India supporting and sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan? Pakistani lies exposed!

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Sartaj Aziz with the Pakistani dossiers 

So the truth is finally out. Testifying before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on foreign affairs, Mr. Sartaj Aziz confessed that the dossier on the so called Indian involvement in promoting terrorism in Pakistan given to the United Nations and the United States did not contain any ‘material evidence’ but instead contained ‘patterns and narratives’ of Indian involvement. This was stated in response to the demands of the members of the committee that the dossier and the evidence of Indian involvement be shared with them. Sartaj Aziz refused to share with them the dossier and stated that ‘The dossiers have been meticulously prepared, but material evidence cannot be shared for the sake of protecting the sources’.

The so called dossier was initially prepared by Pakistan for handing over to the Indian National Security Advisor (NSA), Mr. Ajit Doval during the meeting of the National Security Advisors (NSAs) of India and Pakistan (as was agreed to in the meeting between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan on the sidelines of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) conference in Ufa, Russia).  It was reported (Economic Times, July 14, 2015; Pakistan PM’s NSA Sartaj Aziz says to hand over dossier on alleged Indian ‘interference’) that the Pakistani Establishment had told ET that this dossier had ‘solid evidence’ and had already been shared with some countries. Since the meeting was subsequently cancelled, the so called dossier was later presented to the UN Secretary General by Ms. Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations and by PM Nawaz Sharif to John Kerry, US Secretary of State. This dossier was never shared with any Pakistani journalist or analyst and this is what a pro-establishment anchor Dr. Shahid Masood had to say about the dossier. Have a look:

 

 

Even the United States refused to acknowledge the dossier or the charges mentioned therein. Spokesman for the United States Department of State, John Kirby stated that he was not aware of the receipt of any such dossier. John Kerry (who is generally considered to be a Pakistan sympathizer), upon his meeting with the Pakistani PM, made no mention of the dossier and tweeted that he and PM Sharif discussed ‘security, regional and global issues’.  America further snubbed Pakistan and asked it to put in ‘additional effort to target all terrorists in its territory.’

 

Pakistani Accusations:

Of late the Pakistani establishment has been crying hoarse over Indian involvement in supporting terrorism in Pakistan. It accused India of funding the Pakistani political party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) led by Mr. Altaf Hussain, supporting and funding the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), Pakistan and the Baloch Nationalists. The so called dossier was said to have been prepared as conclusive evidence of these involvements. The Pakistani establishment picked up the story of India having funded the MQM with a view to promote terror in Karachi from a report about the confessional statement of MQM leader Tariq Mir who was stated to have confessed before the London Metropolitan Police of having been provided funds by Indian agencies. The existence of any such confessional statement (as shown in the Pakistani media) was denied by Alan Crockford, the spokesman of the London Metropolitan Police who stated that ‘no such document is part of the record’. Interestingly, initially the story of Indian funding to MQM was broken in a BBC report by Owen Bennet-Jones. This story by Mr. Bennet-Jones remains in my eyes one of the shoddiest and most one sided works done by BBC and undermines its credibility and reputation. Here is how the (so called) expose begins, ‘Officials in Pakistan’s MQM party have told the UK authorities they received Indian government funds, the BBC learnt from an authoritative Pakistani source.’ So the entire expose rests on an ‘unnamed’ Pakistani authoritative source and the source from MQM. No cross verification of facts needed from the London Metropolitan Police! Since the latter denied it, the whole expose falls flat. You can have a look at the report and judge for yourself:

 

 

Pakistan has for long accused India of supporting Baluch nationalists who are waging a war for independence from Pakistan. It has accused the Indian consulates in Afghanistan of being conduits to support this war. To any student of international politics, it would appear preposterous that the Iranians would allow the Indian consulate in Zahedan to be used to foster an independence movement in Pakistani Baluchistan for this would invariably have a collateral impact on their restive Sistan Baluchistan province. Much hue and cry was made in 2009 over a statement by Dr. Christine Fair as proof of Indian support to Baloch terrorism wherein she had said (in the Foreign Policy roundtable), ‘Having visited the Indian Mission in Zahedan, Iran, I can assure you they are not issuing visas as their main activity.’ Masters as they are in the art of distorting facts, Pakistanis picked upon this statement as proof that India was supporting terrorism in Balochistan through Iran. In an interview to Outlook magazine subsequently, Dr. Fair categorically denied that India was supporting terrorism in Balochistan. She said, ‘I never said there was active support for terrorism, that is something that the Pakistanis attributed to me.’

Similarly, during the sidelines of the Non Aligned meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt in 2009 when the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met his then Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani, Pakistani media went on overdrive reporting that a Pakistani PM had provided a dossier to Manmohan Singh on the Indian involvement in Baluchistan. It was reported that it was this dossier and the proof provided therein, that had forced the Indian PM to acknowledge the Indian involvement. It was because of this that Balochistan had found a reference in the joint declaration issued after the meeting. This joint declaration was much criticized in India. Later on though it was acknowledged by none other than the then Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, that no such dossier had ever been given to the Indian PM. In an interview to the Outlook magazine he stated, ‘No we didn’t (hand over a dossier). Actually, we flagged the issue of Balochistan. We asked for a positive attitude and asked for non-interference inside Balochistan.’

It is worthwhile to note that Baloch separatist leaders like Hyrbyair Marri have repeatedly and categorically stated that Baloch people are not in favour of seeking Indian help for Baloch independence (Dawn, October 10, 2015; ‘Will never seek help from India: Hyrbyair Marri). He stated “I have never sought help from them, nor will I in the future.” Interestingly while Pakistan was preparing the so called dossier (in August), Brahmdagh Bugti, the Chief of Baloch Republican Army (BRA), announced his decision to open a dialogue with the Pakistani government. He stated that he was ready to negotiate with the Pakistani establishment and was ready to coexist with Pakistan. Here is what he said in his BBC Urdu interview:

 

 

If India was controlling these Baloch nationalists, how could it allow Brahamdagh Bugti to negotiate with Pakistan with a view to bring peace to Balochistan, especially when the relationship between the two countries is at the moment close to its lowest? Is it any secret as to what Pakistani agencies end up doing to Hurriyat moderates who show flexibility and willingness to negotiate with India? What happened to Abdul Majid Dar and Abdul Gani Lone?

The most preposterous claim made by the Pakistani establishment is that India supports the Tehrik e Taliban (TTP), Pakistan. Post the tragic attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, General Asif Bajwa, the Chief Military Spokesman accused India of funding the TTP. That the Taliban had been created and supported by Pakistan has been acknowledged by the then President of Pakistan, Parvez Musharraf and is now on record. In an interview to the Guardian (13 February 2015, Musharraf: Pakistan and India’s backing of ‘proxies’ in Afghanistan must end), he stated that Pakistan supported the Taliban to undermine President Karzai. That the TTP is rabidly anti India has been stated time and again by the spokesmen and chiefs of Taliban themselves. In an interview to The News, (December 23, 2008), the Chief of TTP, Baitullah Mehsud had committed that ‘thousands of our militants are ready to fight alongside the army if war is imposed on Pakistan (by India)’. Hassan Abbas, the former Pakistani security officer in his book, The Taliban Revival writes that in November 2008, post Mumbai attacks, fearing surgical strikes from India, Pakistani intelligence had declared Baitullah Mehsud and Mullah Fazlullah, both senior commanders of TTP as ‘patriotic’ at a special confidential media briefing. He writes that leading Pakistani journalists were told by the Pakistani intelligence, ‘We have no big issues with the militants in FATA. We have only some misunderstandings with Baitullah Mehsud and Fazlullah. These misunderstandings could be removed through dialogue.’

Similarly, after an attack on the Pakistani side on the Wagah border (November 2014), TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan tweeted that India was as much a target for them as Pakistan and threatened to attack PM Modi.  See here:

 

 

Why the Pakistani insinuations?

Why is it that the Pakistanis have now suddenly ratcheted up the insinuation that Indians are involved in terrorism in Pakistan without any conclusive evidence? In the eyes of this author, there is method to this madness. Here are the reasons:

First, is the issue of ‘equivalence’. Pakistan seeks equality with ‘Hindu’ India in all spheres. As India has, much to the chagrin of Pakistan, successfully managed to convince the international community of being a victim of Pakistani sponsored terrorism, Pakistan wants to paint itself as a ‘victim’ of Indian sponsored terrorism so as to develop a false moral equivalence between the two countries. Unfortunately for Pakistan, there are not many takers of this argument and it is still seen by the international community as principally a ‘sponsor’ rather than a ‘victim’ of terrorism.

Second, Pakistan remains deeply concerned about the developing strategic relations between India and the United States. Pak PM Nawaz Sharif expressed concern during his US visit (September 2105) that American support to India was affecting the strategic balance in South Asia and requested the United States to side with Pakistan against India and to pressurize the latter to negotiate on Kashmir.

Pakistan’s ambivalent attitude towards terrorism and its selective targeting of terrorists has gradually changed the narrative in the United States which now has started to look at Pakistan more as a part of the problem than the solution. Mention should be made here of the candid admission by Sartaj Aziz that Pakistan should not target those militants who do not threaten its security. ‘Why should America’s enemies unnecessarily become our enemies?’ he asked in an interview to BBC Urdu in November 2014. ‘Some of them are dangerous for us and some aren’t, so why should we make enemies of them all?’ he asked while speaking of the Haqqani network.  Though the US establishment is still to get over its old habit of seeking to ‘buy’ off better behavior from the Pakistani establishment, more and more voices of the futility of this approach are now being heard. A corollary to this is that India receives a more sympathetic hearing to its narrative of Pakistani sponsorship of terrorism. USA has been pressurizing Pakistan to act against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack and also against the D Company.

Third, the Pakistanis believe that since the mid of this year, the geo-strategic and geo-political situation/ dynamics had gradually and irretrievably turned in their favour. Their all-weather friend China had recently announced an investment of 46 billion dollars in Pakistan and President Ghani of Afghanistan had gone out on a limb to repair the relationship with Pakistan reversing many of his predecessor’s so called pro-India policies. President Ghani had not only decided to put on hold Karzai’s request for Indian weapons to fight the Taliban, but had also sent six Afghan army cadets to Pakistan for training, visited the Pakistan army HQ (November 2014) and signed an agreement with the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to combat terrorism. In return it was expected that Pakistan would use its influence to reign in the Taliban and bring them to the negotiating table. The United States and China too were supportive of Pakistan in the belief that it could help in a negotiated settlement of the Afghan imbroglio by bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. All this helped create a mistaken sense of bravado and arrogance in the Pakistani establishment that they were indispensable to the achievement of the geo-strategic objectives of major powers and so could adopt a more belligerent attitude towards India. (That the subsequent events like the failure of the Murree talks and the Kunduz attack by the Taliban made Ghani realize the futility of his outreach to Pakistan and the limitations of Pakistani influence on the Taliban itself is another story.)

Fourth, is the oft repeated Pakistani establishment’s strategy of ‘externalizing’ its internal problems. Since the launch of operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan, incidents of terrorism have gone down in the country but there still have been some spectacular terrorist attacks by the TTP like the unfortunate attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar (December 2014) in which 132 innocent children were killed and the attack on the Air Force Base in Badaber (September 2015) in which 29 people were killed. Dr. C. Christine Fair in her book ‘Fighting to the End: Pakistan Army’s Way of War’ mentions that in the face of internal threats and challenges, the Pakistani Army seeks to externalize (mostly successfully) these threats to the enemies (India) who are held responsible for creating and aggravating these threats. This in turn not only brings the focus back to India but also buttresses the Pakistan army’s role as the premium institution in meeting these threats. As mentioned earlier, it is not for nothing that the DG, ISPR Gen. Bajwa was quick to blame India after these attacks.

Fifth, is the personality of the present Army Chief of Pakistan General Raheel Sharif. He is a hawk on India. He hails from a family of ‘martyrs’ and his brother Rana Shabbir Sharif was killed in the 1971 war with India and is the only recipient of both the Sitara-e-Jurrat and the Nishan-e-Haider. In fact, on his elevation to the post of COAS many analysts argued that he got the position only because of his family legacy. He was not in a command position as Lt. General but was serving as Inspector General, Training and Evaluation (DG, T&E). He was also not the senior most but third in the list of Generals to be considered for the position after Lt. General Haroon Aslam and Lt. General Mehmood. Taking a firm anti-India line always helps consolidate one’s position amongst skeptics in Pakistan. Further, like Nawaz Sharif, he too is a Kashmiri. So any one in India having any illusion that the General will be accommodating towards India is in my opinion day dreaming.

Sixth, the change in government in New Delhi and the new hardline but pragmatic policy of the present government has disoriented the Pakistani establishment. Used to the old ways of the earlier governments, Pakistan finds the belligerent statements of the present NSA and ministers disconcerting. It does un-nerve the Pakistani establishment when India’s defense minister goes on record to state ‘kaante se kaanta nikana’ (use a thorn to take out thorns) and that ‘we will neutralize terrorists through terrorists only’. Pakistan understands that India does have the ability to respond to Pakistani terrorism in kind (but has as a policy refrained so far from doing so) as was demonstrated during the days of the Punjab insurgency when RAW (India’s spy agency) had created a Covert Intelligence Team X (CIT-X) and a Covert Intelligence Team J (CIT-J) to target Pakistan and Khalistani terrorists.  For some unknown reasons and in the mistaken belief that it will earn Pakistani goodwill, these covert teams were closed down under the orders of the then PM, Mr. I. K Gujaral. Pakistan believes that if it raises sufficient hue and cry about Indian involvement in terrorism in Pakistan (even without any evidence), it could pressurize India to refrain from such covert activities/operations.

Seventh, with the international pressure it was subjected to after its state sponsoring of the Mumbai attack, Pakistan was forced to reign in some of its proxies created with the express aim to give effect to its doctrine of ‘bleeding India with a thousand cuts.’ Further, under domestic pressure post the attack on school children on Peshawar, it started taking action against anti-Pakistan militant organizations like the TTP and some sectarian organizations. While some terrorist organizations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) are pro-Pakistan to the hilt and would in no circumstances countenance an attack on the Pakistani state, other terrorist groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammad, Al-Badr, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi etc. share an ideological affinity with the militant Islam professed by groups like the Taliban. Recently, there were reports that bodies of 71 Al-Badr militants killed in a drone attack in Afghanistan were returned to Pakistan, pointing to the ideological affinity and relationship between these militant organizations. The Pakistan establishment fears that these militants may soon declare the Pakistani state and army as apostate and may turn against them by aligning with anti-Pakistani militant groups. A belligerent stance against India not only helps in shoring up Pakistani reputation in the eyes of these militant groups (for as mentioned earlier, these groups remain firmly anti-India) but also helps to keep public opinion firmly in its favor.

Last but not the least, the narrative that India is supporting and funding groups like the TTP helps remove any skepticism from the minds of the Pakistani troops and officers in the justness of their fight against these groups, who claim to fight for Islam and the Sharia. It is no secret that the Pakistani society and the Armed forces have become deeply Islamic post Zia’s Islamization programme. During the Afghan Jihad, many in the Pakistani armed forces developed close contacts and life-long associations with the Mujahadeen. Brig. Sultan Amir (Colonel Imam) has been a legendary figure in the Pak army and a supporter of the Taliban till his assassination ironically by the latter. Khalid Mehmood, a technician with the Pakistan Air Force was convicted and hanged in an assassination attempt on Parvez Musharraf. Similarly, the attacks on PNS Mehran Naval Base in 2011 and Karma Airbase in 2014 were attributed to insiders. With such divided loyalties amongst the armed forces, the official narrative that TTP is funded by and so is a stooge of ‘Hindu’ India is a convenient psy-op devised to foster unity amongst the armed forces and to remove all skepticism from their minds of the righteousness of the cause of taking up arms against these groups.

