Pakistan's General Zia ul Haq's concept was to exploit the religious sentiments of the Kashmiri people, whip up passions on communal and sectarian lines, fan the flames of religious fundamentalism and, in the process, gradually create conditions for waging a jehad. Before launching its proxy war in Kashmir, Pakistan also initiated measures to exploit the disgruntled elements among the youth of Punjab to fight for the creation of an independent Sikh State of Khalistan. During an address to the National Defence College, New Delhi, General V P Malik, the COAS, warned that, "Pakistan's proxy war is dangerous not only for India but for the entire region. If militancy grows too big, both the initiator and the affected nation are tempted to use conventional means of war." Perhaps, the civilian rulers of Pakistan have already gone too far with the latitude given to the ISI and the Pakistani Army to wage a proxy war against India and are now unable to control the Frankenstein monster.
For Islamabad, the liberation of Kashmir is a sacred mission, the only task unfulfilled since Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s days. Moreover, a crisis int Kashmir constitutes an excellent outlet for the frustration at home, an instrument for the mobilisation of the masses, as well as gaining the support of the Islamist parties and primarily their loyalists in the military and the ISI.
— Yossef Bodansky (Director of the US Congress Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare)
Low Intensity Conflict Continues Unabated
Since Pakistan-sponsored militancy first erupted in the Kashmir Valley in 1989-90 and cries of azadi (independence) rent the air, the pendulum of public opinion in Kashmir has swung away from thoughts of jehad to more mundane ‘bread and butter’ issues. While the security situation in Kashmir Valley has improved considerably, Pakistan is now endeavouring to spread the cult of militancy and terrorism to new areas south of the Pir Panjal range in the Jammu region, so as to create an ethnic and sectarian divide and trigger a communal backlash. Pakistan’s increasing frustration and desperation can be gauged from the number of incidents of terrorism that its mercenary agents have been perpetrating since the situation in Kashmir Valley began to slip out of control in 1997-98. Pakistan’s aim is clearly to de-stabilise India by all possible means. A protracted ‘proxy war’ and sustained political and diplomatic offensives, are part of a well-crafted strategy to keep India engaged in internal squabbles and impose a heavy burden on the Indian economy.Pakistan has achieved considerable success in projecting the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) issue as an international ‘flashpoint’.
Pakistan also aims to ensure that the Indian Army and Central Para-Military Forces (CPMFs) remain increasingly engaged in counterinsurgency/internal security operations in J&K and the north-eastern states, so as to degrade India’s superiority in conventional combat through a process of strategic fatigue. While ensuring that violence in the ongoing low intensity conflict is maintained at a low level so that it does not lead i a conventional war (that is, it does not cross India’s perceived threshold of tolerance), Pakistan can be expected to continue to develop its nuclear and missile capabilities to match Indian capabilities in these fields.Pakistan hopes that such capabilities would further deter India from resorting to conventional conflict to resolve the Kashmir issue.
The Indian Government, on the other hand, has exhibited remarkable ball the face of grave provocation. It is now engaged in taking stock of the emerging developments to evolve a coordinated civil and military ‘action plan’ to ensure that the initiative does not remain with Pakistan and that India is able to safeguard its national security and territorial integrity, as well as, eventually root out militancy from J&K and other parts of India. Though military operations against the Pakistan sponsored militants and terrorists have been extremely successful, the has paid a heavy price in terms of civilian and military casualties.The economic costs have also been staggering and obviously cannot be sustained indefinitely. It is imperative that the impact of the various complexities and nuances of the J&K issue is carefully evaluated 60 that pragmatic decisions can be made to resolve it expeditiously.
Genesis of Militancy in Kashmir
Ever since Pakistani raiders and razakars invaded J&K in October 1947 the state acceded to India, Pakistan has been unable to accept what it perceives as a wrongful oss. The state remains a bone of between the two countries even after over 50 years of independence. The Pakistan Government calls it the ‘core’ issue and says that the eventual merger of J&K with Pakistan is the only acceptable to the problem and that it is the ‘unfinished agenda of partition’. Having failed to annex J&K by force in the several wars initiated by it against India over the last 50 years, and emboldened by its acquisition of nuclear weapons in 1987, Pakistan hatched a new conspiracy for the annexation of J&K by waging a covert ‘proxy war’ against India through a Strategy of ‘bleeding India by a thousand cuts’.
Operation ‘Topac’, under which Pakistan launched its proxy war against India, was brilliantly conceived and skilfully executed. Pakistan’s General Zia ul Haq’s concept was to exploit the religious sentiments of the Kashmiri people, whip up passions on communal and sectarian lines, fan the flames of religious fundamentalism and, in the process, gradually create conditions for waging a jehad. Before launching its proxy war in Kashmir, Pakistan also initiated measures to exploit the disgruntled elements among the youth of Punjab to fight for the creation of an independent Sikh State of Khalistan. The intention was to destabilise India by creating conditions of insecurity in two contiguous front-line Indian states and to tie down the Indian security forces, particularly the Indian Amy, in internal security duties. It was expected that prolonged employment in internal security duties would weaken the Indian Army and degrade its conventional superiority over the Pakistan Army. All this was to be achieved through a low-cost option, without getting directly involved.
The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate of Pakistan was entrusted with the responsibility of executing the plan. The ISI had gained immense experience in organising guerrilla warfare in Afghanistan, with sabotage and terrorism as the weapons of choice, while working together with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The ISI had also-surreptitiously siphoned off nearly 60 per cent of the small arms, light weapons, ammunition and explosives supplied to it by the CIA for onward despatch to the Afghan mujahideen.” It has been reported that arms and ammunition worth US $5 billion had been pumped into Afghanistan by the US and its allies. In addition, the erstwhile soviet Union had supplied arms and ammunition worth US $5.57 billion.” Large numbers of these weapons became available to the ISI for equipping Kashmiri militants when the Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. Profits from the clandestine Sale of freely available narcotics from Afghanistan, “donations from Muslim zealots in other countries” and profits from large-scale smuggling activities across the Indian border, provided adequate funds to finance an uprising in J&K. Massive rigging of elections to the J&K Assembly in March 1987 and the Kashmiri people’s disillusionment with Mr. Farooq Abdullah’s allegedly corrupt and inefficient administration, led to spontaneous protest and a call for azadi (Independence). Thus the situation was ripe for exploitation and the ISI, which was ready and waiting, stepped in to fan the flames.
The strategic design of Operation Topac was to launch a proxy war against India in a phased manner. The salient aspects of Pakistan’s plan were as under :-
• initiate a low-level insurgency to interdict communications networks and subvert the police and financial institutions.
• Subsequently, exert direct pressure along the Line of Control (LoC) by large-scale sabotage and infiltrate mercenaries and special Forces to attack vital targets in rear areas.
• At an appropriate stage, using religion as a motivating and binding factor, give a nudge to the jehad to peak and, if necessary, be prepared to exercise the military option to liberate J&K.
While J&K was to remain the focus of all ISI activities, Operation Topac also envisaged the provision of support and encouragement to Insurgent and militant groups in the north-eastern states of India and the spread of terrorism progressively to other parts of India, in keeping with the strategy of bleeding the country through a thousand cuts. It is axiomatic that for the Pakistanis, a continuing crisis in Kashmir and tensions along the LoC with India provide an excellent diversion from frustrations at home. These are time-tested methods for mobilising the masses, for gaining the support of fundamentalist Islamic parties and the mullahs within Pakistan and in other Islamic states. It also enables the civilian rulers and the bureaucracy to keep the Pakistani Army employed in directing and supporting the slickly packaged just cause of the Muslim brethren of Kashmir and, as a corollary, away from harbouring thoughts of another military coup. Another major aim is to internationalise the Kashmir issue, contrary to the spirit of the 1972 Shimla Agreement, by raising the bogey of the denial of the Kashmir people’s right of self-determination. It is conveniently ignored that Pakistan itself had impeded the process of the holding of a plebiscite in J&K by not vacating its illegal occupation of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), which is called Azad Kashmir in Pakistan. The playing up and highlighting of trumped up human rights violations in the international media is also part of a well-orchestrated campaign.
Pakistan’s proxy war campaign is carefully calibrated to ensure that India’s perceived ‘threshold of tolerance’ is not transgressed. Though Pakistan would prefer to avoid escalation of the present low intensity conflict (LIC) situation to conventional war, it has apparently vectored in the risks involved in pursuing its proxy war strategy into its operational plans. Yossef Bodansky writes that, “Pakistan knows that the active pursuit of the current Kashmir strategy may lead to an escalation of the face off with India. Islamabad is ready to deal with this eventuality while increasing, it’s all out support for the Kashmiris.” In mid-February 1995, a Foreign Ministry spokesman warned that ‘if India carries out another aggression and war breaks out between Pakistan and India, it would not be a war of a thousand years or even a thousand hours, but only a few minutes and India should not be oblivious to the potential destruction.’ Pakistani officials add that “Pakistan is really in a position to strike a heavy blow against India through its nuclear capability.” Pakistan also believes that its nuclear weapons and missiles provide the cheapest option for peace. Gen Mirza Aslam Beg writes: “The nuclear and missile deterrence have helped maintain peace in the sub-continent for over two decades.”
However, it is self-evident that a foreign power can sow the seeds of insurgency only when discontentment and dissent are already widespread among the people and the situation is ripe for exploitation. Due to decades of poor governance and neglect, compounded by rampant corruption, cynical nepotism, alienation from the national mainstream and political mismanagement, the situation in J&K was as bad as it could possibly have been in 1988-89. It is only belatedly that true realisation has dawned regarding the various sins of omission and commission with which the post-independence history of J&K is replete. J&K Governor, Mr. Girish Chandra Saxena, recently told Prakash Nanda in an interview that, “We are considering the situation on the political, administrative and democratic fronts. We realise that maladministration, corruption and unemployment have also been responsible for the growth of militancy in the past.”
ISI’s Current Modus Operandi: State-sponsored Terrorism
In the early 1990s, when local recruits were not hard to motivate, the ISI relied on Pakistan trained militants (PTMs) for organising ambushes of security forces convoys and patrols (using AK-47s and machine guns). PTMs were also employed for executing hit-and-run raids on the Central Police Organisations (CPOs) bunkers and pickets inside urban areas (for which hand grenades and rocket propelled grenades were used). For low-risk tasks such as the planting of antipersonnel land mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and to act as couriers of arms, ammunition and messages, locally trained militants (LTMs) were generally employed. The ISI had declared 1994 as the year of ‘barood’ (explosives). Though a fairly large measure of autonomy was given to the area and district commanders of militant outfits such as Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and Harkat ul Ansar (HUM—banned as a terrorist organisation by the US State Department) to conduct operations, overall control was retained by the ISI as it held the purse strings and was the single largest source of supplies of arms and ammunition. Orders to the various outfits used to be relayed over a clandestine radio station located in POK. However, the Kalashnikov culture that swept Kashmir Valley soon extracted a predictable toll. The power of the gun gradually corrupted the PTMs and they soon began to indulge in extortion, loot, rape and murder for petty jealousies.
