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India’s Pathankot Blues!

A recent Times of India report indicates that India plans to cover more than 40 vulnerable unfenced riverine stretches located in Punjab, along the Pakistan border, by laser walls to prevent any infiltration. The suspected infiltration point of Ujj river in Bamiyal, the report said, that was used by six Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) operatives who allegedly stormed the Pathankot airbase was not covered by laser. Camera installed to keep watch over the 130-metre-wide river bed was found to be not recording the footage. Reportedly, Indian border force had started putting up the wall on riverine stretches last year in Jammu sector, which were more prone to intrusions till an attack in Gurdaspur in Punjab in July 2015.

In the latest twist, India defence minister has announced that Pakistani investigators won’t be allowed inside Pathankot; many believe this statement to be a hoax ant that it would be retraced in due course. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif continues to follow a single track approach towards India. This is raising many raising many eye brows as to whether he is confronting failure of Indian approach towards Pakistan or reinforcing failure of his own approach towards Indian leadership.

Diplomatic channels have collapsed and both Pakistan and India have lost the capacity to hold scheduled and structured dialogue due to foolishly accumulated domestic political baggage by successive Indian governments. Now Indian and Pakistanis officials meet in third countries to spring up surprises. Despite Pakistan meeting Indian precondition of initiating action against India nominated entity Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) for allegedly attacking Indian air force facility, foreign secretary level talks have melted away. Indian and Pakistani Foreign Secretaries have jointly agreed to reschedule the talks to hold them in “very near future”. India has welcomed the arrest of several members of the JeM. Indian has also arrested some activists who attacked the PIA office.

Are both the countries on their way their way to depart from traditional pattern of crisis handling to professional crisis management procedures? We’ll have to wait for a while and see. Pakistan has tried it earlier for a number of times but India has not reciprocated. For example, Pakistani foreign minister was in India when Mumbai attack took place and he immediately offered to engage in crisis management but Indians declined to engage him. Even, now best things would have been that the foreign secretaries should have met, it’s natural that once there is a problem we start talking to fix the problem, here India stops talking to aggravate the problem. Even though necessary measures had been taken, and further investigation are under way, there should have been no further complaints from India and talks should have proceeded. Though National Security Advisers of Pakistan and India are busy devising modalities of exchanging high-powered teams to investigate attack on Indian Air Force Station Pathankot, deciding on the terms of reference for these team would be an uphill task. Moreover, killing of all attackers would restrict the job of investigators to circumstantial evidence and, hence more sticky.

Back home governments of Pakistan and Punjab also face a double edged questions whether outlawed outfit JeM continued to retain the capacity and capability to launch such autonomous tactical attacks on a military facility in a neighbouring country at its own, and if so then how to take official tall claims about success of counter terrorism effort under the exalted National Action Plan; has it all been a politically motivated application of force?. And despite voices from saner corners, was the presence of terrorist elements in parts of Punjab being ignored as a political expediency? Or, is the federal government caving in under Indian pressure to frame a dormant entity for the acts it did not commit? Answers to these questions either way are not likely to provide an enviable face saving for the federal and Punjab governments.

In Pakistan there has been a strong pro-peace constituency towards India—mainly people based, same line has been towed by the leadership across the party divide. Hardliners in India, both extremist political and social elements have been systematically working to weaken this constituency. Chunk of electoral activity in India comprises of anti-Pakistan sloganeering and anti-Muslim sentiment. People to people exchanges are obstructed, sporting and cultural events are becoming hard to schedule and harder to execute. Attack on PIA’s Delhi office was another such effort to reinforce the impact of attack on Pathankot. It will take a long time to ascertain who attacked Pathankot and why; and by the time such information is known with a fair degree of accuracy, it would be of little relevance as were those of Ganges plane hijacking in 1971 and some other subsequent high profile false flag operations by India. Such operations are important with respect to immediate gains; later nobody bothers about them.

