“The principal characteristic of twenty-first-century international relations is turning out to be nonpolarity: a world dominated not by one or two or even several states but rather by dozens of actors possessing and exercising various kinds of power. This represents a tectonic shift from the past.”
(Richard N. Haass; The Age of Nonpolarity: What Will Follow U.S. Dominance)
With a slight alteration to the original saying, it can be said that “in ‘international relations’, there are no permanent friends, no permanent enemies. There are only permanent interests.” But, in modern norms of international relations, it is almost incumbent on all states to use only the appropriate, internationally-recognised and acceptable tools, tactics and strategies to pursue their national interests. Their policies and actions must be legitimate and should also be in accordance with the international law. However, a cursory look at the history reveals that states, sometimes, have violated the sovereignty of others in pursuing their own national interests. One such example is the use of non-state actors.
Sometimes the attitudes, behaviours and acts of independent and sovereign states tacitly support non-state actors’ agenda and help them in achieving their nefarious motives which may destabilize regional security and ultimately jeopardize international peace. When such militant groups become very powerful, they start dictating the state machinery on domestic and foreign policy issues. This is tantamount to undermining state institutions in order to promote their own evil agenda based on hatred, terrorism, extremism, exclusiveness and fundamentalism. So, they are a potential threat to the international state system, unacceptable in international relations and against international law, because of their dangerous and long-term consequences, of the kind the present-day world is facing.
It is now almost seven decades that Pakistan and India have been involved in a severe enmity and have fought four wars during this period. The failure of both countries to solve their mutual conflicts, especially Kashmir issue, resulted in the provocation of non-state actors of the extremist Islamist variety who are, at present, among the major threats to world peace. These elements were largely cultivated during the anti-Soviet Afghan War in the 1980s. But, when they started to openly participate in activities of Mujahideen in Indian-held Kashmir, the tensions between both countries began to soar.
The non-state actors continued with their activities but hardly any attention or a serious effort by the international community was made to stem their rise. However, after the fateful 9/11 attacks, a coordinated international action was started against them. In December 2001, an attack on Indian Parliament took place. Indian media and the government alike started to point fingers at Lashkar-e-Taiba (Let) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) as the entities responsible for that. India claimed that the attack was carried out under the guidance of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. Indian Home Minister Advani said that Pakistani state was involved in those attacks along with the terrorist groups. Moreover, Indian officials’ statements and a resultant military mobilization evinced that India had planned to attack Pakistan.
On the other side of the border, Pakistan while condemning these attacks also put its border forces on high alert. So, this attack which was orchestrated by non-state actors, brought two nuclear states on the verge of a full-fledged war.
Later, Pakistan banned several organizations which have been actively supporting the Kashmir Jihad — such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (Let), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Sipah-e-Muhammad, Harakat-ul-Mujahjideen, etc., besides other sectarian organizations. But, these banned organizations changed their names and kept on with their activities for several years. They even developed their social structure and participated in public services in the remote, underdeveloped areas. This helped them gain public popularity and strengthen their roots in rural and far-flung areas of the country.
The 2008 Mumbai Attacks — often trumpeted as 26/11 — again stirred up the political environment of the Subcontinent. India again put the whole blame on a Pakistani group Jamat-ud-Dawa — a decedent group of LeT — that they have sent ten militants via sea route to Mumbai.
Here, once again Indian government as well as media exploited the situation and created a hype to blame Pakistani Intelligence agency, ISI, for this act. However, it could not provide any concrete evidence to support its claim to this day.
Mumbai attacks changed the tone of Indian politicians, diplomats and media who were bent on igniting a war between the two countries. Some Pakistani media outlets did also play a complementary role in further deteriorating the state of affairs. Later, some reports showed that the facts were starkly different from the Indian assertions and claims.
After Mumbai attacks, India was ready to attack Pakistan. However, the International leaders played their diplomatic role and kept India away from committing such a blunder of taking actions against Pakistan, because Pakistani forces were too much engaged in the war against terrorism and diversion of their attention could have been hazardous for international peace.
To find out the truth in Indian allegations, Pakistan, on its own part, started a trial against the people India had accused of these gruesome attacks. However, no firm evidence was provided by India to stand any ground in the court of law. Hafiz Saeed and Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi were named as masterminds of these attacks. Pakistan acted on Indian allegations by putting Hafiz Saeed under house arrest and detained Lakhvi along with six other people in 2009. The Anti-Terrorism Court in Islamabad in December 2014 granted him bail and soon he was detained once again under “Maintenance of Public Order” legislation. Finally Lakhavi was released on April 10, 2015 and his lawyer told a foreign news agency that his client was released because of insufficient evidence.
The release of Zaiki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi produced a wave of tension in India which was expressed with very harsh words. The Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman said:
“This (the decisinon) has reinforced the perception that Pakistan has a dual policy on dealing with terrorists.”
But, it is to be understood, especially by the Indians, that in Pakistan, the judiciary is completely independent and it takes its decision freely in accordance with the norms of justice. If firm evidences are provided, action against them can be taken but India has failed to provide any concrete evidence in this regard.
It is also important to note that India is patronizing anti-Pakistan elements in all parts of Pakistan, especially Balochistan. This fact has been admitted by the US Defense Secretary, Mr Chuck Hagel in 2011. Mr Hagel even went on to say that India is perpetrating terrorist activities against Pakistan from Afghanistan. Several other reports do also suggest that TTP is getting financial support from India. Indian national security advisor also accepted it by saying that Taliban are mercenaries and they can be used against Pakistan by giving them a lot of money and he also said that India will break Pakistan whenever it wanted.
It clearly shows that non-state actors play a dominant role in South Asian politics. These proxies are very powerful and they can ignite a war in South Asia that may result in a use of nuclear weapons. This is highly dreadful as such a war would annihilate the whole South Asian region. South Asian states should cooperate with each other to handle these non-state actors from the platform of Saarc or by some other agreement. A suitable example in this regard can be an SCO-type agreement with other nations. If the problem of these non-state actors is resolved, it can eliminate a lot of threats to security of these South Asian Nations.