New Delhi: A day after 40 CRPF personnel were killed in Kashmir in a deadly terror attack carried out by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, India is looking at measures it can take to “isolate” Islamabad, including recalling India’s High Commissioner.
India has already summoned Pakistan envoy Sohail Mahmood and issued a strong démarche.
Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, who summoned Mahmood, conveyed to him that Pakistan must take “immediate and verifiable action” against the JeM and it must “immediately stop” any groups or individuals associated with terrorism operating from its territories, said sources in the Ministry of External Affairs.
The Narendra Modi government is seriously considering the option of downgrading diplomatic relations with Pakistan by recalling India’s High Commissioner from Islamabad.
Diplomatic sources told ThePrint that the government of India is also considering not negotiating the draft agreement on the proposed Kartarpur Corridor.
The first step has already been taken at a meeting of the PM-chaired Cabinet Committee on Security Friday — Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced that India has decided to remove ‘Most Favoured Nation’ status from Pakistan.
The government’s main aim, said top officials, is to ensure that Pakistan is isolated internationally, and pressure is built up on it through multiple fronts.
However, there is no information on any military options being considered, after the Prime Minister said the “sacrifices of the CRPF personnel will not go in vain”. All that sources in the Ministry of Defence are willing to say is that India will respond at the time and place of its choosing.
Host of non-military options
One of the main non-military options being considered is the downgrading of the Indian mission in Islamabad. India had done the same after the 2001 attack on Parliament. At the time, India had withdrawn its High Commissioner in Islamabad Vijay Nambiar, and the mission was left in the hands of the Deputy High Commissioner.
India had also sent back the Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi, with both countries retaining bare minimum staff.
Another option on the table is the withdrawal of all staff from the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, though sources said this may not be exercised.
Over the next few days, Indian missions in major capitals around the world will brief the respective governments about Pakistan’s active support to terrorism.
Another long-term plan that’s set to be initiated is to cut off funding for the Pakistan Army. The Pakistan Army runs the Fauji Foundation, which runs a number of businesses, from making cornflakes to running banks, and has interests abroad too.
The government of India is also looking to work more closely with Gulf countries, traditional supporters of Pakistan, to ensure that Pakistan faces the heat.
Meanwhile, on the Kartarpur Corridor, a delegation from Pakistan was scheduled to travel to India on 13 March to take discussions forward, followed by a return visit by an Indian delegation on 28 March. But it now seems that the government, which is facing elections in the next couple of months, will not “take the risk” to go ahead and host the delegation from across the border.
India and Pakistan had already started talking on the modalities of the draft agreement between engineers on both the sides. But it seems even that has been stopped with immediate effect.
Last year in November, both countries had agreed to begin work on the corridor that is aimed at providing Sikh pilgrims access to Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib across the border, the site where the founder of the religion, Guru Nanak, spent the last two decades of his life. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had presided over the ground-breaking ceremony for the corridor on 28 November.
The project was considered significant since 2019 marks Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary. But with the government saying it will now completely isolate Pakistan, it remains to be seen how it walks the tightrope on Kartarpur.
Get the PrintEssential to make sense of the day's key developments.