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Pulwama Attack: Pakistan and its proxies a destabilising force in Asia

The Terrorist Attack Perpetrated By Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) That Killed 44 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Personnel At Awantipora (Pulwama) In Jammu And Kashmir Is The Latest Example Of Pakistan’s Use Of Military Proxies To Wage War In India And Destabilise The Region

By : Fayiq Wani | Updated on: 23 Feb 2019, 02:54:51 PM
Despite being a nuclear power, India’s military response to devastating terror attacks has always been dealt with restraint

New Delhi:

The terrorist attack perpetrated by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) that killed 44 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel at Awantipora (Pulwama) in Jammu and Kashmir is the latest example of Pakistan’s use of military proxies to wage war in India and destabilise the region. Pakistan’s use of proxies adopting jihad is neither new nor a secret, its failure to militarily seize the state of Jammu and Kashmir during the wars of 1947, 1965, and 1999 have made the use of proxies extremely lucrative and a legitimate part of their foreign policy since the 1980s.

The sudden spurt and tenacity of the attacks is a growing cause of concern- The attack on the military bases at Uri and Pathankot in January and September 2016 respectively highlight the change in strategy and intensity of the attacks, wherein heavily armed terrorists have been on the offensive attacking well-guarded and equipped military bases on the Indian side.

The casualties in Pathankot and Uri were 8 and 19 respectively. This compared with the attack at Avantipora, which killed 44 soldiers indicate a gradual increase in the number of casualties making this one of the deadliest attacks against Indian security personnel in Jammu and Kashmir in recent times.

India, however, is not the only state facing repercussion from Pakistani proxies. Iran and Afghanistan are at the heart of battle perpetrated by Pakistani military through their proxies the Jaish-u-Adl (JuA), loosely translated to Army of Justice and the Taliban respectively.

JuA, is an extremist Sunni-Salafi militant group has been operating from Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan Province and vehemently fighting against the Iran’s Shia establishment since 2012. JuA and its predecessor Jundullah have killed over 400 soldiers and 150 civilians in Iran so far. Some of their daring attacks include, kidnapping nine Iranian Revolutionary Guards and holding them hostage in Pakistani territory in 2013. The most recent attack occurred just a day before the Pulwama attack, where a JuA suicide bomber rammed a car carrying explosives into a bus ferrying Iranian military personnel killing 27 and wounding 13.

This tactic replicated the following day by JeM in Kashmir against the CRPF indicates a link between the attacks and possible common strategy nurtured by Pakistani intelligence agencies and implemented by its proxies across the region.

India’s restrained response to attacks and China role in emboldening Pakistan

Despite being a nuclear power, India’s military response to devastating terror attacks, including the surgical strike in the aftermath of Uri against known terrorist bases in Pakistan has always been dealt with restraint.

This is a strategy most likely to continue due to China’s close association with Pakistan despite its links with extremists. Pakistan is the focal point for China’s Belt and Road initiative, which is solely aimed at building China’s global trade network and the 54 Billion Dollar partially operational China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) connecting Pakistan’s Gwadar port to Kashgar in China’s restive Xinjiang province.

The corridor, which cuts across the contested Gilgit Baltistan, in Pakistan occupied  Jammu and Kashmir is undoubtedly expected to bolster China’s influence in the region and also more importantly ensures that the Pakistani military and its jihadi proxies turn a blind eye if not divert attention from the atrocities perpetrated against China’s Muslim population, particularly the Uighurs.

Additionally, Chinese attempts to thwart India and the United Nation’s proposal to add JeM’s head Masood Azhar into the list of global terrorists as per the criteria listed in the1267 Committee of UN Security Council is another means to subvert India’s attempts to take credible action against terrorist groups operating in Pakistan.

India’s attempt to diplomatically isolate Pakistan by pulling out of the 19th SAARC Summit scheduled in Islamabad in November 2016 and successfully managing to convince Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives to boycott the Summit has not paid any dividend. This undoubtedly suggests that any attempt to militarily and financially cripple terrorist groups is difficult with Chinese support, particularly at a time when the regional power balance is tilted in China’s favour.

This also suggests that India and the states facing the brunt of the Pakistani proxies must form a multilateral partnership to deal with terrorism destabilising the region.

Strengthening ties in adversity: India, Iran and Afghanistan partnership

Since 2003, India has been actively engaging Iran and Afghanistan in constructing a deep-sea port in Chabahar, Iran and constructing series of roads linking Afghanistan’s principal cities with the port. This move is to help India gain access and leverage access to Afghanistan and Central Asia bypassing Pakistan.

In January 2019, India took up operations in Chabahar port and given the threats from terrorist groups like JuA there is no doubt that it is in the interest of India to strengthen ties with Iran with the focus on counter-insurgency operations (this is also reflected in the recent tweet from Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister). The main drawback, however, would be risking alienating the United States of America at a time when the Trump administration has imposed sanctions and, in the process, coercing countries including India to cut ties and isolate Iran. USA needs to understand that Iran and India have historical ties and share common security threats invariably making it impossible to cut ties.

Moreover, the USA must also understand that cancellation of the 300-million-dollar annual aid to Pakistan to fight insurgents and terrorists alone is not enough to end the deteriorating security in the region. The USA must go beyond castigating Pakistan and consider imposing economic sanctions or intervene to ensure Pakistan acts against terrorist groups like the JeM and Lakshar-e-Taiba, that continue to function under other aliases despite being banned in Pakistan.

Similarly, Afghanistan’s relationship with India has grown considerably since the collapse of the Taliban, so much so that Pakistan has viewed Indian presence as a threat. This is clearly evidenced in the attacks against Indian Border Roads Organisation and Indian consulates in Herat, Jalalabad and Kabul in the years 2007, 2008, 2014 and 2018. Therefore, a multilateral partnership between India, Iran and Afghanistan is the need of the hour, particularly at a time with the US drawdown of troops in Afghanistan and the presence of the Taliban and ISIS pose a threat to Afghanistan’s stability. 

In a move to add pressure on Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir, India has also examined the scope to review the Indus Water treaty which divides the use of the Indus Water System. The treaty between India and Pakistan was brokered by the World Bank in 1960, it allows India the use of the eastern rivers (Sutlej, Ravi and Beas) while the western rivers (Indus, Chenab and Jhelum) were allocated to Pakistan.

India is allowed limited use of the Western rivers for domestic, non-consumptive, agricultural purposes and for the generation of hydroelectric power, which it has not capitalised. This is also been highlighted in the 2017 External Affairs Committee Report on Indo-Pakistan Relations and has never violated the treaty despite numerous wars with Pakistan, India could, however, consider capitalizing the use of the Western rivers to put pressure on the Indus dependent Pakistan. 

Financing and training proxies to plot and attack India, Iran and Afghanistan seems to be in the interest of Pakistan. Abandoning their proxies have had the corresponding impact on Pakistan’s own security, which includes terrorist attacks on civilian targets in Pakistan. However, regional response to persistent attacks must evolve and it is time India takes the lead to strengthen multi-lateral partnership within the region to jointly counter-terrorism and domestically examine ways that could pressure Pakistan desist attacking India with its proxies.   

Disclaimer: The opinions and facts expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. They do not reflect the views of News Nation. The NNPL does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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First Published : 23 Feb 2019, 01:55:06 PM