By ruling out resumption of dialogue with Pakistan, India has sent a clear and unambiguous message to Islamabad that it must first take credible steps on the ground against terror outfits operating on its soil. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his first public comments on Pakistan-sponsored terror after securing a second term in office, made it clear that the neighbouring country needs to create an atmosphere free of terror so that peace talks can be resumed. In the presence of his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan among the audience at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in the Kyrgyzstan capital of Bishkek, Modi delivered a stern message to Islamabad that it must join the global efforts to stamp out the menace of terrorism. Earlier, he conveyed India’s position on the issue to Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the summit of the China-led eight-member economic and security bloc. Being an all-weather ally of Pakistan, China needs to be sufficiently briefed about India’s concerns over the continued duplicity of Islamabad. By asserting that the countries sponsoring, aiding and funding terrorism must be held accountable, India has now set a new benchmark for the international community on the terrorism front. It must be pointed out that Pakistan has been under the scrutiny of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental body, since last June when the country was put on the grey list for terror financing and money laundering risks. It now faces the prospect of being further downgraded to blacklist on terrorist financing which will be akin to international sanctions.
India has not been engaging with Pakistan since an attack on the Air Force base at Pathankot in January 2016 by a Pakistan-based terror group. There has been no let-up in cross-border terrorism, despite the occasional offer of talks by Pakistani leadership. Tensions flared up after the Pulwama terror attack in February this year and the subsequent air strikes by India targeting the Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) terror camps deep inside Pakistani territory. The only option for Pakistan to enter into dialogue with India is by uprooting terrorist groups, who have become extra constitutional stakeholders in Islamabad’s Kashmir dream. Ahead of the SCO summit, Imran Khan and his Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had written separate letters to their Indian counterparts, pushing for the resumption of bilateral talks. But, Islamabad must realise that it must walk the talk on the issue of terrorism and translate its stated intentions into credible and verifiable reality. There is a growing realisation among the global community that Pakistan continues to rely on the ‘good terrorists, bad terrorists’ narrative. China has also lifted its technical hold on listing Pakistan-based terrorist Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN.