India-Pakistan Conflict: Support For India: RSTV – India’s World

Anchor: Frank Rausan Pereira

Guests: Amar Sinha, Former Ambassador; Dilip Sinha, Former Ambassador; Prof. Swaran Singh, School of International Studies, JNU

Larger Background:

  • Reaffirming strong opposition to terrorism, India, Russia and China, recently said that extremist groups cannot be supported, and those backing terrorist acts must be held accountable and brought to justice.
  • In a joint communique of the 16th Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Russia, India and China, the three nations strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
  • The strong wording of the communique came amid heightened tensions between India and Pakistan after February 14, 2019, Pulwama attack after which India targeted terrorist camps in Pakistan.
  • Meanwhile, the US, the UK and France moved a fresh proposal in the UN Security Council to designate Pakistan-based terror group JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, a listing that will subject him to the global travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo.
  • The fresh proposal was moved by the three permanent veto-wielding members of the 15-nation Security Council. The Security Council Sanctions Committee will have 10 working days to consider the fresh proposal submitted by the by the three members.
  • The proposal is the fourth such bid at the UN in the last 10 years to list Azhar as a global terrorist.
  • This edition of India’s World will analyse the support India received after the Pulwama attack on the 14th of February, 2019.

Analysis by the Experts:

Post the Pulwama attack, we saw several countries come out in support of India. As a matter of fact, almost the entire world stood with India. Was this due to the nature of the attack? Or was it because of what India did diplomatically?

Amar Sinha, Former Ambassador, weighed in with his arguments here.  

Well, it is a combination of both. But more importantly, I believe that the world really doesn’t want to see deep states supporting terrorism. Thus, it is also a signal to the countries which continue with such policies, that the world is really fed up with this sort of a policy.

It is this that is currently driving the support that we are witnessing today.

We also saw at the RIC meet that China too backed India. As a matter of fact, China, Russia and India were seen on the same page when they said that terror havens need to be destroyed. Although Pakistan was not named, but clearly, the message was for Pakistan.

Prof. Swaran Singh, School of International Studies, JNU, weighed in with his arguments here.

  • Well, these three counties, i.e Russia, India and China, also work together in several other forums. These include BRICS or Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), where they have been repeatedly working together in countering terrorism. As a matter of fact, international cooperation is inbuilt in countering terrorism. It is this realization that pushed China to behave as neutral, even with its all-weather-friend, Pakistan.  When the Chinese believe that they are getting isolated and marginalized, and alienated from others, then they fall in line more or less, and this can be seen in all episodes, whether it is the IAEA waiver for India, NSG waiver for India, in all kinds of situations, the Chinese would be the last ones to at least take a neutral position.
  • Also, recently, France along with the U.S. and U.K. has once again proposed declaring Azhar Masood as a global terrorist. Also, recently, France has taken over the presidency of the UNSC (UN Security Council). Thus, again, China is getting marginalized. There is an environment developing where the Chinese would have to willy-nilly give in. A situation is emerging where Azhar Masood may be declared as a global terrorist.
  • The recent interviews given by Pakistan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Shah Mehmood Qureshi to the BBC and CNN have revealed the following: a) That Masood Azhar is in Pakistan, and b) The Pakistani establishment is looking for excuses as they are saying that he is so sick that he needs to be kept at home.

What is the process at the UNSC, and why hasn’t labelling Masood Azhar as a global terrorist already happened?    

Dilip Sinha, Former Ambassador, weighed in with his arguments here.

  • Well, the process in the Security Council, especially in the sanctions committee is completely opaque. We don’t know as to what happens inside, it is the P5 group of countries that sit there and they take decisions. This has been examined time and again over the issue of other terrorists. There is no information available as to why a particular decision is taken or not taken.
  • Why is a particular person listed as a global terrorist or not listed? We do not even know for certain if China is indeed opposing things, although we believe that it is China who is opposing. Now that the P3 has proposed the name of Masood Azhar, his name would again go into the sanctions committee and only then one would get to know whether it is accepted or not accepted.
  • It is only through informal sources that we may know whether it is China or Russia or any other country that has opposed it.
  • As of now, the line taken by China and Russia in the RIC joint communique is in line with the general position they have taken in the security council throughout this period, which is the fact that they condemn terrorism (and this is in line with the various resolutions of the Security Council on terrorism), and the condemnation or the naming of individuals or organizations is based on whether or not they have been sanctioned by the sanctions committee or not. So, Jaesh-e-Mohammad is sanctioned, but Masood Azhar who is the head of this organization is not listed. Now, whether China will lift its veto on this is, we don’t know for sure at the moment. There is no indication yet that it will.
  • However, we can be optimistic that we can make some progress this time.

