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The Costs Of Terrorism For Pakistan

08/10/2016 3:44 AM IST | Updated 14/10/2016 8:30 AM IST
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On 18 September this year, 18 Indian soldiers of the 10 Dogra and 6 Bihar Regiments were killed at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir by four heavily armed terrorists who infiltrated the Indian Army base. In the crossfire, all four were killed but not before they had inflicted major damage. GPS sets were discovered on them tracing their point of origin to Pakistan. Indian officials suspect the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) is behind the attacks. Incidentally, JeM is alleged to have been involved in the 2 January, 2016 attack on the Indian air force base in Pathankot, Punjab as well.

Terrorism can inflict enormous negative costs on nation states that enable such tactics for foreign policy goals.

Here, though, I want to show how terrorism doesn't just affect its targets but can also inflict enormous negative costs on nation states that enable such tactics for foreign policy goals.

Loss of reputation

There are huge "reputational" costs that come with an association with terror. The fact that Osama bin laden was caught hiding in a Pakistani military town, Abbottabad, that houses the prestigious Kakul military academy, did not help matters much for Pakistan's reputation. Osama's hideout was located just a mile or two away from the academy. Three years earlier, on 26 November, 2008, 10 Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists travelled by sea from Karachi to Mumbai, and targeted several locations in the city, killing 166 people. During the three days of terror, the gunmen received "live directions" via satellite phones, from their command centre in Karachi. Today, LeT and JeM leaders Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed can move about freely within Pakistan's territory. For instance, Hafiz Saeed, the leader of LeT, involved in the Mumbai attacks, is allowed free movement within Pakistan, leads Eid prayers, and regularly threatens to strike terror within India.

The Haqqani Network, involved in terror strikes in Afghanistan, is believed to be backed by Pakistan's security establishment. The Council on Foreign Relations backgrounder states, "Pakistani authorities have long had ties to domestic militant groups that help advance the country's core foreign policy interests, namely in connection with Afghanistan and India."

To be viewed as a state which harbours terrorism is a huge reputational cost, with direct negative consequences for its citizens.

Rebounding regional tensions

Terrorism heightens regional tensions. In the immediate aftermath of the Uri attacks, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi cancelled his presence at the 19th SAARC summit scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November. This was followed by cancellations from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and reservations expressed by Sri Lanka. Consequently, Pakistan cancelled the summit.

To be viewed as a state which harbours terrorism is a huge reputational cost, with direct negative consequences for its citizens.

In his book, Magnificent Delusions, Hussain Haqqani, former Pakistani ambassador to the US, states, "My countrymen will someday have to come to terms with global realities. Pakistan cannot become a regional leader in South Asia while it supports terrorism." There are deep seated concerns of "insider threats" within Pakistan that could press the nuclear button. For instance, the 2011 Mehran naval base attacks near Karachi had all the hallmarks on an "inside job." It was discovered then that radical Islamic groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir established links with high ranking Pakistani military officials. These "links" raised concerns internationally as to whether Pakistan's nuclear weapons are safe.

Conflict escalation

Another cost of terror is conflict escalation between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. Post Uri, on 27 September, 2016, Indian special forces crossed the Line of Control (LoC) into Pakistan, with specific intelligence on terror bases and claimed to have succeeded in erasing six terror sites. While Pakistan denied that the "surgical strikes" occurred, they were confirmed by the Indian Director General Military Operations (DGMO), Lt Gen Ranbir Singh. It is highly inconceivable that India would risk its international reputation by officially announcing such surgical strikes if they did not take place. Any escalation of conflict between two nuclear armed nations, of course, is viewed with deep concern by the international community.

Incidentally, there is a "strategic belief" held within Pakistan that a country could utilize "terror strikes" within the safety of the nuclear umbrella and escape unpunished. The Indian response to Uri signalled to Pakistan that its belief that terrorism will "help advance the country's core foreign policy interests, namely in connection with Afghanistan and India" is not without costs.

Memento Mori by Pablo Bartholomew

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