Pakistan army's foolhardy attack on a forward Indian post on the Line of Control in the Palanwala sector of the area of responsibility of the Akhnur Division on January 22, 2000, was part of Pakistan's larger gameplan of keeping the LoC active so as to perpetuate the myth that Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint. Trans-LoC pro-active measures need to be initiated to raise the cost for the ISI and the Pakistan army to train, equip and infiltrate foreign mercenaries into J&K. In military terms these could include raids on terrorist camps, hideouts and staging areas close to the LoC by surrendered Kashmiri militants specially trained for this purpose; ambushing of army convoys; missile, rocket and artillery attacks on headquarters anti administrative installations; the blowing up of bridges, culverts, power stations and other infrastructural facilities supporting army deployments and punitive artillery assaults on Pakistani posts through which infiltration takes place.
After the military coup in October 1999, there has been a substantial increase in the number of incidents of fundamentalist Islamist terrorism sponsored by Pakistan in India, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Daring attacks on the camps of security forces by ‘suicide squads’ and acts of terrorism against soft targets, such as the hijacking of Indian Airlines’ IC-814 and the gunning down of political leaders, bear witness to the concerted efforts being ‘made by Pakistan’s mercenary lslamist terrorists operating in J&K and their ISI handlers to enhance the revel of ‘Proxy war’ in keeping with Pakistan’s strategy of ‘bleeding India through a thousand cuts’. Pakistan army’s foolhardy attack on a forward Indian post on the Line of Control (LoC) in the Palanwala sector of the area of responsibility of the Akhnur Division on January 22, 2000, was part of Pakistan’s larger gameplan of keeping the LoC active so as to perpetuate the myth that Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint.
A Decade of Proxy War
Pakistan’s ‘proxy war’ against India is now over a decade old. Pakistan officially accepts that it is providing diplomatic, political and moral support to Kashmiri militants. However, it is now internationally accepted that the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate are providing military training, weapons, military equipment, ammunition and explosives to the militants, besides financial support. The ISI spends approximately Rs 5 crores per month for its proxy war campaign. The Pakistan army also actively assists the militants to infiltrate into J&K by engaging Indian posts on the LoC along the routes of infiltration with artillery and small arms fire and provides a large number of regular Officers to lead the militants.
Much has changed over the last ten years and the militancy in J&K is no longer an indigenous movement. In the first few years of militancy in Kashmir Valley, up to 1992-93 the militants had received local sympathy due to the Kashmiri People’s perceived grievances against Indian state. However, it was never a grass-roots movement and the Kashmiri people were soon disillusioned by the brutal un-Islamic terror tactics of the militants whose leadership had passed into the hands of mercenary mujahideen, inducted by Pakistan in large numbers to wage a so-called, Jehad. These mercenaries were from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Turkey and even Bosnia. Most were hardened criminals and had anything but Jehad on their minds.
They exploited the power of the Kalashnikov to indulge in extortion, drinking orgies, womanising, forced weddings and even rape.
The systematic ethnic cleansing carried out at the behest of the ISI resulted in the forced migration of almost the entire Hindu population out of the Kashmir Valley into the Jammu region and other parts of India. This was contrary to Kashmir’s Sufi culture. The activities of the mercenaries caused immense resentment among the people and gradually the recruitment base of Kashmiri militants dried up completely. Also concerted counter-insurgency operations conducted by the Indian Army and the other security forces, based on the increasing, availability of real-time ‘actionable’ intelligence from the Kashmiri people, decimated the militants and brought the internal security situation under control in Kashmir Valley by 1995-96.
Frustrated in their efforts to create a popular uprising, in Kashmir, the Pakistan army-ISI-Jaamat-e-Islami combine then evolved a plan to spread the area of militancy to other parts of J&K and to the neighbours states. From the summer months of 1996, a new phase of state-sponsored from across India’s western border commenced in the Jammu Division of J&K. In a series of brutal massacres at Barshala, Parankot, Hinjan Gali, Surankot, Phagla, Chapnari, Horna, Kalaban, Chandi and Salian, foreign mercenaries targeted the minority Hindu population with a view to destabilise the hitherto quiet areas of Doda, Punch, Rajauri and Udhampur South of the Pir Panjal range. The aim was clearly to create an ethnic divide so as to trigger an exodus of the Hindu population from those areas too. However, this diabolical attempt to change the demographic pattern of J&K through terror-tactics was quickly thwarted by the Indian army and other security forces.
