BSF Head Constable Narendra Kumar was on a routine patrol along the India-Pakistan border near Jammu, on September 18, when he was killed by a hail of bullets from across the border. His body was recovered, with his throat cruelly slit, a few hours later, amid outrage across India. People gathered in large numbers for his last rites on September 21 amid grief, outrage and chants of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘Pakistan Murdabad’. On the same evening, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) announced that Minister Sushma Swaraj would be meeting her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi shortly in New York, during the UN General Assembly session. The announcement naturally surprised and angered people. To add insult to injury, three Kashmiri policemen were pulled out of their homes and shot by terrorists from across the Line of Control (LoC) the next day, with warnings that others who were serving the police or government would meet the same fate. An outraged MEA announced that the New York meeting was cancelled.
There is a pattern to ISI-sponsored terrorist attacks on India. The high-profile Vajpayee visit to Lahore was followed by heavy Pakistan infiltration across the LoC in Kashmir, and the Kargil conflict. The Vajpayee-Musharraf Summit in Agra was followed by the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) attack on our Parliament. The continuing dialogue with Pakistan since 2004 was followed by the 26/11 terror strikes on Mumbai. Prime Minister Modi’s goodwill visit to Lahore was, thereafter, followed by the JeM attack on the Pathankot military airbase.
Pakistan’s aim is clear. It is to compel India to join in a “composite” or “comprehensive” dialogue process, which focuses predominantly on Kashmir, primarily to weaken India’s will and get an exhausted India to accede to its territorial ambitions on Kashmir. India should not reject dialogue. It should, instead, insist on diplomatic and military exchanges, and talks that focus primarily on terrorism. International support for India is growing, in the wake of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism against India and Afghanistan.
The recent US State Department Report on International Terrorism is scathingly critical of Pakistan. It holds Pakistan responsible for using groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), JeM and Dawood Ibrahim’s ‘D Company’, for terrorism against India, while using the Taliban and Haqqani network for terrorism in Afghanistan. The Trump Administration does not look at Pakistan as benignly as its predecessors did. Given Pakistan’s fast declining foreign exchange reserves, India will have to persuade the US and its western allies to deny the country IMF financial assistance, till it ends sponsoring terrorism.
Imran Khan’s offer for “dialogue” was a move to persuade the world that Pakistan was sincere in seeking to mend ties with India. Moreover, Pakistan is itself facing separatist challenges in provinces like Balochistan and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa bordering Afghanistan. India and Afghanistan need to use these developments astutely. A combination of western economic pressures and isolating Pakistan in South Asia by moves like not allowing it to preside over SAARC will increase the pressures on it to see reason.
(G Parthasarathy is a former diplomat)