Aisha Saeed |
On a cold November day of 2008, the Indian city of Mumbai echoed with bullet shots and blasts. The tragic ordeal lasted for four days. The Indian government blamed Pakistan for the attack. Amid grief and anger, India threatened to attack Pakistan and Pakistani airspace in the later days was intruded. The militaries of both the countries were ready to battle. Pakistan offered joint investigation to India where the team was denied full access to evidence and the witnesses of the attack but yet arrests were made in Pakistan.
The Mumbai incident greatly jeopardized the slowly recovering relations between Pakistan and India that were initiated under the former President, Pervez Musharraf. Since Nuclear weapons were acquired by both countries, the 2008 Pakistan –India standoff post- Mumbai attacks did not escalate beyond threats into a full conflict. Yet both countries remain prone to conflict in both conventional and non-conventional warfare.
Following the issue of the Panama Papers, Pakistan witnessed a political turmoil when the country’s third time Prime Minister was found guilty of corruption. The ousting of the former the Prime Minister of Pakistan nearly brought the country to a standstill. The internal situation of the country became unstable due to nationwide protests, rallies of the opposition parties and emergence of movements. The internal situation gave way to strong anti-Pakistan fronts at the global stage and Pakistan faced complicated foreign policy issues.
If not a military confrontation between Pakistan and India, the strong Indian lobbying in international matters could mean unexpected pressure and diplomatic backlash for Pakistan, most important being the FATF meeting.
The Mumbai attacks and India’s claims of Pakistan being complicit in the attacks resurfaced in an interview given by the Pakistan’’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The statement was strongly rejected in an emergency meeting of the National Security Committee including few members of PML-N. Pakistan has been a victim of such statements before such as on international forums, where former Pakistani officer holders from both the civilian and military brass make remarks (mostly as answers to questions) about information that is classified, which are further taken out of context and read as confessions.
As Pakistan is gearing up for the next elections, Sharif’s statement has opened a Pandora’s Box for Pakistan on the international front. The statement has further dented Pakistan’s cold relation with India. Reports hint at India’s plans to take Pakistan to the International Court of Justice, although it is unlikely that the court will accept India’s plea. Regardless of the chance, Pakistan could face a serious trial and should be prepared to fight the case.
Given the lack of cooperation by the Indians over the joint investigation offered by Pakistan, many argue that Mumbai attacks were a false flag operation to hinder the growing Indo-Pak relations – a goal that was achieved. Previously, Pakistan failed to fight a strong case when India took Pakistan to ICJ over Khulbhushan Yadav, where the outcome turned out to be more in favor of India. Nawaz Sharif’s statement gives India the international leverage and weakens Pakistan’s narrative on its counterterrorism operations.
Given his experience as the leader of the country, Sharif’s knowledge of the official decorum should have been well versed. However, personal interests before national interests and security have long been inflicting damage to Pakistan. Such statements are easy to alter to ones benefit, which India is doing by all counts. The active Indian media will not be letting the issue die out anytime soon. Despite the Indian Prime Minister Modi’s personal terms with Nawaz Sharif; his party does not hold Pakistan in its good books.
The militaries of both the countries were ready to battle. Pakistan offered joint investigation to India where the team was denied full access to evidence and the witnesses of the attack but yet arrests were made in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s security apparatus is outstretched; the fencing on Pak-Afghan border amid attempts to limit the movement of terrorism has been Pakistan’s prime aim for securing the country. If India continues to warmonger over the ex-PM’s statement; the hostility over LoC and the FATF blacklist can make possible military standoff an alarming factor for Pakistan.
The non-state actors’ Debate
The statement, apart from the national outrage and India’s reaction, has brought in to question the non-state actors that Sharif made a reference about. But this fact alone might help Pakistan’s defense if India takes the matter to ICJ. The non-state actors can be any organization or set of individuals that are not affiliated or funded through a government and can be allied to any state or one individual regardless of the location while holding legitimacy and political influence.
The statement by the ex-PM, if examined through the understanding of the term itself, denies the attempted claims made by him in the interview. Nuclear deterrence has been a promising reason for stability in South Asia, no matter how apprehensive India or the western powers may feel. This instigated the use of other nonconventional methods of coercion via the use of violent non-state actors (VNSA). VNSAs are group of actors that disregard any association with the government of a state and use violence to achieve legitimacy or geostrategic goals by exploiting existing hostile grounds between countries.
Hence, before holding Pakistani agencies responsible for the attack over a mere statement that lacks sound reasoning, India would need to assess who exactly to hold accountable and provide answers to why it refused a full cooperation with Pakistan.
The active Indian media will not be letting the issue die out anytime soon. Despite the Indian Prime Minister Modi’s personal terms with Nawaz Sharif; his party does not hold Pakistan in its good books.
India’s hype over the statement and threats to take the matter to the International Court of Justice will take a deteriorating turn for the Pakistan India ties. The statement was a breach of national interests and a political maneuver by Nawaz Sharrif to revive the oft occurring civil-military disagreements over national security of Pakistan to cause havoc. If not a military confrontation between Pakistan and India, the strong Indian lobbying in international matters could mean unexpected pressure and diplomatic backlash for Pakistan, most important being the FATF meeting.
As for the former Prime Minister, the backlash over his statements speaks of his dying relevance. By giving such statements in interviews that depict his anti-Pakistan narrative to get international sympathy could force Pakistan to implement a caretaker government before time to ensure smooth elections. If taken up by the court, he could be charged with treason under the article 6 of Pakistan’s constitution. From his stance over Kargil that led to Nawaz Sharrif’s rule to be disrupted by Musharraf to his statement over Mumbai attacks; the question of where his loyalties lie should be a serious concern for Pakistan. Nawaz Sharrif’s desire of becoming a political martyr is evident but will it be his own actions or the courts? – only time will tell. For the country; the damage has been done..
Aisha Saeed is an independent Research Analyst on Media and Foreign Policy; she tweets: @MsAishaK. The views expressed are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.