Pakistan PM Imran Khan with Gen Qamar Bajwa | @peaceforchange | Twitter
File photo | Pakistan PM Imran Khan with Gen Qamar Bajwa | @peaceforchange | Twitter
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Pakistan is on a roll. Over a span of 10 days, terrorists trained on its soil have managed to attack and kill India’s hardened counter-terrorism soldiers in Kashmir at Handwara. The country has also managed to cause the assassination of Sardar Muhammed Arif Wazir, leader of an entirely peaceful group demanding Pashtun rights. Even more recently, its murderous protèges were accused of a heinous attack at a maternity ward in Afghanistan, killing newborns. Few other countries can aspire to touch such heights of brazen sub-conventional war, without having a tonne of sanctions thrust on them.


Also read: Strengthen counter-infiltration grid by moving 10 RR battalions from terror operations


Iran, North Korea are lesser mortals

Now, consider this. Iran has been described as the “world’s worst sponsor of terrorism”, with US President Donald Trump designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist entity in April 2019. That’s the first time that a government body has been designated a terrorist entity. Yet, as analysts point out, Shia terrorism has never found a place in the Annual Reports on Terrorism issued by the State Department in the last 20 years. Iran is certainly prone to go out and kill its adversaries, but its operations are a pale shadow of what Islamabad can achieve on a reasonable day.

Then there is the perpetual bad boy, North Korea, which was re-designated as a terrorist sponsor in 2017. That was more to do with the politics of the Trump administration. Though the North Korean regime does prefer to wipe out dissidents, it is incapable of sustaining a virtual army in one country and 20 years of terrorist activities in another, the way Pakistan has.

The Taliban is an army that depends on Pakistan for shelter, banking, medical care and money, among other things. In the Afghan conflict, 20,260 civilians have been killed or injured between 2009 and March 2020, according to UNAMA‘s conservative estimates. That doesn’t take into account the preceding ten years of war, which may be assumed to have killed a similar number of civilians. Total casualties (both civilian and military) in Kashmir have been estimated to be around 41,000 till 2017. Add to that about another 855 killed since then. In total, Pakistan has been directly or indirectly responsible for more than one lakh deaths since 1990. Yet, Iran remains at the top of the charts for spreading terror.


Also read: Jaishankar raises terrorism at SCO Covid meet, says it’s still overwhelming threat


Pakistan’s covers

How Pakistan has gotten away with this for decades is a question that has puzzled even the best of security experts. Barring the single threat post 9/11 to ‘bomb Pakistan back into the stone age’ the US seems to have shied away from even limited air attacks on Taliban camps in Pakistan. When questioned on this diffidence, many in Washington scornfully dismissed the possibility of attacking a nuclear weapon state, forgetting that Pakistan was already a nuclear state when Richard Armitage, then US assistant secretary of state, made his historic threat.

However, the US has arm-twisted Pakistan on other occasions: when it used drones to attack deep into Pakistani territory, when US Aircraft crossed Pakistani air space to bomb Osama bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan, and when it went into Pakistan itself to get Bin Laden. So, whether Pakistani nuclear weapons deter the US or not seems to depend heavily on its own interests, political context and the extent of punishment that it calculates Pakistan can bear.

The second view is that the US is much too dependent on Pakistan for anything operational in Afghanistan. That this is true is apparent from US secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s counsel following the most recent attacks in Afghanistan, when he recommended that Kabul “cooperate” with the Taliban to bring peace to the country.

It is also true that Islamabad is adept at turning bad cards into a winning hand. So, it milked US operations for all it was worth, moving from $177 million before 9/11 to reach $2.7 billion in 2010.


Also read: India unlikely to talk to Taliban directly despite US push to change stance


Pakistan’s intelligence trade

Pakistan managed to cash in other ways as well. As analysis notes, 3 out of 4 terrorist attacks in the UK, for instance, had Pakistani roots. An earlier paper by the Heritage Foundation warns of a UK-Pakistan “terror connection” that poses a serious threat. The paper recommends a “coordinated” UK-US policy on Pakistan. Clearly, the UK follows its own path in ‘assisting’ Pakistan in return for intelligence about terrorist movement. So do other countries, including Russia, Uzbekistan and China.

