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Recognising Reality

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Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has shown sagacity by wasting no time in returning Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, as he was required to do under international law and the long held conventions of most air forces. With this, he avoided further escalation of an already tense situation between India and Pakistan. While India’s attack had been on terrorist targets, the issue would have transformed into a direct one, requiring more severe options. With this, Khan has also made a significant deposit in the goodwill bank, the interest on which, though not immediate, will be paid over time by a not ungrateful India. He will have, however, to display consistency in this regard, which everybody knows is difficult, as the Army controls all strategic decision making. The pressure on Pakistan with regard to patronage of terrorist groups has intensified of late. This is partly because of India’s persistent raising of the issue on every possible international platform, particularly during the past couple of years. Also, because the United States, Afghanistan and Iran have directly experienced its duplicity on fighting terrorism, based on its ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorism differentiation. There is also greater realisation worldwide of the grievous harm that out of control fundamentalism can cause following the depredations of the ISIS. It is only China’s stubborn and unrealistic attitude that has kept Pakistan from facing the retribution it deserves. It has shamelessly prevented the UN Security Council from declaring Masood Azhar a terrorist, as it would lead to sanctions against Pakistan for not acting against him. Pakistan, on its part, has a number of reasons for its hesitation because all these terrorists know too much and could severely embarrass it if they spill the beans. In addition, it does not want the jamaats to turn their anger inwards. It is a fact that those it categorised as ‘bad’ terrorists have immensely hurt the general public and the security establishment – to the point of deliberately targeting school children. The shift in international opinion is also reflected in the change of attitude among Muslim nations towards Pakistan. Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj being invited to attend the OIC Summit in Abu Dhabi is an indication of this. That this decision hurt Pakistan is obvious from that country’s petulant refusal to be present at her speech. Hopefully, it will no longer be able to blackball India, which has the second largest population of Muslims in the world, from having at least observer status in the organisation. The self-appointed nuclear ‘protector’ of the Islamic world is well on the way to being cut down to size. If it accepts the reality, there is a real possibility of relations improving with India.