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Oct
18

Speedboat of peace needed

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THE direct message from Cyril Almeida’s aborted harassment in Pakistan and the nuanced message from the BRICS summit in India have an unwitting connection, beyond their incidental Goa link. The Pakistan establishment would like to deny — though they may not succeed — that the world wants them to fix the security apparatus’s apparently stubborn need to court rabid freelancers as a policy to deal with neighbours. The message from BRICS is — though India will be in denial — that New Delhi needs to improve human rights conditions in Kashmir as elsewhere, and thereby explore a political answer to the terrorism that dogs it in different parts of the country. There is no military solution, according to the unstated message.

If anything, despite the host’s repeated decibels about Pakistan being the ‘mothership of terrorism’ reference to cross-border militancy did not figure in the summit statement.

Almeida himself admits that his story would have had a shorter shelf life but for the official denial and harassment that followed. Domestic outrage against the government’s move to block the journalist’s travel rights revealed a welcome truth. The world may be only pondering the word ‘isolation’ for Pakistan, but public opinion in Pakistan seems less tentative about what needs to be fixed and how. It is thus that Almeida’s story stands. And Pakistan has been advised by Pakistanis to find a better alternative to sending emissaries to a world already overloaded with its own deep problems — from Brexit to the sabre-rattling over Syria and the mud bath called American elections.


What happened to India’s diplomatic draftsmen? Where is the reference to the source of much of the headache?


Instead, Pakistan could be more agreeably engaged at home, confronting the threats the world faces, above all, Pakistanis themselves feel under their skin. No one seriously wants Pakistan to live in denial about dangerously armed messianic zealots roaming in the country freely, with or without state support. That’s one side of the coin.

The other was witnessed in Goa. That’s where India, host of the BRICS summit, was made aware by China, not too obliquely, to take into account the root causes of terrorism that everyone censures, and to find a political solution. Moreover, the BRICS document, which its five leaders signed, speaks of the need to observe human rights and to respect the UN Charter in dealing with terrorism. It is early days to say how the Indians will officially interpret these references. But in the public mind across the board these could mean a number of things.

Let’s refer to one of the occasions that the UN and rights are mentioned in the Goa document. “We acknowledge that international terrorism, especially the [militant Islamic State group] and affiliated terrorist groups and individuals, constitute a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security.” If the statement is a reflection of how India has isolated Pakistan internationally, it leaves much to the imagination.

Pakistan may be the ‘mothership of terrorism’ for India as Prime Minister Narendra Modi underscored at the summit, but what happened to India’s diplomatic draftsmen? Where is the reference to the source of much of the headache? Let me put it another way. The next chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade in January will be the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. How would he see the understanding of terrorism that BRICS has highlighted, mainly with regard to Syria?

There’s more advice that may not please everyone in BRICS or outside. “Stressing UN’s central role in coordinating multilateral approaches against terrorism, we [BRICS leaders] urge all nations to undertake effective implementation of relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, and reaffirm our commitment on increasing the effectiveness of the UN counterterrorism framework.”

A clause that should please India, and Pakistan should not be wary of it. “We call upon all nations to work together to expedite the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in the UN General Assembly without any further delay. We recall the responsibility of all states to prevent terrorist actions from their territories.” The last sentence makes eminent sense for all concerned and it is good advice for Pakistan in particular.

But there’s food for thought for India. “Successfully combating terrorism requires a holistic approach,” the BRICS summit counselled. “All counterterrorism measures should uphold international law and respect human rights.” Would it be fair to expect some compliance in Kashmir and the northeast, in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh? In fact, reference to human rights comes frequently in the declaration even if the idea has become utterly unfashionable or downright suspect with the rise of jingoism in the media on both sides.

(For some reason, I can’t see human rights as a watchword being the initiative of an Indian draftsman, but it is sage advice nevertheless.)

The document referred to terrorism, and the need to apply international law in tackling it. I searched for a paragraph reflecting India’s concerns over Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba and couldn’t find one. What it said, however, did not preclude a reference to either group, but such subtleties would hardly be tantamount to isolating Pakistan internationally. “While continuing the relentless pursuit against terrorist groups so designated by the UN Security Council including [the IS], Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist organisations designated by the UN Security Council” the BRICS summit kept its focus primarily on the Middle East.

There was something Nehruvian in the reference to Palestine after a long time. Perhaps the drafting committee was not familiar with new India’s new allergens, its own former leaders. “We reiterate also the necessity to implement the two-state solution of the Palestinian-Israeli [conflict] … through negotiations aimed at creating an independent, viable, territorially contiguous Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel.…” The ‘mothership of terrorism’ seems to have eluded the BRICS radar. Will a speedboat of peace be just as elusive?

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