The world must be wishing that Pakistan closes the terrorist camps it harbors as quickly as it has agreed to release Indian Air Force pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. Without going into the ‘ tactical game theory’ employed in such battles and without indulging in a nuclear-winter scenario-building in a potential conflict escalation, what is needed in today’s international diplomatic arena is a ‘third way’ strategy. It is not about you win or I win , it is about a ‘third way’ i.e. uprooting the fundamental cause of terrorism so that peace wins.
Most of the world leaders, including United Nations secretary generals, have over the last decade hammered a point that two of the most defining challenges facing humanity in the 21st century are climate change and terrorism. “Climate change is running faster than we," said Antonio Guterres. Terrorism is even racing faster than climate change.
India was on side of the global efforts to shape the Paris Climate Agreement. The world is now on India’s side in its fight against terrorism. In both cases, PM Modi’s government has carved out the ‘ third way’ strategy and it is working.
There are striking exceptions though. US President Donald Trump does not agree on causative elements of climate change, but has shown unflinching agreement on strong, urgent global action to eradicate terrorism and has been supportive of India's cross-border military actions in recent days. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is working staunchly with India side by side on climate change issues, has however, wavering approaches on terrorism directed against India from Pakistan. As in climate change, there is now need for collaborative and urgent actions and institutionalised approaches mixed with illustrative and replicable initiatives. Time is running out in both cases.
India should take the lead with President Trump in establishing an intergovernmental effort of ‘International Anti-terrorism Alliance’, much on the lines of the International Solar Alliance it piloted with the President of France in 2015. He is surely to get international support in this common cause. The world knows that the United Nations is unable to put together concrete and definite action on terrorism due to diverse and hidden interests and is not even able to agree on the definition of terrorism. Hence an ‘International Anti-Terrorism Alliance’ (IAA) would be an important tool to garner global support.
Imposing trade sanctions seems to be work in a globalized world to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table. Along with trade sanctions, India through the IAA should aim at halting funds to countries supporting terrorism, directly or indirectly, It should form an alliance with digital giants like Google, Microsoft and Facebook to track the terrorists and the channels of payments to these groups by deploying the Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain technologies as key tools. We already have good example of efforts in tracking fossil fuel subsidies that are being tracked to identify gaps in action and promises on climate change.
India should show stewardship at a global level in deploying what it is known for - modern satellite technologies developed by the Indian Space Reseach Organisation (ISRO) to locate the terrorist camps, use digital mechanisms like Internet of Things ( IoT) to monitor their location and movements in a precise way and uproot the terrorists camps without declaring war and without any civilian losses. Even Pakistan has expressed the need to help it locate such camps. Group of countries, including India, should lead such efforts. In the case of climate change, deforestation and bio-diversity, losses are now being tracked around the world by using modern IoT technologies
Finally Modi should invite President Xi for an informal summit in the same India the way President Xi invited PM Modi for the Wuhan summit in the heat of the Doklam border crisis. Indeed, China has not taken a very friendly line with India on terrorism, particularly when it comes from Pakistan. It has supported the condemnation of terror unleashed by the Pakistan-based JeM and other terror groups against India in the UN Security Council terrorism sanctions but protects the sanctioning of its leader, due to some technical and tactical issues. India and China can informally iron out these differences.
Modi and Xi have the personal chemistry that would help in addressing terrorism as it is helping in addressing climate change. People to people contact between China and India is now at higher level after the Wuhan summit. One can expect further improvement after another informal meeting in India.
Finally, water as a weapon against Pakistan to take action against terrorism may go against innocent civilians. PM Modi, in 2016, after attack by the terrorists harboured in Pakistan has famously said that blood and water cannot flow together as a veiled threat to Pakistan during Indus Water Treaty meeting. Like trade sanctions it can help in accelerating the negotiations.
India indeed has toolkit of a diverse nature. It can succeed in this ‘third way’ action against terrorism by employing it in a strategic manner. The way it has done to get Wing Commander Varthaman’s release.
(The writer is Director, TERRE Policy Centre. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)