Talking about progress and talking about listing Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, is this something that Pakistan is preparing for?

Amar Sinha, Former Ambassador, weighed in with his arguments here.

  • I wouldn’t want to count chickens till they hatch. While of course, China has been neutral, but one shouldn’t give them a certificate of good behaviour just yet. It is happening not just because China is getting isolated; it is happening also because China realizes that the hub of global terror is going to affect them one day in some way. It so happens that Pakistan seems to have a terror group that seems to focus on each of its neighbouring countries. As a matter of fact, we have overlooked the fact that Iran is extremely angry with the terror attack against them as well just as the day before the Pulwama attacks. When we look at the Irani media, we can sense a huge amount of anger.  They have also given evidence to the Pakistani authorities, and they want the Pakistani government to take action. As a matter of fact, they have also threatened that if Pakistan doesn’t act, then they will take action on Pakistani territory. China also knows that it cannot build a second ‘Great Wall of China’ to insulate itself from all these happenings. Thus, it is in China’s interest that terror is neutralized in Pakistan because they have a lot of interest in Pakistan as well.
  • Because of their long friendship with Pakistan, they may not like to publically castigate Pakistan. However, sooner or later, they would have to realize that this is a policy which is going to hurt them also in the long-term. There is no terror group which will only attack one country.

Is it right to say that the ball now is in China’s court?

Prof. Swaran Singh, School of International Studies, JNU, weighed in with his arguments here.

  • I believe it appears so. We cannot be sure because these are closed-door meetings, except that to some extent, we get to know informally as to what happened inside. However, these are only inferences that we are drawing.

  • The fact that out of 5 members of the UNSC, we have 3 members who are already proposing Masood Azhar’s name to be listed as a global terrorist, signals a clear intention. Also, Russia has traditionally been a friend of India, although in the last 10 years or so, there has been a drift very clearly towards China and to some extent also towards Pakistan. Thus, when we infer as to who might be the candidate who might block the proposal, it would most likely be the Chinese.
  • Also, they have repeatedly done so even in bilateral discussions with India. India has also been trying at the bilateral level to convince the Chinese that Masood Azhar can be declared as a global terrorist.  However, if we look at the track record, if we look at the Kargil war (which was the first was we had after both India and Pakistan became nuclear), the Chinese had rebuffed Nawaz Shariff; as a matter of fact, Nawaz Shariff had to cut short his visit to China and come back. Further, when Nawaz Shariff went to Washington D.C., Bill Clinton said the same thing- that he has to sort things out with India.
  • India has been cultivating a strong body of advocacy against terrorism for decades now, and what is interesting to see is how the whole Arab world or the Muslim world would behave. As a matter of fact, when we look at the OIC, India again has a lot to gain from good relations with the OIC group of nations. As a matter of fact, of late, the OIC has been engaging India in a very different fashion. Thus, all these are very well calibrated pressures that are being brought upon Pakistan and indirectly on China.  
  • Thus I am assuming that is only a matter of time that Masood Azhar is declared as a global terrorist.

 

What are the factors that we can attribute to the reasons as to why the attitude of OIC has changed? What has worked in India’s favour?  Isn’t it not a diplomatic victory for India to consider what has happened at the OIC, isn’t it?

Dilip Sinha, Former Ambassador, weighed in with his arguments to this question.

  • Yes, it is a great victory for us. The very fact that over a period of 50 years, the situation has been completely reversed, and there has been an invitation to our Minister of External Affairs.
  • This invitation saw her (Sushma Swaraj) addressing the organization. In my opinion, this was a great success of our diplomacy and of our foreign policy in general. However, this is not a development that has taken place overnight. It is a product of a policy that we have followed over the past several years, of maintaining a steady and stable foreign policy in which certain principles of global values are maintained. For example, our policy of secularism, our policy of judging issues on their merit.
  • Thus, whether it is the case of Palestine Vs. Israel, where we support Israel on certain issues, and we support Palestine on its cause; similarly on the confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and on the crisis in Yemen for example.  Further, even during the confrontation within the GCC between Qatar and the UAE and Saudi Arabia, also on the Syrian conflict- in essence, in all these issues, our position has been extremely principled. This principled position is appreciated by all these countries.  Also because the Indian people who reside in these countries are an asset to these countries. We don’t take sides in their internal conflicts- in their internal sectarian issues where they have problems, and this raises the image and the stature of our country.
  • Also, these countries realize that apart from the political issues, there is the factor of the Indian market, which is extremely important. It is one of the largest markets in this region. Also, it is a stable, fast growing market. Thus, these political and economic factors together make it very important for these countries to keep India on their right side.

