August 27, 2002


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B Raman

Pakistan's devious ploy

Since the 1950s, India has been facing insurgencies and terrorism in many areas along its international borders inhabited by ethnic/religious minorities. Alienation due to insensitive handling of the minorities by successive governments, whether at the provincial level or in New Delhi, was the initial cause of insurgencies or terrorist movements. The attempts of Pakistan to take advantage of these movements for its own strategic objectives by assisting them added to our difficulties with the problems.

In the Northeast and Punjab, which Pakistan recognises as integral parts of India, Pakistani assistance was confined to clandestine provision of funds, training and arms and ammunition. In Jammu and Kashmir -- which Islamabad does not recognise as an integral part of India and which it looks upon as rightfully belonging to it -- its involvement has been with no holds barred. It has infiltrated thousands of jihadis into the state, most of them Pakistani Punjabis, belonging to pan-Islamic organisations such as the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami, Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad. These Pakistani jihadis have practically taken over the responsibility of keeping the Indian security forces bleeding in the hope that battle fatigue would ultimately set in and make India amenable to a solution, which would, at least partly, if not fully, serve Pakistan's strategic objectives.

Pakistan's maximum objective is to acquire control of the whole of J&K presently part of India; its minimum -- to get at least the valley and those areas of the Jammu and Ladakh regions, where the Muslims are in a majority.

The attitude of the West in general and the US in particular to the problems faced by us due to externally-aided insurgencies and terrorism in our territory and against our nationals has never been devoid of ulterior motives. In Nagaland and Mizoram, they shared intelligence with us on the Chinese assistance to the insurgents, but never on the Pakistani help. Once China stopped assisting the insurgents after 1979, sharing of intelligence dried up. The Nagas and the Mizos took to arms to assert their ethnic not religious identity; and yet, their Christian background contributed to the Western reticence to help us.

The intelligence agencies of the USA and Pakistan jointly acted as the midwives at the birth of the so-called Khalistani movement in Punjab. The seeds for the Khalistani movement were sown by the Nixon Administration in the minds of some sections of the Sikh diaspora to punish Indira Gandhi for her vigorous assertion of India's independence vis-a-vis the USA. It was only during the second term of Ronald Reagan that the US stopped hobnobbing with the Khalistani terrorists and started cooperating with India against them. After the crash Air India's Kanishka aircraft in June 1985, in which many Canadian and other Western citizens were killed, intelligence cooperation from the US and other Western countries increased, but this cooperation was confined to helping India protect its citizens and interests from terrorist attacks. Strategic calculations based on perceptions of US national interests came in the way of holding Pakistan accountable for sponsoring the Khalistani terrorism and acting against Islamabad.

The ambivalence was even more blatant in J&K. Till 1992, US perceptions converged with those of Pakistan in viewing developments in the state as a freedom struggle and not terrorism. It was only after an attack by the terrorists on some Israeli tourists in 1992 that Washington DC grudgingly admitted that there were acts of terrorism in the state. This admission became stronger after the kidnapping of some Western, including American, tourists in 1995 by the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen under the name Al Faran. This led to the declaration of Harkat-ul Mujahideen, then known as the Harkat-ul Ansar by the US in October,1997, as a foreign terrorist organisation.

However, there was still reluctance till 9/11 to concede that Pakistan was behind the terrorism in J&K. Independent evidence gathered by the US agencies after 9/11 about the association of the Pakistani pan-Islamic jihadi organisations with Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda led to the US declaring the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad also as foreign terrorist organisations. The US mounted pressure on Islamabad to act against these organisations and their terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory. This pressure increased after the attack by the LET and the JEM on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, to avert a threatened Indian military reprisal against the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory.

Despite strong evidence about the use of these organisations by Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment against India, the USA and other Western countries continue to drag their feet in applying against Pakistan the provisions of the UN Security Council Resolution No 1373 against international terrorism. This Resolution, which was passed after 9/11, strongly calls for action against the use of terrorism by one country against the other, whether it be direct or indirect, active or passive.

While Iraq has been threatened with direct military strikes by the US and the UK on the basis of unverified information about its giving sanctuaries to Al Qaeda dregs from Afghanistan and a campaign has been mounted for having President Saddam Hussein overthrown, Pakistan has been showered with lollipops. These have come in the form of economic aid and military supplies despite the admissions of senior US military officers themselves that practically the entire leadership and cadres of Al Qaeda have found safe sanctuaries in Pakistani territory. While Saddam's military dictatorship has been proclaimed as an absolute evil which has to be eradicated for the sake of regional peace and security, the equally ruthless military dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf is viewed as an unavoidable necessity for the success of the USA's war against terrorism and for the sake of regional peace and stability.

Millions of dollars from the secret funds of the US intelligence community are being spent to ignite a popular revolt against Saddam for the restoration of democracy. Even larger sums are being poured into Pakistan, overtly and covertly, to buttress the position of Musharraf in disregard of the overwhelming public and political opposition to his continuance in power.

Almost one year of US military strikes against the terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan has not decimated pan-Islamic jihadi terrorism spearheaded by Al Qaeda and its accomplices in Pakistan's jihadi organisations and abettors in its military-intelligence establishment. It has only dispersed it. Any hopes that the successful holding of the forthcoming elections in J&K -- even in the unlikely event of their being left undisturbed by Pakistan -- could mark the return of peace in the state could turn out to be a mere illusion.

Musharraf has shown a disturbing determination not to act against pan-Islamic organisations active in J&K. His calculation that the US pressure on him to act against their infrastructure in Pakistani territory would not lead to punitive consequences for Pakistan if he continues to circumvent the pressure have proved correct so far. These organisations are not interested in either democracy or development. No package, political or economic, no palliatives, no reassuring words will make them amenable to reason. Their objective is to bring J&K under the sway of pan-Islamism. Their numbers might have been reduced, but their religious motivation or irrationality has not suffered any diminution despite the US action in Afghanistan. On the contrary, it has only been further strengthened. India will continue to face the brunt of their irrationality in the months to come, whatever be the outcome of the forthcoming election and even in the event of the resumption of a dialogue with Pakistan.

How to deal with this pan-Islamic irrationality, which will continue to be the greatest threat to the integrity and security of our nation in the short and medium terms? What options, overt and covert, are available to India? Are our intelligence and security agencies well equipped to deal with them? If not, what are the deficiencies in dealing with them? How to remove those deficiencies? These are the questions, which need serious examination and action as we approach the first anniversary of 9/11. What is urgently required is a Special Task Force to urgently find answers to these questions.

B Raman

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