanning half a century. If Cuba and Iran are punished so sternly, why don’t the Americans act just as strongly against Pakistan? If Pakistan’s rulers are to be mended, Islamabad must be isolated internationally and its economy cornered through sanctions. Further, officials of the Pakistan Army and the ISI, who are known to have links with terror groups operating from the country, ought to be barred from economic activities in the West, much like the Russian oligarchs were post the Ukrainian crisis.

But what was done to Cuba, Iran and the Russian oligarchs still seems far from possible with Pakistan. Our western neighbour’s location and internal terrorist networks give Islamabad what analysts call a “nuisance value” in international politics.

Take Saudi Arabia. In its bid to purge Yemen of the Shiite Houthi rebels, the Saudis have put together an Arab military coalition. Pakistan is not Arab, but Saudi strategists felt compelled to lobby strongly for the inclusion of Pakistan in the campaign — in all likelihood for its Sunni militants. America too felt obliged towards Pakistan for the success of its operations in, and withdrawal from, Afghanistan. Even the Chinese find great strategic value in engaging with Pakistan, largely as a counterweight to India in south Asia. That explains partly why President Xi is pushing through defence deals with Islamabad so proactively.

Notwithstanding all of this, international action against Pakistan is a necessity. Safe havens for terrorists within Pakistan serve as ideological and operational centres to Islamist groups active in different parts of the world and, therefore, these must be hunted down.

But more importantly, not acting against Pakistan is a travesty. The enforcement of international law is one of the great challenges in the modern multipolar world and such differential treatment to countries further undermines the credibility of international law and order. The enforcement of international law ought to be consistent from Cuba to Pakistan — for such laws to be taken seriously.

A test of India’s growing leadership in the global arena, in the coming years, would be its ability to rally the world to act against Pakistan for Islamabad’s crimes. This is a global problem, not just an Indian one.

(c) 2015, Swarajya