It’s time to call Pakistan’s bluff by targeting its benefactor

by Yashwant Raj

Imagine for a bit your reaction if Sushma Swaraj, the external affairs minister, had spoken for her usual 30 minutes during the UN general assembly debate and had not mentioned Pakistan at all?

Would it be disappointment? Annoyance? Or relief?

Swaraj had, as she herself has three times before and as have her predecessors in the MEA for years, ripped into Pakistan in her speech last Saturday, She accused it of “malevolence”, “verbal duplicity”, “deceit”, “deception” and “lies”. Diplomats picked up from where she left off to add “despicable” and “preposterous” to the list in their customary rejoinders on right-of-reply, an obscure UN rule. Pakistan, of course, hit back in the name of strategic balance with its own set of invectives and insults.

So, who won? What was gained?

India and Pakistan have turned the annual UN general assembly debate into a battlefield where they continue a war that started in 1948 and was waged through 1965, 1971, 1999 (Kargil), and every cricket and hockey game in between and after. This must be the longest war yet in modern world history, or of matching vintage as the one raging around Israel.

But yelling at each other every year from the granite eminence of the UN general assembly hall has probably not saved a single life or rupee either side of the border. And no one is giving away prizes for the most vitriolic or insult-laden speech delivered on the floor of the assembly.

What if, bear with me for argument’s sake, one of us backed down a bit tactically, to readjust our sights in the crosshairs? And what if Swaraj never uttered not a word about Pakistan? And picket a different target? A new Osama bin Laden? A new al Qaeda?

As a major victim of terrorism, India has an unquestionable right to be a leading campaigner for its eradication. It is the third worst affected nation by terrorism, according to a US State Department report. And it has been recognised as the loudest voice on it in any room or hall or arena. The 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks are now mentioned in the same breath as the 9/11 attacks that forced the United States join a war India had launched many years ago, unrecognised by the rest of the world.

Why waste that equity on Pakistan? It is beyond repair, as it has demonstrably been for years. India and the United States have cynically held up hopes of its return to civil life through a system of bait and switch that has long been proven ineffective. Pakistan cannot change — the new government is a chip of the old block.

But it will continue to blackmail the world holding a gun to its head, as was demonstrated by the disastrous first trip to the United States by its new foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who has naively sought to spin impossible arguments in plain sight of people who know better. He even tried to misrepresent a handshake with President Donald Trump as a meeting.

It’s time to call Pakistan’s bluff, by targeting its benefactor.

Imagine, once again, if Swaraj had yelled at China instead, using all those same words. And spent her 30 minutes, or most of it, portraying China as a leading sponsor of terrorism in the world and the one carrying the can for a client state, Pakistan. There is an easy narrative awaiting India, should it want to take that route.

Don’t name China, if that is a concern.

But no Indian official can ever be faulted for raising the issue of Masood Azhar, the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammad, a Pakistan-based terrorist group that has carried out many attacks in India. Beijing has been blocking his naming as a UN-designated terrorist, citing transparently inane bureaucratic rules.

Think of an Indian foreign minister railing for 30 minutes about a man who has masterminded the death of many innocent Indians and who is now under the protection of an entity that has pretensions of being a world power?

Pakistan is a waste of our time.Target China.