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BREAKING NEWS:

The Truth About Exporting Terrorism

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27th-Feb-2020       
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Amelia Charlotte :
February 26 will mark the first anniversary of Indian Air Force's successful raid on terror targets at Balakot in Pakistan. It was on this day, last year when the Indian Air Force in an audacious but well planned operation struck Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM)'s terrorist training facilities in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in a highly covert operation code-named 'Operation Bandar (monkey)'.  This was in aftermath of blood curling suicide attack (fidayeen) carried by Pak based terror outfit Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) on a CRPF convoy, in the Pulwama district in Kashmir valley. The vehicle-borne fidayeen attack by a JeM cadre had left 40 security personnel dead and shattered the peace time efforts which the Indian para-military CRPF was carrying out in the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir. Rouf Asghar, defacto operational Chief of JeM, had on an earlier occasion, while addressing a rally in Karachi, warned that they will bleed India and mentioned about Ghazi Rashid who was the brain behind the Pulwama attack. Ghazi, a close confidant of JeM Chief Masood Azhar and an Afghan war veteran was later killed by the Indian security forces along with multiple JeM terrorist in Pulwama area, where he was holed up following the fidayeen attack.
2. The swiftness and accuracy with which India carried the bombings surprised Pak establishment leaving them red faced and running for cover. According to reports, India sent 12 Mirage 2000 fighter aircrafts who destroyed five of the six designated targets i.e. JeM training facility in Balakot about 60 km from Line of Control (LoC). The surprise element was so complete that by the time Pakistan could scramble its fighter planes, Indian jets had comfortably returned back to their bases. Indian aircrafts dropped 1,000 kgs laser guided bombs thereby eliminating many hardcore operatives along with their trainers. The strike left around 300 trained jihadis dead. The targeted facility which could house between 500-700 people even had a swimming pool along with cooks and cleaners. The facility at Balakot, located on a hilltop far away from civilian population was headed by Maulan Yousuf Azhar @ Ustaad Ghouri, brother-in-law of JeM Chief Masood Azhar. Satellite imagery showed that the facility which is one of JeMs oldest training camps was home to the JeM cadres and was mentioned in the many past instances of terrorism carried by the outfit in India and abroad.
Strategic shift in India's response to Pakistan's mis-adventurism
3. Security experts believe that there has been a strategic change in India's response to deal with Pakistan sponsored terrorism and its support to proxies operating from its soil. India's response first after Uri (2016) and later Balakot (2019) have shattered the myth of a "nuclear hang" crafted by Pakistan, to deter robust response from the Indian side to deal with cross-border terrorism. Many believe that Indian government has broken out of the constraint imposed by nuclear weapons and refused to accept the mythology that there is some kind of "divine sanctity" to the LoC. New Delhi has adopted the strategy of "offensive-defence" to deal with Pakistan's support to continuous infiltration of terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir. The surgical strike in September 2016 against terror launchpads across LoC in response to attack against Army Brigade headquarters in Uri and the Balakot air strike deep inside Pakistan territory are part of this strategy to counter Pakistan's "nuclear impunity". Moreover, the little international empathy Pakistan received (lone exception being China) after the Balakot bombings underlines the shifting of geopolitical fortunes of India and Pakistan over the last three decades.
4. Post Balakot, the Indian Air Force was planning to buy advanced bunker-buster version of Spice-2000 bombs or the building-destroyer which can decimate target buildings. The Spice 2000 bombs used in Balakot were of penetrator version, the guided bomb enters the target building by making a hole on the roof, followed by an explosion within the building to kill enemies with the mix of 70-80 kg explosives with shrapnel.  Now SU 30 MKI combat aircraft have been equipped with Spice 2000 bombs to further boost IAFs capability to strike targets deep within hostile territory. Indian government cleared over Rs 5,000 crore Akash Air defence missile systems to be deployed on the borders with Pakistan and China. IAF has also acquired the Rafale aircraft, additional Su-30 MKI aircraft, Apache helicopters and upgraded Mirage 2000, MIG-29 and Jaguar DARIN -III. In what is being hailed as a landmark decision, the Indian government, later in the year created the post of Chief of Defence Staff which will integrate the operations of the three forces and provide much needed synergy to deal with such situations in future.
Pakistan's International ostracization and being labelled a Pariah State
5. Islamabad has increasingly found itself isolated, with none of the  P-5 countries standing by it and many, in fact, asking Pakistan to take action against the terrorist groups. Even the UAE snubbed Pakistan's demand that the OIC withdraw its invitation to India post the Balakot strike. The then US National Security Advisor John Bolton has gone ahead and supported India's right to self defence against cross-border terrorism and offered all assistance to India. Masood Azhar was designated a global terrorist by the United Nations (United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267) after China lifted its technical reservation on him. China had a change of heart since its reservation of blocking was not in line with international values and principles.  Masood Azhar who has carried out terror activities in Kashmir and other places in India and abroad has been involved in hate mongering, militancy, links with international terror organisation like Al Qaeda. It was a strong message by the world community to Pakistan to act even as Pakistan while promising action against such groups continues to allow India, Afghan and Iran focussed terror groups to operate from its soil. UNSC tag will subject Masood to assets freeze, travel ban and an arms embargo.