The criminal activities of the militants soon alienated the Kashmiris even political leaders aligned with militant groups have acknowledged that the abuses undermined the militants’ support in Kashmir. At the same time, counter-insurgency operations by the security forces also gained momentum and a large number of militants were killed in action or apprehended. Kashmiri families soon became wary of sending their sons for what they realised was a futile jehad. The result was that beginning around 1994-95, the ISI’s recruitment base in Kashmir Valley gradually dried up, though recruitment by force continued for some more time. The ISI then placed its reliance for further operations in Kashmir predominantly on foreign mercenaries. The ISI’s USP (unique selling Point) was that Islam was in danger in India, in general, and in Kashmir, in particular. Mercenaries from POK, Pakistan, Afghanistan, several Gulf and West Asian countries including Saudi Arabia and Iraq and many African countries including Egypt, Libya and Algeria, were hired, trained and inducted into the Kashmir Valley. In addition, criminals undergoing long imprisonment sentences in Pakistani jails were also enticed into participating in the so-called jehad. They were told that their sentences would be reprieved if they successfully completed a tenure of pot ordained duty in J&K. Gradually, the presence of foreign mercenaries among, thee militants went up from 15 per cent in 1994 to 40 per cent in end-1998”
The modus operandi was to give the mercenaries some rudimentary military training and knowledge about using explosives, arm them with an AK-47 with four magazines of ammunition and give them a few thousand Rupees in Indian currency. At an opportune moment, they were infiltrated through the porous LoC with the support of the Pakistani Army. The Army provided a safe passage through its own defences guidance by hired gujjars and bakkarwals (Kashmiri shepherds) and covering fire from small arms, machine guns and even artillery, to draw away the attention of Indian troops on the LoC. The command and control set up was loose and flexible. The mercenaries were usually assigned to operate in specified areas and co-ordinated their operations with each other and the remnants of Kashmiri militants. The mercenaries found that the people in Kashmir Valley enjoyed an unfettered right to practice their religion. Namaz was performed by the devout five times a day and the mosques were functioning without any kind of interference. In fact, the mullahs were quite used to and rather fond of spewing venom and inciting the people to rise in revolt. Though the Local population tolerated them as ‘guest militants’ the mercenaries did not get the promised support from the Kashmiri people, contrary to what they had been briefed by their masters in Pakistan. Food and shelter were hard to come by and the constant flight from the security forces was tiresome and most inconvenient. Also, they found that the security forces, particularly the Indian Army, were a tough force to reckon with and discovered that a militant’s life span in Kashmir was a maximum of four to six months before he was hounded out and killed or apprehended. In 1998, as many as 320 foreign mercenaries were killed
All this disillusioned the mercenaries very quickly. The story of extortion, loot, rape and murder was soon played out again. Some of them even began to run their own harems. While the people of Kashmir had initially actively participated in a struggle for azadi (independence) and had’ even encouraged their sons to join the movement, they were not willing to put up with the errant and domineering ways of the foreign mercenaries with whom they did not identify in any manner whatsoever. They soon began to give real-time intelligence— euphemistically called ‘actionable’ intelligence—about the whereabouts of the mercenaries to the security forces. From then onwards, the days of the foreign mercenary in Kashmir Valley were numbered. The tide finally turned around the summer months of 1996 when the ISI found that it was no longer profitable or even cost effective to persist with the induction of additional mercenaries in the Valley sector. At this stage, the ISI, in conjunction with the Pakistani Army, appears to have decided to shift the focus of its activities to the areas south of the Pir Panjal range. It was also apparently decided at this time to rely more on terror tactics to discredit the Indian administration, incite a communal and sectarian divide among the people and, by simultaneously raising the ante in Siachen glacier and along the LoC, project Kashmir as an international ‘flashpoint’.
The ISI also enlarged the sphere of its diabolical activities to other areas in India. South India soon became a new front in the covert war against India, as evidenced by the incidents of terrorism in 1997-98. In December 1997, there were three bomb explosions in trains in Tamil Nadu. On February 14, 1998, simultaneous bomb blasts in Coimbatore, at the venue of the Bhartiya Janata Party President’s election meeting, the bus stand, the railway station, near a hospital and in a bazaar, mimicked the Mumbai bomb blasts of March 1993. The obvious objectives were India’s democratic and secular values, political stability and economic growth.” The sea route was followed to smuggle explosives to India’s west coast for the serial explosions in Mumbai. A new dimension was added to the ISI’s relentless effort to spread terrorism 1n India when, “On December 17, 1995…..an AN-26 aircraft flew into India from Karachi, refuelled at Varanasi in broad daylight, airdropped about 400 AK-47s and thousands of rounds of ammunition over Purulia in West Bengal, and the flew on to Thailand……. The aircraft was intercepted five days later on December 22, just as it was about to leave Indian airspace near Gujarat.” Only two months later, an Iranian and a Swiss national drove a truck full of weapons through the Wagah border check post between Lahore and Amritsar to New Delhi and were caught purely fortuitously. On February 11, 1998, a gang of international gun runners was intercepted in the Andaman islands with a consignment of 145 rifles and machine guns and 40,000 rounds of ammunition meant for insurgent groups in the country’s north-eastern states. “Thus today we have a situation where land borders, sea coasts and now island territories have become porous and vulnerable to infiltration of weapons and terrorists alike (sic).”
In J&K, the ISI provides comprehensive support to five major militant These include Hizbul Mujahideen (approximate strength 1,000 militants), Harkat ul Ansar (350), Lashkar-e-Toiba (300), Al Barq (200) al Jehad (150). In all, about 2,500 militants, mostly foreign mercenaries, belonging to these and other smaller militant groups are Operating in J&K at present. The ISI spends about Rs. 60 to 80 crores every year for prosecuting Pakistan’s proxy war against India in J&K alone, that is Rs. 5 to 6.5 crores per month. It is quite obvious that Pakistan’s doddering economy can ill afford such expenditure. As the ISI‘s links with the narcotics trade in Afghanistan and the agency’s active participation in the illegal arms trade flourishing in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province are well known, it can only be assumed that funding for its nefarious activities in India is being generated by the ISI itself, with the active connivance of the Pakistan government and the Army.
Just before the Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan,held at New Delhi in November 1998, Indian home Minister, Mr. L K Advani called Pakistan a ‘terrorist state’. During the talks, the Indian team submitted the following four proposals to the Pakistanis:-
• Give up state sponsorship of terrorism in India and dismantle the terrorist camps in Pakistan for arming and indoctrinating militants
• Close down more than 30 training camps functioning in the so-called Azad Kashmir.
• Deny use of Pakistani territory and facilities to fundamentalists and militant organisations to fuel religious violence.
• Hand over to India 32 terrorist and underworld operators of Indian origin currently in Pakistan.