Cooperation with the Pakistani army and its intelligence services arehighly prized by governments as well as academics looking for sources. Few are deceived by Pakistan’s duplicity, but go along for the sake of a good paper and contacts they can tout back home. Hence, the criticism is subdued in international journals. In other words, terrorism keeps Pakistan in business and also lets it influence the narrative.

There is a third view. Diplomats quietly admit that as an Islamic state, Pakistan has an ‘in’ to troublesome countries like Iran or Saudi Arabia, and uses its access to assist Western friends. Then, there are suspicions that the US operates into Iran through Pakistani groups to access intelligence from a country it cannot hope to access itself. In 2008, then Pakistan President Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf was flown to China’s restive Xinjiang region to preach peace to Chinese Muslims. Pakistan is no leader of the Islamic world, but it certainly is a useful pawn.


Also read: How Pakistan ‘deep state’ is using coronavirus cover to fuel terrorism in Kashmir


Careful calculations

Pakistan has staved-off the threat of being tagged as a terrorist state primarily by a careful calculation of the threshold that is tolerated by the US, India and others. This was upset by the Balakot strikes, leading it to rely on other levers, including a dire American need to end a debilitating war in Afghanistan and offering information on terrorists it spawns.

Meanwhile, Chinese aircraft carrying medicines and military doctors are being welcomed in Pakistan, at a time when Beijing faces opprobrium everywhere else due to its failure to handle the coronavirus spread. For Rawalpindi, Chinese physical presence is additional insurance.

None of this has hindered India in the past, and it should not now. As India considers an appropriate response to the Handwara attack, there will be consideration of another air strike, despite the fact that Beijing has chosen to heat up the border in Ladakh rather conveniently for Islamabad.

While the air option must be kept open, an aggressive call for sanctions on Pakistan as a terrorist state must be considered, rather than the tedious demand for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. This may receive support at a time when there is global tiredness of Pakistan’s endless wars, and more importantly, the costs it imposes on budgets stressed by a pandemic far more deadly than anything Pakistan can come up with. This time round, Islamabad’s levers may lose their edge.

The author is former director, National Security Council Secretariat. Views are personal.

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44 Comments Share Your Views

44 COMMENTS

  1. India is sponsoring terrorism not only in its own country but also the whole region. Parliament attack, Mumbai attack, Pathan kot and Uri attack all of them were fabricated by Indian agencies, killing its own people to get sympathy of the world and economic aid from US. Similarly, Indian agents like Kalbhushan Yadav work in Iran and Afghanistan, one cannot ignore Indian hand in the last Afghan terror attack on a hospital to malign Taliban. This is how India does terrorist attacks in its own country to malign Kashmiris. The assassination of Ali Wazir also involve Indian hands, because India is funding PTM to destabilize Pakistan.

  2. Pakistan is a permanent member of the US-NATO-Sunni Axis. (Created by Nixon, Kissinger, and Bush (Daddy, not Baby when CIA Director) in tandem with Saudi Sheikh Yamani and David Kennedy (US Treasury Secretary)
    It was the US that trickled down the Islamic Bomb to Pakistan (A.Q. Khan Network) through apartheid South Africa and its Dutch suppliers with copious funding from the Sunni (Petro Dollar) Arabs. It was Pakistan that brokered the entente cordiale between China and the US in the Nixon, Kissinger, Bush (CIA) era which became the foundation of Chinese growth and power. It was Pakistan that became the US instrument in grinding down the Soviet Union in Afghanistan with Taliban (Sunni Students of the Quran) raised in Sunni Petro Dollar funded Mosques and Madrassas around the World and trained in the US and Pakistan made Al Qaeda (the Base) a College of Islamic Guerrilla Warfare.
    Till today, despite some sensible election speeches by Trump which he has since repudiated under pressure from the US deep state (Military Industrial Complex, Oil interests, Sunni Petro Dollar Lobby and the deep corruption of Democrat (Clinton, Obama, Hilary etc) Politics, the US remains overwhelmingly committed to Sunni Islam and antagonistic to Russia (despite noises about Pakistan, the US still donates liberally to Pakistan militarism in cash and kind).