As of now, Pakistan should scan the horizon for the immediate strategic objectives for which India wants to render Pakistan a non-factor in 2016-2017 time frame, through a combination of carrot and stick, two such objectives are: India is being considered for its NSG membership in June 2016; and voting on UNSC expansion in UNGA may take place in October-November 2016. Indian wants to keep Pakistan under pressure till a certain point then release pressure offer few concessions, then ask America to apply pressure, neutralize Pakistan’s opposition and subsequently withdraw its own concessions—leaving Pakistan high and dry similar patterns it followed for cowing in Pakistan for voting at IAEA before NSG Waiver in 2008 and the promises about playing domestic series with Pakistan before strategic cricketing decision at the ICC.

Pakistani policymakers need to realize is that they can’t continue to wait for Indian initiatives and form reactive responses on the Indian projections; instead we need to reduce the space acquired by India for distorting Pakistan’s image amongst comity of nations and need to take our own proactive initiatives. At the same time, Pakistan should strengthen its relations with other neighbouring countries and form strong alliances with other regional structures—SAARC, GCC, ARF, SCO, CICA etc. This will help Pakistan in stop negotiating from a position of weakness when dealing with India.

Since Prime Minster Narendra Modi came to power, India has pursued a deliberate policy aimed at sabotaging bilateral dialogue with Pakistan. India has a evolved a tendency to treat even cultural and sports exchanges as a concession to Pakistan for which Pakistan must cede some strategic space; the fate of ICCI underwritten cricket series and the way India manoeuvred to scuttle it is reflective of prevailing Indian mind-set. Pattern has it that through diplomatic gimmicks Indian projects its peace gestures towards Pakistan with great fanfare to attract international focus—thus painting Indian as lovely guy— then quietly undoes it through professional intrigue—projecting Pakistan as problem Child. Even though Pakistan is sincere in having good relations with India. However, Pakistan can’t do it all alone at the cost of its core interests, especially when the other side is resorting to intrigue to undo Pakistan’s good work.

This time, so far, both sides appear to have used the Pathankot attack as an opportunity. Pakistan has taken a step forward towards demonstrating to the world, and in the current context most notably to India, that it is determined to wage a battle against terrorism and ensure that militancy does not wreck the region. Will Indian leadership demonstrate the political will to take up issues like water sharing, Siachen and Kashmir with the same determination to resolve them? And on international forum will India give up its approach of maligning Pakistan for anything that has and could go wrong in this imperfect universe? The future of peace process depends on answers to these questions.

