On 5 May, the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) met in Goa to discuss regional issues and challenges. On the same day, the People’s Anti-Fascists Front (PAF)—an offshoot of Pakistan-sponsored Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM)—killed five Indian army personnel in the Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir. Hitting out at the unabated menace of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in the region, Minister of External Affairs, Dr. S Jaishankar, urged the SCO member states to ensure that the financing of terror groups is “ceased and blocked without distinction”. He also reminded the member states that combatting terrorism and narcoterrorism was one of the primary mandates codified in Article 1 of the SCO Charter since 1998. Cross-border drug trade and the use of terrorism for geopolitical and geostrategic reasons by certain countries have made the SCO region vulnerable to armed conflicts.
RATS began joint exercises to strengthen the SCO’s counterinsurgency and counterterrorism grid by training armed forces in tactical counterterrorism operations.
The Shanghai Five was formed in 1996 by Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. By July 1998, the group prioritised the joint fight against “separatism, extremism, and terrorism” emanating from the Af-Pak region. In 2001, with the inclusion of Uzbekistan, the multilateral organisation of the Shanghai Five was renamed the SCO. During the opening remarks in 2001, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan called Afghanistan the “cradle of terrorism”. The growing anti-terrorism convergence in the SCO region was consolidated and institutionalised under Regional Anti-Terrorists Structure (RATS) in 2001. Based in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, RATS created a joint formation system to respond to the global threat of terrorism and extremism and assist member countries in the preparation of counterterrorism measures. RATS began joint exercises to strengthen the SCO’s counterinsurgency and counterterrorism grid by training armed forces in tactical counterterrorism operations. Between 2011 and 2015, RATS helped the SCO region to prevent 20 terror attacks and 650 terror-related crimes, neutralised 1,700 extremists, and arrested 2,700 terrorists.
Pakistan and state-sponsored terrorism
In 2017, during the SCO’s historic summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, India and Pakistan, the two most influential and powerful countries of South Asia, became full members of the SCO. The inclusion of Pakistan and India was perceived to fortify SCO’s core agenda to combat terrorism and radicalisation in Eurasia. However, Pakistan did not mend its behaviour and continued to use terrorism as its anti-India and pro-Taliban foreign policy tool in Afghanistan. Being the victim of Pakistan-backed terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian Prime Minister, during the Astana summit, highlighted the need for cooperation in combatting terrorism. He warned, “Until all countries come together and make coordinated and strong efforts against terrorism, it is impossible to solve these problems.”
Islamabad even divided insurgents based on its needs and allowed some groups to operate freely while cracking down on others like Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Pakistan has also used state-sponsored terrorism against and supported radical elements in Eurasia. After 2002, Pakistan helped the Taliban against the liberal United States (US)-backed government in Afghanistan that was seen as closely aligned with India. The Pakistani security establishment and government helped the Taliban with human resources and donations via religious groups. Islamabad also accused the US-backed, India-friendly Afghan government of facilitating proxy wars within Pakistan. By July 2021, Pakistan had sent more than 10,000 terrorists to help the Taliban seek strategic depth against India in the region. Islamabad even divided insurgents based on its needs and allowed some groups to operate freely while cracking down on others like Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Pakistani agencies and Islamist groups also distorted hadith sayings and traditions attributed to Prophet Mohammad to propel great battles in the Indian subcontinent, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, and Afghanistan.
From 1989, Islamabad used the war-hardened Afghan mujahideen and home-bred radicalised jihadis for terror-related activities in the Kashmir Valley and other parts of India. After 2017, the number of Pakistani terrorists killed in J&K is shown in the table:
|Year||Number of terrorists killed in J&K||Pakistan-born terrorists killed in J&K|
Source: Compiled by the author using national and regional newspapers
Constant scrutiny by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the intergovernmental money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, led to a slight decrease in Pakistan-backed foreign terrorists from 2019 to 2021. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in mid-2018, there were 600 terrorist bases in Pakistan, which went down by 75 percent during the FATF grey listing. Under the FATF grey list, Pakistan was forced to take action against some well-known terror outfits, including those involved in the 26/11 Mumbai attack.
As the FATF surveillance restricted Pakistan’s brazen support to terrorists and terror outfits, it resorted to narcoterrorism as a new weapon to finance the state-sponsored terrorism in the Kashmir Valley and other parts of India. In 2022, according to Indian Border Security Force, 17 drones were shot down or captured along the border, leading to the seizure of 26,469 kilograms of drugs. During the same time, after the chances of delisting from the grey list as FATF’s scrutiny decreased, Pakistan increased the infiltration of terrorists along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the number of terrorist bases along Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK). This increased the number of foreign terrorists in J&K by 60 to 70 percent. Given such strategies and the Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attack in Rajouri during the SCO’s Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) meet in Goa, Pakistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, accused New Delhi of “weaponising terrorism for diplomatic point scoring” to save Pakistan from SCO scrutiny.
The use of terrorism as a foreign policy tool by Pakistan has made peace a forgone dream in Eurasia and has neutralised the potency of the SCO to tackle this menace at the regional level effectively.
The use of terror groups and terrorists for regional influence has also had disastrous consequences on internal peace in Pakistan. As the Taliban returned to power in 2021 after the withdrawal of US-led NATO troops, Pakistan saw this new regime as a close ally; however, it proved otherwise than Islamabad was expecting. The TTP has increased offensives inside Pakistan because of the nuanced state policy towards terrorism. From August 2021 to August 2022, there were 250 terror attacks in Pakistan in which as many as 433 people were killed. In 2020-2021, Pakistan saw 165 attacks that killed 294 people. In January this year, more than 100 people, mostly police officials, were killed in a mosque by terrorists.
The use of terrorism as a foreign policy tool by Pakistan has made peace a forgone dream in Eurasia and has neutralised the potency of the SCO to tackle this menace at the regional level effectively. Former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, had said that Pakistan must not “keep snakes in its backyard” and “expect them to only bite” its neighbour. Despite the international shame of being grey listed twice by FATF, Pakistan’s direct and indirect support of terrorism continues unabated.
Unlike the FATF, the SCO has no international authority to call out and penalise Pakistan for its actions. With increasing divergence and mistrust among member states and the inclusion of rogue nations like Pakistan, the SCO could become a toothless tiger regarding state-sponsored terrorism. Additionally, some SCO member countries have used a narrow approach towards terrorism to settle scores with the West to make the region’s security more fragile. Growing narcoterrorism and state-sponsored terrorism will haunt the SCO region and Eurasia and render the SCO’s efforts to tackle rising terror threats at the regional level ineffective.
Source : Orfonline