More than six weeks after the terror attacks on Mumbai, Pakistan continues, disingenuously, to express skepticism over India's evidence and to disclaim complicity. The grudging admission that the surviving terrorist, Kasab, was Pakistani was followed by the dismissal of the official who admitted it. We should not be too quick to surrender in the face of the continued intransigence of the killers of innocent civilians.
New Delhi's measured response has so far been spot on. By showing restraint, ignoring the calls of hotheads for air strikes and missile launches, and by pressuring the US to work on its clients in Islamabad -- who have received some $11 billion in military assistance since 9/11, ostensibly to fight Islamist terror but much of it spent on those who have fomented such terror -- India has achieved some results, including the arrest of some 20 militants.
But house arrests and nominal bannings are not enough any more: we have seen this movie before. The Lashkar was banned in 2001 -- by General Musharraf, under duress, after 9/11 -- only to re-emerge as the ostensibly humanitarian group, the Jamaat-e-Dawa, and in that guise is serving, at the very least, as a catalyst for murder and mayhem in our country. New Delhi is rightly insisting that Islamabad crack down completely on these militant groups, dismantle their training camps, freeze their bank accounts (not, as Musharraf did, with enough notice for them to be emptied and transferred to other accounts operated by the same people) and arrest and prosecute their leaders. This kind of clampdown has not occurred.
The world is not obliged to live with a Pakistani state that incubates Islamist terror, while proving either unable or unwilling to rein in the monsters it has unleashed. We must hope that the moderates in Pakistan (themselves the targets of Islamist terror) seize the opportunity to crack down upon the extremists and murderers in their midst, in their own interest. But they fear the wrath of their own military. So we need to sustain the pressure, especially from the US military and intelligence upon their Pakistani counterparts.
And yet, the extent of possible US pressure remains constrained by Afghanistan, where the tyranny of geography gives Pakistan an indispensable role in fulfilling the logistics needs for 34,000 US soldiers, who must be supplied, rationed and redeployed through Pak territory. (In my UN peacekeeping days i learned the military adage that amateurs discuss strategy, rank amateurs focus on tactics, and true professionals concentrate on logistics.) Reports have surfaced that the US is developing an alternative supply route through Central Asia, but this will take time to become a reality.
But while US pressure is vital, it is not enough. International pressure must include China's and Saudi Arabia's roles as allies of Pakistan, both bilaterally (as munificent donors of aid) and in multilateral institutions (notably the UN Security Council and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, respectively). Each has the capacity to reinforce the pressure on Pakistan or to provide Islamabad an escape valve from it. China, which had opposed Security Council action against Jamaat-ud-Dawa when the US and the UK proposed it in 2006, supported it this time -- a clear indication that it judged that such pro-Pakistani obstruction would no longer be compatible with its role in the international system.
Pakistan has never been more isolated internationally. We should ask the EU and the US to exercise their influence in the IMF and the Aid Pakistan Consortium to condition financial assistance on more responsible conduct by the near-bankrupt Pakistani state.
The United Nations mechanisms can be further exploited. The 13 international conventions against terror should be wielded against Pakistan. However, legal instruments are of limited utility against those who have contempt for international law. More effective could be two mechanisms created by the Security Council. One, the Sanctions Committee established under resolution 1267, has already been pressed into service to proscribe Jamaat-ud-Dawa. The other is resolution 1373, adopted immediately after 9/11, which imposes, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, binding requirements on all member states to take a whole range of actions against suspected terror organisations.
These include freezing financial transfers and interdicting arms supplies, reporting on the movements of suspected terrorists and upgrading national legis-lation to bring it into conformity with international requirements. In the event of continued inaction by Islamabad, the possibility of moving the Security Council to hold Pakistan in breach of resolution 1373, and threatening sanctions against the Pakistani state if compliance does not follow, is well worth pursuing.
The threat of sanctions would be even more potent if they specifically targeted the Pakistani military, including travel bans and restrictions on the sale of weapons and other military assistance. The UN could also be required to exclude the Pakistani army from future peace-keeping operations, a vital source of both prestige and lucre for Islamabad's military. The world is far from running out of ideas to bring Pakistan's errant generals to heel.
The essential thing is to keep maintaining the pressure. Pakistan must not be allowed to believe that with the passage of time, Mumbai will have been forgotten and Islamabad will be off the hook. If in a few months the villains are back on the loose, planning and mounting fresh attacks, what happened in Mumbai could happen again -- somewhere else.
(Published in the Times of India, January 10, 2009)