The world is agreed on a new, polarising stand to take on terrorism. It is good news, and a challenge for India.
Terrorism, or rather fighting it, is the only global narrative to survive the onslaught of resurgent nationalism so far. Not free trade, not climate change, not even nuclear disarmament, it’s the war against terrorism around which the new global consensus is being built.
And at the centre of that frame is Pakistan, just the way India had always wanted – guilty until proven innocent.
Broadly, the new global discourse on terror is moving on three pivots – the future of Pakistan, immigration and terrorist financing — forcing major powers to take a position on each one of them.
On Pakistan, the United States has itself led the global charge. The line from Washington is clear – that neither Islamabad nor Rawalpindi is being honest in this fight. In fact, the US is pushing other stakeholders to also end any sort of ambivalence on Pakistan and send a clear message on what the world expects from it.
But moving beyond the big frame into the nuts and bolts of execution, this dynamic is bound to get into binaries like ‘good Pakistan and bad Pakistan’, much like the good Taliban and bad Taliban of the past. And while New Delhi might feel quite satisfied with the emerging new clarity on Pakistan, the real test will be when the distinctions are made on the ground.
India has always rejected any good terrorist-bad terrorist distinction. Which is why New Delhi has in the past let it be known that it will hold whosoever is in power in Islamabad responsible for reining in terror groups inimical to India, civil or military.
But at the same time, the growing focus on Pakistan’s dubious role will require punishing those harbouring and promoting terror outfits. The glare is on the deep state actors of Pakistan, who will be singled out for specific actions such as a travel ban or assets freeze. These could also include ex-Pak military and ISI officials.
India will surely back these efforts, even seek to proactively inform any policy on this, but it will also mean that New Delhi will have to make some distinction on its part too, especially when it comes to taking a call on resuming talks with Pakistan, if needed.
The second pivot is a bit tricky. Immigration issues have polarised domestic politics across countries, including India, where the Rohingya refugee crisis suddenly turned into a hot button political subject.
While there are many angles to the immigration problem, from employment concerns to changing demographics, it’s on the global axis of terrorism that new norms of distinction are being rewritten – essentially, good immigrants and bad immigrants.
India, for instance, is investing considerable diplomatic energy on packaging the Indian immigrant in US as the ‘best immigrant’, one who enriches the American economy, creates both wealth and jobs, while contributing immensely to America’s knowledge economy.
And then there are ‘bad immigrants’ who are threats to national security. Communities of Muslim immigrants, like Rohingya refugees, are the worst affected by this. India, for instance, is extending all possible humanitarian assistance to Bangladesh to help the Rohingyas stay there.
But at the same time, the Indian government is reaching out to Hindus being persecuted outside India. Those who are here with long term visas are also being considered for citizenship. So, how does one distinguish one refugee community from the other, the good from the bad? The degree of terror threat is usually the deciding factor.
This is not unique to India. The debate has been ripped open across the developed world and it’s through the consensus on terrorism that a new normal is being sought.
The third pivot is terrorist financing. At a time when insular tendencies are beginning to influence governments on the movement of global capital, the one consensus that’s not breached yet is the seamless cooperation among governments and financial institutions on tracking terror funding.
Here again, the key distinction is between ‘good money’ and ‘bad money’. Bodies like the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that maintain a ‘gray list’ of countries not cooperating on terrorist financing and money laundering will become increasingly more relevant. The FATF, for instance, has come up with ‘risk based approaches’ that should be applied to track money and value transfer services among ‘migrant communities’.
It was the threat of being put on the FATF ‘gray list’ which led to Pakistan hurriedly putting a travel ban on Hafiz Muhammad Saeed in January and later banning his newly-formed Tehreek-e-Azaadi Jammu and Kashmir in June.
In other words, a new, quite certainly polarising, narrative on terror is taking shape, creating a fresh global footprint at a time when other structures of ‘old globalisation’ continue to struggle.
And while that may appear all too positive for India, the eventual challenge will be to answer to the pressure to shed policy ambivalence that has so far allowed New Delhi to balance several contradictions – be it on dealing with Pakistan, unregulated finance, or illegal immigration.
Pranab Dhal Samanta is Editor, ThePrint. Twitter: @pranabsamanta.
It serves Pakistan’s national interest (Army’s interest is unfortunately synonymous to national interest) to harbor and nurse terrorist outfits and sponsor terrorism. They have an ally in China who is a veto power that has been countering global pressure on Pakistan to shun terrorism. Unless we generate a greater debate at global level in various economic forums ‘rogues’ like North Korea and Pakistan shall continue to grow and threaten/blackmail the world population. Trade and economic squeeze should certainly hurt these states when isolated at world body level.
Very soon world will see India’s terrorism and duplicity. Indian monkey RAW agent Yadev terrorism in Baluchistan.
Global pressure on Pakistan to stop using terror as an instrument of state policy is most welcome. Its present record will hamper the success of CPEC, which is important for its economic development. However, that still leaves the need for India to engage constructively with its neighbour. Naming and shaming it in global fora, getting other countries to do the same, is not a substitute for having a coherent Pakistan policy.
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