Homeland Security

‘Op TOPAC’: Confronting Strategic Asymmetry
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Issue Book Excerpts: The Crimson Chinar | Date : 19 Aug , 2018

“The Proxy War between India and Pakistan has no fronts, no rules of the Game and is not time bound.”[1]

The seeds for disintegrating India were planted by General Zia as early as 1982-83, when his ISI paved the way for fundamentalist JeI and JKLF separatists to prepare for liberating Kashmir and spreading terror and disaffection in India. Though Op Topac,[2] is often credited as the brainchild of Zia, the doyen of the Indian strategic thought, the late Mr. K Subramanian has clarified that Topac was in fact, an Indian ‘Intelligence Assessment’ carried out by retired Indian army officers with the aim to evaluate the capabilities and predict the trajectory of the enemy plans.

Unlike the plans made in 1947 and 1965, Zia’s plan did not limit itself to the ‘liberation’ of Kashmir – it sought the ‘disintegration’ of India.

The preamble of the article published in the Indian Defence Review of mid 1989, clarifies: “The aim of ‘Op Topac’ is to draw attention of free thinkers, policy makers and defence planners to the dangerous potential of the current development in J&K. Part fact and part fiction, the scenarios visualised having been based on the trends, which have become manifest in the sub-continent in the last few years.”[3] The Indian analysts were accurate to quite an extent as events in Kashmir unfolded largely in the manner as had been predicted. However, despite their predictive warning before the storm eventually burst over Kashmir, very little pre-emptive planning was undertaken by the Indian establishment.

Having said that, Zia had also made a plan which generally conformed to what was put together as Op Topac. Zia aimed to bring final victory for Islamic Pakistan over Hindu India and therefore his campaign was not confined to Kashmir alone. The biography of a former Pakistan Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, who also was a former ISI chief, General Akhtar Abdul Rehman, titled ‘Fateh’ (Victory), authored by Haroon Rashid, provides a clue to the origin of the plan. As per the writer, Rehman was the mastermind behind the Afghan jihad and the one who developed Zia’s plan for liberating Kashmir which was put in place in early 1984 and aimed to culminate in an uprising in the valley by 1991.[4] Unlike the plans made in 1947 and 1965, Zia’s plan did not limit itself to the ‘liberation’ of Kashmir – it sought the ‘disintegration’ of India.

Pakistan’s Strategic Game

Zia’s strategy was premised on the time tested principle of ‘divide-et-empera,’ with which the British had divided the Hindus and the Muslims. Zia targeted the religious sentiments of India’s Muslim populace and aimed to widen the communal divide in Kashmir in particular, and in India at large. Like Ayub, Zia also wanted to portray the Kashmiri insurgency as an indigenous uprising – a ‘jihad’ from within, thus the emphasis was on creating internal dissensions within Kashmir and the rest of India on communal lines.

Provocation of the Indian SF by the people, especially by the youth, became the game, and their retaliation to provocations were beamed to international audiences in real time, depicting them as brutal ‘Indian oppression of the peace loving Kashmiri Muslims…

The first phase of this sub-conventional conflict was manifested by heightened militancy initiated by Kashmiris after they had been trained in POK/Afghanistan. Kashmiri militants/terrorists/jihadis were trained, armed and run from across for terrorising their own people by wanton acts of terror, assassinations and for creating a ‘sense of fear and dread.’ To quite an extent, they were successful as they were able to establish a parallel rule in the state whose power and legitimacy flowed through the barrel of the Kalashnikov. The scale and level of violence numbed the government at Srinagar and New Delhi and paralysed the state administration, while the state police force and the CRPF were rendered ineffective. In 1990, and to a greater extent in 1991, the state in the valley was one of ‘open insurgency,’ the writ of the state was conspicuously absent, and where it was still visible, it proved to be ineffective.

The Asymmetrical War

Zia dreamed large for the ultimate victory over India, and Rehman, his trusted ISI Chief planned his campaign in accordance with the end state desired by him. The campaign that followed was to become the largest in terms of outlay and deployment and the longest in terms of duration in the four-decade long Indo-Pakistan conflict thus far: the aims as set out were four fold:

1.  To Internationalise the Kashmir Issue. Pakistan had always tried to focus world attention on the Kashmir ‘dispute.’ Ayub had tried to do this by unleashing Op Gibraltar, and Zia followed the same route and aimed to make the issue as ‘visible’ and as ‘high profile’ as possible, in order to embarrass India internationally.

2.  To Highlight Human Rights Abuses in Kashmir. Pakistan realised the value of the media, especially of the electronic medium which had the capacity to report ‘excesses’ in real time. Provocation of the Indian SF by the people, especially by the youth, became the game, and their retaliation to provocations were beamed to international audiences in real time, depicting them as brutal ‘Indian oppression of the peace loving Kashmiri Muslims,’ and highlighting them as ‘Human Rights’ violations.

3.  To Generate Conditions for the Internal Liberation by the Kashmiris. Unlike the attempts made in 1965, the aim was to depict the uprising as an inner revolt by the Kashmiris and therefore, Kashmiri youth were encouraged to cross over to POK for training and preparation for attaining liberation for themselves. This included recruitment, training, arming, equipping and ex-filtrating them as militants back to Kashmir, with the active support of the Pakistan army.

