Strategic Stalemate in Kashmir

For almost two decades now, since 1989, Pakistan has been waging a 'proxy war' against India in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). It has done this by aiding and abetting disaffected and misguided Kashmiri youth to rise against the Indian state. Despite the cease-fire on the Line of Control (LoC) since November 25, 2003, and the recent rapprochement, Pakistan continues to surreptitiously practice its peculiar brand of state-sponsored terrorism. This is borne out by the continuing attempts at infiltration and the number of incidents of violence in Kashmir during the summer of 2007. While actual infiltration from across the Line of Control (LoC) into J&K has reduced due to the greater vigilance of the army and the superior night vision devises and sensor technology that it is now armed with, the number of attempts being made to infiltrate have increased.
Till some years ago, Pakistan's official position was that it provides only diplomatic, political and moral support to 'freedom fighters'. However, it is now internationally accepted that the Pakistan army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate have been providing military training, weapons, military equipment, ammunition and explosives to the terrorists, besides financial support. Till the present cease-fire came into effect, the Pakistan army actively supported terrorist bids to infiltrate into J&K by engaging Indian posts along the routes of infiltration with artillery and small arms fire to keep them down.  Though infiltration has now been reduced to a trickle, even the present low levels would not be possible but for the encouragement and steady support of the Pakistan army.
 
The present phase of militancy in J&K began in 1989 with a spontaneous people's movement after the Indian state exhibited callous disregard for the people's yearning for self-governance by rigging elections to the J&K Assembly yet again. In the first few years of militancy, up to 1992-93, the militants had received local sympathy due to the Kashmiri people's perceived grievances against the Indian state. However, it was never a grass-roots movement and the Kashmiri people were soon disillusioned by the brutal and un-Islamic terror-tactics of the so-called mujahideen. The Pakistan Army and the ISI saw another opportunity to exploit the situation, after having failed to destabilise Punjab, and drew up a diabolical plan to do so. The leadership of the militants soon passed into the hands of international terrorist organisations that began to recruit and push mercenary terrorists from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Turkey and even Bosnia into J&K. These so-called Jihadis, primed to act as foot soldiers of Islam, had anything but Jihad on their minds. They exploited the power of the Kalashnikov to indulge in extortion, drinking orgies, womanising, forced weddings and even rape. 
 
Frustrated in their efforts to create a popular uprising in Kashmir, the Pakistan Army-ISI- Jamaat-e-Islami combine then evolved a plan to enlarge the area of militancy to other parts of J&K. By mid-1998, the security forces were again in complete control of the situation and the state was rapidly returning to normal. In a last ditch attempt to re-kindle the almost dead embers of militancy, the ISI pushed in a large number of regular soldiers under the guise of Kashmiri militants into the Kargil sector of J&K during the spring of 1999. This resulted in the Kargil conflict in which the Indian army fought relentlessly to push the intruders back across the LoC and the Pakistani army was forced to suffer yet another humiliating defeat. 
 
In a decade and a half, Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in J&K has claimed the lives of 16,476 innocent civilians and 5,024 security forces personnel. The number of injured includes 21,659 civilians and 12,124 security forces personnel. Between January 1990 and February 2007, the security forces in J&K had killed 20,647 terrorists and about 18,000 terrorists had been apprehended. Of those killed, approximately one-third were foreign mercenary terrorists. During this period, 3,877 terrorists had surrendered. Almost 3,00,000 persons have been rendered homeless. Approximately 27,000 assault rifles and an equal number of assorted weapons have been recovered from the terrorists by the army alone, besides over seven million rounds of ammunition and about 40,000 kg of explosives. Weapons in these huge quantities could not have been smuggled into J&K without concerted efforts of the Pakistan army and ISI. The loss to public and private property has been estimated at more than Rs 2,500 crore. India has indeed paid a heavy price for Pakistan's proxy war.  
Though the Pakistan army and ISI have reduced infiltration to a mere trickle, it is not often realised that they have kept the entire infrastructure for supporting terrorism intact. The training camps, waiting areas and launch pads are still intact. Between 50 and 60 such camps are known to exist in Pakistan and POK. Recruitment of new Jihadis continues apace even though new recruits are now hard to find. New methodologies are being adopted to smuggle arms and ammunition into India, e.g. by the sea route and across the borders with Nepal and Bangladesh. Strict control is still being exercised over the Jihadi elements that are already inside J&K. The Indian army intercepts about 20,000 radio conversations every month between the terrorists in J&K and their ISI, LeT and JeM handlers. Clearly, the Pakistan Army and the ISI can turn the tap on again whenever they wish to. 
 
Pakistan's present game plan to pursue reconciliation with India is merely a short-term tactical ploy, as it cannot afford to fight on three fronts simultaneously. Temporary peace on its eastern front suits the Pakistan army as it is now free to fight the al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists on its western front, in conjunction with the US and NATO forces. Simultaneously, it can concentrate on eliminating its internal security challenges that are slowly but surely spinning out of control. Support for the rapprochement process is also aimed at winning brownie points with the international community and the international financial institutions so as to gain better terms for servicing its multi-billion dollar debt. Hence, Pakistan's support for the ongoing rapprochement is not a long-term strategic change of heart. 
 
General Musharraf, Pakistan's president, is under tremendous pressure on the home front from Jihadi elements responsible for internal instability and from the Americans to deliver more in the so-called Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). Despite these pressures, there is unlikely to be any change in the Pakistan army's hostility towards India and its covert support, even sponsorship, of Islamist fundamentalist terrorism across the LoC and the international boundary (IB). Musharraf has made it clear several times that Pakistan will continue to provide diplomatic, moral and political support for what he insists is a "freedom struggle" in Kashmir. It remains to be seen whether the newly elected civilian government will be allowed to follow a different policy. Chances are that Pakistan's proxy war with India will go on because the Pakistan army has not changed its fundamental policy towards India. Hence, lasting peace in Kashmir and between India and Pakistan is still a distant dream.     
 
(The author is Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.)