It can thus be seen that while the establishment of Pakistan does realize that it does not have any substantive proof of Indian involvement of terrorism in Pakistan, it is convenient and useful for them to keep carping about it. I conclude by quoting Cyril Almeida, a well-known Pakistani columnist on the dossier (Dawn, October 4, 2015, ‘One country, Three policies’); ‘Some familiar with the contents thought it lucky the Indians weren’t willing to receive the dossiers…Because, had the Indians been embarrassed into receiving them, they may have gleefully splashed the contents around the world — so shoddy being either the work of the dossiers’ compilers or, worryingly, of the intelligence-gatherers themselves.’ So can we say that the drama of the cancellation of NSA talks was enacted not by Pakistan because India insisted on discussing only terrorism, but because they were too afraid and embarrassed to hand over these so called dossiers with proofs to the Indians?

 

 

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Who runs the internet?

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“The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.”- Eric Schmidt

How does the internet run? Who governs it?

The internet is a giant global network of connected networks. There is no government or body or individual that decides how it should be run or what policies are to be followed so e.g. there are no globally applicable policies on issues such as intellectual property, privacy, internet freedom, net-neutrality, e-commerce and cybersecurity. From the technical point of view, it works because there is a Domain Name System (DNS) and an IP addressing system managed by the ICANN and standards and protocols such as TCP and IP developed by the IETF.

The DNS is really the heart of the internet, the “phone book” that lets us type domain names in the address bar (like yahoo.com), then translates them to IP addresses so that the correct servers can be reached and the correct pages loaded. A domain name is itself made up of two parts, the part on the right of the dot, such as “com”, “net” and “org” is called a “top-level domain” or TLD. Each TLD is handled by a company called a registry (e.g. VeriSign for .com and .net). The part before the dot is the actual domain name registered by the domain owner with a registrar such as Godaddy or Tucows. ICANN regulates the use of TLDs and creation of new TLDs through contracts with registries and accreditation of registrars.

ICANN is governed by an international board of directors, however, the U.S. Department of Commerce has final approval over changes to the DNS root zone (the master database of all top-level domain names). This arrangement is a historical legacy because the US Department of Defense developed the network technology from which the Internet evolved. ICANN receives inputs from governments too through a Government advisory committee (GAC). The GAC advises ICANN on public policy issues but its advice is not binding.

In March this year, US announced that it will not extend ICANN’s contract with the Department of Commerce which is due to expire in 2015 unless a transition plan is not in place. In other words, US would relinquish its control over the internet. But the US is clear it will not hand over the levers to any organization that can be controlled by any other country.

So what’s broken?

Most of the debate over internet governance has revolved around ICANN even though in recent memory other issues have gotten mixed up with it. ICANN has been criticized broadly on two fronts- one is that it is not transparent on policy issues; the other is many nations feel that the U.S. government holds undue control over the DNS because of its legacy role and technological prowess.

Let us look at the first one. In 2011 E.g., ICANN approved the creation of a new TLD (.xxx) for adult websites despite heavy opposition from conservative religious groups and the GAC over the impact of pornography; again in 2011 ICANN approved a programme under which hundreds of new TLDs have since been introduced into the DNS such as .museum, .plumbing and such like. ICANN has defended its actions on grounds of due process having been followed and adequate safeguards being in place and more competition, choice and innovation being available to consumers. But it is not that simple- organizations that have felt compelled to buy .xxx domains at steep prices simply to prevent misuse of their name argue this was just meant to benefit the registrar industry which are the main source of ICANN’s revenue. Similarly the proliferation of new TLDs has raised fears that fraudsters will be able to register scam websites that appear similar to genuine ones. Trademark holders fear they’ll not be able to protect their brand names online, recently France expressed anger over the planned launch of .vine and .vin TLDs.

