Age of Treachery and Coercion
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There is an old adage "you can’t choose your neighbours". This is as true to the Indian sub-continent as elsewhere in the world. India perforce shared this destiny with Pakistan and China in the latter half of 1940s when India was partitioned giving birth to Islamic Pakistan in 1947 and People’s Republic of China (PRC) forcibly annexed Tibet in 1950. Ever since India had many conflicts and wars with two neighbours to safeguard own territorial integrity against their expansionist ambitions in the northern and eastern regions of Kashmir, Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. Ex-prime Minister Atal Bihari Bajpai was so right when he said “you can change friends but not neighbours”, in the context of the need for peaceful and harmonious relations for co-existence of India with its neighbours, particularly in the context of China and Pakistan.
Although there are territorial disputes with China but after 1962 war the two neighbours have exercised considerable restraint avoiding any major conflict or escalation of hostilities. However, India had three wars with Pakistan in 1947-48, 1965 and 1971 as also a localized war in Kargil in 1999 which nearly reached to a nuclear flashpoint. Barring decisive 1971 war, other wars largely remained inconclusive with India at advantage with one amply clear message that Pakistan cannot win a war on Kashmir. Notwithstanding this fact, Pakistan’s obsession with Kashmir continued and instead of open conflict and war, it resorted to an undeclared proxy war of treachery and coercion by constantly encouraging, fostering and sponsoring terrorist activities in Kashmir and elsewhere.
Root Cause Behind Treachery & Coercion
Undoubtedly since independence, Kashmir remained major obstacle in normalizing relations with Pakistan and cause of the most conflicts and wars between the two counties. While Muhammad Ali Jinnah was first to cite Kashmir as the “Jugular Vein of Pakistan” and thus giving rise to conflict, many subsequent heads of state and army chiefs in Pakistan are also known to have followed the same confrontational line to keep the dispute and hate agenda alive despite the state’s lawful integration with India in 1947. While the wars of 1947-48 and 1965 between India and Pakistan with Kashmir at the centre of conflict remained inconclusive despite India’s dominance and upper hand, the war of 1971 led to a convincing victory of India, dismemberment of Pakistan and emergence of Bangladesh, besides an unconditional surrender of over 93,000 Pakistani troops including some paramilitary personnel and civilians.
Unlike previous occasions in 1948 and 1965, India didn’t fall prey to the international pressures after 1971 war and insisted settlement of issues only through bilateral negotiation leading to Shimla Agreement in July 1972, under which it graciously granted unconditional release of all POWs, return of the captured territory in Sindh and Punjab provinces, and a host of other concessions to ease tension and normalize future relations with Pakistan. Quite obviously, Pakistan could never reconcile with the ignominious defeat and dismemberment at the hands of India, in spite of the fact this nemesis was her own creation. Under Shimla Agreement, India made every effort to assuage acrimony of the past but it never worked. In fact, these developments only strengthened Pakistan’s resolve of taking revenge by fomenting continuous trouble in Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere through all coercive means, including terrorism.
The history of Pakistan supported insurgency and terrorism in India and Afghanistan can be traced back to the year 1979, when US led Western Forces were trying to counter and expel USSR (now Russia) from Afghanistan. Then the United States (US) perceived Pakistan as a potential ally which could provide operating bases and other necessary logistics for their military in return of aid with money and weapons. This was also the time when US and allies were encouraging and actively assisting Mujahedeen groups in Afghanistan with money, weapons and training to fight Soviet backed Afghan government forces. Rest is part of the history as to how funds and weapons received from the western sources were actually diverted to recruit, train and arm misguided Kashmiri youth and mercenaries from the other Islamic countries in 1980s and beyond to propagate insurgency and terrorism in the Indian state. Over the years, Pakistan ISI and Army actively supported and coordinated insurgency and terrorism in India and Afghanistan under citing it freedom struggle.
