Is terrorism the new international norm? | Dr Adil Sultan

Indian Prime Minister Modi during his recent visit to Bangladesh admitted that his country helped the insurgency against Pakistan that led to the disintegration in the 1971 war. He also took credit for his personal contribution as a young volunteer.

Earlier, India’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar made another irresponsible statement that reflects the prevailing mindset in ‘Modi’s BJP’ stating that “terrorists have to be neutralised only through terrorists.”

These statements by senior functionaries of the ‘state’ not only substantiate the claims made in the recent stories by credible western media outlets, but also provide enough evidence for India to be indicted at the International Court of Justice for its interference and support for terrorism in another country. This is against the fundamentals of the UN Charter and the UN Security Council Resolution of 2001 against terrorism.

According to the UNSC Resolution 1373, it is obligatory upon all states to “refrain from organizing, instigating, assisting or participating in terrorist acts in another State or acquiescing in organised activities within its territory directed towards the commission of such acts.” The statement by India’s defence minister is reflective of a state policy, and India could therefore be held accountable for violation of its UNSCR 1373 obligations.

The recent surge in terrorist acts, especially in Balochistan and Karachi, is already being viewed as part of Modi’s BJP to destabilise Pakistan. The reservation conveyed by India’s minister for external affairs about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) further endorses this apprehension.

The ongoing competition of bellicosity amongst BJP’s leaders seems to be intended towards a domesticaudience – to deflect growing criticism on the BJP’s failure to live up to its electoral promises, and also because of other pressing domestic issues. Another objective may well be to signal India’s willingness to play its role in containing China. Nevertheless, the continued silence by the international community on India’s behaviour reflects the tacit approval of India’s offer of playing the role of a spoiler in the region.

Instead of challenging this irresponsible behaviour demonstrated through leader-level statements against Pakistan, some very responsible western scholars have embarked upon building justification for India’s covert activities against Pakistan. In a recently published paper titled ‘Modi’s Strategic Choice: How to Respond to Terrorism from Pakistan’, two well-respected US-based scholars have concluded that since India does not have any options to deal with Pakistan, therefore it could possibly consider “more symmetrical and covert operations [that] would yield a better ratio of risk to effectiveness.”

Notwithstanding the merits of the arguments, it is for the first time that a serious scholarly pursuit has come out so openly with a recommendation suggesting the possible use of terrorism as state policy. This would lead to further chaos. If sponsoring terrorism could be justified for India, other states could also build a similar justification, and ‘terrorism’ could become an internationally acceptable norm. Several major powers are often accused of indulging in covert activities against smaller states for their own political interests, but none has ever tried to build a justification so blatantly.

Terrorism remains a global challenge and threat to international security. Pakistan has remained the biggest victim of this menace and has suffered more losses than any other country in the world. Ironically, most ‘non-state academics’ (NSAs) remain fixated on a fictitious Mumbai-II scenario. The barbaric and gruesome killings of 147 young children at a school in Pakistan last December was a much bigger loss but fails to get due empathy at the international level. Instead, such incidents are exploited to unjustifiably pressurise Pakistan by showing its internal security and its capacity to secure nuclear assets in a negative light.

One such concern was recently highlighted by India’s State Minister for Defence Rao Inderjeet at the last Shangri La Dialogue held at Singapore: “With the rise of Isis in West Asia, one is afraid to an extent that perhaps they might get access to a nuclear arsenal from states like Pakistan.” Those who understand the complexities involved in handling of nuclear weapons would know better that the Isis claim was no more than mere rhetoric, but using it at a prestigious forum to bring negative spotlight on Pakistan exposes the real intent of such claims.

Pakistan can live without talking to India for another Modi term – since we do not aspire to be a global power. But can India de-hyphenate itself from the region without addressing the core disputes with its only neighbour that really matters? One year in office is significant time for PM Modi to assess his policies with respect to India’s ‘projected’ and ‘actual’ potential. So far Modi has very little to show in terms of his leadership credentials, and is therefore being increasingly touted by the Congress as only a ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’ – a cynical metaphor for Modi’s penchant for his personal image.

The writer has a PhD in security studies and is currently a Visiting Research Fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), London. The views expressed are his own.


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