Pakistani assistance for the anti-Government of India activities of alienated sections of the Indian society was not due to only its revanchist spirit following its loss of the then East Pakistan in December 1971, as is often presumed by many analysts.
It was initially the outcome of an assessment made by the Pakistani intelligence community in the early 1950s that keeping India destabilised and its military preoccupied with internal security duties would be one way of neutralising, at little cost, the superiority of the Indian armed forces over their Pakistani counterpart.
This assessment and the political implications of Pakistani support to Indian insurgent and terrorist groups had often been questioned by the Pakistani political leaders whenever they came to power – by the late Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto in 1972, by Benazir Bhutto in 1988 when she feared that Pakistan’s playing the “Sikh card” against India might force the latter to retaliate with the “Sindh card”, and again in 1993, when the US started pressurising Islamabad to discontinue this policy, and by Nawaz Sharif during his two tenures as Prime Minister.
The post-1971 revanchist spirit provided further justification to this policy, which was projected thereafter as also a means of repairing Pakistans injured pride due to the humiliation of December 1971…
On each occasion, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the military leadership managed to convince the political leadership that keeping India destabilised and the Indian military preoccupied with internal security duties would be equivalent to the “Pakistan Army having two extra divisions at no cost” as Lt Gen (retd) Hamid Gul, the Director-General of the ISI in the 1980s, once put it to Mrs Bhutto and, that giving up this policy would entail a further increase in their defence budget.
The post-1971 revanchist spirit provided further justification to this policy, which was projected thereafter as also a means of repairing Pakistan’s injured pride due to the humiliation of December 1971, preempting any Indian move to further break up Pakistan and frustrating what Islamabad regards as India’s hegemonistic ambitions.
Even after Pakistan achieved, in its mind, a psychological parity with India following its acquisition of the military nuclear and missile capabilities, the need to prevent India from emerging as the paramount military and economic power of the region by keeping its army bleeding in internal security duties has become the obsessive preoccupation of its military leadership.
Before seizing political power on October 12, 1999 General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s self-reinstated Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), self-styled Chief Executive and self-promoted President, had himself underlined on many occasions the need to keep the Indian Army continuously bleeding just as the Afghan Mujahideen, with US and Pakistani assistance, had kept the Soviet troops bleeding. It is apparently his calculation that such a policy would ultimately weaken the unity and integrity of India just as the bleeding of the Soviet troops in Afghanistan contributed to the USSR break-up.
Pakistans proxy war against India in the State of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) has to be studied against the background of this mindset of Pakistans military-intelligence establishment.
Azhar Abbas, the reputed Pakistani columnist, wrote in the May 1999 issue of the Herald, the monthly journal of the Dawn group of Karachi, as follows:
- “The army appears convinced of the wisdom in keeping India bleeding in Kashmir. As long as India is busy in Kashmir, it cannot have a three to one ratio, which is needed for an aggressive force.”
General Musharraf told the Karachi branch of Pakistan’s English-speaking Union on April 12, 1999 (Nation of April 14) that even a bilaterally-negotiated solution to the Kashmir issue might not normalise relations with India since Pakistan would continue to be a thorn in India’s side by frustrating its hegemonistic ambitions and this would make India continue with its policy of weakening Pakistan.
Pakistan’s proxy war against India in the State of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) has to be studied against the background of this mindset of Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment.
How the Proxy War began
In 1979, a committee set up by General Zia-ul-Haq, the then military dictator of Pakistan, had estimated the total number of madrasas (Muslim religious schools) in Pakistani Punjab as being over 1,000. Today, in Punjab alone, the number exceeds 2,500; there are an equal number in the rest of the country. Of these, about 200 are controlled by the Ahl-e-Hadith sect and about 100 by the Shias. The remaining are equally divided between the Barelvi and the Deobandi sects.
Afghanistan marked an important landmark in the evolution of covert action techniques.
In 1979-80, after the entry of the Soviet troops into Afghanistan, the United States (US), Government sought Zia-ul-Haq’s assistance for training the Afghan Mujahideen groups and Arab mercenaries and for raising a clandestine Army of Islam to fight against the Soviet troops with arms and ammunition to be provided by the US. Zia gladly accepted this role in return for US military and economic assistance to Pakistan.