White Paper on ISI Operations
The ISI wishes to float and sustain an ‘overground conglomerate to project itself as the ‘third party’ to the dispute representing the ‘wishes and aspirations’ of the Kashmiri people.
To sustain the Kashmir movement at minimal cost, the ISI plans to cause disaffection and alienation, play the Islam-in-danger card, highlight the non-performance of the elected government and atrocities allegedly committed by the security forces.
Pakistan wants to pursue the ‘Qurban Ali Doctrine’ or the inevitable balkanisation of India by sending intensively trained and motivated Pakistani agents to carry out acts of sabotage and subversion.
The objectives of Pakistan’s covert action plan against India are to:-
• Sustain the Kashmir movement at minimal cost.
• Force a settlement of the Kashmir problem on terms acceptable to Pakistan.
• Weaken India’s potential strength and national will by hitting at its perceived ‘fault lines’.
• Prevent India from emerging as a strategically dominant power in the region.
• Make Indian borders porous and India’s border states vulnerable to exploitation.
Pakistan wishes to embarrass India by internationalising the Kashmir issue, projecting India as a violator of UN resolutions and accusing it of human rights violations.
ln pursuance of its objectives, the ISI is engaged in spreading the tentacles of terrorism not only in J&K but also in Punjab, Assam and Nagaland by carrying out subversive propaganda on fundamentalist and communal lines. The ISI has established operational links with drug syndicates and fundamentalist Islamic groups in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.
In response to demands made by members of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee attached with the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Government of India has proposed to bring out a White Paper on IST activities in the budget session of Parliament. Details of some of the issues which are likely to be included in the proposed White Paper have appeared in some sections of the Indian press.
The growing ISI presence along the Indo-Nepal border is another cause for concern. India has taken up the issue of ISI’s anti-India activities, which include the infiltration of militants and agents and the smuggling of arms, explosives and narcotics through Nepal into India, with the Nepalese Government at the highest The increasing influx of Bangladesh nationals in the strategically sensitive Siliguri Corridor in north Bengal has changed the demographic pattern in the area. The population of Muslims has increased from 15 per cent in 1971 to 70 per cent at present. The ISI is using the Siliguri Corridor for smuggling arms and narcotics from Bangladesh into the north-eastern states of India. Along the Rajasthan border also, the ISI is actively involved in setting up madrassas (Islamic schools) inside Indian territory and in smuggling arms, explosives and narcotics.” These developments are pointers to the larger Pakistani gameplan to further extend the areas in India in which internal security is not fully under the control of the civil government and, consequently, to dissipate efforts to fight the menace of militancy and terrorism.
Present State of Militancy in J&K
1999 is the tenth year of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Despite vociferous denials to the contrary, Pakistan continues to finance, train, equip and support Kashmiri militants and actively abet their attempts at infiltration across the Line of Control (LoC). As the initial recruitment base in the Kashmir Valley has very nearly completely dried up, Pakistan Is increasingly resorting to sponsoring Islamic mercenaries to let loose a reign of terror in J&K. A suo motto statement made by the Defence Minister in the Lok Sabha on August 5, 1998, explained Pakistan’s frustrations and its desperation to raise the ante in Kashmir. Extracts from the statement are reproduced below.
“Pakistan has always resorted to firing along the LoC to facilitate infiltration by Pakistani and foreign militants who are organised, trained equipped, financed, armed and finally infiltrated with active covering fire and support from Pakistani Army deployed along the LOC. In recent months, especially since May 1998, our security forces have been able to intercept and reduce the level of infiltration, thereby frustrating Pakistan’s designs. As if to give vent to its frustration, Pakistan has started targeting not only our Army posts but also civilian inhabited areas, with Batalik, Kargil, Kanzalwan, Tangdhar, Karen and Uri becoming the main targets.
“These actions by Pakistan are in consonance with its calculated design to obstruct and stall peaceful bilateral dialogue and to create a sense of alarm by orchestrating incidents on the border which will project Jammu and Kashmir as a ‘flashpoint’. Pakistan’s desperation is becoming acute in view of the fast declining Kashmiri support in the Valley to militancy, control of which has passed into the hands of Pakistani militant organisations, patronised by Pakistani political figures; and foreign mercenaries directed by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence.”
With the Indian security forces in almost complete control of the security situation in the Kashmir Valley, the centre of gravity of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)-controlled and directed mercenary activities is gradually shifting to new areas south of the Pir Panjal Range which separates the Jammu region from the Kashmir Valley. These include Doda (Kishtwar and Bhadarwah), Punch and Rajouri. Sporadic acts of wanton terrorism were also perpetrated in and around Jammu City and Udhampur during 1997-98. Serious attempts are also being made to widen the arc of militancy to areas in the states bordering J&K such as in the Dalhousie-Chamba area of Himachal Pradesh.
As most areas south of the Pir Panjal Range in Jammu region are predominantly Hindu majority areas, unlike the Kashmir Valley, which is a Muslim majority area, the aim is clearly to create a communal and sectarian divide. Acts of terrorism targeted primarily against Hindus are designed to engender mass migrations by whipping up a fear psychosis on the pattern of the exodus of Hindus from the Kashmir Valley in 1990-93, with a view to gradually changing the demographic pattern in the Jammu region and adjacent areas. Tables 1 and 2 show the brutal and savage acts of terrorism perpetrated in the Kashmir Valley and the areas south of the Pir Panjal Range in 1996-98, masterminded by the ISI and executed with ruthless precision by foreign mercenaries.”
In addition to the massacres enumerated in the accompanying tables, the killing of 20 Hindus on February 20, 1999, in three separate incidents, two in Rajouri district and one in Udhampur district, coincided with Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee’s historic bus ride to Lahore in Pakistan to achieve a breakthrough in Indo-Pakistan relations.”
