The US Secretary of State John Kerry, during his recent visit to India, once again assured us that the US was fully with India in the fight against terror and added that he had spoken to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and General Raheel Sharif regarding the need for Pakistan to deprive any terrorist group of sanctuaries. He asserted that there were no good or bad terrorists and that the US stood in strong partnership with India against all terrorism, no matter where it came from, no matter what form it took. Soothing words indeed, but very familiar to our ears, because this is what the US has been telling us from the time we started discussing cross-border terrorism with them. At the same time he also pointed out that it was vital for Pakistan, itself a victim of terrorism, to join the nations to tackle this challenge and in fairness, in recent weeks and months, they have been moving much more authoritatively in the western part of their country on some groups and the Haqqani network.
Considered in its entirety, Kerry has said nothing new and only restated the US policy towards Pakistan, namely of zero tolerance for Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Afghanistan and benign indifference to it as far as cross-border terrorism against India is concerned.
I have been firmly convinced for many years now that the US will never like to lose Pakistan as an ally, however close we get to it. It will never pay more than lip service to our concerns on terrorism. And I am not saying this without reason.
Musharraf published his memoirs “In the Line of Fire” in 2006 when he was still the President of Pakistan. In this book he talks about the developments which followed the terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York on September 11, 2001. First he tells us about the phone call he received from the US Secretary of State Colin Powell the very next morning in which Powell told him candidly “You are either with us or against us.” This, he says was a blatant threat. But the worst was still to come. The Director General of the infamous ISI of Pakistan was in Washington. He had a meeting with Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State who told him that if Pakistan chose the terrorists and not the US, then it should be prepared to be “bombed back to the Stone Age”. As Musharraf calls it, a shocking barefaced threat and the most undiplomatic statement ever made. He chose to go with the US. Not only that, he also meekly handed over to the US the accredited ambassador to Islamabad of the Taliban regime in Kabul, a regime which was recognized by Pakistan. The ambassador was duly dispatched to Guantanamo Bay. The rest is history. I am mentioning this statement from ‘the horse’s mouth’ only to show that even today, all that it will take of the US is to issue a stern warning to Pakistan to stop state-sponsored cross-border terrorism against India, dismantle the terrorist training camps, destroy the terrorist networks, move against the internationally identified terrorists on Pakistani soil and act without delay against the perpetrators of terrorist attacks against India, specially in Mumbai and Pathankot. Will the US do it?
Will the US give us the same freedom of action it enjoys in dealing with terrorists in Pakistan? Will it support us if we were to take preemptive action against Dawood Ibrahim or Masood Azhar like the US did in the case of Osama Bin Laden? Will it stand with us if we sent our drones in Pakistan-Occupied territories to target terrorists and their camps? The answer to all these questions is a resounding “No.” Who said double standards do not exist?
I am happy that Sushma Swaraj frankly told the press in the presence of Kerry that terrorism and talks cannot go together. India must stick to this position in the face of all pressure from our so-called friends to engage with Pakistan. We must also realize that the fight against Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism is our fight and ours alone. No other country is going to help us fight this battle on the ground. Our diplomatic offensive against Pakistan must continue but we must remember its limitations.
Pakistan is going to mount a virulent campaign against India in all the forthcoming multilateral meetings like the G20, NAM and the UNGA. While India no doubt would have worked out its counter strategy to tackle this nuisance, it will be interesting to watch the response of our friends specially our close neighbours and the US.
(Yashwant Sinha is a senior BJP leader and former Union Minister of External Affairs.)