Haqqani Network

India stares at failing Afghan policy

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

US Congress has now been front-loaded with a report on Afghanistan by its think-tank, the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which is a double whammy for Indian policymakers.

The report talks of “fear of encirclement” in Pakistan over India’s commercial and diplomatic ties with the Afghan government which has led the Islamic nation, in retaliation, to patronize Taliban insurgents for decades now.

In reality, India is staring at a failed Afghan policy. It trusted United States to provide a strong democratic government in Afghanistan. Now United States is looking for a face-saving exit from the mountainous terrain and the Kabul government has never been weaker in years. The double blowback is the think-tank report which makes Pakistan, and not India, appear an aggrieved country which must be shored up with funds and arms.

All this is because Taliban is at its strongest in years. US had to woo it with a peace plan till recently even as Taliban ruled out ceasefire and the presence of Afghanistan government on the same table. Taliban peace-makers moved with ease in Beijing, Moscow and Tehran even though none of the three powers had a liking for Taliban.  This was pragmatic for Afghanistan today can’t be solved without Taliban.

A little background is in order: Taliban owes a great deal to Pakistan. Its muscle is in southern Afghanistan which shares a fluid border with Pakistan and thus a safe cover to insurgents. US counters Taliban with funds and arms to Afghan government. It does stop Taliban from gaining a decisive military victory in the absence of international forces which left Afghanistan in 2014. But it does little else for the stability of the Kabul government.

The trouble is India has burnt most of its bridges with Taliban.  In the 1990s, there was a brief window for diplomatic ties when Talibans were in power in Afghanistan. But then Talibans became “blood brothers” of Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment and India had to look for its succour in fledgling Afghanistan governments. Afghanistan is of critical importance to New Delhi as it opened door for Central Asia and Middle East, overcoming the physical barrier of Pakistan on its north-west frontiers.

Over the years, India’s stance on Taliban has only hardened. It’s wary of presence of Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) which moved to Afghanistan in 2015 and whose core belongs to Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. (It’s another matter that Afghan government props up this organ of ISIS in the hope it would counter Taliban).  India fears that ISKP would always appeal to young Afghanis who have grown up on the killing fields of Afghanistan in the civil war of last two decades. One, there is not just Taliban but also Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbek insurgents in Afghanistan who need a rallying force. Two, Islamic State could use the base of Afghanistan for its revival and unleash terror in Kashmir.

Besides, India suffers from a fractured psyche in its long battle against terrorism. It knows Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) not only props up Taliban but also Haqqani Network which US has designated as a terrorist organization. Its deputy leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of its founder Jalaluddin Haqqani, was reportedly involved in the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul in July 2008 which killed 58 people.

India was pleased when Trump called off peace talks with Taliban following two bomb attacks by the terrorist group that killed 10 civilians and an American soldier in September. Afghanistan government lost little time in announcing elections for September 28. Taliban struck back with two suicide bomb attacks within an hour of each other: the first one at an election rally of president Ashraf Ghani and the second near US Embassy for a combined death toll of 48 people. The turnout predictably was low: Only two million out of 10 million registered voters turned up at vote-casting booths.

Not that it helped clear the mist. The results weren’t declared on intended date of October 17 nor did it come about this week. The winner would now be known only on November 14. The election commission puts the delay due to a hacking attempt on its servers and tampering with its digital lock. Taliban, predictably, has made accusation of rigging and mismanagement.

Thus, as things stand, India finds itself trapped in Afghanistan. The Kabul government is tottering. It can’t survive without United States which in turn is waking up to a Vietnam-like situation, looking for a face-saving exit. On the other hand, walking towards Taliban is a minefield. India can’t make a “fight against terrorism” as bedrock of its foreign policy and yet extend a hand towards Taliban.  It’s Pakistan which seems to be holding all the aces for having backed the right horse in Taliban.  And yet, a US Congress think-tank is alerting the world of Pakistan fearing “encirclement” from India in Afghanistan. Indeed it’s India which has a lot to fear—and lose—in the unending saga of Afghanistan.

