HT: India moves to isolate Pakistan globally after Pulwama attack

February 16, 2019

India moves to isolate Pakistan globally after Pulwama attack

India has started putting together a dossier on Saturday that will detail Pakistan’s involvement in the suicide bomb attack that killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama this week. The dossier will be circulated in world capitals as part of New Delhi’s efforts to isolate Pakistan internationally, according to senior government officials who did not want to be named. 

Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale and secretaries of the external affairs ministry held separate meetings with several envoys, including ambassadors from the Association of Southeast Nations, the Gulf Cooperation Council and Central Asian and African nations.

India launched a diplomatic offensive against Pakistan on Friday, a day after the Pulwama attack, when Gokhale met 25 heads of missions, including the P5 or five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia and France — besides South Asian countries and key partners such as Israel, Japan and South Korea.

Also on Friday, India withdrew the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status it gave to Pakistan in 1996, which offered the neighbour a guarantee that it wouldn’t be treated any differently from other trade partners of India.

“Upon withdrawal (of MFN), basic customs duty on all goods exported from Pakistan to India has been raised to 200% with immediate effect,” finance minister Arun Jaitley wrote in a Twitter post on Saturday. The government is also planning to tighten medical visa requirements for security reasons, two officials aware of the developments said. 

Orders to remove the security detail of “separatist leaders” have also been issued by the government. “Only a few have security cover, it will be removed in comings days,” a senior officer who did not want to be named said.

Forty personnel were killed on Thursday when an explosives-laden vehicle driven by a suicide bomber rammed a bus carrying CRPF personnel, part of a large paramilitary convoy, on the Jammu-Srinagar highway in the deadliest attack on security forces in three decades of insurgency. The Pakistan-backed Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the attack within hours. Pakistan has denied involvement. 

The dossier that New Delhi is putting together will contain evidence of Pakistani involvement not only in the Pulwama attack but also in training, equipping and guiding terror groups in Jammu and Kashmir and even in mainland India, officials said.

The Cabinet Committee on Security — the highest decision-making body on security, chaired by the prime minister and comprising the defence, home and external affairs ministers — met on Friday and decided to launch a massive diplomatic effort to isolate Pakistan. 

As part of that effort, during Saturday’s meetings, Gokhale and the other secretaries rejected Pakistan’s denial of involvement and highlighted its role in “using terrorism as an instrument of its state policy”, said an official familiar with the development. 

Reacting to Pakistan foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua’s remarks denying involvement in the attack, external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar described Islamabad’s call for an investigation into the strike as “preposterous”.

“Jaish-e-Mohammed has claimed responsibility for the attack. The organisation and its leadership are located in Pakistan. Lashkar-e-Taiba and other terror groups have welcomed the news of the attack. These groups are also based in Pakistan. Pakistan cannot claim it is unaware of their presence and their activities,” Kumar said.

Notably, after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks when 10 Pakistan-based terrorists took the sea route to attack India’s financial capital and killed 166 people, New Delhi had sent nearly a dozen dossiers, including the DNA samples of the terrorists, to Islamabad with a demand that Pakistan investigates and book those behind the attack. And earlier, India had given evidence of Pakistan’s role in supporting terror groups to the international community.

Pakistan hasn’t acted against these groups despite international demands, “especially groups and individuals proscribed by the UN and other countries”, Kumar said.

“The links to Pakistan are clear and evident for all to see. Its own ministers have shared the same podium with UN-proscribed terrorists,” he added. As the suicide bomber had issued a video declaring himself a member of JeM, India has “no doubt that the claim is firmly established”, he said.

The curbs on medical visas are likely to end Pakistanis’ access to cheap and quality medical facilities in India. 

An immediate option is to demand additional documents, including an endorsement by Pakistan’s foreign ministry, to ensure only genuine patients can enter India for medical treatment, one of the officials quoted above said. 

At present, cases of organ transplants, particularly liver and kidney, require authentication by Pakistan’s foreign ministry. The purpose is to ensure that an organ donor is donating his or her organ voluntarily, the official said. Dr Sanjeev Bagai, chairman, Nephron Clinic, said medical visa norms for patients from Pakistan were tightened after the September 2016 attack on an Army brigade headquarters in Uri. Now, they are expected to be blocked completely.

“Patients from Pakistan prefer India because of better clinical results at one-tenth the cost (in developed countries). India is nearer, there is no language barrier, currency availability is not an issue and they get better follow-up services,” he said.

Indian defence experts said it was necessary to immediately suspend all kinds of visas so that ordinary citizens pressure Islamabad to stop protecting terrorists on its soil. “Visas on all possible grounds — family, medical, trade, etc. — must be stopped for a reasonable period to enable Pakistan’s ordinary citizens to realize what their state has been up to,” said Deba Mohanty, a New Delhi-based defence and strategic affairs expert. In 2015-16, about 1,921 medical visas were issued to Pakistani nationals, 58,360 to patients from Bangladesh and 29,492 to those from Afghanistan

Deba Mohanty (VP, SSPC), Hindustan Times, February 16, 2019