Wait and watch
Recent developments in Pakistan have given observers reason to believe that their government is maybe serious about cracking down on terrorist organisations that target India. Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and head of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, was placed under house arrest by Pakistani authorities late last month. They also put its parent political organisation Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and another associated body on the terror watch list. Recent history, however, gives New Delhi reason for pause. Despite a mountain of evidence against Saeed and his organisation, he has never been convicted in a court of law in Pakistan for want of credible prosecution. New Delhi's response to the events of last month is laden with scepticism. Vikas Swarup, the spokesperson for India's Ministry of External Affairs, continued to question "Pakistan's sincerity" in dealing with home-grown terror. This apparent change in tack from authorities in Pakistan does not alter the fact that groups like the LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammad are responsible for a host of deadly terror attacks on Indian soil. These groups have been central to the Pakistan military-intelligence establishment's plan of using "non-state actors" to fulfil their strategic objectives against India, especially in the volatile Kashmir region. Moreover, these groups continue to organise rallies and raise funds out in the open without fear of arrest or prosecution, despite India's repeated demands for credible action. Nonetheless, it is imperative to ask what precipitated Saeed's arrest.
In a recent meeting with Jalil Abbas Jilani, Pakistani High Commissioner to the US on January 11, the United States Assistant Secretary of State raised the issue in the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG)'s latest report. According to American officials, the report raised some significant objections regarding the activities of JuD, which is known to finance terror activities on Indian soil. If Pakistan fails to address these concerns, Washington has vowed to take stern economic and diplomatic action. American pressure on Pakistan may have also manifested in a possible expansion of US President Donald Trump's recent ban on Muslim immigrants from seven countries to include Pakistan. Senior officials in the Pakistan military have taken cognizance of this possibility and in a bid to save face have acquiesced to Saeed's arrest. Influential think-tanks, which have a long-standing association with the Republican Party, are also advocating stern action against Rawalpindi's institutional support for terror. Finally, reports indicate that the change of guard in the Pakistan army from Raheel Sharif to General Qamar Javed Bajwa may have resulted in a change of approach to terror groups like the LeT and JeM. Bajwa is apparently not too keen on issuing support for them. Only time will tell if he is serious about restricting their activities. China's possible role has also been posited, although it's highly unlikely considering their recent actions in the United Nations. These are indeed good signs for India, but no victories should be claimed yet. Rawalpindi has long manipulated Washington into funding them while fomenting terror in areas of strategic interest to them.