Beyond Masood Azhar, India Must Prepare for a Long Summer with Pakistan

Because George W. Bush could not claim even an imagined victory in the war on terror without Pakistan’s grudging complaisance, it became clear, after Mumbai, that it had a unique immunity in the 1267 committee.

Maulana Masood Azhar, head of militant party Jaish-e-Mohammad and mastermind of the January Pathankot base attack. Credit: Reuters

Maulana Masood Azhar, head of militant party Jaish-e-Mohammad and mastermind of the January Pathankot base attack. Credit: Reuters

Masood Azhar has taken over from Bharat Mata as the latest in the endless line of this government’s trivial pursuits.

All states must freeze the assets of those on the list of individuals and entities banned by the UN Security Council’s 1267 committee, stop them entering or transiting through their territory and place an arms embargo on them. So, after Pathankot, clutching at straws and at hope over experience, India asked the committee to add Azhar to its list, though the past, in which this government dwells, should have told it that this would not ruffle him or end his liaison with Pakistan’s “deep state”.

The Jaish-e-Mohammed has been on the list from 2001; since Azhar is its founder and head, Pakistan needed nothing else to act against him. Both Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi are on the list, as is the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, with its aliases, including Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Pakistan let them draw down their accounts, leaving smidgens, which it froze, reported to the UNSC and claimed credit for. It says the Lashkar and Jaish are banned in Pakistan, so there’s no question of arms being given to them, and the JuD is a charity, which distributes a homonym, alms.  The ban on travel and transit, it argues, only applies to foreigners, not its citizens, who have a constitutional right to move freely in Pakistan, unless restrictions are placed on them by its courts. The 1267 committee accepted this wholesale, the UN Security Council has not demurred and Pakistan’s deep state has the bends laughing.

From 2003, the 1267 list also includes Dawood Ibrahim, shown as an Indian, but with details of his Pakistani passports and addresses. Pakistan is required to stop him entering or staying on. It has not, and is in blatant breach of its obligations. What has the UNSC done? It has been a yogi, contemplating its navel, which soothes our government.

When the Manmohan Singh government got these names inscribed, the 1267 committee was in its infancy, with high hopes placed on it, because it was integral to George W. Bush’s War on Terror. But precisely because Bush could not claim even an imagined victory without Pakistan’s grudging complaisance, it became clear, after Mumbai, that it had a unique immunity in the committee, from which India would get no joy. Therefore, when this government asked the committee to add Azhar to its list, it knew this would put no fetters on him. It would, however, serve three purposes: it would seem to be doing something, it could crow that it had matched the UPA if it had its way at the UN, and the listing would annoy Pakistan. All three are useful to the government, not to the nation to which it pays such unctuous and noisy obeisance.

As it does to the 1267 committee, genuflecting before which seems to be for it an odd conditioned reflex. Over the last two years, this government has asked the committee to list Syed Salahuddin of the United Jihad Council, to investigate how Hafiz Saeed funded huge rallies under financial sanctions, to ask Pakistan how Lakhvi posted bail, when his accounts should have been frozen, and, penultimately, to chide Pakistan for letting its courts free Lakhvi.  Each time, China placed holds on India’s request, which continue, even though Narendra Modi, quite absurdly, took up the last of these episodes with Xi Jinping.

It is so clear that Pakistan’s army will not cede these cheap victories to this government that the Chinese baulk on Azhar was a hold foretold. As the saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. Our government’s reaction to the latest result, the same as the four before it, with ministers breaking out in lamentations in Beijing, Delhi and wherever there is an ear to bend, is also predictably mad. This Chinese panchamrit is bitter for the government, of course it is, but why hold out the chalice for more?

It is though one of the oldest tricks in the diplomatic book to press for something meaningless, pretending it is valuable, and when it is denied, denounce the other party for black betrayal in the hope that, embarrassed, it will make a real concession down the line. It might seem that, in its loyalty to Pakistan, China has fallen for this, but as with all other metals, it has cornered the market in brass; it is not easily embarrassed.

The greater problem for our government is that it must now complain loudly, publicly and continually, but any satisfaction it gets from China, if at all, will be given elsewhere, not linked to its obduracy in New York, so all that the world sees is a procession of Indian ministers beating tiny fists against a great wall. This government claimed to its nation that it would thump its 56-inch chest and all walls would be blown down. The more it huffs and puffs futilely, the more its embonpoint shrinks, the more impotent and foolish it appears.

The five rebuffs at the committee so far show that General Raheel Sharif will make no concessions to Modi. So too does the section on Kashmir in the final communique of the 13th OIC Summit, adopted in Istanbul on April 15, couched in the harsh language of the 1990s, which Pakistan abandoned at the last two summits. Given the tall claims our government makes for itself, there is a temptation to ask if this is what its outreach to the Ummah produced. But that would be unfair, because these statements from the OIC’s summits reflect, not the state of play between India and its members, but between India and Pakistan, and between the army and the government in Pakistan. That is their principal value. (The ancillary value is to Indian diplomats, particularly at the UN, who berate their Arab colleagues with these statements and are taken out to propitiatory lunches awash with the blushful Hippocrene and the hosts’ professions of eternal brotherhood.)

The final communique of the 11th OIC summit, held in Dakar in March 2008, and therefore the last to carry the Musharraf stamp, had the following remarkable paragraph:

The Conference appreciated Pakistan’s commitment to the ongoing Composite Dialogue with India and the flexibility shown by Pakistan in moving forward towards the resolution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute through sincerity, flexibility and courage. It called on India to positively reciprocate in order to arrive at a just and final settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute as the core issue of their conflict. The Conference commended Pakistan for its continuing efforts to create and sustain an enabling environment for the Composite Dialogue with India.

This was when the general still hoped to sign with Manmohan Singh the agreement on J&K negotiated by Satinder Lambah and Tariq Aziz, and through the communique told the Ummah and the world that Pakistan was no longer wedded to its old demands. We now know that General Kayani, who had been complaisant when Musharraf was COAS, had reservations about a settlement once he took over the Army, something that became apparent when Asif Zardari kept pleading for more time to get the PPP’s act together, and put the agreement on hold.

The 12th summit was in Cairo in February 2013, in the dying days of the PPP government. It had no peace initiative to flog and the army saw no need to bait the UPA government, already by then hors de combat. The two paragraphs in this communique were the shortest and most anodyne references to Kashmir at any OIC Summit. There was no reference to flexibility, or to creating a sustaining environment, only a commendation of Pakistan’s “readiness to engage with India to resolve all outstanding issues including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute”.

Istanbul therefore is a long way off from Dakar. There is no reference to dialogue, only an insistence that “Jammu and Kashmir is the core dispute between Pakistan and India and its resolution is indispensable for bringing peace in South Asia”, that India must “implement numerous UN resolutions on Kashmir” and that “freedom struggle must not be equated with terrorism.” That last pronouncement, resurrected after many years, should give us pause. In the most thoughtful way possible, General Sharif’s army is warning India to be ready for a long, hot summer. That is what the government should brace for. The 1267 committee will not help.