By mid-1998, the security forces were in complete control of the situation in J&K and the state was rapidly returning to normal. Tourism one flourishing, industrial activity was gaining momentum, schools and colleges were once again opening up and political activity was being gradually revived. On the other hand, the Pakistan Army and the ISI were becoming increasingly frustrated. In a last ditch attempt to re-kindle the almost dead embers of militancy, the ISI pushed in a large number of foreign mercenaries (equipped with sophisticated arms and explosives and led ‘mostly by Pakistan Army regulars) into J&K during the wine! months of 1998-99—a period that had generally been relatively much quieter during previous years. Most of these mercenaries were neutralised in a number of fierce encounters with the security forces. Radio intercepts clearly revealed their handlers’ increasing frustration at almost ten years of effort going inexorably waste. The Pakistan Army and the ISI found it hard to accept that the Indian Army could conduct a successful counter-insurgency campaign using minimum force and showing an unprecedented tolerance in the face of mounting casualties. Clearly, the Pakistan Army and ISI planners were not willing to accept defeat and were bound to strike back in whatever manner they could.
Till end-1999, the army alone had killed about 9,000 militants in J&K and approximately 24,000 had been apprehended. They included over 1,000 foreign mercenaries killed and about 200 apprehended. Another 1,900 militants had surrendered. These figures do not include the results achieved by the Border Security Force (BSF), the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and other central and state government security forces operating in J&K. Till end-1999, army casualties included 1,184 killed and 3,394 wounded. Approximately 24,000 weapons of various sorts have so far been recovered from the militants.
In addition to the casualties suffered by the security forces, Pakistan sponsored terrorism has claimed the lives of over 29,000 innocent civilians and rendered about 2,80,000 persons homeless. The loss to public and private property has been estimated at Rs 2,000 crores. Throughout this prolonged period of Proxy War, India has shown tremendous restraint and immense tolerance in the face of grave provocation to its security. it is inconceivable that any other nation would have acted with the sense of responsibility that India has in not launching trans-Line of Control(LoC) operations to eliminate militant training camps and interdict known routes of infiltration.
Present Wave of Terrorism and Responses
An analysis of the 19 major incidents of terrorism over the period January-December 1999 reveals that while 11 occurred in Kashmir Valley, the remaining eight were perpetrated in areas South of the Pir Panjal Range. Of these, three incidents were of indiscriminate firing, four of grenade attacks in populated areas, five encounters between the security forces and the mercenary terrorists in which civilians suffered casualties and in seven cases, the terrorists engineered IED blasts. In addition, mercenary suicide squads launched daring attacks on the periphery of security forces camps.
Three issues underpinning the present wave of the terrorism unleashed by Pakistan need to be clearly understood if reasoned responses are to be formulated. Firstly, most of the terrorists now operating in J&K are foreign mercenaries and not ‘Kashmiri freedom fighters’ as Pakistan has been unsuccessfully trying to convince the world. The average Kashmiri citizen no longer supports the terrorists and has little sympathy for them. However, fear of the terrorist’s guns keeps him from providing ‘actionable’ intelligence to the security forces to eliminate them. Secondly, the present generation of mercenary fundamentalist Islamists, inspired by Osama bin Laden and the success of the Taliban experiment, is better motivated, better trained and equipped with more sophisticated automatic weapons and explosives than the motley array of uneducated and unemployed youth and criminals undergoing jail sentences sent by Pakistan’s ISI to prop up militancy in J&K in the past. Thirdly, sporadic incidents of terrorism against widely dispersed targets by motivated ‘suicide squads’ cannot be completely prevented, no matter how many additional battalions of security forces are pumped into J&K. A terrorist willing to die can always strike at a time and place of his choosing. Worse, with some luck, he can hope to get away before the security forces can react.
