For the first time India is said to be open to third-party and international verification of terror infrastructure in Pakistan, even as it fears the action taken by Islamabad against terror groups in the past few weeks has been cosmetic.
Sources in the government said many countries with excellent credentials could verify the facts of India’s dossier on the presence of terror camps inside Pakistan. This is important, sources said, as India cannot visit and verify this itself.
Sources said India has shared key details such as coordinates of the terror groups operating from Pakistan soil with Islamabad, which can be verified by a third country. Pakistan continues to deny the presence of terror infrastructure in its territory, and has claimed to have cracked down on some of these outfits.
Way ahead not clear
The lines between the Pakistani establishment and terror infrastructure are blurred so it is not clear how third-country verification will happen, if it happens at all. It puts pressure on Pakistan but raises questions given that a “third-party” role in India-Pak istan affairs has always been anathema in Delhi.
Sources told The Sunday Express that this is in line with India’s demand that Islamabad’s action against terrorists, terrorist groups, their proxies and the infrastructure should be “credible”, “verifiable” and “sustained”.
They said that while there is no clarity yet on who in the international community can verify the actions taken by Pakistan, it could be the UN Security Council or UN bodies, or the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), or multi-country teams. But, this is still to be decided.
The issue of verification will arise once Pakistan claims it has taken adequate action. Sources said Delhi is not going to take Islamabad’s claims at face value.
However, internationally, there are no clear precedents for verification of dismantling of terror infrastructure, unlike that for nuclear programmes, which is done by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Sources said Pakistan also has to take action against terror groups under its international commitments to the FATF, and Delhi will work with international partners to ensure “technical compliance”.
After China put a technical hold on the proposal to list Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UNSC resolution 1267 sanctions committee, this appears to be Delhi’s new strategy to put pressure on Pakistan.
After the February 14 Pulwama terror attack — the single bloodiest terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir in the last three decades of militancy — India had shared a dossier with Islamabad as well as with all UN member countries on terror infrastructure in Pakistan.
India had also carried out, what it called “non-military”, “counter-terror” and “pre-emptive”, air strikes in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Paktunkhwa province, on a camp that Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said had a “very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action”.
Last week, China for the fourth time in 10 years stalled efforts to list Azhar. It had single-handedly blocked the proposal earlier in 2009, 2016 and 2017.
Sources said actions taken by Pakistan so far against terror groups were cosmetic, like keeping some individuals in preventive detention, with these groups thriving with a change in signboards or leadership structure. If Islamabad really wanted to send a message that it was serious about addressing India’s concerns, it should hand over terrorists like Dawood Ibrahim, Syed Salahuddin etc, sources said.
Pakistan has claimed that it has kept Azhar’s brother and son in “preventive detention”. During his visit to the US last week, Gokhale conveyed to American interlocutors that this fit in with Pakistan’s response to similar events in the past. The Foreign Secretary also pointed out to US Congressmen that the British used to keep Mahatma Gandhi in “preventive detention”, and that as per the British terminology, this was meant to keep the individual safe rather than the population to whom he was a threat.
With Beijing, sources said, Delhi was ready for the long haul and to show patience “as long as it takes” without compromising on its position on terrorism. Delhi is “cautiously confident” that eventually Azhar will get listed as it has a solid case against the JeM chief — and hopes that this will happen in weeks or months, and not take “years”.
Sources said China has to resolve certain issues with Pakistan, though it has adequate information that terror groups were operating from Pakistani soil and were against Chinese interests as well.
Sources added that India is not going to make any compromise or cut any deal with any member nation of the UNSC or UN Sanctions Committee on designating Azhar as a global terrorist. They said 14 of 15 members of the UNSC support India on the issue while seven members in the UNSC were co-sponsoring the resolution to list Azhar. Six more countries, who are not members of the UNSC, had also co-sponsored the proposal.
About Saudi Arabia, sources ruled out the possibility of mediation by any country to resolve issues between India and Pakistan, while pointing out that whenever it hosts international leaders, Delhi asks them to tell Pakistan to take credible, visible and verifiable counter-terrorism actions.