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l July-August '04 l

The Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

l Vol 4, No 4 l


The Chasm between Rhetoric and Reality
G. Parthasarathy

Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar was in New Delhi for the "Composite Dialogue Process" between India and Pakistan during the weekend commencing June 26. The last round of talks between the Foreign Secretaries, in 1998, had been anything but cordial. When India's then Foreign Secretary K. Raghunath referred to the growing terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) by the Pakistani jihadi group the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), his Pakistani counterpart Shamshad Ahmad claimed that he was not even aware of the existence of such an organization in his country. This assertion came despite the fact that the then Governor of Punjab, Shahid Hamid, and the then Information Minister, Mushahid Hussain, had paid a highly publicized visit to the Headquarters of the LeT at Muridhke near Lahore. Much water has since flowed through the Ganga and the Indus. The LeT has proclaimed its intention to plant the green flag of Islam in Washington, Tel Aviv and Delhi. Its cadres have been apprehended while preparing for acts of terrorism in places as far away as Washington and Sydney. It has made no secret of its support for the Taliban and Al Qaeda and was belatedly declared a terrorist organization by the Americans, British and others.

General Musharraf reacted predictably to western actions declaring Pakistani jihadi groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and the LeT as terrorist organizations. He pretended to act against these groups, but allowed them to function under new names. He, however, acted firmly against elements in groups like the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), who were involved in plots against him personally, or joined the Al Qaeda in its moves to unseat the royalty in Saudi Arabia. The LeT functions under its new name - Jamaat ud Dawa - in Pakistan. Its cadres now carry arms more discreetly than in the past. And its communications networks actively give instructions to hundreds of its operatives, who have been infiltrated across the Line of Control (LOC) in J&K. More importantly, the LeT has evidently been assisted and tasked by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) to carry out terrorist strikes all across India, targeting both strategic installations like the Bombay Stock Exchange and political leaders who are accused of abetting communal violence. The political objective of such moves is clear. By targeting political leaders, the LeT is aiming to incite communal violence and create a deep communal divide within India. This is similar to earlier ISI attempts to create a Hindu-Sikh divide in Punjab by targeting innocent Hindus in the state. The indictment of cadres of the LeT in last year's bomb blasts in Mumbai and the recent gunning down of its cadres in Gujarat has confirmed the role the Lashkar intends to undertake across India.

What makes the Lashkar different from other ISI backed terrorist groups operating in India? While other groups have confined their activities to wresting the Kashmir valley from India and occasionally pretending to be champions of Muslims in India, the LeT avers that its objective is the liberation of Muslims in India by the destabilization and unraveling of the Indian Union. Hence its determination to establish its presence all across India, from Kashmir to Kerala.

On June 29, the day after the talks between the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan ended, Kashmir's Police Chief Gopal Sharma made some very interesting disclosures. Sharma indicated that his force had broken up a complex LeT network in the State. Two of its top leaders, both Pakistani nationals, had been gunned down. Twenty of its cadres had been arrested. Sharma also disclosed that the group was planning to eliminate politically high profile persons and some police officers. They were even planning to destroy economic centres like the Bombay Stock Exchange and concentrate their activities in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune and Srinagar. He added that the group was acting under the directions of the LeT leadership based in Pakistan and that it had amongst others, killed Moulvi Mushtaq Ahmed, the uncle of prominent All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. It was also revealed that the LeT group was in close touch with its associates and Indian contacts, who were killed recently by the Gujarat Police. The LeT makes no secret that its cadres do indeed operate not only across the LOC but also elsewhere within India. A large number of LeT leaders and cadres, who are Pakistani nationals, have been killed in recent years in anti-terrorist operations within J&K.

