Now that the United Nations has proscribed Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, political parties have unsurprisingly begun bickering over who gets or doesn’t get credit. The Bharatiya Janata Party is thumping its chest that the international diplomacy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi helped bring the world together for the first time, after several failed attempts by successive governments to get Azhar declared a “global terrorist". Opposition parties, which wouldn’t want Modi to use it to his advantage in the elections, are trying to point out compromises made by the government to take the sheen off his victory claims. The politicking will go on. But we must remember that it was former prime minister A.B. Vajpayee who drew the UN’s attention to the global threat of terrorism and called upon the international community to act collectively. It was back in 2000, a whole year before the 9/11 attacks, that Vajpayee made a speech at the Millennium Summit of the UN General Assembly highlighting the dangers faced by democracies and urging quick adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. After 9/11, he raised the issue of state-sponsored terrorism at the same forum. India’s diplomatic win has been nearly two decades in the making.
In all this, there is an important message for Pakistan: The world will no longer tolerate a nation that nurtures terrorists and uses them as a tool of state policy to bleed other countries. Fourteen of the UN sanctions committee’s 15 members, including the US, the UK, France and Russia, were already on India’s side on the Azhar issue. China was holding out. But now that Beijing has thrown its weight behind New Delhi’s stance, Pakistan is left with little space to manoeuvre. It may tell itself that its plausible deniability over its links with terrorists is still intact, but that doesn’t change the isolation it is staring at. For all the peace talks that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan waxes eloquent about, he has little option now but to demonstrate a will to take irreversible action against terrorists. His challenge, however, would be to defy the “deep state", or the country’s army and its notorious intelligence services that wield far more power in reality than on paper. If Khan wants to show his independence as a democratically elected leader, then this is the opportunity he must grab.
For India, it is important to remember that the success on Azhar is only one small victory in a prolonged battle. His designation as a terrorist would still need Pakistan to act against him. That isn’t something India can bet on. The JeM, which Azhar founded, was banned by the UN almost two decades ago, but it still operated freely all these years. Besides, India faces threats on other fronts, including from the Islamic State, which is spreading its tentacles across the world, including in India. A recent video of IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who had not been seen for five years, suggests that not only is he alive, but thriving. India is known to be one of the organization’s targets. Besides, there are other violent groups that need to be neutralized. Wednesday’s deadly Naxal attack in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, in which 15 police personnel were killed, is a grim reminder of the multi-pronged threats we face. It’s imperative that we do not lower our guard.