Non-state actors, hereafter NSAs, rightly view bilateral peace in the subcontinent as an existential threat, detrimental to their survival. Consequently, they have time and again demonstrated their unalloyed goal of violating the peace process as a cynical tactic to sustain and thereby achieve their political goals.
Kargil was a glaring example of the audacious use of NSAs to further state policy, albeit to a ludicrous end. Both Pakistani troops and insurgents were fighting alongside each other as brother soldiers against a common enemy i.e. India.
Mumbai attacks drew international attention to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which till then was considered merely a regional terror outfit with interests primarily in J&K.
LeT, with its strong base in Pakistan, is one of the most formidable NSAs, with both the ability and capability to mount an attack anywhere in the hinterland of India. Any attack by LeT in India is understood by India as an attack by Pakistan.
The appearance of Ansar-ut-Tawheed fi bilad al-Hind (AuT) on the jihadi landscape indicates a growing interest in enticing India’s Muslim population to carry out jihad in India.
The main goal of AuT is to develop a transnational network of jihadist and redirect their focus toward India.
With access to larger resources, knowledge of local geography, and the help of IM members in Pakistan, AuT has the capacity to stage lethal strikes in India.
Such attacks would be seen by India as attacks supported by the Pakistani state, as AuT members share a long history of association with ISI.
Pakistan’s blind eye towards NSA:
Though Pakistan joined the global war on terror, yet its approach toward targeting terror groups has been faulty and selective.
India-centric terrorist outfits were conveniently overlooked as they did not apparently pose a direct threat to the United States and other Western allies.
With numerous attacks on Pakistani military installations, their actions are not only damaging to India but also detrimental to Pakistan’s national interests.
Steps Pakistan must take:
Islamabad needs to realize that its continued tolerance of these NSAs as anti-India proxies is prohibitively costly. Pakistan has in the past tried to rein in these actors but its efforts were cosmetic.
The idea of reining in these groups by restricting their activities has failed miserably. Pakistan needs to devise a solution to this anathema by completely removing, rather than reining in, these threats.
The key to Pakistani’s success in eliminating NSAs lies in its will to completely divest itself of its terror protégés.
Global peace cannot be held ransom by these sinister NSAs. Their potential to stoke a conflict is in itself a challenge to the legitimate states and their sovereign authority.
Since any future attack on Indian military targets by a Pakistan-based insurgent group could invite more surgical strikes and thereby possibly trigger a full-blown armed conflict, Pakistan needs to collaborate with India in denying operational space to these NSAs.
Pakistan can show its commitment to regional peace by uprooting these NSAs, who very often have challenged the legitimate sovereign authority of the Pakistani state.