The other criticism stems from the fact that a single nation controls key Internet functions. E.g. the U.S. government could potentially decide that certain countries don’t deserve to be on the internet because they repress human rights or sponsor terrorism and kill the country specific TLD records through their control of the root zone file. Indeed in the last few years, USA has seized hundreds of domains registered with American and even foreign registrars under a programme called “Operation in our sites” targeting sites believed to be hawking counterfeit goods. Since foreign registrars are not bound by US laws, this is achieved by serving court orders on VeriSign, the American company that controls the all-important .com and .net addresses. It may be noted- ICANN has never contracted a non-American registry.

More recently, after Snowden’s revelations of mass surveillance both in the U.S. and abroad, criticism over the U.S.’s credibility to oversee DNS objectively has intensified tremendously. Even though it has become somewhat of a lightning rod for critics, it should be noted that NSA surveillance does not amount to abuse of the DNS, neither is it related to the functioning of the ICANN. NSA snooping has been made possible for two main reasons- one most of the world’s data passes through US servers. Why? Because most web content is hosted on American servers. Just look at our addictions to our respective Gmail, Youtube, Netflix and Facebook- all American companies. Indeed, roughly 25 % of the world’s internet traffic is accounted for by Google. Two, US has been directly tapping fibre-optic internet cables through tie-ups with several countries as part of a programme called RAMPART-A, revealed in the latest Snowden revelations.

Multi Stakeholder approach

So, after ICANN, what? There is no clarity on this issue. Broadly speaking, there is a tussle on the amount of leverage governments will exercise in the new body. There is a perception that an intergovernmental body will enhance the ability of authoritarian regimes like China and Russia to heavily censor and filter the internet. In my view, too much is being made out of the US ceding control over the ICANN. ICANN manages the technical aspects of the internet only and it has no say in e.g. what content Chinese citizens can or can’t access in their country. Despite ICANN being a multi-stakeholder, non-profit organization, different degrees of repression of internet freedom is practised in many countries of the world. China’s “Golden Shield” (aka the Great Firewall) blocks foreign websites and filters domestic content frowned upon by the authorities. Posts on online media are routinely taken down on government orders. As many as 40 countries practise some form of internet repression.

The real reason why internet governance has become a hot issue is the NSA surveillance. The revelation that USA has been looking at virtually all the data of the world has made other nations insecure, apart from lending some legitimacy to the existing repressive practices of authoritarian regimes. Brazil, whose President found her phone records being tapped, has already taken baby steps to bypassing US-eavesdropping- it wants all data related to Brazilians to be stored locally, it plans to create a US-free network by laying undersea cables linking Brazil directly to Europe and other South American countries, it plans to build more Internet exchange points to divert Brazilian traffic away from possible interception and it is planning to build an encrypted email service to reduce dependence on Gmail and suchlike. Other nations too may follow suit.

How far these plans are successful remain to be seen- they’ll cost a huge amount of money and may involve diversion of precious resources from developmental projects, apart from the fact that Brazilians will probably be able to circumvent these controls just like netizens in repressive countries do presently (proxy servers). Whether the USA will be able to tap these new undersea cables in the face of opposition also remains to be seen since presently it does have tie ups with several countries for that purpose. A move away from US-based services like Gmail may impact American business bottom lines.

The other aspect of course is that the NSA controversy may embolden repressive regimes to increase control over the internet within their national borders.

India’s position seems to be neither here or there. In 2011, at the IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) summit, India proposed a UN committee of 50 states- a setup that would place governments in a decision making role and other stakeholders in an advisory role which is a reversal of the present model of governance. At the NetMundial (meeting of the Internet governance forum) in Brazil earlier this year, its position was that it wants strong state presence in internet governance since the internet is used for core civil, economic and defence transactions, at the same time it wants unfettered access to knowledge.

There is indeed a case for national governments to have a say in internet freedoms within their borders given the ubiquity and powers of this medium, however most governments have been up-to no good when it comes to the internet and are rightly distrusted by netizens and other stakeholders. Reconciling these conflicting interests is virtually impossible and an interesting battle lies ahead.

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