A special US team flew to Islamabad and finalised this package – military and economic assistance to Pakistan in return for its help in making the Soviet troops bleed in Afghanistan. Included in this team was an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), under the cover of a State Department diplomat named Mrs Wendy Chamberlain.
She has now returned to her old turf as the present US Ambassador to Pakistan and played a leading role in negotiating with the present military junta led by Musharraf, a similar package of assistance in return for its help in destroying the remnants of the Islamic warriors trained in the 1980s, who have, after spreading their jehad to India, China, the Philippines, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Russia, taken it to the heart of the US, with their horrendous terrorist strikes in New York and Washington DC on September 11, 2001 killing over 6,000 innocent women, men and children.
When Zia accepted this job of contract killing of the Soviet troops for the Americans, he chose for the task Musharraf and the present General, Mohammed Aziz, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee since October 7, 2001. Musharraf is a Mohajir, a migrant from India, and Aziz is a member of the Sudan tribe of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).
…Pakistani support to Indian insurgent and terrorist groups had often been questioned by the Pakistani political leaders whenever they came to power…
The two worked out a plan, which provided for a clear division of responsibilities – the Afghan Mujabldeen and the Arab mercenaries, including Osama bin Laden, to be trained by the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment with American-British-French assistance, and the clandestine Pakistani Army of Islam to be raised and trained by the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment without any external assistance, but to be equipped by the CIA.
For training this Army of Islam, Musharraf and Aziz, assisted by Maj Gen (retd) Mahmud Durrani, selected 100 of the then existing madrasas, almost all Deobandi, and introduced military training by serving and retired officers of the Pakistan Army attached to them.
The most important and the most active of these madrasas chosen by them were the Jamiya Uloom-e-Islami in the Binori mosque, Karachi, set up by Maulana Yusuf Binori soon after Independence in 1947; the Darul Uloom Akora Khattak in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and the Jamiya Ashrafiya in Lahore. Most of the Mullah leading-lights of the clandestine Army of Islam, including Maulana Masood Azhar, originally of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) and now of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), graduated in terrorism from these three madrasas, with Maulana Azhar himself passing out of the Binori mosque madrasa. In the 1990s, many of the Taliban leaders also passed out of this madrasa.
Musharraf and Aziz included in this Army of Islam as many mutually conflicting groups as possible so that while they kept the Soviet troops bleeding, none of them would subsequently emerge as a threat to the primacy of the Pakistan Army in the local power structure. Keep them fighting the Soviet troops while they can and fighting among themselves when they should, so that no single group became too big for its shoes inside Pakistan itself – that was the objective of Musharraf and Aziz.
Musharraf and Aziz included in this Army of Islam as many mutually conflicting groups as possible so that while they kept the Soviet troops bleeding, none of them would subsequently emerge as a threat to the primacy of the Pakistan Army in the local power structure.
The result: Blood flowed not only inside Afghanistan, but also inside Pakistan due to sectarian and other quarrels amongst the various components of the Army of Islam. Since the Army of Islam drew all its recruits from the Sunnis, mainly Deobandis, the blood that flowed in Pakistan and continues to flow is largely that of the Shias.
Afghanistan marked an important landmark in the evolution of covert action techniques. It was a proxy war, partly overt, partly covert, to make the Soviet troops bleed through the use of surrogates, without the direct involvement of US troops.
Conscious encouragement of religious fanaticism was for the first time used as a covert action tool. Whereas, the past covert actions of the Western intelligence agencies were projected in ideological terms (democracy vs communism), those in Afghanistan were projected in religious terms (Islam vs communism). Jehad was brought out of the closet of medieval times and sought to be used against the evil empire of communism, without a careful examination of its long-term implications for peace and stability in the world.
In their eagerness to take full advantage of the entrapment of the Soviet troops in Afghanistan, the Western intelligence agencies reverted to pre-1970s concepts, which viewed any means as good means for achieving a national security objective. Even the production and smuggling of heroin was encouraged to make the proxy war at least partly self-financing and to promote addiction amongst Soviet troops.As a result of these ill-advised actions, Islamic jehad has become a multi-headed hydra, striking here, striking there and striking everywhere and no country, with a sizeable Muslim population, has been able to escape its ravages.
