Pakistan’s announcement on the release of IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, under its captivity, is a welcome development amid growing hostilities between the two countries. The “goodwill gesture”, as described by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, will, hopefully, help de-escalate the situation. It may well mark a good beginning for Imran to change the narrative surrounding his country’s discredited policy on terrorism. With the United States, UK and France submitting a fresh proposal to the United Nations Security Council to designate Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, it is time Pakistan took credible and demonstrable action against anti-India terror groups operating on its soil. The fresh initiative from the three permanent veto-wielding members of the UNSC further vindicates New Delhi’s consistent stand that Islamabad had failed to rein in terror outfits nurtured by the Rawalpindi bosses as part of their well-known policy of “bleeding India by thousand cuts”. With Russia also on board on the issue of designating JeM chief as a global terrorist, all eyes will now be on China as the communist nation has been consistently blocking such a move on technical grounds. There is a growing realisation among the international community that Pakistan has become a hub for global terrorism. Imran Khan’s offer of talks in his recent address will have no meaning if he does not follow it up with concrete action on the ground against terrorist organisations, which are allowed to have a free run.
On several occasions in the past, Islamabad had pledged not to allow its territory to be used by anti-India terror groups but failed to keep its promise. It has also ignored the incontrovertible evidence provided to it, nailing the involvement of such groups in a string of terrorist attacks in India. The trial of those involved in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack has been a sham designed to counter the growing international pressure. Amid calls by global leaders to take firm measures against terror groups, Pakistan’s actions will now be carefully watched to ascertain whether it would abide by its UN commitments to deny terrorists safe haven and block their access to funds. India must keep up the pressure on multiple fronts — diplomatic, military and economic — to isolate Pakistan globally and to increase the costs of pursuing terrorism as an instrument of state policy. The non-military, preemptive aerial strike was a defining moment in India’s security doctrine and sent across an unambiguous message that it was ready to redraw the red-line in hunting down terrorists. However, a one-off strike may be ineffective to deter Pakistan from pursuing its devious path. A sustained anti-terror campaign and diplomatic offensive would be needed to impose heavy costs on the real masters of terror groups.