In pithy remarks from a think tank forum on Thursday, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj once again asked Pakistan to act against terrorists operating from its soil, and to stop acts of terror against India. She said India’s ties with Pakistan would become normal if these steps were taken.
This was an elaboration of the line pursued by this government since a series of terrorist actions since January 2016 vitiated the atmosphere, culminating in the “surgical strike” of September 2017. Ms Swaraj’s unambiguous language is an indication India doesn’t deem Prime Minister Imran Khan’s professions of peace as sincere in the absence of concrete action against terrorists.
There can be little doubt that India’s stance against Pakistan has hardened since the Pulwama attack. Making the Kartarpur Saheb corridor operational — if this were to materialise in the near future — to facilitate the visit of Indian pilgrims to the important Sikh shrine will thus serve as a positive step at the people-to-people level. But it will not necessarily help in fixing state-to-state ties.
The external affairs minister said India’s airstrike in Balakot on February 26 was against a terrorist camp, and not against the Pakistani military or civilians. But Pakistan’s retaliatory intrusion into Indian airspace on February 27 to drop a bomb inside a military compound was undertaken on behalf of JeM.
There is a deeper implication that flows from this — that the Pakistan government and state are inseparable from a terrorist outfit. Of course, Pakistan is unlikely to accept this, although the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan rests heavily on official support, a well-documented fact.
Even so, although India officially called the Balakot strike as being “non-military” and “pre-emptive” in nature, the Pakistani establishment is not likely to accept this claim as Indian air power was used beyond the Line of Control for the first time after the 1971 war, and India has officially not yet stated that Indian aircraft did not violate Pakistani airspace in striking a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Pakistan’s Khyber-Paktunkhwa province. The fact that “standoff” weapons from within PoK were deployed to hit a target inside Pakistan has been suggested only in media leaks.
Apart from the rival narratives of the two countries on the Balakot issue, there is little doubt that Pakistan is mixed up heavily with terrorist outfits. As Ms Swaraj said caustically, if the Pakistan PM’s “gesture of peace” and supposed “generosity” in releasing Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is for real, he should hand over Masood Azhar to India forthwith.
This is an entirely valid demand. If the JeM founder were to be sent to India to face punishment since Pakistan can’t punish him, there would be no need to move the UN to sanction him, and India’s ties with China won’t deteriorate since Beijing springs to save the terrorist in the UN Security Council....