Blood flowed not only inside Afghanistan, but also inside Pakistan due to sectarian violence…
Since the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1988-89, Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment has been using against India the proxy war techniques it learnt from the CIA, for annexing Jammu & Kashmir and for destabilising other parts of India in order to complete the so-called “unfinished agenda of the Partition” and avenge the humiliating defeat of the Pakistan Army at the hands of the Indian Army in 1971.
Modus Operandi (MO)
In the proxy war launched by the ISI in the State in 1989, the operating principle was “hit and run”, the aim being to create demoralisation in the Indian security forces and the civilian population by inflicting large casualties on them. “Liberation” and occupation of territory was not the immediate objective. The ISI had calculated that if it kept the Indian security forces bleeding, political and public opinion in India would ultimately realise the futility. of holding on to the State.
The role of the Pakistan Army became primary in this operation and that of the ISI, and the militant-cum-terrorist groups secondary.
The proxy invasion plan of Musharraf in 1999 changed the operating principle to one of “occupy and hit”, the aim being to set up a bridgehead by occupying the ridges in the Kargil sector left unguarded by the Indian Army during winter and thereafter spread the area under occupation each winter by taking advantage of its logistic difficulties. The role of the Pakistan Army became primary in this operation and that of the ISI, and the militant-cum-terrorist groups secondary.
The proxy invasion plan having failed partly due to the vigorous operations of the Indian Army and Air Force and partly due to international pressure on Pakistan, Islamabad reverted back to the earlier operating principle of “hit and run”, with the primary role once again being assumed by the ISI and its surrogates in the State. The “hit and run” tactics are now being increasingly supplemented by suicide missions.
The proxy invasion plan having failed partly due to the vigorous operations of the Indian Army and Air Force and partly due to international pressure on Pakistan…
The ISI’s proxy war has passed through two stages. During the first stage (1989-92), the ISI played a direct role in providing financial, training and arms assistance to indigenous militant groups in the State. No intermediaries were used and assistance was given to any indigenous group, which was prepared to indulge in violence, whatever be its political objective.
A large number of Kashmiri militant groups received ISI assistance during this period – from the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) of the Jamaat-e-Islami which advocated merger of the State with Pakistan on the one side to the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), which wanted independence, on-the other. Within a few months of the start of the proxy war, the pro-independence groups set up their ascendancy over the pro-Pakistan groups.
Till 1992, the US and other Western countries looked upon the extremists as “freedom-fighters” and not terrorists. However, the situation changed after the extremists’ attack on a group of Israeli tourists in Srinagar in 1992.
The “hit and run” tactics are now being increasingly supplemented by suicide missions.
For the first time, there was concern in the West over the methods used by these groups and over the role of the ISI in assisting them. There was also increasing interest in nongovernmental circles in the US close to the Clinton Administration in the aims and objectives of the pro-independence groups. The feasibility of independence as a solution became the subject of study by many of these nongovernmental groups.
Concerned over these developments, the ISI introduced two changes in 1993. First, it started using intermediaries for keeping the militancy alive instead of directly doing so. Second, it cut off assistance to all pro-independence groups and made future assistance dependent on the recipient group supporting merger with Pakistan.
Funds and arms & ammunition were given to it and it was asked to take over the responsibility for running training camps in POK…
The first Pakistani organisation chosen as the intermediary was the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) of Pakistan headed by Qazi Hussain Ahmed, its Amir. Funds and arms & ammunition were given to it and it was asked to take over the responsibility for running training camps in POK and Afghanistan with the help of Afghan War veterans and for distributing money and weapons to different pro-Pakistan groups. Most of the assistance went to the HM.
In 1993, the Taliban had not yet appeared on the scene in Afghanistan and the Hizb-e-Islami of Gulbuddin Heckmatyar was still the most important and favoured Pakhtoon Mujahideen group in Afghanistan. The recruits of the HM were trained in camps in Afghan territory by instructors of Hizb-e-Islami and the Afghan mercenaries who came into Kashmir with the HM were followers of Heckmatyar.