How, then, should the Indian state apparatus fight the menace of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in J&K and elsewhere? The experience over ten years suggests that a reactive counter-insurgency policy, limited to military action within India’s borders, can only expect to achieve a semblance of superficial control that lasts as long as the security forces remain deployed in the area. (In fact, it is now patently wrong to call the J&K problem an insurgency even if it perhaps was one in the early 190s, as the people of J&K are not ‘rising in revolt’ and mercenary Terrorists from Pakistan and other Islamic countries are not Kashmiri ‘insurgents ’.) While the present situation undoubtedly requires more vigorous and coordinated security forces operations, India’s counter-terrorism strategy needs to become pro-active to reach across the country’s border with Pakistan to eliminate the problem from its roots.
Pakistan has provided enough evidence of the direct involvement of its government agencies and armed forces in spawning and perpetuating terrorist violence in India. The recent annual jamboree of the fundamentalist Islamist organisation Marqaz Daawat-al-Irshad and its armed wing Lashkar-e-Taiba at Muridke near Lahore received covert state patronage, otherwise it could not have been held with.such fanfare under a military regime. The last annual carnival of the Marqaz was attended by a cabinet minister from Nawaz Sharif’s government. On both the occasions, vitriolic anti-India speeches were made to whip up a frenzy of fanatical passion to obtain new recruits for the ‘cause’ and generate funds for enhancing terrorist violence in India. It is easy to imagine what a country like Israel might have done if a similar conclave inimical to Israeli interests was held within artillery range of its borders. Also, evidence is now available that the Pakistan government was intimately involved in the planning and execution of the hijacking of ICS14.
The amount of approximately Ks 5 crores that the ISI spends per month to sustain its nefarious programmes in J&K does not include the arms, ammunition, explosives and equipment that are provided to the mercenaries by terrorist organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. Military hardware has to be paid for in valuable foreign exchange. The large amount of expenditure being incurred by the Pakistan government to sponsor the so-called Jehad in Kashmir is obviously coming from some hidden sources and not from Pakistan’s doddering economy. It is well known that the ISI had surreptitiously siphoned off up to 40 to 50 per cent of the weapons supplied by the CIA for use by the Afghan mujahideen against Russia. These weapons have eventually found their way into J&K.
However, it is not as well known that towards the end of the Afghan resistance against Russian occupation, ‘mullah warlords’ had taken over the cultivation and processing of poppy along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Since then, the illicit trade in narcotics has been generating hefty profits. These are being ploughed into fuelling terrorism in J&K and in supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan. This vicious politician-mullahISI-army racket suits the ruling elite in Pakistan and is a major cause of continuing conflict in Afghanistan and terrorism in Kashmir. Unless this enabling cause is eliminated, Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in J&K will continue unabated. Understandably, India cannot do this alone as nothing short of the repeated destruction of the poppy crop will be necessary. India needs to convince the international community to join hands with it to obtain United Nations (UN) Security Council approval to launch an international operation to eliminate the source of poppy. This should not be hard to achieve, as it is now clear to the Western countries that most of the narcotics originating from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region are ending up ruining their youth.
Trans-LoC pro-active measures need to be initiated to raise the cost for the ISI and the Pakistan army to train, equip and infiltrate foreign mercenaries into J&K. In military terms these could include raids on terrorist camps, hideouts and staging areas close to the LoC by surrendered Kashmiri militants specially trained for this purpose; ambushing of army convoys; missile, rocket and artillery attacks on headquarters anti administrative installations; the blowing up of bridges, culverts, power stations and other infrastructural facilities supporting army deployments and punitive artillery assaults on Pakistani posts through which infiltration takes place. Unless the Pakistan army is made to pay physically for its follies and body bags begin reaching Rawalpindi, Lahore, Karachi and other Pakistani cities in full glare of the media, it will have no incentive to stop its malevolent activities in Kashmir.
simultaneously, the genuine grievances of the Kashmiri people must be redressed. Talks should be initiated with the political leadership of the non-secessionist militant organisations and grass roots level political activity should be encouraged. The centre must prevail upon the state government to step up development activities and increase its contact with the people of the state. New diplomatic initiatives should be launched to form a common front with major democracies against state-sponsored terrorism. The present diplomatic offensive to designate Pakistan the mother nation of state-sponsored terrorism should be stepped up. Only through a concerted pro-active offensive on all fronts can the J&K problem he resolved.