Terror machinery created and fostered by Pakistan became a threat to it’s own existence over a period like a Frankstien’s monster as much as to its neighbours - India and Afghanistan. This reminds me what Hillary Rodham Clinton once stated in the context of terrorist outfits nurtured by certain rogue states:
“You can't keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbors. You know, eventually those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard.”
Consequently, Pakistan too has been a victim and sufferer of terrorism with numerous deaths of civilians and security personnel. But Pakistan’s main problem is its widespread, yet mistaken, belief or stand in the establishment and public that the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network, Hizbul Mujahedeen, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad are not terrorists but freedom fighters or good people fighting for a righteous cause in the name of God. So they have been actively supporting aforesaid terrorist groups in Afghanistan and India calling them “good militants” and oppose Tahrik-e-Taliban in Pakistan as ‘bad militants’. It has been now internationally accepted that Pakistan government and army have a significant role in sponsoring insurgency and terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir.
Modus Operandi of Terror Module
Pakistan observes Kashmir Solidarity Day on 5 February every year since 1990 which serves as their self-styled occasion of annual demonstration of support for the people of Kashmir which they consider as a disputed northern territory. This also provides a platform for the gathering of the Kashmiri separatists and militants sheltered in Pakistan under the active state patronage and their expression of resolve to fight for the cause of liberation of Kashmir. The occasion is also marked with the remembrance of Pakistani soldiers and terrorists like Burhan Wani who died during the previous wars, border skirmishes and operations against terrorists in the past. Pakistan establishment, army and ISI are also engaged in overtly and covertly supporting and funding separatist leaders of Hurriyat Conference and other sympathizers of the Kashmir cause.
The Pakistan army and ISI had started recruiting a large number of unemployed and misguided Kashmiri youth on either side of the Line of Control (LOC) besides drafting Islamic militants of Pashtun, Arabic and Central Asian regions during 1980s to export terror in Jammu and Kashmir in their war of attrition against India, and this trend has continued unabated till now. Almost all top terrorist leaders wanted in India for various terrorist crimes are operating from Pakistan under the protection of army and ISI besides numerous terrorist training camps in the Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (POK) and other parts. Consequently, there have been numerous terrorist attacks in Jammu & Kashmir and other parts of India by these terrorist outfits. Terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), operating from the Pakistani soil, has gained notoriety at international level as well for their inhuman approach and indiscriminate killings in Kashmir and elsewhere in India and banned by the United Nations.
Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of 26th November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, and host of others like Masood Azhar, Sayed Salahuddin and Ibrahim Dawood are some of the dreaded terrorists and criminals who are freely living and moving in Pakistan in spite of the fact they are wanted in India for heinous terror crimes against humanity. Pakistan has gained notoriety for sheltering and supporting global terrorists and even Al Qaida Chief Osama Bin Laden had clandestinely stayed in Abattabad cantonement for almost six years before the US intelligence agencies tracked and Navy Seals killed him. Global terrorist Hafiz Saeed publicly gives hate speeches giving call for the jehad against India from the POK and main land. Recently, the United Nations have declared Masood Azhar, JeM Chief, as a global terrorist in May 2019 putting him on sanctions list after Pulwama attack in Kashmir wherein a JeM suicide bomber killed 40 Indian security personnel. Dawood Ibrahim, wanted in India for Mumbai Serial Blasts in 1993, is too reportedly hiding in Pakistan under the state patronage and has amassed wealth through smuggling and other illegal means operating from Karachi and Dubai.
Coercive and treacherous actions of India’sthis westerly neighbor has led to numerous terror attacks on the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere in the last three decades but some such incidents virtually pushed the two nations on the brink of another war. First such incident occurred on 13th December, 2001 when five terrorists of LeT and JeM infiltrated the Parliament House in New Delhi on a car with forged Home Ministry and Parliament levels, while the Parliament session was on with several ministers, members of parliament and senior government officials present inside the building. This attack left about a dozen people dead and several injured. Subsequent investigations established that the attack was the result of a conspiracy hatched in Pakistan. This followed escalation of hostilities and massive buildup at the border by the two armies and the de-escalation took several weeks of hectic political and diplomatic efforts on both sides.