6. In Bangladesh, Pakistan has succeeded in sheltering militant groups including from Indian Insurgent Groups during the tenure of BNP.  Their covert role in the killing of Bangabandhu and his close family can not be forgotten. The ISI of Pakistan was behind the smuggling of ten truck load of arms/ammunition at Chittagong Port in August 2004, enough to cease existence of Bangladesh. They can never be friends of Bangladesh for their role in committing genocide during the 1971 Liberation War.
Road ahead
7. There has been a growing criticism against Pakistan for its failure to tackle jihadi rhetoric from its national political discourse and lack of serious commitment from its end in eliminating terror groups emanating from its soil. Various international bodies including the Paris based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) have repeatedly pulled up Islamabad for its failure to take action against such proxies operating from its soil.
8. Pakistan however, has not arrested a single suspect under the anti-Money laundering laws as Lashkar Chief Hafeez Saeed, Jaish Chief Masood Azhar are operating freely in Pakistan without any restrictions. Others like Dawood Ibrahim who is an international fugitive and Designated Global terrorist is running an international arms and narco-trafficking business across three continents from Karachi in Pakistan and the Pak ISI has provided him shelter and patronage and allowed to act with impunity from its soil. Another dimension that proves Pakistan's non-seriousness is the status of 26/11 Mumbai trial which remains a farce with different excuses being propped up to delay the case proceedings. Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, the Chief operator of 26/11 remains on bail while the mastermind Hafeez Saeed has been brought into mainstream even as its political front Mili Muslim League (MML) is contesting elections in Pakistan.
9. There have been house arrests in the past but these arrests are more or less cosmetic. These groups and people like Hafeez Saeed and Masood Azhar continue to operate freely, collect charity, train people. Taha Siddiqui, an award-winning Pakistani journalist living in Paris due to a threat to his life in Pakistan believes that Pakistan follows a 'good militant, bad militant' policy. Taha said that Pakistan terror organisations which are externally focussed operate on Pakistani soil but carry out activities in neighbouring countries. This has served Pakistan's military interests, strategically to have these proxies- militants who act on behalf of Pakistan state to carry out activities and keep the conflict alive in the region. It justifies itself, their own military budget, dominance in Pakistani politics by creating a bogey of a threat and conflict in the neighbourhood. According to Mohsin Dawar, a Pakistani lawmaker and outspoken opposition figure nothing has changed at all. Many in the US State department do not see the arrest of prominent terrorists as consistent and irreversible steps because of Pakistan's history of releasing the same individuals. Hafeez Saeed, who was slapped with international sanctions and who carries a US 10 million bounty for information about his arrest has lived in the country openly for years. Recently, Ehsanullah Ehsan, a notorious Pakistan Taliban member with links to the attempted assassination of educationist activist Malala Yousafzai escaped Pakistani custody to Turkey. Terror groups like JeM had in the past, carried out terror attacks in Pakistan too. In fact, in 2000 they carried out assassination attempt against General Pervez Musharraf.
10.    In the recently concluded plenary session of FATF in Paris it was pointed out that Pakistan addressed only five of the twenty seven measures required to avoid being blacklisted. Pakistan which was placed on the monitoring body's 'Grey list' in June 2018 and since then continued to remain in the list with possibility of being downgraded into the Black list which has countries like Iran and North Korea.  FATF blacklisting would virtually destroy Pakistan's economy and international bodies would enforce humiliating conditions for a bailout. Pakistan's forays into creating friendship with Malaysia with Imran Khan promising Kuala Lumpur in February 3-4 to buy their Palm oil (as India boycotted their market) and recent visit of Turkey President Erdogan on February 14 is nothing but appeasement policy to seek their favour to ease out from FATF blacklisting.
11.    As far as India is concerned, the onus remains on Pakistan to recognise the danger that terrorism poses to the stability. The way ahead will ultimately depend largely on political will by the Pakistan establishment to crack down on terror groups. Pakistan also seems to have forgotten the importance of keeping up with India on the economic front. India's economy which is close to USD 3 trillion is nearly ten times larger than Pakistan's which stands at USD 300 billion.  Meanwhile, on August 05, 2019 Government of India introduced Legislative amendment to the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir subsequent to abrogation of Article 370.  Six months down the line Jammu and Kashmir has seen a new peace in the region with minor stray incidents of violence by terror groups. The heralding of legislative amendments has ushered in a climate of growth and prosperity in the region thereby putting an end to the three decades of Pak induced hostilities in the region.
12. If Intel reports are to be believed, the Balakot camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) that suffered heavily in the hands of India's Air Force, has become active again with 27 hard core extremists are being trained there for launching terror attacks against India. Out of these 27, eight are from Pak-occupied Kashmir. Any such misadventure / terrorist attack by Pakistan based militants on the Indian soil will definitely see a very strong retaliation by India, resulting in further escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan, thus deteriorating the security environment in the region.

(Amelia Charlotte, freelance writer, research fellow, University of Sydney, Australia)

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