The Big Story: Shifting winds
The surprise ending to last week’s Paris meeting of the Financial Action Task Force of the G-7 nations on combatting money laundering and terrorist financing is the first diplomatic step forward for India since its success at the International Court of Justice in 2017. A special round of voting saw Pakistan moved to the “grey list”, sending the message that other countries should think carefully before making investments there.
At first, it seemed like a US effort to put Pakistan on this list would fail, thanks to opposition from China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. In fact, Pakistan’s foreign minister Khawaja Asif even tweeted out after the motion had been blocked by these three “friends.” But, according to reports, India and the US seized on this tweet as proof that Islamabad was not serious about combating terrorist financing or in the protocols of the FATF, which has confidentiality rules about internal processes. Eventually, China and Saudi Arabia were convinced to change their minds, and an unusual second attempt at pushing the motion through was successful. Pakistan now has three months to show an action plan to the FATF, or else it will be put on the grey list in June. That could make it difficult for Islamabad to get loans from the International Monetary Fund and might scare away other international investors.
This diplomatic victory is said to have come in part because India agreed to support a leadership role for China at the FATF, a move that was underscored when New Delhi congratulated Beijing onbecoming vice-chair of the group. This development, as well as the decision of the Brazil Russia India China South Africa or BRICS grouping in September 2017 to name, for the first time, a militant group based in Pakistan as a regional security concern, represents an opportunity for New Delhi.
Conventional wisdom has suggested that India and China are at loggerheads on most issues and that Beijing will back Islamabad on all counts. But as China expands its investments in Pakistan and the region, it has as much of a stake in preventing terror as India does. It might find it useful to support Pakistan as a counterweight to India, but Beijing would prefer that the weight comes from the Pakistani state and not Islamabad’s preferred weapons: their “good” terrorists, so to speak.
Beijing has now shown a willingness to act more seriously against Pakistan’s operations, a move that will hopefully lead to introspection in Pakistan where it is being asked why its “brother nations”, Saudi Arabia and China, stood by and allowed this embarrassment. The US too seems more prepared than before to squeeze Pakistan. India is attempting to refashion its own Pakistan policy, a bargain whereby it recognises China’s importance in multilateral fora in return for Beijing acting against Pakistani terror seems like a positive one. This is a win for New Delhi. It must build on this.
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- “What the PNB scam underscores is that combating scams and corruption requires the slow boring of hard boards across of a range of institutions, not dramatic gestures that are more about seeing to be doing things than actually achieving the objective,” writes Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express, saying the scam takes corruption off the table as a talking point for 2019.
- “Rather than enticing farmers with compensation and increased budgetary outlays, the government should assure doable action plans that quickly rescue them from price or crop failure,” write Seema Bathla and Ravi Kiran in the Hindu.
- V Anantha Nageshwaran in Mint makes the argument that frauds might actually be a welcome thing because, in lieu of of genuine systemic change, the crisis at least forces authorities to act and plug the hole.
- “Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat is leading the Sangh’s outreach to cement caste fault lines that it believes divide Hindus and can impact the outcome of the 2019 general election.The danger that caste fissures pose to a consolidated Hindu vote bank has been a key concern for the Sangh,” writes Smriti Kak Ramachandran in the Hindustan Times.
- Presumptions about the neighbourhood – that the US will not be able to prevent Pakistan from funding terror, or that China will always back Islamabad – are not cast in stone, C Raja Mohan argues in the Indian Express, adding that India should take advantage of positive developments.
Ajaz Ashraf speaks to Sikh diaspora scholar Paramjit Singh Judge about everything from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the legacy of Bhindranwale.
Do you think India’s focus on militants in Canada during Trudeau’s visit could lead to a revival of the idea of Khalistan, as quite a few people I spoke to in Punjab fear?
No. These things have been happening for a while. [Akali Dal leader] Parkash Singh Badal must be very unhappy. He wanted to welcome Trudeau in a major way. Badal will not allow the BJP to play such games [that is, keep harping on about Canada supporting Khalistanis]. Also, such games will lead to a collapse of the Akali Dal-BJP unity, and Hindus, being in a minority [in Punjab], will be in great trouble, as it happened in the 1980s. Nobody wants it. The differences between Hindus and Sikhs are very different from those between Hindus and Muslims.
Why is it that the idea of Khalistan appeals to the Sikh diaspora?
It is because of long-distance nationalism, a term coined by [political scientist] Benedict Anderson. He says long-distance nationalism is safe, romantic and exotic. You are safe living in a democratic country. You know nobody will touch you there as you work for the idea of nation that you have. Certainly, your native country cannot punish you.