The other incident was a heinous terror attack carried out on Mumbai in the form of shootings and bombings from 26th to 29th November, 2008 by Pakistani terrorists belonging to LeT. This time terrorists had entered from the sea route and the attack left about 166 people dead, including some foreign nationals, and over 300 people wounded. One terrorist namely Ajmal Kasab was caught alive, who allegedly confessed during interrogation terrorists’ link with the masterminds in LeT in Pakistan in complicity with Pakistan’s ISI. Recently, in retaliation of Pulwama attack in February 2019 and to avenge death of martyrs, the Indian Air Force carried out a surgical strike on a major JeM terrorist training camp at Balakot on 26 February, deep inside the territory of Pakistan, causing significant damages. The following day, Pakistan retaliated with air attack on an army camp in the forward area in Kashmir and the consequent air skirmishes left one fighter plane down of both countries. It took few weeks to de-escalate and settle down the war cries from the both sides.
The recent history of the Indian sub-continent is plagued with such designful occurrences and disappointments. Successive Indian leaders took many honest initiatives for the sustained peace and cooperation with Pakistan in the past but every such initiative turned into a mirage following back-stabbing and treachery mostly ascribed to Pakistan army and ISI. After decades of contentious claims and counter-claims, violence, accusations and counter-accusations, relations between India and Pakistan showed a significant sign of improvement during the first two years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in power since May 2015, but this hope and chance of peace and harmony came to an end in 2016 following a spate of attacks on Indian diplomatic and military assets in response to the killing of Burhan Wani, terrorist leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen by the Indian army.
Sponsored Terrorism and Insinuation
On many occasions, Pakistan has been accused by neighbouring countries India, Afghanistan and Iran as also Western nations, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, of harbouring and sponsoring terrorism in the region and beyond. Pakistan's POK and tribal region along its border with Afghanistan are known to have numerous terrorist camps and are described as a safe haven for terrorists. Pakistan has constantly favoured of religious militancy since 1979 and several journalists and authors have documented its role in terrorism through their reports and books. According to author Gordon Thomas, while Pakistan assisted US and allies in capturing of Al Qaeda members, it constantly continued to sponsor terrorist groups in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, funding, training and arming them in their war of attrition against India. A famous journalist Stephen Schwartz had observed in the past that the senior officers in the Pakistani army, the country's ISI and other security establishments were backing several terrorist and criminal groups. Yet another author and professor at Georgetown University held that Pakistan was the most active sponsor of terrorism in contemporary politics.
Pakistan has continued to assist separatists and terrorist groups in and outside Kashmir despite those groups constantly committing terrorist acts against civilians, women and children as well. A large number of the extremist madrasas funded by the Gulf States, mainly Saudis, have only worsened the situation encouraging extremism and militancy. The former ambassador of Pakistan in the United States Hussain Haqqani had openly admitted Pakistan’s role in sponsoring terrorism. Even former Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari conceded in July 2010 that militants had been "deliberately created and nurtured" by past governments "as a policy to achieve some short-term tactical objectives" and that they (militants) were "heroes" until September 11 attack on US interests. Later former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf also admitted on more than one occasion () that Pakistani armed forces trained militant groups to fight India in Kashmir and also that the Pakistan government ″turned a blind eye″ because it wanted to force India to enter into negotiations, as well as raise the issue internationally.
On their part, being victim India has consistently maintained that Pakistan was involved in training, arming and sponsoring insurgent groups for subversive activities in Kashmir and elsewhere. Several such separatist, extremist and terrorist groups and organizations are active and engaged in terror, sabotage and subversive activities in the state of Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere. Among more than 30 known major and minor terrorist outfits, the ones more dangerous, powerful and active outfits are Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HuM). The Pakistani ISI has often been accused of working in tandem with these terrorist outfits or having a role in almost all major terrorist attacks across India including in Kashmir. The major operating terrorist groups and incidents are listed in the following paragraphs with brief description.