In Doda, “the entire operational command has been handed over to foreign mercenaries belonging to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan and Turkey, sidelining Kashmiri militants.” Doda district comprises rugged mountainous terrain which affords ample opportunity to the militants to operate from well-concealed hideouts. The countryside is ideal for the mercenaries to establish their headquarters and radio communications centres and to stockpile arms, ammunition and explosives. Due to the lack of adequate surface communications, it is difficult for the security forces to respond in a timely manner to prevent incidents of terrorism, or to chase and eliminate militants after they strike. It is even more difficult to establish a viable intelligence network. In particular, the gaining of ‘actionable’ intelligence for launching surgical strikes against the militants is extremely problematic. As such, the ISI has succeeded in achieving major successes in killing members of the minority community in order to create a communal divide and force migrations from the area. It has also achieved success in blowing up bridges and culverts to further slow down the security forces and in targeting schools, government buildings and property. Even places of worship have not been spared.
In a perceptive piece after the Prankot massacre in April 1998, Ved Marwah, former Police Commissioner of Delhi and former adviser to the Governor of J&K, Jagmohan, expressed the following views:-
“The shift to Jammu is deliberate and is likely to continue. The number of foreign mercenaries is likely to increase in the coming months in the region, with more trained and experienced Afghan mujahideen being averrable for infiltration into the state. Harkat-ul-Ansar and Lashkare-Toiba have been operating there since 1993 and many more such groups lave entered the Jammu region since then…… What is called for is concrete action—an immediate strengthening of the security arrangements in the region with the active support of the state police and the civil administration.”
Since the setting up of the Unified Command in J&K in December 1996 (after elections to the State Assembly in September 1996), with the Chief Minister of the State as the Chairman and the General Officers Commanding 15 and 16 Corps as Security Advisers, there has been much greater co-ordination between the State Government, the Army and the CPOs in the fight against militancy. The re-vamped Jammu and Kashmir Police JKP) and the better trained, equipped and motivated Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police (JKAP) have begun to operate in close co-ordination with the central security forces and greater synergy has been achieved in counter-insurgency operations. The intelligence network has also been strengthened. The Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) has become more effective in co-ordinating intelligence acquisition, collation, analysis, synthesis and dissemination.
The Army has enhanced its vigil over the LoC to further reduce infiltration through a three-tier, static-cum-mobile deployment plan combined with vigorous patrolling in the rear areas, particularly during the hours of darkness and poor visibility. Equipment and technology deficiencies of the past are now being redressed to improve and further enhance the quality of surveillance. Sophisticated electro-optronic observation and surveillance equipment, including hand-held battlefield surveillance radars (BFSRs), is gradually being inducted to further enhance the quality of surveillance over the LoC. The long-standing requirement of passive night vision devices (PNVDs—based on the principle of thermal imaging), for the troops deployed on the LoC, is also being addressed. Unattended ground sensors (UGS), which can detect the movement of human beings through the generation of acoustic, magnetic or electrical signatures, are also likely to be acquired and emplaced in difficult terrain through which infiltration can take place.
However, no amount of hi-tech gadgetry such as BFSRs, PNVDs and UGS, can completely eliminate infiltration. The rugged mountainous terrain, covered by dense forests in the Punch and Rajouri areas, comprises innumerable deep ravines, mullahs and re-entrants and is tailor made for infiltration as the initiative for deciding on a route for infiltration, from among the numerous choices available in a given area, lies with the militants. Even if the number of infantry battalions deployed on the LoC could be doubled, it would not be possible to stop infiltration altogether. Hence, the present emphasis is on making the villagers capable of fending for themselves through the establishment of village defence committees (VDCs). The members of the VDCs are being provided elementary training, light weapons and limited communications equipment. In Doda district alone, 800 VDCs have been established.
Simultaneously, the number of police posts is being increased to enhance the presence of the civil administration in the affected areas in Punch, Rajouri, Udhampur and Doda districts. The aim is to instil confidence among the people, deter terrorist strikes by denying the militants the capability of unfettered movement in the area, gain intelligence, identify harbourers and sympathisers who provide shelter to the militants, exercise command and control over the VDCs and for quick reaction against the terrorists when they manage to launch strikes. This JKP scheme is called ‘Police Security Grid’ and involves the setting up of 90 border posts (on the likely routes of infiltration behind Army posts in Punch and Rajouri districts), 385 defence posts (inside selected villages) and 118 operational posts (to launch active counter-insurgency operations against the militants) in the four districts. When finally implemented, these measures will help to prevent forced migrations of members of the minority community and enable the JKP and the people of the affected areas to play a more effective part in eliminating militancy in J&K. In Punjab, the tide had turned only when the local people stood up to the militants and the Punjab Police, under the able guidance of the State’s outstanding Director General, Mr. K P S Gill, took the lead in rooting out the scourge of militancy and terrorism from the State with the active support of the people.
India’s Military Response: Paying a High Price
If the situation in Kashmir Valley has been brought under control despite the viciousness and ruthlessness of the ISI-sponsored campaign to wrest Kashmir from India, the credit must go to the Indian Army and the other central security forces such as the BSF and the CRPF. The Army’s relentless effort in conducting counter-insurgency operations under the most trying circumstances, while resolutely adhering to the application of the principle of ‘minimum force’, is indeed commendable and possibly unparalleled. “In contrast to similar situations elsewhere in the world, where tanks, aircraft, artillery and mortars have been freely used with attendant non-combatant casualties, the Indian Army has conducted no more than a police operation in Kashmir. In keeping with its training and style, it has carried this out in a methodical fashion, ferreting out and arresting individuals rather than punishing a community, seeking combat with the militants, rather than waiting to be attacked in places. where civilians could be hit.”
The large number of militants who have been killed, apprehended or have surrendered and, the huge quantity of weapons, ammunition and explosives recovered, point both to the scale and viciousness of the campaign launched by Pakistan by proxy against India and the magnitude of the immense effort expended in successfully defeating that campaign.
Weapons such as RPGs (rocket propelled grenade launchers), infantry mortars and anti-aircraft missiles, have been recovered in smaller numbers. In addition, 1,403 radio sets, most of them extremely sophisticated, have also been recovered. The above mentioned figures are in respect of militants neutralised and recoveries made during Army operations. The success achieved by the CPOs and JKP/JKAP would make the tally much higher.
