Homeland Security

Rain of terror on India
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Issue Vol 23.3 Jul-Sep2008 | Date : 07 Jul , 2011

Pakistan has achieved considerable success in transforming the nature of Islam in J&K, from a more tolerant Sufi kind to a more Arab Sunni in character. This was necessary for sustaining militancy in the state, as also to mobilise the Kashmiri sentiment in favour of Pakistan and away from political forces supporting independence or those attached to the concept of Kashmiriyat that by claiming a distinct Kashmiri identity inherently seeks to escape from Pakistan’s enveloping embrace. The effort to change the nature of Islam in the Valley was intended also to make the resolution of the political problem of J&K still more difficult.

With these kind of external pressures at work, and the recognition that its clandestine support to terrorist elements is under international scrutiny, it has been important for Pakistan, both in Afghanistan and in India, to shift attention away from its own culpability to internal failures in these two countries. Terrorist cells had to be created and nurtured in India

Our difficulties have been compounded by Pakistan’s strategy of extending the geographical spread of the terrorist threat beyond J&K to the rest of India. With greater Indian vigilance on the LOC and strong military presence on the ground in J&K, Pakistan has found it expedient to exploit our open border with Nepal and our porous border with Bangladesh to infiltrate terrorist elements into India with the objective of stretching our resources to combat terrorism as severely as possible and destabilising our society at large from within. The ISI has tapped into anti-India sentiment in sections of the populace in Bangladesh in particular, as well as pools of radical Islam surfacing there with the general spread of Wahabist thinking in Muslim circles, to target India from various directions. No wonder in some of the latest terrorist attacks the HUJI figures prominently as a suspect.

Pakistan is acknowledged both as the source of international terrorism and as an ally combating it. This was the artful way in which General Musharraf had his cake and ate it too. This apparent contradiction is explained by Pakistan’s indispensability in any US effort in stabilising Afghanistan and pursuing the al Qaida and the realisation that for obtaining the requisite degree of co-operation, threats and intimidation would work less effectively than diplomacy and persuasion. There has also been a pragmatic recognition that Pakistan’s frontier areas have been historically not fully under central control, and the extremely rugged terrain where military operations are not easy to undertake compounds the problem.

Nevertheless, US political circles and the media have been asking for greater accountability from Pakistan for its perceived double game of both conducting military operations against the religious extremists in the tribal areas and also, clandestinely, supporting these elements which inflict casualties on US and international forces in Afghanistan. The Bush Administration, while publicly lauding Pakistan’s co-operation in the fight against terrorism has been pressuring it to compose with India and control Pakistan-based terrorist activity in our country.

Even Obama, the Democratic Presidential candidate, has publicly exhorted Pakistan to cease support to militancy in J&K. For the US, Pakistan must focus on controlling its western border, but if high level of provocative activity on the eastern border is maintained, the risk of an Indian reaction increases, with damaging consequences for the American effort in Afghanistan.

 It is not unsurprising that since 2002, despite terrorist attacks in Gujarat, calculated to invite reaction, including the latest one, law and order and social peace have been maintained.

With these kind of external pressures at work, and the recognition that its clandestine support to terrorist elements is under international scrutiny, it has been important for Pakistan, both in Afghanistan and in India, to shift attention away from its own culpability to internal failures in these two countries. Terrorist cells had to be created and nurtured in India, ostensibly exploiting local grievances such as the trauma of Gujarat, to make it appear that terrorist incidents in India were the handiwork of indigenous groups and not engineered by Pakistan. This perception would moreover be far more damaging to communal harmony within India than terrorist attacks organised by outside elements.

Pakistan has succeeded in this strategy to some extent. Over the years Pakistan’s involvement in terrorist activity in India has been manifest and has been acknowledged by politicians, officials and commentators, both Pakistani and foreign. The existence of training camps in Pakistan, of organisations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, not to mention the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, the literature published in Pakistan on Kashmir martyrs, the intelligence intercepts and other physical evidence have demonstrated Pakistan’s complicity.

The resumption of the Composite Dialogue between the two countries was predicated on Pakistan abandoning support to terrorism directed at India. But Pakistan cannot fully give up this pressure point on India as it serves multiple interests. It can modulate recourse to terrorism to suit political exigencies, as for example, to avoid having to deal militarily simultaneously with tensions on its eastern and western borders, in view of the mounting problems in its tribal areas. But giving up entrenched policies without a significant quid pro quo is never easy.

The Pakistani military leadership believes the terrorist threat is an incentive to India to come to the negotiating table; without it India will simply ignore Pakistan’s calls for a resolution of the issue. Terrorism also poisons Hindu-Muslim relations and weakens the foundations of India’s secularism. It affects the image of India as an investment destination, which would explain the terror attacks in cities like Bangalore and Mumbai. It panders to extremist lobbies within Pakistan whose declared ambition is to break up India from within.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Kanwal Sibal

Former Foreign Secretary of India

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