"Pakistan's army has been actively aiding and abetting infiltration along the LoC. Its ISl-controlled jehad factories have been working overtime to produce fedayeen suicide squads. The ruthless Fedayeen mercenaries of the Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Lashkar-e-Taiba and umpteen other such organisations are a disgrace to Islam. They have now taken to launching dastardly raids on soft targets such as the family quarters in the camps of security forces and killing hapless women and innocent children in cold blood. Officially, the Pakistan government tries to pass off its reprehensible interference in India's internal affairs as"moral, diplomatic and political support" for Kashmir "freedom fighters'. Since Pakistan is the real problem, the time has definitely come to take the fight into the heartland of Pakistan.
For over a decade now Pakistan has been waging a “proxy war” in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India through mercenary terrorists that it calls mujahideen. It has followed this course under the shadow of its nuclear umbrella, in keeping with its strategy of bleeding India through a thousand cuts. Pakistan has been recruiting, training, arming, equipping and indoctrinating young Islamist fanatics of various nationalities through several fundamentalist organisations that willingly act as a front to wage a so-called jehad in India, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world. It is now universally recognised that the operations are masterminded by Pakistan’s notorious Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence at the behest of Pakistan’s rogue army. These nefarious activities have earned for Pakistan the dubious distinction of being dubbed the mother nation of state-sponsored international Islamist fundamentalist terrorism.
Pakistan’s army has been actively aiding and abetting infiltration along the LoC. Its ISl-controlled jehad factories have been working overtime to produce fedayeen suicide squads. The ruthless Fedayeen mercenaries of the Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Lashkar-e-Taiba and umpteen other such organisations are a disgrace to Islam. They have now taken to launching dastardly raids on soft targets such as the family quarters in the camps of security forces and killing hapless women and innocent children in cold blood. Officially, the Pakistan government tries to pass off its reprehensible interference in India’s internal affairs as “moral, diplomatic and political support” for Kashmir “freedom fighters’.
For Pakistan, its proxy war is a low-cost, high-payoff option to destabilise India and keep the Indian army and other security forces embroiled in counterinsurgency and Internal security duties.
In dealing with Pakistan’s proxy war — the primary threat to its national security and territorial integrity — India has shown remarkable restraint. By limiting its anti-terrorism military operations to its own territory, India has acted with immense responsibility and maturity. However, Pakistan’s military junta has always viewed India’s patience as weakness. Even after the events of 11 September, it unabashedly continued its sponsorship of terrorism across its eastern border with India even as it wilted under Uncle Sam’s withering gaze and hastily scrambled to pull its chestnuts out of the fire across its western border with Afghanistan.
Quite obviously, India’s patience is not Infinite. During the last few months, Pakistan’s mercenary terrorists have gone simply too far. Despite General Musharraf’s 12 January speech, the ISI continued to sponsor infiltration across the LoC throughout the winter, particularly in the Poonch, Rajauri and Naoshera areas. The recent massacre in Jammu has shocked the nation and steeled its resolve.
Pakistan’s proxy war in J&K and elsewhere has cost India dear. Almost 30,000 Indian citizens have lost their lives, including over 3,000 security forces personnel. The festering sore has hampered India’s consolidation as a nation-state. It has undermined India’s standing in the comity of nations. The development of J&K has been set back by several decades. A whole generation of innocent Kashmiris has been denied its place in the sun. Kashmir’s Sufi culture has been irreparably disrupted. The monetary costs too have been colossal. Counter-terrorism operations in J&K take away a sizeable part of the central government expenditure; funds that can be better spent on development.
Pakistan is the problem
India’s reactive strategy, limited to conducting counter-terrorism operations within India’s borders, has not yielded the desired results. While the army and the other security forces have succeeded in achieving a semblance of military control over the volatile internal security situation, the impact is transitory — as soon as a battalion is pulled out from an area, the terrorists shift their operating bases into it. This is because the roots of the malady are now clearly in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Since the sustenance is being provided by Pakistan, counter-terrorism operations within India’s boundaries can never succeed In eliminating the scourge. For every terrorist killed in combat by the security forces, three to four others are waiting across the border to be inducted into J&K by the ISI.
The peace process in Kashmir is also not making much headway despite several laudable initiatives Launched by the present central government. Prime Minister Vajpayee took a bold political risk in reaching out to Pakistan through the bus ride from Amritsar to Lahore. As the cliche goes, the Pakistan army diverted the bus to Kargil. In July 2000, Abdul Majid Dar, deputy supreme commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen unilaterally announced a cease-fire and agreed to talk with the government. Prime Minister Vajpayee seized the opportunity and offered talks on the basis of insaniyat. With that one turn of phrase, he took Kashmir by storm, The army suspended active operations against the HM and hope dawned again in the Kashmir Valley.
However, even as the modalities were being worked out, Syed Salahuddin, Hizbul’s Pakistan-based chief, called off the cease-fire and the talks because Pakistan was not invited. Later that year, the Prime Minister instructed the security forces to halt all operations during the holy months of Ramzan. This proposition also evoked a warm response from the people and the leaders of Kashmir. The new cease-fire was extended several times despite grave violations and many terrorist massacres but the anticipated dialogue never did get going.
It is becoming increasingly clear to the average Indian that the problem is not Kashmir or the Kashmir people’s struggle for political autonomy — the real problem is Pakistan. The people of India have run out of patience and want the government to initiate decisive measures to end Pakistan’s proxy war once and for all. Some political leaders have openly called for war. Even the most moderate, analysts are recommending hard-line options, including those who have always made a show of lighting candles at Wagah. While addressing troops at Kupwara in northern Kashmir, the Prime Minister called upon the army to be prepared to make sacrifices in a decisive battle.
Foreboding war clouds are now hovering over the horizon. There is increasing International pressure on India to hold its horses but not enough pressure on Pakistan to rein in its dogs of war. No one knows whether Musharraf is in full control or if he is just a puppet on a string being manipulated by the corps commanders. Speculation is rife that rogue ISI operatives are conducting their own campaign of unbridled terror — in India as well as within Pakistan. The mullahs are up in arms and major political parties have refused to negotiate with Musharraf. Pakistan’s political parties are united in their opposition to his regime. The rigged referendum has only given Musharraf a false sense of euphoria.
Long-term strategy needed
Clearly, India has to wage its own battle. against terrorism. While the government is not ruling out war as an option, it remains an option of the last resort. The Pakistan High Commissioner has been expelled. There are several other arrows still in the government’s quiver. Among them, it can withdraw Pakistan’s MFN status. Trade with Pakistan can and should be suspended. It can impose unilateral economic sanctions. The Indus Waters Treaty can be put on hold. Another step on the escalatory ladder would be the blockade of Karachi.
In dealing with Pakistan’s proxy war, India stands at a strategic crossroads. The decade-old reactive strategy has quite obviously failed and major proactive measures are now called for. Since Pakistan is the real problem, the time has definitely come to take the fight into the heartland of Pakistan. A short, sharp war limited to J&K is unlikely to achieve strategic gains — or succeed in halting Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorism. An all-out war across the international border might inevitably lead to nuclear exchanges.
A long-term counter-proxy war strategy needs to be formulated — comprising both covert and overt measures across the entire political, diplomatic, economic and military spectrum. Perhaps the time has come to begin providing “moral, diplomatic and political” support to the “freedom fighters” in Pakhtoonistan, Baluchistan, Balawaristan and Sind, just like Pakistan claims it is doing in J&K. A banana republic ruled by a rogue army must be spoken to in the language that it understands best.