Homeland Security

OP TOPAC: The Kashmir Imbroglio - I
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Issue Vol 4.2 Jul-Dec 1989 | Date : 29 Jul , 2012

In North-Eastern Ladakh, across Sasar La, except for small patrols coming to ‘Three Pimples’ area for observation over -Daulat Beg Oldi and ‘Track Junction’, the Chinese remained rather inactive. Even the so-called ‘forward posture’ adopted by the Indian Army in some areas did not seem to bother them.

In the Jammu-Pathankot belt there was a sudden increase in subversive and terrorist activities. Violence flared up in Jammu city on the eve of Gur-Purab and quickly spread to other parts of Jammu region. The Army had to be called out in several towns.

In these circumstances, the Army leadership visualized no special problem except for the normal logistics problems of forward troops due to late opening of passes. The news of violent demonstrations and riots which stretched the state police resources to the limit did not come in for much comment and discussion in Army circles, as there was not even a hint of any hostility in the valley towards the Army. However, during a war game organized by 15 Corps, certain issues were raised by the local Sub Area Commander on paucity of paramilitary resources for internal security duties, under the prevailing circumstances. This was not disputed by the senior officers present but at the summing up it was made clear that the shortage of paramilitary forces at his disposal was fully appreciated but it was to be seen in the light of the overall requirement of such forces in the Punjab and elsewhere. No alternatives were offered, so the Sub Area was expected to make do with what it had. It was evident that the Army hierarchy foresaw no special problems in the valley as far as they were concerned. The attention of most senior commanders remained riveted on Siachen which had become a prestige issue since the last Pakistani attack on ‘Bana’ post. A firm conviction prevailed that nothing much could happen in the valley barring a stalemate even if Pakistan were to start full-scale hostilities. Anti terrorist operations were not the ‘Army’s baby’. In any case it could not affect the overall defensive posture,’ it was said.

The situation on the other side of Pir Panjal Range, especially after widespread violence in Jammu region, was somewhat different. The borders were active off and on and the Pakistani troops were seen carrying out various training exercises fairly close to the border, which indicated aggressive designs.

The line of communication to the Kashmir Valley through Udhampur-Ramban-Banihal this year had somehow become more prone to big landslides resulting in prolonged suspension of traffic. A new bridge at Khuninala had to be built as the old one was damaged by frequent landslides. Several smaller landslides kept blocking the road between Ramban-Ramsu and Banihal frequently. People of Doda, Kishtwar and Bhadarwa areas were on the war-path against the Jammu & Kashmir Government. As such there was a perpetual shortage of local labour to work on the roads.

In the Jammu-Pathankot belt there was a sudden increase in subversive and terrorist activities. Violence flared up in Jammu city on the eve of Gur-Purab and quickly spread to other parts of Jammu region. The Army had to be called out in several towns.

A little later violence recurred in the valley during a bandh which was observed in Srinagar, Baramulla, Anant Nag and Sopore to mark the anniversary of the hanging of Maqbool Butt. Violence broke out again after a short interval when rampaging mobs came out in the streets, ostensibly to protest against Salman Rushdie’s controversial book Satanic Verses. This agitation soon spread to all major towns in the valley and continued unabated for almost a week.

The Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir was however reported to have said in a statement to the press that he had definite information that Pakistan was winding up camps where terrorists were being trained,

It was quite apparent by now that there was an overall method in this madness. Most national newspapers in their editorials spoke of the dangers from within in Kashmir and the Pakistani connection. The Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir was however reported to have said in a statement to the press that he had definite information that Pakistan was winding up camps where terrorists were being trained, after the recent meeting of our Prime Minister and Ms Benazir Bhutto.
The Jammu & Kashmir Government continued to make bold declarations that they would come down on the trouble-makers with a heavy hand”¦Reacting to various statements issued by the Union Home Ministry indicating that a serious view of the situation in Jammu & Kashmir had been taken by the Centre, the Chief Minister said that both the State and Central Governments had responsibilities in this respect, and although the Prime Minister had once told him that there was the possibility of Pakistan creating disturbance in the valley, he blamed internal politics for the prevailing conditions.

The deteriorating law and order situation in the valley was generally attributed by the Centre and the national press to the ineffectual leadership in Jammu & Kashmir; but many prominent leaders of Jammu & Kashmir held that a constant drift in the Centre’s policies was largely responsible for the situation. At this juncture the attention of the Centre was mainly focused on Punjab and perhaps because of this no viable joint strategy for Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir was evolved. Creation of special forces or a joint intelligence network to tackle terrorism and anti-national forces in these states were not apparently formulated even at this stage. Evidently, it was not perceived that the escalation in the Punjab situation was correlated to the main objective of certain forces, of destabilizing and subverting the legitimate authority in Kashmir.

