India needs to adopt a level headed approach

After the National Security Council meeting in Islamabad on Thursday, it should be obvious to the authorities across the border that New Delhi’s response to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement on Pulwama attack was immature and uncalled-for. In the high-level huddle, the civilian and military leadership reaffirmed the PM’s stance, vowing to act against any terrorist outfits operating from the country’s territory, while at the same time clarifying that Pakistan would not sit back if there is any act of aggression from across the Indian side.

While the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, in its response to the PM’s statement, maintained that Pakistan needs to take action against terrorist outfits, it forgot to realise that it is precisely what Pakistan has been doing for the past decade. There were mistakes committed in the past, but there is a widespread realisation now, within state institutions and among the civilian leadership, that no non-state actor can be allowed to be armed inside our territory.

All of this is not to say that the job has been done in its entirety. There are legitimate complaints expressed by Pakistani citizens themselves, and the country’s leadership has vowed to act on all such matters. But as a matter of fact, Jaish-e-Mohammad remains banned inside the country for several years, still the authorities have agreed to act on actionable evidence, if there is any to be provided for the purpose. Additionally, the Thursday’s meeting of the NSC hints at a newfound resolve against other militant outfits as well, most notably Hafiz Saeed led Jamaatud Dawa. Here the authorities in Islamabad must ensure that the decision to ban JuD is not taken lightly this time. It should be followed up with concrete measures to show to the international community in support of our pro-peace policy for the region.

Meanwhile, it would be in the interest of both countries for the Indian authorities to tone down on rhetoric, and replace jingoism with some reasoned exchange that can benefit both sides. This will require them to control hawkish voices within the government and the media, so that the way could be paved towards resumption of diplomacy.

The Indian MEA has also rejected Pakistan’s position that the posturing in New Delhi has to do with the upcoming elections. Rejection alone won’t do, however. The Indian side will have to prove us wrong by reciprocating repeated calls from Islamabad for coordination against terrorists and resumption of dialogue. *

Published in Daily Times, February 22nd 2019.