Talking about the Arab world now, there are several media reports came out in the open and said that it was because of pressure from the Arab world, that Pakistan was forced to act and release Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman who was captured by them within a matter of less than 48 hours. Does this mean that Pakistan’s influence over Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and the other Arab world countries is waning and does that mean that the support  is coming India’s way?

Amar Sinha, Former Ambassador, weighed in with his arguments here.

    • Well it means that on certain issues the Arab world doesn’t really see or support Pakistan blindly. Further, the Arab world is itself changing. If one sees what is happening in Saudi Arabia or what is happening in the UAE. For example, the OIC’s theme is “Prosperity and Development”. So, they are also now preparing for a post-oil world; they are trying to modernize their societies, modernize their economies, and for that they need global engagements. These global engagements need to be based on values. India is engaging with the world economically and that is a big plus point. As a matter of fact, that is the reason why you see this sort of support. Both the credibility of India and its economic heft are two major factors which is changing attitudes. This is something that we will have to realize and Pakistan also has to understand that it cannot really overplay the world. Through our own interactions with the Arab world, one gets the indications that even they are a bit fed up that the OIC seems to have become a “PIC”- Pakistan Islamic Conference- which it certainly isn’t!
    • Pakistan seems to hijack the agenda at the OIC each year. They have created a contact group on Kashmir and the OIC members in their private capacity say that they ignore these statements. But certainly, the landmark Foreign Minister’s meeting which is also commemorating the 50th anniversary of the OIC, the absence of Pakistan’s involvement in this year’s meeting, owing to India’s  Foreign Minister being invited as the Guest of Honour, marks a major change in the way the OIC members look at Pakistan’s role in curbing terror.

  • Further, no organization and no group of countries would like to be identified as supporters of terror or countries which are actually promoting terror. Further, a large number of countries from the OIC are also allies of the United States of America.   

  • We are the third largest economy in the world, and we are not only a major consumer of their oil and gas, but we also have a huge export basket to these countries.

 

What role has the United States of America played? Because the very first indication that we got, on a possible de-escalation, was when President Trump came out and addressed the media and said that we are going to have some good news as far as the India-Pak front is concerned.  

Prof. Swaran Singh, School of International Studies, JNU, weighed in with his arguments here.

  • I believe that in the last 15 years, we have noticed that India has built fairly close and strong relations with the United States of America. Also, this has resulted in all the friends and allies of the United States of America, becoming closer to India. Examples which appear to be very clear are that of UAE and Saudi Arabia in case of the Islamic world.  
  • The way how Saudi Arabia is currently engaging with India is very different. Further, although there are groups in the Islamic world that don’t see eye to eye with each other, it is very encouraging that India has good relations with most of them- from Iran to Saudi Arabia to the UAE, including Israel as well. The de-escalation has been the result of a calibrated effort from several players both inside India and outside India. There has been a gradual transformation of India’s image and stature.
  • There is an inherent asymmetry as far as power equations are concerned between India and Pakistan- these power equations include military power, soft power, and the broader engagement that India has with the rest of the world.

Our neighbours too have supported India, be it Nepal, Sri Lanka; even countries like Australia, have come out in support of India. Your thoughts on that.

Dilip Sinha, Former Ambassador, weighed in with his arguments here.

Our action, one must remember, was a very carefully, calibrated, measured action. This is an important aspect to point out. This is important even to get support from other countries of the world. The strike was a non-military pre-emptive strike.

The target was non-military; it was specifically targeted against terrorist camps. No civilians were killed, no military installations were attacked, and it was a pin-point attack which came within the purview of international law on two counts:

  1. It was an exercise of the right of self-defense. The non-military, pre-emptive strike, which is an accepted form of self-defense, was an extension of this.
  2. Also, it was a fight within terror camps.

Thus, it fell within the purview of the war on terror, which the whole world has been fighting, i.e. many countries have taken action against terror groups. Thus, there was no reason, whatsoever for any country to question the validity, or the legality of the Indian action. This is very important for us to understand- that the action which the Government of India took, was a very measured action. This made is easy for countries to support India even if they had reservations against us.  

Concluding Remarks:

  • Even in the times of adversity, the response from the Government of India was very measured. This projected an image of a responsible India and also an India that is determined to counter-attack and defend itself. We have also broken the nuclear myth- that a nuclear umbrella would give you a sense of immunity. Further, the credibility of the country was given priority.
  • Finally, this is a war on terror that India is fighting. India should ensure that it is kept within those parameters and that will ensure that there is global support for its cause. This is because the whole world is against terrorism, and we should instead of indulging in jingoism, ensure that we make it clear to everybody that we are fighting a war on terror. In this fight, the whole world will join us.

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