The Jammu & Kashmir Government continued to make bold declarations that they would come down on the trouble-makers with a heavy hand and that they would fight the extremists with full determination. They also often repeated that the use of sophisticated arms by the extremists showed a foreign hand. However, no one seemed to be any the wiser as to who was the master-mind behind these operations.

Pakistan’s Aims and Plans – I

A top-level meeting had been called in the President’s residential office by General Zia in April 1988. This was attended by selected Corps Commanders and top ISI bosses. Some other names mentioned in this connection were those of a prominent Afhan Mujahid leader and two Kashmir Liberation Front leaders. Whether they actually attended this meeting was not confirmed. The main contents from the President’s address which were leaked out, probably through a mole from a Third World country and became available to India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) agents some time in September-October 1988, were as follows:

…as no Government can survive in Occupied Kashmir unless it has the tacit approval of Delhi, it would be unrealistic to believe that the MUF or any such organization can seize power through democratic or other means.

“Gentlemen, I have spoken on this subject at length before, therefore, I will leave out the details. As you know due to our pre-occupation in Afghanistan, in the service of Islam, I have not been able to put these plans before you earlier. Let there be no mistake, however, that our aim remains quite clear and firm-the liberation of the Kashmir Valley-our Muslim Kashmiri brothers cannot be allowed to stay with India for any length of time, now. In the past we had opted for hamhanded military options and therefore, failed. So, as I have mentioned before, we will now keep our military option for the last moment as a coup de grace, if and when necessary. Our Kashmiri brethren in the valley, though with us in their hearts and minds, are simple-minded folk and do not easily take to the type of warfare to which, say, a Punjabi or an Afghan takes to naturally, against foreign domination. The Kashmiris however have a few qualities which we can exploit. First, his shrewdness and intelligence; second, his power to persevere under pressure; and the third, if I may so say, he is a master of political intrigue. If we provide him means through which he can best utilize these qualities – he will deliver the goods. Sheer brute force is in any case not needed in every type of warfare, especially so in the situation obtaining in the Kashmir Valley, as I have explained earlier.

Here we must adopt those methods of combat which the Kashmiri mind can grasp and cope with-in other words, a coordinated use of moral and physical means, other than military operations, which will destroy the will of the enemy, damage his political capacity and expose him to the world as an oppressor. This aim, Gentlemen, shall be achieved in the initial phases.

In the first phase, which may, if necessary, last a couple of years we will assist our Kashmiri brethren in getting hold of the power apparatus of the State by political subversion and intrigue. I would like to mention here that as no Government can survive in Occupied Kashmir unless it has the tacit approval of Delhi, it would be unrealistic to believe that the MUF or any such organization can seize power through democratic or other means. In view of this,’ power must “apparently” remain with those whom New Delhi favours. We must therefore ensure that certain “favoured politicians” from the ruling elite be selected who would corporate with us in subverting all effective organs of the State. In brief, our plan for Kashmir, which will be codenamed as “Op Topac” will be as follows:

Phase 1

A low-level insurgency against the regime, so that it is under siege, but does not collapse as we would not yet want central rule imposed by Delhi.

We must therefore ensure that certain “favoured politicians” from the ruling elite be selected who would corporate with us in subverting all effective organs of the State.

We plant our chosen men in all the key positions; they will subvert the police forces, financial institutions, the communication network and other important organizations.

We whip up anti-Indian feelings amongst ” the students and peasants, preferably on some religious issues, so that we can enlist their active support for rioting and anti-Government demonstrations.

Organize and train subversive elements’ and armed groups with capabilities, initially, to deal with paramilitary forces located in the valley.

Adopt and develop means to cut off lines of communication between Jammu & Kashmir and within Kashmir and Ladakh by stealth, without recourse to force. The road over Zojila upto Kargil and the road over Khardungla should receive our special attention.

In collaboration with Sikh extremists, create chaos and terror in Jammu to divert attention from the valley at a critical juncture and discredit the regime even in the Hindu mind.

Establish virtual control in those parts of the Kashmir Valley where the Indian Army is not located or deployed. The Southern Kashmir Valley may be one such region.

Phase 2

Exert maximum pressure on the Siachen. Kargil and Rajauri-Punch sectors to force the Indian Army to deploy reserve formations outside the main Kashmir Valley.

Some Afghan Mujahideen, by then settled in Azad Kashmir, will then infiltrate in selected pockets with a view to extending areas of our influence.

Attack and destroy base depots and HQ located at Srinagar, Pattan, Kupwara. Baramulla. Bandipur and Chowkiwala by covert action at a given time.

Some Afghan Mujahideen, by then settled in Azad Kashmir, will then infiltrate in selected pockets with a view to extending areas of our influence. This aspect will require detailed and ingenious planning. The fiasco of Op Gibraltar (1965) holds many lessons for us here.