(A) Major Terrorist Groups
It was founded by Hafiz Saeed in 1990 with Abdullah Azzam as co-founder; the latter was a teacher and mentor of Osama Bin Laden once upon a time. LeT is perhaps the largest, most active and deadliest terrorist outfit in South Asia, mainly operating against India from the POK and mainland. LeT has been the major force behind the 2001 Parliament attack, 2008 Mumbai terror attack and many other dreadful incidents. It has been banned as a terrorist organization by India, US, UK and European Union. The outfit is formally banned by the United Nations (UN) and the US has declared a bounty of ten million dollar on the global terrorist Hafiz Saeed. The outfit has been active in recent years under the banner of Jamat-ud-Dawa, a camouflaged organization, which regularly conducted mass rallies and congregation under official patronage calling for jihad in Kashmir; this organization is also banned by the UN, and only recently the Pakistan government has put some restrictions on its activities under intense international pressure. However, the formal ban notified by the Pakistan government on Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and its subsidiary Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FiF) appears to be only eyewash as reported by an Indian private media group after investigation.
After December, 1999 release from an Indian prison in exchange of passengers of the Indian Airlines flight IC 814 held hostage at Kandhar, Afghanistan, under the Taliban regime, Masood Azhar founded Jaish-e-Mohammed with separation of Kashmir from India as its main objective. This is one of the most active and notorious terror outfits which has carried out numerous terror attacks in Kashmir and elsewhere in India including 2001 Indian Parliament as also more recently Uri attack in September 2016 and Pulwama arrack in February 2019. In spite of a formal ban on JeM by United Nations, US and some European countries, India’s efforts in UN to get its head Masood Azhar listed as a banned terrorist had been repeatedly frustated by China in the past.
After a JeM suicide bomber killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel on 12 February 2019, India retaliated with an aerial attack on 26 February on the biggest training facility of JeM deep inside the territory of Pakistan at Balakot in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. Although there are conflicting claims and counter-claims about the nature of facility and extent of damage, but India was able to clearly display its intent and objective that was well taken by the international community giving massive support to India’s right to defend self. The local people varied as to the purpose of the facility. In the aftermath, France, US and UK took fresh initiative to ban JeM chief Masood Azhar and this time in May 2019 international pressure compelled China to withdraw its technical objection paving way for the UN Security Council to enlist Masood on the UN ban list.
Hizb-ul-Mujahideen is a Kashmiri separatist terrorist organization which was founded by Muhammad Ahsan Dar in 1985. It’s a pro-Pakistani militant organization which is mostly operates from the areas of north-west Pakistan and seeks for the integration of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan as an Islamic state. Currently, it is headed by Syed Mohammed Yusuf Shah (common name Sayeed Salahudeen), self-appointed supreme commander, who currently lives in Pakistan. He is listed on the National Investigating Agency (NIA)’s most wanted list and is also designated global terrorist by the US Department of State. Terrorist activities of this organization are mostly centred in Jammu and Kashmir and the outfit is banned by India and the European Union. The outfit is stated to be operating under the active patronage of ISI and Pakistan army.
Besides, there are many other terrorist groups like Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Tahreek-ul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Jabbar etc. which are believed to be constantly assisted and pampered by the ISI and Pakistan army to carry out terror strikes in Kashmir and elsewhere in the name of jihad. Apart from the terrorist groups, certain extremist and secessionist groups such as Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), Mutahida Jehad Council (MJC), Jamaat-e-Islami and Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM) too are active either to see Jammu and Kashmir as an independent state or its merger with Pakistan. In a recent crackdown on separatist forces in Jammu & Kashmir, the Indian government has banned Jamaat-e-Islami and JKLF and majority separatist leaders have been put behind the bars and are under investigation in terror funding cases.