In reply to Dr. Jayanta Rongpi’s Unstarred Question No. 205, answered in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Indian Parliament) on May 28, 1998, the Defence Minister, Mr. George Fernandes stated the following:-
“At present, 72,000 defence personnel are directly deployed in counter insurgency/internal security in J&K, while about 47,000 are deployed in north-eastern states. In addition, there are also personnel of supervisory and other formations who are involved in supervisory roles whose number is not included in the above figures.
“Prolonged employment of Army for such duties, besides adversely affecting the Army’s preparation for its main task also imposes an extra burden on the defence budget which, in turn, affects Army’s modernisation programmes. In addition, casualties suffered by the Army in peacetime affect the morale of the Army personnel.
“The maintenance of law and order is basically the responsibility of the State Governments and the defence forces are deployed for counterinsurgency/internal security duties only against a specific requisition by the State administration and/or when they are statutorily required to render such duties under the provisions of the relevant laws such as Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1956, etc.
“The consistent policy of the Government in this regard has been that the defence forces should be deployed for internal security duties very sparingly and only if the State Government is not in a position to handle the situation and the deployment of defence forces becomes absolutely necessary. The Rashtriya Rifles was sanctioned by the Government to relieve the Army, to the extent possible, form counterinsurgency duties. This has, however, helped only to a limited extent in view of the increased commitment of the Army 1m counter-insurgency operations.”
It emerges from the Defence Minister’s statement that a total of 119,000 Army personnel were deployed for counter-insurgency and internal security duties in J&K and the north-eastern states of India in May 1998. Since the number of supervisory and supporting personnel is over and above this figure, it could be concluded that approximately 132 infantry battalions were committed for such duties. (The approximate strength of an infantry battalion may be taken as 900 personnel.) Of these units, 36 battalions are of the Rashtriya Rifles. Hence, about 96 infantry battalions were employed for such duties. As the situation has not changed substantially since 1993-94 (except that while militancy has come militarily under control in the Kashmir Valley, the security situation in the areas south of the Pir Panjal range has deteriorated), it could be assumed that about 90 to 95 battalions are being employed continuously for counter-insurgency/internal security duties.
In addition, for the last five years, five to eight infantry battalions of the Territorial Army and about 25 battalions of the Assam Rifles, a para-military force funded by the Ministry of Home Affairs but officered by and under the operational control of the Army, have also been employed for active operations within the country. Hence, overall 162 to 165 regular Army and Army-led para-military battalions are actively engaged in counter-insurgency / internal security operations and duties. To this list, details of the units of Central Police Organisations (CPQs) which are being employed for similar tasks, need to be added to get an overview of the enormity of the effort involved in combating militancy which is mainly Pakistan-sponsored, aided and abetted.
As the level of violence has been consistently high throughout the last ten years of militancy in J&K, the casualty rates were bound to be nigh. Table 6 shows the casualties suffered by Army personnel and innocent civilian citizens in J&K during 1990-98.
Till end-June 1998, the Army and CPOs together had lost 1442 men, compared with 1103 soldiers killed during the entire 1947-48 conflict with Pakistan in J&K. The nation is indeed paying a high price in combating Pakistan’s proxy war in J&K to maintain its territorial integrity.
As per the details reported to be contained in the White Paper proposed to be released by the Government in the budget session of Parliament, Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in India has claimed the lives Of 29,151 civilians and 5,101 security forces personnel. 2,78,601 persons have been rendered homeless. The loss to public and private property is estimated at Rs. 2,000 crores. The cost of compensation paid to victims, for border fencing and the amount expended on the raising of local anti terrorist force, works out to Rs. 18,500 crores. The expenditure on the Army and para-military forces is approximately Rs. 46,000 crores.
Besides the casualties being suffered almost on a daily basis and their adverse impact on morale, the Army’s prolonged involvement in counter-insurgency operations has several other major disadvantages. The financial costs of sustaining a successful counter-insurgency campaign are staggering. It has been estimated that the Army spends approximately Rs. 2,500 crores (US $600 million) out of its annual budget on counter-insurgency operations. This is about 13 per cent of the Army’s 1997-98 budget of Rs. 19,000 crores approximately (Revised Estimates). The outcome is that the Army spends almost 57 per cent of its budget on pay and allowances, about 40 percent on the maintenance of equipment and the replenishment of ammunition and other essential stores being consumed for counter-insurgency operations, and is left with only three per cent for modernisation, including capital acquisitions. Even the expenditure on the Rashtriya Rifles, amounting to approxImately Rs 900 crores annually, is incurred from the Army’s budget. It is Obvious that the Army can ill afford an expenditure of 13 per cent on counter-insurgency operations from its budget without its operational efficiency for its primary task being significantly impaired. As the Defence Minister informed Parliament, the Army’s modernisation programme has been adversely affected by its prolonged and continued involvement in counter-insurgency duties. This situation needs to be redressed as early as possible.
As most of the additional battalions required for counter-insurgency operations have been inducted from peace stations, the peace time tenures of infantry battalions have consequently had to be reduced correspondingly. This affects the Army’s preparation for conventional war since intensive training at individual, section, platoon, company, battalion, brigade and divisional levels requires a systematic and methodical approach and stability of tenure is an important pre-requisite. Also, the requirement of serving tenures for counter-insurgency / internal security is over and above the existing requirement of serving in field/ high altitude areas along the LoC and the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL, on Siachen Glacier) with Pakistan and the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China. This results in peace station tenures not only being shorter but also more spaced out. Once again, training and preparedness for conventional war are bound to be affected.
The wear and tear caused to first line weapons (small arms and light crew-served weapons), equipment, vehicles, extreme cold clothing (ECC) and camp items such as tentage due to excessive usage in counterinsurgency/internal security operations, results in a reduction in their lite cycles. As it is not always possible to procure replacements due to the inadequacy of funds, replacements have to be provided from the available war reserves which results in their depletion. Some units are inducted for operations temporarily during the summer months only or to fill emergent operational voids till new units can be brought in. The weapons and equipment that temporarily inducted units leave behind In cantonments, deteriorates due to inadequate maintenance.