Despite much talk of a fall in infiltration across the LOC in J&K, terrorists did strike on a number of occasions just before the composite dialogue with Pakistan commenced. These attacks included the killing of four Indian tourists on June 12, the brutal murder of an Indian railway Engineer and his brother on June 25, and the gunning down of 11 members of the Gujjar community, including women and children in the Jammu Region on June 26. They follow careful targeting across J&K of candidates and others taking an active part in the General Elections in April - May 2004. The ISI strategy in J&K is clear. They will use terrorist violence to disrupt political and economic life across the State. At the same time, they will target political activists who seek to distance themselves from Pakistan's ambitions, either by attacking them directly, or by killing their close relatives and associates. The assassinations of Abdul Ghani Lone and Moulvi Mushtaq Ahmed are a part of this strategy. It is significant that not a single leader of the APHC or the ruling People's Democratic Party in J&K has yet issued a single statement categorically condemning acts of terrorist violence and pointing out that Pakistani nationals involved in such activities have no business to enter the State. More importantly, a message has been sent across the Valley by the terrorists that they will not hesitate to target tourists and others who provide employment and earnings for the people of the State.

Gopal Sharma also made another interesting revelation. He indicated that the predominantly Pakistani LeT was now working in close coordination with the largest Kashmiri group operating in Jammu and Kashmir, the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM). Both the Hizb and the LeT are associated with the ISI-sponsored United Jihad Council that operates out of Muzaffrabad. The ISI evidently realized that the Punjabi speaking cadres of the LeT were no longer welcome in the Kashmir valley. They are, therefore, endeavoring to ensure that they receive a measure of support by coordinating their activities with the cadres of the Hizb, who have widespread local contacts. The ISI establishment has also been concerned by the split in the Hurriyat. They are uncomfortable with exclusively supporting the faction led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Hence the frantic efforts of Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar to persuade separatist leaders and groups to close ranks during his meetings with them in New Delhi. The effort will be to coax the various factions of the Hurriyat to fall in line through a judicious mix of fear and incentives. Security agencies in India have estimated that there are around 2,500-3,500 armed terrorists operating in J&K. Roughly sixty percent of these terrorists are estimated to be Pakistani nationals. With hundreds of trained terrorists having moved to staging areas for infiltration across the LOC, it should be evident that Pakistan has no intention of ending its use of violence and terrorism as instruments of State Policy.

It is interesting that on the very day that that Foreign Secretary Khokhar was meeting the Prime Minister and other leaders in Delhi two important security related meetings took place in Islamabad and New Delhi. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his colleagues in the Cabinet Committee on Security received a detailed briefing on the security situation from the Army Chief, General Nirmal Vij, the same day. General Musharraf also addressed a meeting of his senior army colleagues, including the Pakistan Army's nine Corps Commanders on June 28. The main focus of this meeting was on the situation on Pakistan's western borders with Afghanistan, though the situation on the LOC and the internal situation, including the attacks on General Musharraf and the Karachi Corps Commander also figured in the discussions. General Musharraf now has his hands full, with his Army and Air Force attacking and laying siege on their own countrymen in North and South Waziristan, along the Pak-Afghan border. General Musharraf has little choice in this matter as George Bush desperately needs to "get" Osama bin Laden before the US Presidential elections. The meeting of the Corps Commanders took place just before a visit to Pakistan by the American CENTCOM Chief General John Abizaid. The United States obviously wants General Musharraf to devote full attention to the operations against the Al Qaeda and not fritter away his energies on tensions with India. General Musharraf has little choice but to fall in line, in much the same manner as General Zia was all milk and honey and even proposed a "No War Pact" with India, when the US commenced its jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Hence the sweet talk and soft approach of Mr. Khokhar.

New Delhi obviously has to embark on a process that enhances cooperation, builds confidence and seeks to resolve differences with Pakistan. But it would do well to remember that even as it treaded softly on issues like Pakistan's membership of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and its readmission to the Commonwealth, the Musharraf dispensation spared no effort to fulfill its ambitions on the Kashmir issue at the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Foreign Minister's Conference in Istanbul. The vicious propaganda against India on the State run Pakistan television and radio continues. But far more dangerous than all this is the ISI supported effort by the LeT to exacerbate communal tensions and target political leaders and economic centres across India. Has any thought been given to how the costs for Pakistan can be raised, if it persists with these efforts?

G. Parthasarathy is a Columnist and former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan.

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