There was a similarity in the pattern and nature of attacks carried out back-to-back in Iran and India recently. Both were vehicular suicide bombings carried out to attain maximum damage to the security forces of the countries. But the most irrefutable element was that both attacks are traced back to the Pakistani soil to militant outfits Jaish Al Adl (JAA) and Jiash-e-Mohammad (JeM) respectively harboured in Pakistan. Can India and Iran come out with a joint mechanism to fight terror perpetrated by Pakistan and convince others to join this fight to cleanse Pakistan of the militant sanctuaries?
Even as India is preparing a dossier against Pakistan in the wake of the Pulwama attack, Iran has called for revenge against Pakistan for allegedly harbouring militants belonging to the Jaish-al-Adal (Army of Justice) group that killed twenty-seven Revolutionary Guards of the Iranian border force. It has to be noted that JAA is a Salafi Sunni Jihadist group mainly consisting of Iran’s Balochi Separatists calling for separation from Iran. This group has found safe haven and support from Pakistan in the restive Balochistan province. Similarly, JeM that claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack has sanctuaries in the Punjab province of Pakistan.
Both New Delhi and Tehran came to each other’s support hours after the attack and are lashing out at Pakistan. India announced a 200% tariff on Pakistani imports and pulled back the ‘Most Favoured Nation’ Status to Pakistan. Iran also echoed India’s complain under lining strongly that Pakistan will pay a heavy price for providing sanctaury terrorists from Sistan-Balochistan. It has to be noted that both the terror groups have struck to Iran and India in the past too but the magnitude of destruction and death tolls in the recent attacks is the unprecedented.
Iran’s all-powerful Revolutionary Guards has accused Pakistan of supporting the perpetrators of a suicide bombing echoing similar sentiments as India following the suicide attack on a CRPF convoy. Condemning the attack Major General Mohammed Ali Jafari of Iran said that, “The government of Pakistan must pay the price of harbouring these terrorist groups and this price will undoubtedly be very high”.
It would be interesting to note that the two attacks were timed more or less around the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman to Pakistan, India and China. These attacks could also be to foil the Crown Prince’s visit, so as to deter Saudi investments in India. An important factor why Pakistan is backing the JAA in Iran is the Chabahar port and India’s major role in the port. The port is located in the Sistan-Balochistan province of Iran. So, keeping the province unstable will serve Pakistan’s purpose to harm Indian interest in the Chabahar port. Therefore, Pakistan will continue its support to the terror outfits which in turn will keep turmoil going. Similarly, JeM will find support in Pakistan as it serves its purpose of keeping Kashmir on the boil leading to India’s security and economic concerns.
Iran has been pressing Pakistan to crack down on the terror elements. Pakistan is unwilling to do so. Islamabad has denied the charges for both the attacks. Pakistan has always refused to bow to external pressure to step up its fight against home-grown militancy. Pakistan denies it provides a safe haven for the terrorists who carried out the recent attacks in India and Iran.
The callous attitude of Pakistan had promoted India to carry out a surgical strike within Pakistan to destroy terrorist sanctuaries, not too long ago. Iran too has strongly reacted to the attack and has threatened to enter Pakistani soil to target the perpetrators of the attack. The terror attacks are a reminder to both Iran and India to stand together and strengthen the resolve to bolster counterterrorism cooperation. A joint mechanism to fight terrorism and to ban terrorist groups like the JeM and JAA should be on the top of the priority for New Delhi and Tehran.
Script: Dr. Zainab Akhter, Analyst On Pakistan