IDR think-tank war-gamed and published in July 1989 the anticipated course of action by Pakistan in Kashmir under the title OP TOPAC.. This came true in the subsequent years!. We reproduce this war gaming done by IDR , in original that was published in the issue of July 89 to show that New Delhi despite the warning by IDR Team,did not take counter measures and allowed the situation to deteriorate. – Editor
Operation Topac was named after Amru. an Inca Prince who fought an unconventional war against Spanish rule in eighteenth-century Uruguay.
Intelligence reports indicated that large numbers of militant Kashmiri youth had sneaked back into the valley after receiving training in guerrilla warfare and terrorist activities in POK.
The aim of ‘OP TOPAC’ is to draw attention of the free-thinker, policy-maker and the defence planner to the dangerous potential of the current developments in Jammu & Kashmir. Part fact, part fiction, the scenarios visualized have been based on the trends, which have become manifest in the subcontinent in the last few years.
Situation in Jammu & Kashmir in 1988-89
In the higher reaches of Jammu & Kashmir heavy snows generally commence in October and the falls carry on till May. However, thaw sets in on lower heights in April. This prolonged winter season results in disruption of surface communications and closure of passes for a period of almost six months. During this period the valley of Kashmir wears a thick mantle of white and remains largely isolated from the rest of the country. Air services also become irregular due to thick clouds over the valley and frequent heavy falls. The only winter route via National Highway lA which enters the valley through Jawahar Tunnel is also frequently disrupted during the period due to heavy accumulation of snow in the areas of Batot-Patni Top, Banihal Tunnel and Qazigund. Numerous landslides on lower heights along the river valleys cause further problems by blocking the road and hurtling down small bridges and culverts into deep ravine beds. Traditionally, mainly due to these conditions, the Jammu & Kashmir Government moves to Jammu for winter every year. This year winter was several over Northern India and snowfall was heavy in the Himalaya so in Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. The snows started melting as usual in April on the southern face of the Pir panjal Range but within the valley neither the Pir Panjal, Kazinag, Shamsabari, or the high ranges connecting Pir Panjal to the Greater Himalayan Range, showed any signs of early thaw. It was apparent that the ‘gallies’ and passes across Pir Panjal and Shamsabari Range would not open till the end of May. The troops located across various passes. whether in Kayian Bowl. Tangdhar, or Gurez Sectors, would be short of supplies and other necessities long after the Pakistani troops opposite them on lower heights would be receiving regular supplies. In fact in April itself long convoys could be seen carrying winter stocks northwards on Neelam Valley highway and other subsidiary roads.
A powerful explosive device was found and defused in the Jawahar Tunnel itself. These activities were followed by prolonged hartals in major towns on one pretext or the other.
Zojila (pass), leading into Ladakh, remains closed for almost six months; but this year even Khardungla (pass) closed for over a month during April. This upset the road movement and stocking schedules of Shyok and Siachen garrisons. Paucity of air effort due to air-lift commitments in Sri Lanka. combined with days of bad weather, had created a large backlog of stocks and transients awaiting air-lift at various airfields/transit camps all along the line of communication to Ladakh/Kashmir Valley.
In this situation a series of bomb blasts ripped through the valley and on the national highways on both sides of the Jawahar Tunnel; random blasts near Srinagar Club, central telegraph office and transport yards were merely precursors. A powerful explosive device was found and defused in the Jawahar Tunnel itself. These activities were followed by prolonged hartals in major towns on one pretext or the other. In one incident unidentified gunmen on motor cycles opened fire at the sentry post outside the residence of the Sessions Judge who had passed the death sentence on Maqbool Butt. Later, fIring was also reported near the office of the Inspector General Kashmir Ranges. In the encounter one Ajiz Ahmed of MUF was reported killed. All this created panic in the valley but no one was clear as to the identity of the people responsible for these attacks. In another incident a car was blown up in La! Chowk and bombs were lobbed at a police piquet at Zaldagar bridge in downtown Srinagar. Yet in another incident at Srinagar, two extremists fired at a CRPF post located in the High Court premises. Several bomb blasts were reported in various tourist complexes in the valley and some groups of tourists from Gujarat and Maharashtra had a narrow escape. A few days later, extremists lobbed a hand grenade on the roof of the Doordarshan Kendra and made an attempt to blow up Badshah bridge in which a part of the parapet was damaged.
It was also reported that the setting up and running of these camps has been entrusted to the President of POK and the ISI as the Pakistani Government wanted no direct involvement.
Intelligence reports indicated that large numbers of militant Kashmiri youth had sneaked back into the valley after receiving training in guerrilla warfare and terrorist activities in POK. Some persons arrested at Kupwara revealed that large quantities of automatic weapons with huge quantities of ammunition, hand grenades and plastic explosives had entered the valley through ‘Northern Gallies’ and had been dumped in the jungles around Kupwara and Handwara. It was believed that Amanulah Khan, a top leader of the KLF, had addressed several meetings in various mosques in Srinagar and Anant Nag and Kupwara urged the Kashmiri youth to be ready for Jehad.
There was persistent bazaar gossip in all big towns of the valley about training camps in several places on both sides of the Line of Control (LC), some of which were manned by experienced Mghan Mujahids where every Kashmiri youth was made welcome and received gifts, provided he was ready to undergo guerrilla-warfare training. A newly formed outfit called ‘Ansar-ul-Islam’ supported by the Muslim Liberation Front was also reported to be enlisting and training youth in guerrilla tactics. This organization was reported to be in touch with Abdul Hamid and Dr Haider, two well-known leaders of a fundamentalist organization in POK. Intelligence reports suggested that the POK Government could be imparting training for subversive activities in J&K to about 500 Kashmiri youth in POK. It was also reported that the setting up and running of these camps has been entrusted to the President of POK, Sardar Abdul Qayum and the ISI as the Pakistani Government wanted no direct involvement. Sardar Qayum was reported to be taking a personal interest in the distribution of arms to the trainees. He frequently called upon businessmen in POK to donate liberally for the cause.