 

 

 

Mr Imran Khan, this is why you can’t do much on Kashmir

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Pakistan is unlikely to keep up with its hostile words or action on Kashmir if the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meet in Paris on October 13-18 goes as planned.

Already in the “grey list” of the FATF, Pakistan could lose up to $10 billion and be economically devastated if it is “blacklisted” by the influential global body which primarily deals with countries that promote money laundering, drugs and terrorism and are a threat to global system.

Pakistan surely would need to tone done its rhetoric or any misadventure it might have planned on Kashmir, the focal point of Pakistan’s policy for decades, let its treated as a leper in international monetary system.

Pakistan needs three members of the 37-member FATF to avoid being blacklisted and its Prime Minister Imran Khan last week sought out the heads of Malaysia and Turkey to canvass support. China, which heads FATF, in any case is an all-weather friend. These three countries were the reason Pakistan avoided being “blacklisted” in June this year. The trio are likely to come again to Pakistan’s rescue in Paris.  

Pakistan though is unlikely to slip out of the “grey list” as it would require the support of 15 of 37 members of FATF which is too uphill a task. The United Nations General Assembly session last month saw it being isolated on the world stage with no significant world power, but for China, coming to Pakistan’s support.

The pressure is mounting by the hour on Pakistan as Asia-Pacific Joint Group (APJG), a FATF sub-group, held a review meeting with Pakistani officials in Bangkok in August on the issues of anti-money laundering and combating financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes. It found Pakistan to be in violation of as many as 21 of the 27-point action plan and placed it in the Enhanced Follow Up list. Of the 40 technical compliance parameters, Pakistan was non-compliant on 30 parameters. And, of the 11 efectiveness parameters, Pakstan was adjudged as “low” on 10. These finding would surely have a huge bearing on Pakistan’s fate in the FATF meeting in Paris in less than a fortnight’s time.

India, meanwhile, is on an overdrive to ensure that Pakistan is unable to escape the “noose” of FATF. The trio of prime minister Narendra Modi, foreign minister S. Jaishankar and national security advisor Ajit Doval have spent last few weeks in canvassing support from as many as 24 of the 37 members of the FATF.

While Modi sought out Belgium, France, US, UK, Italy, New Zealand and South Africa among others in the UN, Jaishankar held parleys with his counterparts from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Singapore, Turkey and Japan in New York. He also looked for support from the two regional organizations of the FATF, the Gulf Governing Council (GCC) and the European Commission (EC). Doval meanwhile is in Saudi Arabia mustering support from the oil kingdom which has shunned Pakistan in favour of India in recent months.

If Pakistan is “blacklisted” it could virtually be an outcast in the international financial system. Its banking system would be crippled and be it imports or exports, remittances or access to international lending order, would all be overwhelmed. It would have trouble securing loans as foreign financial institutions would be wary of dealing with Pakistan lest they fall foul of international violations on the issues of money laundering, drugs and terrorism. Foreign investors won’t be enamoured either.

It’s not the first time Pakistan finds itself in the “grey list” of FATF. It was first put under watch in 2008 and later between 2012-2015. Apparently, the deterrence hasn’t s worked. As India has pointed out, Pakistan is home to 130 UN-designated terrorists and 25 terrorists listed by the UN.

Pakistan though is not the only country in the “grey list” of FATF. The other countries in the last are Ethiopia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Yemen.

Presently only two countries are in the “blacklist” of FATF—Iran and North Korea. Pakistan is close to joining the unenvied group of international order. If Pakistan is able to avoid being blacklisted, it would be a damning reflection on its benefactors–China, Malaysia and Turkey—as they would be seen in support of terrorism.

Pakistan, truth to tell, is today seen a breeding ground for terrorists and has done little to curb them. There has been no demonstrable action or persecution of globally-designated terrorists or terror networks. Its law enforcement agencies are yet to even begin investigating terror groups like Da’ish, Al-Qaeda, Jamaat-ud Dawa, Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Haqqani Network or persons who are affiliated with Taliban.  Terrorists such as Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed operate with impunity and protection from the state of Pakistan.