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Dynamics of FATF listing

Pakistan Focus Analysis. Indo-US anti-Pakistan nexus is so very obvious, both have in-chorus expressed their joy on Pakistan’s placement on grey list. Indian Express has reported that “India, US are one in saying Pakistan deserved to be demoted to anti-terror funding group's 'grey list’”. "India welcomes the decision of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to place Pakistan in its Compliance Document (grey list) for ICRG [International Cooperation review Group] monitoring," said India's ministry of external affairs. And; "outstanding counterterrorism deficiencies consistently raised by the Financial Action Task Force and [Pakistan] needs to take actions, including on the raising and moving of funds of UN-designated terrorist groups, a top US official said to news agency PTI”. Decision is politically motivated and is part of American strategy to pressurise Pakistan to settle some other scores. Pakistan has been placed among the jurisdictions (states) with strategic deficiencies: Ethiopia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Yemen. FATF has called upon these states to complete implementation of the action plans expeditiously and within the proposed timeframes, vowing to closely monitor the implementation. It was also agreed in February Plenary that an Action Plan would be negotiated between Pakistan and FATF members by June. This has been done. The FATF has formally placed Pakistan on the grey list due to ‘strategic deficiencies’ in its anti-money laundering and terrorism financing regime. The decision came despite Pakistan had demonstrated reasonable progress in three out of four major areas of FATF concerns. Pakistan’s team led by Finance Minister apprised the plenary about measures that Pakistan had taken to stop money laundering and strangling the terror financing. In prevailing World Order, nothing works better than American pressures. During February plenary, the US and the UK went out of their way to by-pass the standard FATF procedures and jointly arm twist the FATF for nominating Pakistan for the grey list in June, regardless of its February-June period effort and progress; they were also joined by France and Germany. Pakistan has undertaken to work towards effective implementation of the Action Plan, while staying in the grey list. A similar situation took place in 2011 when Pakistan was included in the grey list and was taken out in 2015 after it successfully implemented the Action Plan. There were tall claims that Pakistan was unlikely to be placed on the grey list of the global financial watchdog as the country had made enough progress to meet international anti-money laundering and terror financing standards, such euphoric environment had been created before and during the previous FATF plenary meeting as well. There is a need to float realistic expectations before such international events. FATF identifies jurisdictions with strategic AML/CFT deficiencies in its two public documents: FATF Public Statement (call for action)– commonly known as black list—and Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance— nick named as grey list. It is an on-going process; these lists are updated three times a year. Interestingly, FATF does not use grey list/blacklist terminologies. The ICRG of the APG had identified four key areas of concerns: deficiencies in the supervision of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter Terrorism Financing regimes; cross-border illicit movement of currency by terrorist groups; progress on terrorism financing investigation and prosecution; and implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions 1267 and 1373, for curbing terror financing. ICRG report has shown that Pakistan did show progress on three out of four major areas of concerns. Cross-border smuggling of cash was the only major area where Pakistan admitted deficiencies. Maximum number of conditions – nine to be precise – take into account the concerns of the UNSC resolutions, followed by eight commitments to address concerns regarding terrorism financing prosecution, four are about curbing currency movement across the border and five recommendations relate to improvement in the supervision mechanisms of banks and companies. Pakistan has undertaken to demonstrate that authorities are identifying cash couriers and enforcing controls on illicit movement of currency and understanding the risk of cash couriers being used for terrorism financing. Remember Ayan Ali case? And who protected her? Carrier is enjoying quality life abroad. Pakistan has made a “high-level political commitment to work with the FATF and APG to strengthen its Anti-money Laundering (AML)/Countering Financing of Terrorism (CFT) regime and to address its strategic counter-terrorist financing-related deficiencies,” according to FATF announcement. The FATF said Pakistan will also be demonstrating that remedial actions and sanctions are applied in cases of AML/CFT violations, and that these actions have an effect on AML/CFT compliance by financial institutions. “It will be demonstrating that competent authorities are cooperating and taking action to identify and take enforcement action against illegal money or value transfer services.” During the intervening period Pakistan government did strenuous hard work to plug the gaps. Ambitious laws were enacted. Finance ministry improved institutional mechanisms for handling anti-money laundering and countering financing terrorism issues. Coordination between the State Bank, Banking institutions and law enforcement agencies had also been strengthened to curb money laundering and terror financing. Pakistan has recently addressed issues raised by the FATF through a tax amnesty scheme, while Securities and Exchange Commission has issued Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Regulations (2018). National Security Committee has also reaffirmed its commitment to cooperate with the FATF. Through its Action Plan, Pakistan has demonstrated to the world that it was ready to go an extra mile to curb money laundering. Pakistan will have to deliver on the first goal by January next year and complete all the 26 actions by September 2019,” it is indeed a tight schedule. One wonders whether Pakistan has requisite mechanisms in place to implement and steer such an ambitious plan. An expert assessment has it that though Pakistan’s inclusion in the grey list may hurt its image in the international landscape, its economic impact will not be as severe as being portrayed. This is because when Pakistan was part of the grey list/blacklist (2008-2015), it successfully approached multilateral bodies, floated international bonds and had international trades. Hopefully Pakistan will be able to come out or grey list in September 2019, however it must follow consistent economic policies to remain out of such trouble spots. Caretaker government would do a great service by forming a national commission to identify and punish all those responsible for letting the things reverse back after Pakistan’s previous journey to blacklist was over.

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