The Jammu & Kashmir Government, the police and the paramilitary forces were getting more and more tied down in putting down mob violence, rioting, vandalism and violent demonstrations. The urban population was steadily becoming defiant and aggressive and the rural folk were sulking. Mob violence erupted on the slightest pretext in which Government property and offices, transport and business establishments of certain communities became the main targets, Frequent incidents of violence, attack on public figures and police officials had succeeded in creating a fear psychosis in Government circles. This added to the existing threat from Sikh militants, creating a virtual state of siege in Jammu & Kashmir. With the aid of tip-offs from informers some arms and ammunition, along with subversive literature with a call from KLF for the liberation of Kashmir, were unearthed from Kupwara, Tangdhar and Keran areas. A leaflet simultaneously distributed at certain mosques at Srinagar contained the following message in Urdu:
The Union Home Ministry advised the State Government to strengthen vigilance on the border, improve intelligence collection and take steps to isolate the elements trying to whip up anti-Indian feelings.
- The Centre and the Abdullah Government are intensifying repression. The police round-ups, searches and arrest of innocent Kashmiri youth is making life unbearable in the cities. The obvious conclusion is that this Government is a puppet and it is incapable of solving our problems. It can merely resort to repressive measures to please its Delhi bosses. In such a situation the Kashmiris must rise in militant protest, reject any political solution and step up violence. When we get going our tools will be sabotage, terrorism and mob violence so that we hound out the puppet regime and establish a just Islamic order. Please remember that the more the repression the earlier we are likely to achieve our aim; so God be with you.
The Union Home Ministry at this stage expressed its grave concern over the increased terrorist activities and asked the Jammu & Kashmir Government to take stern measures to curb them. In their assessment not only had there been an increase in terrorist activities but there was a qualitative change in the situation. They said they had received information to suggest that some Sikh extremists’ organizations operating abroad and groups of Kashmiri extremists had joined forces. The Union Home Ministry advised the State Government to strengthen vigilance on the border, improve intelligence collection and take steps to isolate the elements trying to whip up anti-Indian feelings. As the violence continued unabated and even spread to Jammu in winter, the Union Home Ministry once again issued a statement that it had no doubt that the secessionist movement was being escalated in a planned manner for which preparations had gone on for a long time.In subsequent months, more incriminating documents signed in the name of KLF and Muslim Liberation Front were distributed at some mosques and religious gatherings. The existence of special groups called ‘AI Harnzah’ and ‘Ansari-ul-Islam’ was confirmed.
It seemed that the Centre still viewed the growing unrest in Kashmir as purely a state law and order problem of Jammu & Kashmir.
The Union Home Ministry and other central agencies perhaps considered this kind of advice quite adequate to meet the situation. It seemed that the Centre still viewed the growing unrest in Kashmir as purely a state law and order problem of Jammu & Kashmir. No meaningful dialogue between State and Central agencies nor a joint assessment to tackle the situation seemed to emerge.
The Jammu & Kashmir Government on their part seemed content with heaping the blame on the MUF, Awami Action League and those forces which were anti-NC-Congress(I) alliance. A myriad of intelligence agencies operating in the valley without an overall coordinating authority added further confusion to the situation by working at cross purposes and sending conflicting signals to their bosses in Delhi. Editorial comment in influential Urdu dailies of Srinagar indicated that the Kashmiris held the State and Central Governments responsible for the chaotic conditions prevailing in the valley and very few people believed that Pakistan was out to create disturbances in the valley. One paper which is particularly popular amongst the middle-class Muslims of the valley suggested that like the AI-Fateh, which was supposed to have emerged in 1970, AI-Harnzah and Ansar-ul-Islam were also only a figment of the Government’s imagination. These, they said, were ploys to let loose a reign of terror on the peace-loving but independent-minded Kashmiris.
The sudden demise of General Zia in August 1988 created a kind of political paralysis in Pakistan for a while but this seemed to have little effect on the continued Pakistani collusion in subversive activities in Punjab or the Kashmir Valley; ISI, General Zia’s chosen instrument to handle covert operations in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Punjab, seemed even more powerfully independent and active.
The layout and substance of most intelligence reports emanating from Corps HQ were nothing more than summaries of police, civil intelligence and newspaper reports.
The LC even at Siachen had been unusually quiet this year, except for more than the usual reconnaissance helicopter flights opposite Kargil sector and the usual sporadic firing in Rajauri-Punch areas. Forward brigades and units in most sectors in the valley reported an inexplicable but marked degree of bonhomie on the part of Pakistani troops all along the LC. Even messages of good wishes were sent’ across at Holi and Diwali festivals. Headquarters located at Kupwara and Chowkibal, however, seemed alarmed at the sudden mushrooming of madras-as (with multiple green flags fluttering over them) in their areas. This was not somehow considered very significant at higher levels. In fact the Divisional Commander and lower Formation Commanders had little or no opportunity to present their views on the overall security environment in the valley, in spite of various hartals and acts of violence in their areas of responsibility. It was the officers at the grassroots level, however; who had the most accurate information about their areas and were in the best position to judge the mood of the local population, as compared to the clinical intelligence summaries Composed at higher HQ. The intelligence summaries collated by 15 and 16 Corps really contained nothing more than what was publicly known. The layout and substance of most intelligence reports emanating from Corps HQ were nothing more than summaries of police, civil intelligence and newspaper reports. There was no in depth analysis of the situation, nor were any meaningful conclusions drawn.