Subsequently, the ISI started using the Markaz Dawa Al Irshad (MOI) and its militant wing called the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA) too as intermediaries for funneling assistance to the extremists in the State. These organisations, of Deobandi/Wahabi orientation, are close to the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam (JUI) of Pakistan headed by Maulana Fazlur Rahman and to the post-1994 Taliban. They were important components of Pakistan’s clandestine Army of Islam of pre-1992 Afghan War vintage.
The HM describes its aim as the liberation of Kashmir from the control of the Government of India and its merger with Pakistan.
The ISI saw in the anger of the Indian Muslim community, caused by the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992, an opportunity to drive a wedge between the Hindus and the Muslims in the rest of India, thereby adding to the difficulties of the Government of India. It also wanted the extremist groups supported by it in Kashmir to attack the Hindus of the Jammu Division in order to drive them out.
Thus, from 1993, the ISI’s assistance to the extremist groups in the State was made conditional on their supporting merger with Pakistan, agreeing to attack the Hindus in the Jammu Division and assisting the alienated sections of the Muslim youth in the rest of India in developing a militant capability by training them in their camps in Kashmiri territory.
The Jammat-e-Islami and the HM were reluctant to accept these conditions as they did not want to extend their operational aims beyond J&K, but the LET, the HUA and the AI Sadr of East Pakistan vintage, which subsequently came into the picture, readily accepted them. They thus became the privileged groups of the ISI from 1994 onwards and have now been orchestrating most of the violence in the State.
ISI also wanted the extremist groups supported by it in Kashmir to attack the Hindus of the Jammu Division in order to drive them out.
Though the HM, the LET, the HUA, since renamed as the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), and the AI Badr claim to be working together, important differences dividing them are:
- The HM is essentially an organisation of indigenous Kashmiris, but the other three consist largely of Pakistanis, Afghans and a few Arab mercenaries.
- The HM describes its aim as the liberation of Kashmir from the control of the Government of India and its merger with Pakistan. The other three describe their aim as the liberation of Kashmir from the control of the Hindus and its merger with Pakistan, to be followed by a similar “liberation” of the Muslims in the rest of India. These three organisations view Kashmir as the “gateway to India” and call for the creation of two more Muslim homelands – one for the Muslims of North India and the other for those of South India.
- In pursuance of their aims, the LET and the HUM have been spreading their presence to the rest of India and networking with Islamic extremist groups in other states.
- The HM was close to Heckmatyar whereas the other three are supporters of the Taliban. Angered by the proximity of the HM to Heckmatyar, the Taliban closed down its training camps in Afghanistan and expelled its office-bearers from there.
- The LET and the HUM are strongly against the US, Israel and the ruling family of Saudi Arabia and are members of Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front for Jehad against the US and Israel, but the HM keeps away from the anti-US and anti-Saudi ruling family activities of bin Laden. The AI Badr’s position vis-a-vis bin Laden has been ambivalent.
…the ISI continues to use these organisations to massacre Hindus in the Jammu Division and to organise acts of violence in the Valley too.
In its eagerness to achieve its objectives against India, Pakistan, through the ISI, has thus been following contradictory policies. It seeks US support for the internationalisation of the Kashmir issue, but has been arming groups, which vow to attack American targets, in order to use them against India. It describes Saudi Arabia as its closest Islamic ally, but has been sheltering groups which are carrying on a campaign against the Saudi ruling family and the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia.
The increasing concern in the US intelligence community over the training and arming of these anti-US and anti-Israel groups by Pakistan in its attempts to destabilise India was an important reason for the sympathetic attitude of the US towards’ India during the conflict in the Kargil sector in 1999.
The long-term objective of Pakistan’s Army of Islam vis-a-vis India is no longer the acquisition of territory in J&K. It is to make the sub-continent safe for the spread of Islam by weakening Hinduism, by debilitating the Indian State and thereby paving the way for the restoration of the Mughal State.