(B) Major Terror Attacks
Amongst numerous terrorist attacks during the past three decades, a few major incidents involving Pakistani connection are briefly listed below:
- Serial bomb blasts took place in Mumbai on the 12th March, 1993 killing more than 350 and injuring about 1,200 people. The notorious don, Dawood Ibrahim, is believed to be the architect these attacks following the demolition of a disputed mosque structure in northern India (Ayodhya) in December 1992.
- The Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly in Srinagar was hit by a car bomb and three suicide bombers killing 38 people on 1st October, 2001. According to subsequent investigation and intelligence reports, Pakistan backed terrorist group JeM had organized this attack.
- Five terrorists belonging to LeT and JeM attacked the Indian Parliament in New Delhi leading to the death of about a dozen people including cops and staffers on 13th December, 2001. The incident escalated tension between India and Pakistan and brought the two countries at the brink of war.
- In a terrorist attack at the Akshardham Temple at Gandhinagar, Gujarat on 24th September, 2002, 30 people were dead and over 80 injured. NSG Commandos tracked and killed two terrorists hiding in the premises. Later during investigations, the City Police Commissioner suggested that the conspiracy to attack Akshardham was hatched in Riyadh by JeM, Let and ISI of Pakistan. None of the terror outfits, however, claimed responsibility for the attack.
- In two bombing incidents on commuter trains in Mumbai on 13 and 25 March, 2003, 65 people were dead and 244 wounded. Pakistan based LeT outfit was behind this attack and three suspects including a woman were convicted and sentenced to death in 2009.
- A busy market in New Delhi was rocked by serial blasts during the festive Diwali season on 29th October, 2005 killing 62 people and wounding 210 people including women and children. The terror outfit Let was identified to be behind this attack on civilian population.
- In another dreadful terrorist incident of train bombing in Mumbai Suburban Railway on 11 July, 2006, 209 people died and over 700 were wounded. The bombs set off in pressure cookers on trains exploded in short span of less than 15 minutes causing havoc on commuters. LeT and Students Islamic Movement of India are said to be behind these attacks.
- A heinous terror attack on Mumbai in the form of shootings and bombings from 26th to 29th November 2008 by Pakistani terrorists of Lashkar-e-Taiba left 166 people dead and over 300 wounded. The incident escalated tension between India and Pakistan with the risk of a war because the subsequent investigations including confession of one terrorist caught alive gave sufficient evidence that the attackers came from Pakistan on boat and were in constant touch with the masterminds of attack in Pakistan.
- On 7th September, 2011, a bomb blast outside the High Court in Delhi led to the killing of 17 people and injury of 76. Reportedly Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), a fundamentalist organization active in Pakistan with presence in India and Bangladesh as well, was responsible for this terror attack.
- Four heavily armed JeM terrorists carried out an attack on an Indian army establishment on 18 September 2016 near the town of Uri in Jammu & Kashmir. In the ensuing encounter, 19 Indian soldiers and 4 terrorists were killed. In retaliation, the Indian Army conducted a "surgical strike" on certain "launch-pads" used by the terrorist outfits and their Pakistani masterminds in POK. Subsequently, India also cancelled its participation in the 19th SAARC summit scheduled in Islamabad, Pakistan stating that “one country have created an environment that is not conducive to the successful holding of the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad in November 2016”.
- A suicide bomber rammed an explosive ridden car on a bus carrying CRPF personnel near Pulwama on Srinagar highway in Jammu & Kashmir on 12 February 2019. Pakistan based JeM took responsibility for the attack in which at least 40 jawans were killed. In retaliation, India carried out another “surgical strike” on a large training facility run by JeM at Balakot, Pakistan on 26 February. These incidents led the two hostile neighbours at the brink of war with Pakistan flexing muscles giving threat to use nuclear weapons in stockpile.