Regarding the effect on the morale of the Army, given the fact that approximately 119,000 personnel are involved in exacting and sometimes exasperating and psychologically unsettling counter-insurgency / internal security duties, it can be stated that the Army has borne the rigours of prolonged employment in these operations stoically and resolutely. The nature of LIC is such that it exacts a heavy mental toll due to the absence of a clearly defined uni-directional threat and the assumed omnipresence of armed militants who may suddenly open fire form the least expected direction. The abundance of anti-personnel mines and remotely controlled IEDs and, the lurking fear of a hand grenade being hurled without warning from around a corner on a passing vehicle, also add to the pressures on a soldier’s mind. Odd hours of duty and long marches through inhospitable terrain, while braving the vagaries of the weather (which in J&K comprises rain, snow, sleet, fog and blistering winds capable of chilling even a well-clad soldier to the bone marrow), exact a heavy physical toll as well. By all accounts, personnel of the CPOs have also withstood the challenges of internal security operations commendably well. However, the long-term implications of prolonged employment are not yet clear. Maj Gen Arjun Ray writes: “Troops who operate for protracted periods under stressful conditions are bound to suffer from psychological problems as well as disorders.” Recently there have been reports that a number of CRPF personnel deployed in J&K have been afflicted by mental disease. These need to be taken note of as the reported incidents may be advance indicators of a larger malaise
During an interview with the Times of India on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of Army Day, General V P Malik, PVSM, AVSM, ADC, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) stated that, “With increasing involvement in counter-insurgency and internal security operations, the operational preparedness was getting diluted…….Prolonged and large scale deployment is neither good for the Army nor the country.” The COAS was only reiterating what he and his predecessors have said on a number of occasions in the past. In the ultimate analysis, it is clear, that the prolonged and continued employment of a large number of Army units in counter-insurgency/internal security operations, is likely to result in the reduction of the Army’s combat potential and, Board (NSAB) of the National Security Council (NSC). Recommendations made by the NSAB should be examined by the NSC and approved for early implementation.
A Solution Remains Elusive
Clearly, India’s patience has been stretched almost to the limit and the strain is now showing. Demands for a more pro-active Kashmir policy are becoming vociferous. “The country has exercised restraint against Pakistan’s proxy war and shown enough tolerance. We must make the costs unbearable for Pakistan. Why is the nation shying away from exercising the military option? Is there not provocation enough? In a sharply critical article in September 1998, Mr. K Subrahmanyam wrote: “It would appear that the Government of India has no policy about a possible solution to the Kashmir issue but hopes that so long as the issue is kept out of international attention and the insurgency and terrorism are contained through attrition, the problem will go away.”
Mr. Farooq Abdullah, the Chief Minister of J&K, a long-standing advocate for recognising the LoC as the international border between India and Pakistan, is now of the view that the Kashmir issue should be frozen for 25 years and that the two countries should build bridges on other aspects like trade, tourism and cultural exchanges. Mr. K.P.S Gill, former Director General of Punjab Police, is critical of the country’s reliance on ‘the niceties of diplomacy’ to resolve the Kashmir problem and says that, “No nation in the world would have displayed the restraint and the patience that we have in the face of the scale and intensity of violence that has been unleashed upon us. It is time, now, to cry halt.” However, he acknowledges that “the overwhelming reality is that the people of the sub-continent do not want conflict.”
It is axiomatic that there can be no military solution to an insurgency. The security forces can only restore functional normalcy so that the law and order situation is under control and the writ of the civil administration runs in the state. The level of violence can be curtailed to a large extent and the number of incidents can be considerably reduced by co-ordinated operations. However, the security forces cannot eliminate the insurgency. Io do that, the root causes of the insurgency have to be identified and tackled and the people’s perceived grievances redressed. That is a task which only the civil administration and elected political leaders can undertake. The security forces can assist by carrying out ‘civic action’ on behalf of the civil administration, ‘show the flag’ by virtue of their presence in the area, particularly the villages in the interior, and provide security cover to civil officials to enable them to perform their duties without fear. Exemplary state and national level leadership and a resolute and unwavering political will are necessary to root out Insurgency.
A lasting solution to the Kashmir issue can only be found if both the external and the internal dimensions of the problem are successfully addressed, as both are inextricably interlinked. Unless Pakistan ‘turns Off the tap’ of infiltration, no amount of effort, both military and civilian, will succeed in eliminating militancy from J&K. By now it should be clear to Pakistan that its proxy war will not succeed under any Circumstances and that it would be in its own interest to renounce this path and seek mutually beneficial co-operation with India. However, George Santayana’s classic definition of a fanatic is that he is a person who re-doubles his effort on losing sight of his goal. The fanatics in the Pakistani Army and the ISI can only be expected to re-double their efforts.
It is difficult to believe that the Pakistani Government does not understand that its sponsorship of insurgencies and its support to virulently fundamentalist organisations such as the Taliban militia, will eventually boomerang on Pakistan itself. It does not require great prescience to predict that the Taliban backlash is eventually bound to create unmanageable problems for Pakistan. Perhaps, having created a monster, the Pakistanis now find it difficult to regain control; or, they have deluded themselves into believing that they can get away with it lightly. Either way, Pakistan is apparently set on a course of self destruction.
In case the present proxy war leads to conventional or, even the unthinkable, nuclear war, it should be obvious to the Pakistanis that they will suffer much more than India. During an address to the National Defence College, New Delhi, General V P Malik, the COAS, warned that, “Pakistan’s proxy war is dangerous not only for India but for the entire region. If militancy grows too big, both the initiator and the affected nation are tempted to use conventional means of war.” Perhaps, the civilian rulers of Pakistan have already gone too far with the latitude given to the ISI and the Pakistani Army to wage a proxy war against India and are now unable to control the Frankenstein monster. The February 1999 massacre in Rajouri and Udhampur districts, masterminded by the ISI to coincide with Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee’s bus ride to Lahore, could not possibly have been timed to send a message to the Indian Government as such incidents often have been in the past. This time, clearly, the message was from the Pakistan Army ISI-Jamaat e Islami combine to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and its essence was: “Shake hands, play cricket and hockey, open up trade and encourage people-to-people contacts if you wish; however, lay off Kashmir—that is our agenda and it is non-negotiable.”