  3. Out of my 2 Replies to emails only one got published. So it means you are censoring replies according to your will. Fair but the facts still will remain the same Kashmiris are locked down past 8 months which India has achieved the most aggression in the worlds history. United Nations failed to implement their past resolutions and also failed to highlight the plights of Kashmiris. Why their land is being annexed. Why United Nations are closing their eyes the blood bath which is prevailing in Kashmir.

  4. These are hard facts Hindu-Stan is loosing grounds with Nepal, Sikkim , Afghanistan Sri Lanka Maldives and other neighbor countries because of wrong policies in India. Suppressing And killing minorities to achieve what Hinduta. If other countries does the same thing to Indians will it be not fair To seize all Indians and lock them up as Modi is doing to Kashmiris now. Is it fair to change names of past History. Greatness is not going come this way.

  5. The author of the article seems to be admitting the importance of Indian state specially post balakot when abhinandan was paraded across international media and gracefully sent back after having had fantastic tea. We accept this article as a compliment to Pakistan and it’s foreign policy.

  6. Very poor comments moderation by the editor. While contrarion comments should be welcome, hate speech should not be.

    Please remove the comments immediately.

  7. AND MIND YOU WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT KASHMIRI PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN EXPERIENCING CURFEW WITH SUCH ATROCIOUS ACTS . DONT YOU THINK THAT IS REAL TERRORISM.

  8. how the hell can you be so sure that Pakistan is a terrorist country and is training terrorists when it itself is suffering from it . Such useless people who dont even use their brain before writing a whole article against a country and its people .Literally , I m so DONE with Indian media . I PERSONALLY DONT HAVE ANY ISSUE WITH ITS PEOPLE BUT THE MEDIA KEEPS RUINING ITS IMAGE IN MY EYES .

  9. Please don’t externalize your internal problems. India claims to be the world largest democracy – that is just a number as you have 1.3 billion people but that does not mean India is a very functional democracy. From Indira’s emergency to the the brutal murder of Sikhs and the current attacks on Kashmirs and Muslim – India is only a democracy on paper. In practice, a nation with 100s of millions below poverty line, a brutal caste system and rampant hate crimes against minorities – India is no better than Pakistan. I guess that is what makes Indians fear the most, a comparison with Pakistan. Guess what, you are no better – your society is as broken and state functionaries as corrupt. The end result in both countries is a widening wealth gap and millions of people living in utter destitute. The whole of South Asia is a joke. We have been independent for over 7O year and have very little to show for in terms of governance, scientific progress and providing for its citizens.
    Does Pakistan has issues ? YES ! but unlike the Hinduvta bhakts, most Pakistanis accept it without holding onto a revisionist past . Pakistan has a vibrant civil society that takes their leaders to task and we have never voted our right wing crazies into power. You made yours PM !

  10. Exaggerated baseless article from an enemy of Pakistan Journalist from India who never talked about how their State Sponsored Hindu Terrorist Organization RSS and RAW train terrorist like Kulbushan Yadav and sent them in Pakistan for Terrorism.Kulbushan Yadav a Hindu Terrorist of India caught in Pakistan accepted that he was operating several Networks of Terrorism in Pakistan and he also admitted to carried out several attacks on Pakistan that killed thousands of Innocent Pakistani people including APS Peshawar innocent 350 children.India is killing Sikhs in Punjab that are demanding independent state Khalistan along with killing Muslims in Kashmir that demand independence.India terrorist Army is also killing Manipur innocent to curb their voice for freedom.Indian current PM Adolf Modi travel was banned to USA because he was declared Terrorist by USA but now as they need Toilet paper against China they have again white list him.India was inventor of suicide bomb for Tamil Fighters in Srilanka.But Indian People who are living in illusion given to them by Bollywood will never understand this.