Finally a Special Force under selected retired officers belonging to Azad Kashmir, with the hard core consisting of Afghans, will be ready to attack and destroy airfields, radio stations, block Banihal Tunnel and Kargil-Leh Highway.

At a certain stage of the operations Punjab and adjacent areas of Jammu & Kashmir will be put under maximum pressure internally by our offensive posture.

Phase 3

Detailed plans for the liberation of Kashmir Valley and establishment of an independentIslamic State in the third phase will follow.

We must, therefore, be careful and maintain a low military profile so that the Indians do not find an excuse to pre-empt us, by attacking at a time and at a point of their own choosing…

We do not have much time. Maximum pressure must be exerted before the general elections in India and before Indian Army reserves which are still bogged down in Sri Lanka become available. By the Grace of God, we have managed to accumulate large stocks of modern arms and ammunition from US consignments intended for Afghan Mujahideen. This will help our Kashmiri brethren achieve their goals. Even if we create a kind of “Azad Kashmir” in some remote parts of Occupied Kashmir as a beginning, the next step may not be as difficult as it appears today. On the other hand, it should also be noted that a part of the Indian Army, particularly the Infantry, will be well trained by now for such a situation due to their experience in the North-Eastern Region and more recently in Sri Lanka. But the situation in Kashmir will be somewhat different; more like the “Infetada” of Palestinians in towns, and on the pattern of the Mujahideen in the countryside to attack hard targets. A. period of chaos in the State is essential in the circumstances.

And what of our Chinese friends? They can do no more than ensure that Indian forces deployed against them are not moved. out; but this may be required only at the last or the third stage of our operations. Of course, if we are in serious trouble, the Chinese and our other powerful friends shall come to our rescue one way or the other. They will ensure if we do not win -at least we don’t lose.
Pakistan Paindabad.”Finally, I wish to caution you once more that it will be disastrous to believe that we can take on India in a straight contest. We must, therefore, be careful and maintain a low military profile so that the Indians do not find an excuse to pre-empt us, by attacking at a time and at a point of their own choosing, at least before Phase 1 and 2 of the Operation are over. We must pause and assess the course of operations after each phase, as our strategy and plans may require drastic changes in certain circumstances. I need not emphasize any further that a deliberate and objective assessment of the situation must be ensured at each stage, otherwise a stalemate will follow with no good for Pakistan.

General Situation in March 1989

The initial phase of Op Topac was apparently put into action in the latter half of 1988 as was evident from the course of events from July 1988 to March 1989. The death of General Zia in August 1988 in a PAF accident, and the new dispensation under Ms Benazir Bhutto appeared to make very little difference till March 1989. ISI has been rightly described as a ‘State within a State’. It has been said that soon after Ms Bhutto took over, at a stormy meeting, Pakistani Foreign Minister Yakub Khan urged that Afghan policy no longer be handled by ISI but even he was turned down and the attempt to curb the power of ISI did not succeed.

It seemed that although the ISI would go ahead with its plan of action in Kashmir, the time- frame will be dictated by the course of events in Afghanistan and of course Indias reaction.

Significantly, Pakistani COAS, General Mirza Aslam Beg, in his first visit to Siachen, was reported to have said that the Pakistani armed forces would not rest till an amicable solution of the Siachen dispute was found. This statement seemed to be a precursor of Ms Benazir Bhutto’s views expressed a bit later.

The emergence of Ms Benazir Bhutto as the new Prime Minister of Pakistan and the restoration of democracy could queer the pitch of ISI but Kashmir figures high on her priorities too as was evident from her statement that ‘Kashmir is a major dispute between India and Pakistan. It has led to three wars between our countries, to a never-ending arms race and to endless tensions. It is a problem we have to solve.’

‘Right now we have another serious matter, between us and that is the Siachen Glacier issue – but India and Pakistan are holding talks and we hope that we will be able to make progress on that particular issue,’ she had added.

It seemed that although the ISI would go ahead with its plan of action in Kashmir, the time- frame will be dictated by the course of events in Afghanistan and of course India’s reaction. Only if Pakistan is able to oust Najib-PDPA, establish a friendly Islamic regime in Afghanistan and ensure the return of Afghan refugees, will it be able to focus attention on Kashmir. ISI which runs the show in Afghanistan is well organized and trained, however, to launch effective covert operations in Jammu & Kashmir. General Zia had constituted it to be a combination of CIA, GSG9, SAS and Spetznaz. Spectacular initial success in Afghanistan showed its effectiveness and efficacy. It is well on the cards that this organization will continue to carryon Zia’s chosen line of action in Kashmir, notwithstanding the constraints which the precepts of the new regime may impose on it.

Continued…: OP TOPAC: The Kashmir Imbroglio – II

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