If India Wants to be Considered a Global Diplomacy Influencer, This is What It Needs to Do

The fall of Kabul in Afghanistan to the Taliban, as the supposedly democratic government of the Islamic Republic concedes defeat to the Islami Emirate, was written on the wall for a bunch of reasons. The US' constant failure at building capable military and governance institutions and constant oversight of unpopular actions to pretend 'all is well' apart, the Afghans knew what was coming, and the ones with no option but staying behind chose to side with the obvious winning force. One could see that the United States has clearly started its slide downwards, behaving much like a second grade world power after showing what could only be considered cowardice, as was seen by its rather hilarious 'warnings' to Afghanistan that veered on the border of being utterly pathetic

The Global Diplomatic Silence on Pakistan is Frustrating

Ronald Reagan meeting the Mujahideen, 1983

What is extremely frustrating however is the utter silence of the world on the issue of Pakistan's complicity in the entire process. A hashtag trend on Twitter - #SanctionPakistan - was all that it took to shake the country's elite military and foreign policy bureaucracy to its very core. That Pakistan has been  interfering in Pakistan since the times of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto is no secret. As Pakistani scholar Hanif-ur-Rahman has documented, interference in Afghanistan was sought as early as 1973, led by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto despite having suffered a humiliation in 1971, primarily because Afghanistan under Muhammad Daud Khan never accepted the Durand Line and it is said that "Daud, being a diehard supporter of the Pakhtunistan wanted to take advantage of Pakistan’s troubled situation and force it on the re-opening of talks on the Durand Line issue." Under the military dictator General Zia ul Haq, the role of Pakistan transformed into a conduit of weapons and financing for the Soviet resisting Mujahideen forces. This was part of the US' covert Operation Cyclone that was led by US Senator Charles Wilson. Of course, people like Wilson, just as others in the US today, want the world to buy their justifications that the United States had not made a mistake by supporting the Afghan rebels, among them Osama bin Laden and the Islamists who would form the Taliban regime. However, Pakistan post 1991 never gave up on the Taliban; in fact, as Aqil Shah wrote two days ago for Carnegie Endowment:

...the ISI has been the militant group’s principal external patron, reportedly providing it with financial resources, training, weapons, logistical support, and (above all) a safe haven in Pakistani territory that has been crucial to the Taliban’s ability to wage an effective insurgency against the Afghan state and international forces. While the Taliban has other reasons not to compromise with Kabul (including the group’s military successes), the physical sanctuary and diplomatic support from Pakistan reinforces the Taliban’s inclination to press ahead.

Also, as Shah noted further, Pakistan’s military, particularly the ISI, retains considerable leverage over the Taliban, most of which as Christine Fair has said on multiple occasions, is negative reinforcement of sorts. Members of the Taliban’s leadership council reside in Pakistan, and the Taliban freely moves men and materiel into Afghanistan, use Pakistani hospitals to treat their wounded fighters, and communicate with their operational commanders in Afghanistan among other things that make Pakistan's 'worries' about the Taliban a farce.

India Was Sidelined, Will Suffer Badly Unless it Chooses to Act

In all of this, India as a player in Afghanistan was repeatedly sidelined at the behest of Pakistan, which plays the game of Russian roulette on the world diplomatic stage and bawls like a spoilt brat all the time. This negative reinforcement clearly has achieved some brownie points for Pakistan - as late as 5 August 2021, India was not invited to the meet on Afghanistan convened by its supposed all-weather friend Russia apart from the cold shoulder it repeatedly got from the United States, a supposed strategic ally, and a rap by former American President Donald Trump for 'just building a library' in Afghanistan.

Let it be absolutely clear - India can easily be the biggest loser in all the chaos that will spill over eventually from Afghanistan, and it is not in the form of a 'refugee' problem. Pakistan has considerable leverage over the Taliban, and currently the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad are receiving sanctuary from them in the parts of Afghanistan that they control. Many observers of the Af-Pak geography's happenings would recall how Afghan mujahideen associated with the Taliban were found to be operating in Jammu and Kashmir alongside Hizb-ul Mujahideen, LeT and the JeM, pushing them to address Pakistan's 'problem of plenty' with the mujahideen to wage a 'holy war'. This is not a new thing - as Zachary Constantino has noted in this policy paper for the United States Institute of Peace, Under the Taliban, Afghanistan was a training ground for Islamabad-sponsored militants waging a guerrilla war in Indian-administered Kashmir. During the late 1990s, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), relocated many of its Kashmir-focused terrorists into eastern Afghanistan to evade US pressure on Pakistan to curb militant infiltration. Not to forget the fiasco of Kandahar where a hijacked Indian plane was receiving support till three dreaded terrorists were not released by the government.