  11. Judging from the opinion piece written above Pakistanis need not worry as Indian think tanks are gravely misguided about geopolitics in the world abroad. I have always felt that Indian analysis of geo political situation in the world is utterly biased and based on wishful thinking. This will eventually lead to a consequential mistake. This proved to be true during the events of Feb 2019 when India in general was unable to predict PAF capabilities and had to resort to missile threats after embarrassment. To become a great power which can project power and save itself embarrassment in the future, Indian policy makers and think tanks need to predict and educate the population on realistic geo-political conditions as well as the capabilities of its adversaries.

  12. It is India who has been terrorizing Pakistan through Afghanistan. NDS/RAW has been funding Pak Taliban and other renegade groups for suicide attacks inside Pakistan. Bombing of Mosque, Churches, Temples, School, Colleges buses. Thank God. They have been neutralized.

    Indian people need to know the other side of the story.. Dare if you delete this comment.

  13. Brilliant article as always. What is missing why Bharat has not been successful in getting Pak declared a terrorist state. Why have we failed?

  14. 99% of attacks carried out in Pakistan through Afghanistan is carried out by Indian state sponsored terrorist outfit. The big is Pak Talibans. They are bunch of renegades hired by NDS/RAW to terrorize general population. Suicide bombing of Mosques, temples. churches, schools, colleges. Indian public show know this.

  15. India has terrorist PM and hinduata RSS is killing muslims with impunity ,wake up pak is making hundreds of nukes seeing hinduata agenda,this will have ugly ending..hinduata terror belongs to jail not in politics and in pm

  16. India has terrorist PM and hinduata RSS is killing muslims with impunity..they have a thurst of Muslim blood….indian police ,media, judiciary ,military,hospitals and almost gov institution have been taken over islamophobia ,this will only result in nuclear hilocoust,hinduta must be stopped like hitler….wake up pak is making hundreds of nukes seeing hinduata agenda,this will have ugly ending..hinduata terror belongs to jail not in politics and in pm office

  17. Amazed to see how much hatred u guys have in ur hearts, believe me it wont help u instead u r making ur immune system weak.. grow up guys there are bigger issues than fight between India n Pakistan live ur lives at peace and lets focus on our internal problems.. neither we became Singapore nor u guys reached to moon..

  18. Excellent analysis by the author.
    There is no doubt that Pakistan State has been and is extremely smart in achieving its objectives very efficiently and effectively. It cleverly used (and dumped) UK initially, then USA and now using China, apart from various OIC countries, in pursuit of its objectives and have succeeded immensely. Of course, one is not talking about rationality or end results of or cost of achieving such objectives!

    The world may believe that Pakistan is the client state of China but the fact is that it is China which is stuck in the financial quagmire due to CPEC. In no time, when it becomes convenient, Pakistan will ensure that Chinese will be compelled to give up on its investments in CPEC, unlike soft states like Maldives or Sri Lanka or Mynmar who offered equity ownership in the assets created by Chinese in lieu of repayment of debt.

    It is Modi who gave them the shock of Art 370 and have Pakistani state for the first time, totally confused and confounded for response. Once they integrate Gilgit Baltistan in Pakistan, the Kashmir dispute will be over and what will remain is the Indian initiatives for recovery of POK and G-B! Thus, the tables will be fully turned after 70 years! That has major implications for the future of Pakistan. If Modi becomes adventurous and ensures troubles in Balochistan etc, the smart Pakistan State will be in deep trouble.

    Tara is indeed a welcome addition to the team of The Print and she restores its balance against likes of Shivam, Jyoti, Nayamina, Ruhi etc.

    The fake news, that is, the current phase of anti India propaganda linked to Islamophobia will wither away soon. Once Modi is back to normal after Covid-19 issues, we will have interesting times to watch, irrespective of Chinese skirmishes on the India’s northern and eastern borders.

  19. Excellent article Madam. Please also write on international media platforms to showcase the true face of Pakistan and expose hypocrisy of Western liberals.