This is an illusion, but illusions can cost lives and suffering. India has been the target of a religious war, which is not going to end with the resolution of the Kashmir issue. What is in danger is not just the future of J&K as an integral part of India, but the future of India itself as a secular, politically pluralistic and economically prosperous State.
Pakistans objective of debilitating the Indian State, which is the driving force behind its proxy war, is, however, not strictly of recent origin dating from its experience of its successful (as perceived by it) role in the Afghan War of the 1980s.
Pakistan’s objective of debilitating the Indian State, which is the driving force behind its proxy war, is, however, not strictly of recent origin dating from its experience of its successful (as perceived by it) role in the Afghan War of the 1980s. This has nothing to do with the two-nation theory; this has nothing to do with the so-called “unfinished agenda of the Partition of 1947,” as Pakistan describes its quest for J&K, by hook or by crook.
It has everything to do with a mindset, riddled with complexes, which is marked by a permanent hostility to India, by a compulsive urge to take advantage of every difficulty faced by India and to keep the Indian Security Forces bleeding and by a burning desire to prevent, by every manner possible, the emergence of India as a major regional power.
It was this mindset, which was at work in the North-East before 1971, in the Punjab thereafter and in J&K since 1989. Pakistan’s proxy war against India dates back to the 1950s and the 1960s, when it started training and arming the Naga and Mizo hostiles. It suspended it after the humiliating defeat of its Army in 1971 and started it again – this time in Punjab after General Zia-ul-Haq seized power in 1977.
What is new about the latest phase of its proxy war in J&K and other parts of India is the use against the Indian Security Forces of the expertise, the experience and the arms and ammunition and other tools acquired by it under the supervision of the CIA in Afghanistan. What is equally new is the use of the clandestine Army of Islam of the Afghan War vintage, without the direct involvement of its Army of the State.
The Pakistan Army thinks that its demonstrated nuclear and missile capability has insured it against a retaliatory response from the Indian Security Forces due to the fears of the Indian leadership that retaliation could degenerate into regular warfare.
The diversion of this Army of Islam from the battlefields of Afghanistan to J&K serves three purposes, in Pakistan’s perception:
- It keeps the Indian Security Forces and civilians bleeding without the Pakistani Security Forces suffering any casualties.
- It keeps the fanatical jehadis dying at the hands of the Indian Security Forces, thereby preventing their return to Pakistan and clamouring for the imposition of a Talibantype rule there. In the Pakistan Army’s perception, the longer the jehadis are kept fighting and dying in Indian territory, the longer it would be able to prevent a possible Talibanisation of Pakistan.
- It provides a training and motivating force and a training ground for Muslim extremist elements from other parts of India such as the cadres of the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) just as it (the Army of Islam) had functioned in the 1980s as a training and motivating force in Afghanistan for Muslims from Muslim and non-Muslim States wanting to take up arms against the State.
The post-1989 phase of Pakistan’s proxy war has an overt as well as a covert component. The overt component relates to its political, moral and diplomatic support to the indigenous Kashmiri organisations, its orchestration of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, its psywar against India on the human rights and other issues and its attempts to internationalise the issue. The covert component is about its letting loose its Army of Islam against the Indian Security Forces and civilians.
Since 2000, this Army of Islam consists essentially of the following organisations:The Pakistan Army thinks that its demonstrated nuclear and missile capability has insured it against a retaliatory response from the Indian Security Forces due to the fears of the Indian leadership that retaliation could degenerate into regular warfare. Its feeling of having acquired a psychological asymmetric advantage over India due to the nuclear factor has given it a confidence that it can persist with its proxy war at no cost to itself.
- The HUM.
- The LET.
- The Al Badr, an off-shoot of Pakistan’s JEI, which was used by the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment for the massacre of the Bengali intellectuals in the then East Pakistan in 1971.
- The Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), formed by Maulana Masood Azhar by splitting the HUM in 2000 after he had been released from jail by the Government of India in December 1999, as demanded by the HUM hijackers of an Indian Airlines flight.
- The Al Qaida of bin Laden. Till September 11, 2001 the Al Qaida, at the instance of Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment, was training the Pakistani members of the Army of Islam before they were infiltrated into J&K.