Neighbour Sponsored Separatist Movement in Kashmir
Ever since Pakistan started playing an state actor in hosting and exporting terrorism in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir in 1980s, the Pakistani media and state machinery also actively indulged in an aggressive propaganda and disinformation campaign, nationally and internationally, propagating insurgents and terrorists as freedom fighters. Though Pakistan constantly denies any role in terrorism, the ground reality is that Pakistan military and ISI are deliberately and actively engaged in promoting insurgency and terrorism in the Indian territories. They enrol Muslim youth from Kashmir and elsewhere for equipping them with training, ammunition, financial and doctrinal support. In the process, many poor, unemployed and religious Kashmiri Muslim youth fall easy prey and are misled to join the coercive and subversive activities in the name of sacred religious duty and freedom struggle. Some of them are even brainwashed to the extent that if they are martyred doing the sacred religious duty, they will find the doors of heaven open for them with dozens of Hurs (beautiful female consorts) ready to serve them.
While Pakistan army and ISI covertly give aforesaid support to insurgents and terrorists outfits, the separatist groups in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir get overt political and moral support from the Government of Pakistan and funding through dubious means. In a sort of undeclared proxy war, thousands of services personnel, innocent civilians, women and children have been killed and valuable property destroyed in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere following terrorist attacks during the last three decades. The current Indian government is working with the policy of zero tolerance and firm resolve to stop infiltration and terrorist menace across the border. Indian armed forces are also committed to punitive strikes in the enemy territory to destroy the terror network, where necessary. This has, however, not dampened the spirit of Pakistani establishment to foment trouble as is evident from the incidents of attacks on Indian military establishments in the recent past.
The casualty figure of 44,328 in Jammu & Kashmir alone from 1988 to 2017 (July) as compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal is more than four Indian-Pakistan wars combined since independence (including Kargil war). Of these dead, 14,776 were civilians, 6,314 security forces personnel and 23,238 terrorists. India has paid a heavy price in terms of loss of life, property and exchequer for maintaining the integrity and security of the nation against the proxy war raged by the hostile neighbour. Although Pakistan has been very vocal in denying its role in terrorism in Kashmir and by arguing that it only provides political and moral support to the 'secessionist' groups, the US State Department, Indian government and many independent organizations, authors, journalists and observers are on record to say and even publish incriminating evidence linking Pakistan with the state sponsored terrorism on many occasions.
It is not the lack of evidence that prevents Pakistan from acting against the terrorists and anti-India activities on its soil but, in fact, it’s compulsion of geo-political legacy and military strategy that flourishes on anti-India sentiments and propaganda. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that causing harm to the Indian interests is encoded into Pakistan’s DNA and state agencies are religiously preserving this genetic stuff. A few rationalists in Pakistan too occasionally question and debate the dubious ways of the state agencies like the ISI and army but they represent minority view and are religiously dismissed and ignored. As a matter of fact, the role and authority of army in Pakistan is unquestionable and history is witness that any civilian government has not survived for long without its patronage and support. In the past, Indian prime ministers reposed faith in Pakistani leadership on many occasions to achieve a long term peace and cooperation with neighbour but these moves were everytime sabotaged by them at military, political or diplomatic level.
For any reference from the Indian side about Pakistan’s laxity or complicity in handling terrorists and their activities, Pakistan invariably poses self as the victim of terrorism referring to own casualties suffered in terror incidents. Also as counter measure, it charges India of inciting trouble in Baluchistan and elsewhere to malign its image before international community. Currently, there is a stalemate in Indo-Pak relations and any peace and cooperation appears a remote possibility. After years of dilemma and bickering, the US and allies have finally acknowledged Pakistan’s continuing support to the terror groups like LeT and JeM and also that it has not done enough to destroy terrorist networks or curtail their activities. This is a significant development because this would mean that henceforth Pakistan would face many sanctions including restrictions on foreign assistance, a ban on defense exports and sales, certain controls over exports of dual use items and even find it difficult to receive loans from the international financial institutions like International Monetary Fund and World Bank. This means Pakistan has difficult days ahead unless it mends its ways and put break on its coercive and treacherous activities against neighbours.
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