Nevertheless, India should continue to strive to achieve normalcy in its relations with Pakistan and must Keep all channels of communications open. Mr. K Subrahmanyam recommends that: “India should put forward a whole series of confidence building measures (CBMs) to reduce tension and restore peace in Jammu and Kashmir to enable meaningful negotiations between India and Pakistan. This should include an open skies plan along the border, international observers to check on Pakistani camps of terrorist organisations and agreed mining and fencing of borders.” However, as long as Pakistan remains intransigent and believes that holding bilateral talks with India is futile, as advocated by the former Foreign Minister, Mr. Gohar Ayub Khan, prior to the Colombo summit meeting between the two Prime Ministers in July 1998, India should remain aware that not much is likely to be achieved by India’s continued pursuance of the diplomatic option. Pakistan’s efforts to secure third party mediation are irreconcilable with India’s approach hat the problems between the two countries be resolved bilaterally in the spirit of the Shimla agreement.
India must project the Kashmir issue as one of international fundamentalist Islamic terrorism with widespread adverse ramifications, including for the western nations. Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist training bases in Afghanistan which were hit by US cruise missiles in August 1998, were also training terrorists for operations in J&K. Mr. Naresh Chandra, India’s Ambassador to the US, recently highlighted the convergence of Indian and US interests on terrorism : “Both India and the United States have been victims of terrorism perpetrated by individuals trained and equipped in the same schools of crime near India’s borders.” It would be in India’s interest to further highlight through diplomatic channels and by launching a concerted public information /awareness campaign that Pakistan is the ‘mother nation’ of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. The US State Department has so far been reluctant to list Pakistan as a sponsor of international terrorism “because of warnings by Pakistani Prime Ministers that such action would unravel the country’s fledgling democracy and drive it into the hands of the virulently anti-American extremists.” The US needs to be convinced that turning a blind eye to Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism neither augurs well for peace and stability in the Southern Asian region, nor is it in the US’ own long-term interest.
Regarding the internal dimension of the Kashmir problem, there is A lot more that can still be done. The first and foremost is the issue of the general consensus within the country to initiate talks with the militants. Mr. Prem Shankar Jha, a noted columnist, is of the opinion that the Muslims in Kashmir are not prepared to go back to the way things were before 1990. He writes: “Needless to say, India cannot offer independence to J&K, but if the Government wants a peaceful settlement in Kashmir, it must drop its insistence that it will hold talks with the militants only under the Constitution. This position……… is a nonstarter………The Government should have the courage to drop its insistence and agree to hold talks with the militants without preconditions.” Mr. Muchkund Dubey, a former Foreign Secretary, recommends “opening a broad-based dialogue embracing all sections of society and evolving an acceptable package containing, among others, a cast iron guarantee that the experience of the recent past will never be repeated.”
While consenting to hold talks with the militant groups is undoubtedly desirable, the issue raises several questions with major practical implications for ongoing counter-insurgency operations. Firstly, who represents the militants? The All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) is a fractured coalition of disparate political parties with discredited leaders. Surely, the Indian Government cannot be expected to hold talks with leaders of Pakistan-sponsored and controlled militant outfits like the Hizbul Mujahideen and Harkat ul Ansar. Secondly, is a cease-fire to be declared, as in Nagaland? If so, what is the guarantee that it will be observed faithfully by the militants? Who will ensure that Pakistani sponsored militant outfits also adhere to the cease-fire agreement, or are they to be left out of the talks process? Will it then make sense to pursue negotiations at all? Thirdly, can the Government of India agree to hold talks with the Kashmiri militants without pre-conditions till the resolution of Parliament on the Kashmir issue is rescinded? Is it not necessary to first build a national consensus on the issue, given the presence of ultra right wing elements in some political parties who have been vociferously demanding that Article 370 of the Constitution (which confers a special status on the State of J&K), be scrapped? Finally, how is it to be ensured that whatever agreement is reached with the militant groups will be acceptable to the Government of Pakistan?
Obviously, it is difficult to see any light at the end of the tunnel as there are no easy answers to this intractable problem. The most pragmatic way ahead appears to be to further synergise counter-insurgency Operation in J&K so as to bring about functional normalcy all over the state as early as possible, while simultaneously stepping up the Industrial development of the State and the socio-economic upliftment of the people.
The creation of employment opportunities for the youth, including schemes for self-employment, should be a high priority point for action. The Sufi tradition of tolerance and liberalism, for which Kashmir is well known, should be encouraged to bloom unhindered by the diktats of radical Islam.
A sustained political campaign must be immediately launched to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the Kashmiri people, assuage their feelings of hurt and neglect and restore their bruised and battered dignity. The people of J&K need to be convinced that their future lies with India. However, J&K will need to be given a large measure of autonomy; indeed, this demand is entirely in keeping with the federal structure of the Indian Constitution and has been recommended strongly for all the states by the Sarkaria Commission. The hands of Mr. Faroog Abdullah’s administration should be strengthened so that the Kasnmir Government can further enhance the quality of its battle against militancy on all fronts. And, the Government must launch a sustained media campaign, both within the country and abroad, to highlight Pakistan’s deep-rooted involvement in fostering terrorism and insurgency in J&K and other parts of India. International pressure must be brought to bear on Pakistan to desist from its nefarious interference in India’s internal aftairs and to stop sponsoring Islamic fundamentalist terrorism in the Southern Asian region and other parts of the world.
Above all, public opinion must be mobilised to express the nation’s solidarity with the Kashmiri people in their long drawn out and courageous Struggle against Pakistan-sponsored proxy war.