  20. Everybody knows India lies so no use giving them attention just ignore them. Pakistan on many occasions asked the United Nations to seek proof from India about the alleged ‘terror launch pads’ near the Line of Control (LoC) and offered full cooperation with the UN military observers for probing the accusations. Pakistan has always been transparent about its commitment of not allowing the use of its territory against anyone.

  21. An article in denial……….Air strike of last year was a complete disaster for India……….It showed IAF not in a positive light but rather increased the prestige of Pakistan military…..IAF it seems may not be confident enough to go another round with formidable PAF till it has sufficient Rafales. No one cares what India thinks rather an Indian potential threat is used by “Powers to Be” get the best deal from Pakistan in Afghanistan etc.

    If after 70 years of confrontation with Pakistan over Kashmir this is the result……………then perhaps a new option for peace must be explored !!!

  22. India will die of corona virus and modi will breathe his last breath on a ventilator and handwara is just a start the taliban are coming for india next 1000 handwaras happen and many 26/11 godwilling

  23. India will die of corona virus and modi will breathe his last breath on a ventilator and handwara is just a start the taliban are coming for india next 1000 handwaras will happen and many 26/11 godwilling

  24. The Chinese donated masks made from used underwear – Shows the respect Chinese have for the Pakis.

  25. Consideration for another air strike?
    The author must be living in a cloud cuckoo land; another overt display of Balakotry in response to a routine incursion may find no friends in the western world which has been walloped by the Corona virus.

    With that said Pakistan is in no great shape: economy in free fall (the lifeline from the IMF notwithstanding), mullah-military politically overshadowing the retired playboy PM and his cohorts, FATF pain prolonged but not yet done with, ….. and so on.

    India would do well to have a consistent policy vis-a-vis Pak: any covert or overt attack will be paid back in kind handsomely. In relation to talks, well, we could talk about the weather….

  26. It look like last cry of Indian propaganda machine as Indian Monkeys (RAW) in Afghanistan is defeated by barefoot Taliban & India pussy out to send troops on ground, plus all the commitment with US to counter China but no Action on the other hand China has already contained India via naval bases at Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Maldives, Pakistan & on land Nepal & Bhutan even Iran .

  27. Pakistan always on better wicket than India .
    Where does the root cause lie? In Nehru’s initial guffaw in 1948 when he succumbed to UNO instead of driving the Pak forces off India?
    Much like his subsequent ‘I am the Asia’s Moses’ recommendation to give the India offered Sec Council Permanent Seat to China….!
    This great man really did us in or what? Have we been too soft on Pakistan,enabling the country to score goals against us all the while?
    Does Modi have it in him to resolve finally, or is he also a lame duck maverick?

  28. It is a nice article but has missed one very important aspect that is Saudi Arabia. If you listen to ex ISI chief Hamid Gul’s interviews available on you tube, you would understand this clearly. If India wants to get rid of Terror operations India must tackle Saudis., Only one country can make world declare Pakistan as Terrorist state and that is India. Our government must understand that ISLAM is not a threat to India, Wahabism supported by Saudi is. Current Indian government must interact with Indian Muslims aggressively and show them why it is good to stay in India and why adhering to constitution rather than personal laws is important. i am sure at least 80 % Muslims will agree. Remaining 20% should be dealt with firmly as per law of the land. Muslims are not bad but not having straight talk with them is bad. If Indian Muslims come on side of Hindus, Pakistan would automatically be declared as Terrorist state..

    • By talking to muslims, 80% will to on the side of Hindus? Please read “Pakistan : Past, Present and Future” by well known writer-journalist, M. J. Akbar. He has devoted one full chapter on the referendum held in 1946 by British India Government. He has given provincewise figures of number of votes polled by Congress as well as Muslim League candidates, no of candidates put up by both the parties and seats won. Even a casual perusal will show that muslims voted for the League overwhelmingly all over India. Yet only a small percentage of them went to Pakistan. Is it your contention that they had a change of heart overnight?

    • You are wrong on many accounts. For eg. Taliban is Deobandi not Wahabi and they are the primary terror organization in the Indian subcontinent and also responsible for the Kashmir crisis.

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