… the ‘pan India’ war, waged by Islamic warriors from within India would also highlight the angst amongst the minority Muslims spread across India and demonstrate their bitterness towards the Indian ‘occupation’ of Muslim majority Kashmir.

4.  Pan India Proxy War. Since Zia’s ultimate aim was to ‘disintegrate’ India, the campaign was not confined to Kashmir, but terrorists were tasked to attack high profile targets and place the country under siege to generate a fear psychosis. It was to because of this that Muslim youth from across India were recruited for this ‘all out’ proxy war and were picked up from Assam, Bihar, UP, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Kerala and taken to Pakistan for training. This was the only aim and means which differed from that of Op Gibraltar, as Zia, the master of psychological warfare, realised that by targeting the length and breadth of India under the garb of an ‘all embracing Islamic Jihad,’ he would be able to generate greater exposure for the Kashmir struggle as their motives could always be attributed to Kashmir. In addition, the ‘pan India’ war, waged by Islamic warriors from within India would also highlight the angst amongst the minority Muslims spread across India and demonstrate their bitterness towards the Indian ‘occupation’ of Muslim majority Kashmir. Zia also counted on a backlash from Hindu fundamentalists, and by countering Pakistan’s terror in a ‘militant manner,’ they added oil to the fire.

Objectives.[5] The Zia-Rehman plan as assessed by the Topac team had three basic objectives:

  1. To liberate the minorities of India such as the Muslims in Kashmir and the Sikhs in Indian Punjab. Though this proved presumptuous, it caused internal conflict in India and the Punjab militancy and the Kashmir insurgency were manifestations of this focus.
  2. To utilise ISI to act as an instrument of sabotage. Many Anti-national groups and cells were activated within India, which included the banned SIMI group.
  3. To exploit India’s porous borders with Nepal and Bangladesh to set up bases and for the conduct of operations. This opened up its own dynamics and soured relations India had with these otherwise friendly neighbours.

Phases. The plan envisaged the liberation of Kashmir in three phases:

 1.  Phase One.

  • Abet a low-level insurgency.
  • Subvert key organisations of the state administration.

General Zia prepared his Jihadi armies for the liberation of Kashmir…

2.  Phase Two.

  • Exert pressure on the flanks of the valley (Punch in the south and Kargil-Siachen in the north) and extend the Indian Army’s physical deployment.
  • Destroy the cohesion and lines of command by attacking Head Quarters and degrading logistic supply lines within the state, by physical attacks, sabotage, subversion, and strikes, exacerbating the administrative problems for the Indian army to operate in the state.

3.  Phase Three. To liberate Kashmir. Though Zia expected that after this sustained campaign, Kashmir would naturally become part of Pakistan, Musharraf was more circumspect, and surprisingly was not averse to an Independent Kashmir, though dependent on Pakistan for her existence.

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The Jihadi Machine

General Zia prepared his Jihadi armies for the liberation of Kashmir by fusing the separatist sentiments of the JKLF and the jihadi energy of the JeI in Pakistan and in both parts of divided Kashmir.

Initially there was a proliferation of many smaller groups and between 1988 and 1990, there were around 150 odd groups who surfaced in Kashmir alone.

However, with time, some of these merged to form larger groups, while others vanished, as their cadres were either eliminated, arrested or the militants moved to other groups.

Reference:


[1]      Wani Gull Mohhamad, Introduction, Kashmir: From Autonomy to Azadi, Valley Book House, Hazratbal, Srinagar, 1996, p. 14.

[2]      The name had been adapted from that of the eighteenth century Inca Prince of Peru, Tupac Amaru II, who led the war of liberation of Peru and Uruguay against Spanish Rule. It may be interesting to note that a leftist guerrilla group later took up the name and actually functioned for many years in Peru, seeking inspiration from the exploits of the Prince.

[3]      Verma Ashok Kalyan, Major General (Retd), p. 62, Kargil: Blood on the Snow, Tactical Victory, Strategic Failure: A Critical Analysis of the War, Manohar Publishers, New Delhi, 2002. This is also substantiated by Mr K Subramanium in the Kargil Committee report, and is quoted. “One of the most realistic assessment of Kashmir developments as they unfolded during Pakistan’s proxy war was ‘Op Topac,’ a war game written by a team of retired Indian Army officers in 1989. It is interesting to note that ‘Op Topac’ has since been mistakenly attributed even by high placed Indian officials and agencies to General Zia-ul-Haq. This shows how close the authors of ‘Op Topac’ were able to get into the mind of the Pakistani establishment in relation to their aims in J&K.”

[4]      Joshi Manoj, The Lost Rebellion: Kashmir in the Nineties, Penguin Books, New Delhi, 1999, p. 16.

[5]      Wikipedia-Op Topac and as available at http://www.kashmir.info

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One thought on “‘Op TOPAC’: Confronting Strategic Asymmetry

  1. Good write up. : Pakistan’s foundation were based on hate of Hindus that was equally shared by the then Brit colonisers confounded with Church. Sad truth of ugly history based on inhuman ethics and immorality.

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