NEW DELHI: With India building the diplomatic case against Pakistan and its terror proxies, the forthcoming visit by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, will be an opportunity for the Modi government. Salman, or MbS as he is known, will be visiting Pakistan before stopping over in India, before going on to Malaysia, Indonesia and China.
Despite India’s statement on Thursday asking for support to ban Masood Azhar at the UN Security Council’s 1267 committee, official sources today told TOI that India would only push it if China indicated its support. At this point, they said, China continues to support Pakistan on Azhar. The request was made to the Chinese ambassador by foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale today. Given China’s statement today, they said, India was unlikely to push the Azhar ban in the UNSC until they get a green light from China. This is at odds with India’s statement on Thursday.
India will also push back against Pakistan’s terror financing activities at the FATF plenary which begins on February 17 in Paris. Pakistani officials have said they are in compliance on five issues that they had been asked to deal with. Indian sources say Pakistan has a long way to go — in the most recent meeting, Pakistan was asked to show action on 27 counts. After yesterday’s attack, Indian officials plan to double down on demanding that Pakistan reveal the actions it has taken to curb financing of Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Falah-i-Insaniyat, an LET front organisation.
From its international partners, India is looking for a few things — understanding of India’s position and why India believes the source of the terror is Pakistan, help in pressuring and isolating Pakistan, and support when India actually does take action against Pakistan.
Saudi Arabia’s close relationship with Pakistan will be in full play over the next couple of days, but India will use MbS’visit here next week to make its case on the security and terror front. After Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in 2016, India and Saudi Arabia agreed to enhance cooperation in counter-terrorism operations, intelligence sharing and capacity-building and to strengthen cooperation in law enforcement, anti-money laundering, drug-trafficking and other transnational crimes. This new phase of cooperation was a new level for India and Saudi Arabia since it has been traditionally much closer to Pakistan in the security sphere.
That will be tested because India will hope that MbS would weigh in with the Pakistan establishment on its support to terror. However, for both Saudi Arabia and US, the JEM terror strike in Kashmir could not have come at a worse time. The US’ formal statement asked Pakistan to end its support to terror groups. Apart from calling in envoys of different nations, the Indian leadership is also speaking to their international counterparts sometimes at the highest level.
Pakistan is currently reaping the benefits of its support to the Taliban by appearing to broker peace negotiations between them and the US. This means Pakistan believes it can negotiate for itself a greater manoeuvring space both vis-a-vis India as well as its support to terrorism and terror financing.
Sources believe Pakistan reckons this puts them at an advantage at a time when India is threatening a muscular military response to the Pulwama attacks.