Kashmir: new regional strategy

By K.N. Pandita

Strategic landscape in a vast region spawning Pakistan westward to Central Asia, is changing fast once again. New elements and new forces are interacting in the turbulent area indicating the return of terrorism and its spillover to Pakistan and Kashmir. In all probability, Indian security planners are taking due cognizance of new nexuses and new strategies under adoption by major terrorist actors, Al-Qaeda and various affliates of Taliban.

A new militant organization in Pakistan, called Lashkar-e Jhangvi, an organization active for more than two decades in the past, has resurfaced with changed objectives. So far this organization has owned responsibility for almost all bomb attacks carried out against the Pakistani Shia’ community whether in their mosques or on the streets. 

Under changed strategy, this organization is reported to have tied up with Al-Qaeda and accepted a larger role of carrying out jihad programme not only against the pro-US government and pro-US Army top brass of Pakistan but also in European countries and India.

Al-Qaeda appears to be strengthening its manpower and plans through freshly actived recruitment campaign. Fresh recruits are mostly coming from the Central Asian State of Uzbekistan, the homeland of IMU. After the Ferghana and Andijan incidents in which the government of President Islam Karimov had came down with a very heavy hand on the IMU, many Uzbek youth have been trekking to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions of Waziristan where Al-Qaeda top leadership is hiding.  In North Waziristsn, the IMU insurgents have splintered and joined various affiliates of Al-Qaeda. Owing to large scale unemployment and economic recession in Central Asian republics, the young cadres of IMU, not discouraged by the elimination of their notorious leader Yeldashev by the American drone attack, are proving very tough fighters.

According to knowledgeable sources, the reactivated Lashkar-e Jhangvi of Pakistan has adopted the new ideology of joining forces with such jihadi organizations as are pitted against the Islamic jihad all over the world. Under Al-Qaeda’s radicalized plan, they are to join hands with jihadi outfits to fight on three fronts, namely against the pro-American establishment in Pakistan, against the Americans and European regimes and against India. In all probability, Lashkar-e Jhangvi could be the new avatar of LeT and JM combine.  Owing to the fact that these two terrorist organizations have come under the American scanner and are closely watched by security establishments, the ISI has found it necessary to enforce realignment of sorts among the outfits.

Some months back, there was a small news in print media that two IMU activists had been arrested somewhere in Kashmir during a field operation by the security forces. But no details of the incident were reported. The matter was hushed up quickly. However, news has been trickling down that a large number of well equipped terrorists now assembled at various vulnerable points along the LoC in J&K are waiting to infiltrate into Indian Territory. For example, recently, there has been repeated firing along the border in Kathua region in Jammu province which has been interpreted by experts as providing cover to the infiltrating armed brigands. Apart from this, for last one or two months, there have been repeated attempts of infiltration at various points along the LoC and many of these were foiled by the security forces.  Western Command sources have been saying repeatedly that there are many terrorists waiting to infiltrate. Security sources have also indicated that this crop of new terrorists is equipped with more sophisticated weapons and information technology. This has been proved correct by what fell into the hands of Indian security personnel after they had smashed the dens of infiltrators or liquidated them in encounters along the line of control.

The apprehension is that in the backdrop of accelerated infiltration attempts, there could be the accompanying programme of far deeper indoctrination of vulnerable sections of valley population. There could be sensitization of the people, particularly the youth, to the international Islamic brotherhood that would highlight the so-called “sacrifices” of the international Muslim community in the vanguard of which stood the jihadis and would-be-martyrs of Arab, Turkic, Uzbek, Chechen and other ethnicities. In other words, it could be called a prelude to the formation of International Islamic Brotherhood with the objective of establishing the Islamic Caliphate to replace all political and social arrangements of the contemporary world.

In the context of Pakistan, a development like this is bound to push the feudal-military-bureaucracy combine of that country to the backyard and make space for radical theocrats to grab power. When the interests of the triumvirate nexus are threatened, it will react and that is what the scenario in Pakistan is today. Obviously, the intention is to divert the attention of the new terrorist combine from onslaughts on Pakistani establishment to the Kashmir scenario and hence acceleration of infiltration along the borders.

The strategy of street mobilization and stone pelting syndrome which consumed Kashmir’s full last summer did not produce the expected result of either dismantling the ongoing state’s coalition government or forcing New Delhi to make out of box concessions.  Formation of All Party Parliamentary delegation, which visited the valley and sent in its assessment of the situation, followed by visits of a Task Force Committee and also the Interlocutors committee, are meant to suggest remedial measures to existing disgruntlement or economic debilities in urban and rural parts of the state. The grandiose rhetoric of the Interlocutors that they have been given the mandate of a “political solution of Kashmir” is music to the ear.

Pronouncements of BJP top leadership in Jammu rally on 24 December is an indicator that behind- the- curtain or traditionally known Track II diplomacy may, at the end of the day, prove nothing short of an exercise in futility. Valley leadership may react angrily to the latest pronouncements of BJP leadership; nevertheless, they cannot afford to ignore its impact on their campaign of selling their stock to the Indian intelligentsia. The inconsiderate attempts of valley separatists and secessionists to rope in dissident elements like those from the Eastern states or the wayward theorist like Arundhati Roy for making a common cause, have immensely fueled BJP’s engines to scuttle any known or unknown programme of “unique solution to the unique issue” of Kashmir.

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