Remember IC-814?

While our borders are much more secure and there has been a significant drop in jihadi terrorism, the fact remains that Pakistan, despite its own inability to have more leverage on the Taliban than what it has due to its own jitteriness about Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and the common ethnic Pashtun identity across the Durand line that threatens Pakistan's territorial integrity - as Umair Jalal wrote for The Diplomat a few days backthe Afghan Taliban refuses to recognize the Durand Line as a settled border between Afghanistan and Pakistan despite pressure from Islamabad. Pakistan covertly believes that it can manage this insecurity with its leverage on the Taliban, and given its hard attempts at reviving terrorism in Kashmir and Punjab to somehow gain attention of India and force it to come to the talking table, one need not be surprised if there is an even stronger push than the one seen around 2019 to get Afghan terrorists to infiltrate across the borders. This sentiment is already being echoed by several foreign policy and security experts globally now, making one safely assume that action on it is probably already happening in one way or the other. This leaves India with little choice but to act. 

India Needs to Act Beyond Just Enhancing Security. Here's How

While everyone wants to harp on the usual 'beefing up security' rhetoric when it comes to dealing with the Taliban and the fallout coming in, there is yet another reason that is not being highlighted, as one can visualize, why India truly needs to act as well. 

India for the longest time has been calling Pakistan a haven and source of terrorism, directly and indirectly. Having suffered for the longest time due to the low intensity asymmetric war by a Thousand Cuts strategy that the Pakistani military establishment institutionalized ages ago to fight the holy war against India, as ISI's former head Hamid Gul always proudly said. However, it baffles many a people as to why India has never taken action that would decisively set the tone. The continued belief in some magical solution for peace emerging out of thin air continues to blind Indian foreign policy apparatchiks and supposed pappi jhappi Aman ka Tamasha peaceniks in India. Popular opinion in the past seven years particularly put these activists into the dustbin of irrelevance, as people by and large realize that peace is not possible with a state that only seeks to destroy you and will rest at nothing less than that. However, policy makers have given a thousand excuses on why India cannot go the full distance. 

Limited opinion believes that peace is not possible with a state, as said earlier, insistent on your annihilation and sees nothing common with you. A state where people start behaving like lunatics and threaten India with a nuclear attack for 'making tomatoes expensive' is proof of the distance that the supposed military state has drifted away from India. The ceasefire in 2021 on the Line of Control  should be seen for what it is - tactical regrouping attempt by the Pakistani Army to stabilize the country that its puppet Imran Khan has pushed into a bottomless economic abyss. Further complicating the matter is the rise of organizations like Tehreek-e-Labbaik that shook Pakistan's military establishment this year with massively popular protests for three days, and the cocktail of disparate groups fighting to retain some semblance of order is more than visible. Frankly, this makes it even more reason to not engage with the state in any way - there is none to talk to in the first place that is a legitimate voice of reason.

Given these circumstances, the options before India, to be considered seriously as a country that matters on the global stage beyond platitudes, become increasingly clear - it should set the precedent, much like with the ban on Chinese apps, and declare Pakistan a terror state, and sanction it immediately. We do not lose much with this declaration, and despite what many would claim about the irreversibility of the step, would make absolute sense, given how the country's establishment is keen on pushing terrorism into India. Let it be clear - a nuclear powered North Korea too has sanctions, so it makes little reason as to why Pakistan cannot be sanctioned. North Korea, like Pakistan, has been an absolutely irresponsible state, and it does not take much to figure out that domestic votebank politics of Pakistani Muslim voters in countries like UK and US results in different standards being practiced by the global 'powers'.

A sanction regime and label of terror state by India will set the tone, and force many a country that are already fed up with Pakistan's double speak at every moment to consider the possibility and feasibility of the action. Pakistan will smuggle nuclear tech to rogue states has happened , frankly because countries like the US chose to ignore it - that fear will remain even in the future, given how they chose not to act on Pakistan regarding Afghanistan. However, domestic pressure can be created only if a country right in the neighbourhood of this rogue state chooses to cut off all dealings with it and create a pariah out of it. There is no reason why we should continue to dilly dally on the subject anymore.  This will actually send shivers down the regime of the Pakistani regime, and they very well know it - it is after all India that Pakistan has always used to pull itself out of global isolation on multiple occasions. This terror state label will close that window permanently, and force the world to consider the problem hard and strong. The world too will only then take our call for isolating Pakistan seriously enough.

We have had enough of Pakistan, and it is time that the world is forced to take this seriously as well.


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