In the line of al-Qaeda fire

By K.N. Pandita,

Al-Qaeda’s threatening to carry jihad to India is not a surprise, given the subversive activities indulged in by such terrorist organizations as are based in Pakistan but act in tandem with al-Qaeda. In plain words, al-Qaeda is virtually active in India. A recount of the terrorist attacks during more than a decade and half in the past at various places and sites in the country substantively endorses this assertion.

New Delhi has compulsions to withhold from public fuller details of such terrorist attacks as have been linked to al-Qaeda source. Traditional national political parties have sullied the supremacy of broader national interest over transient vote bank politics. But now with the brazen and open threat coming from that ruthless organization, India will have to convince her people that country’s security forces are not only prepared to foil any conspiracy of subversion but will also be gearing up with all those countries with whom New Delhi has reached an understanding of sorts on anti-terrorist resistance. After 9/11, President Bush minced no words and told the world powers that those who were not on his side in fighting terror were obviously on the other side. New Delhi will have to use the same phraseology.

Moreover, Indian government can no longer push under wraps the imperative of vast Indian Muslim community immediately coming out with a sensible, patriotic and balanced response to the al-Qaeda threatening.

An important aspect of intensifying terrorist activities in India by the well-known terrorist outfits in Pakistan with overt and covert links with al-Qaeda is that the Indian political leadership is unwilling to draw the dividing line between narrow and parochial political interests and broader national security perspectives. A divided house is always vulnerable to enemy’s forays.

The timing of the threat is very revealing. Pakistani President has recently made some strong statements that have a negative bearing on the on-going peace talks between the two countries. He is faced with large scale domestic discontent, and he knows it that such a ground situation is usually the beginning of the end of military regimes. In such situations it is customary for Pakistani ruling circles to divert the attention of the people from core domestic issues and rake up anti-India rancour.

Secondly, by building new bunkers very close to the Indian border in Jammu region, Pakistan has given reason to India to question her sincerity of sticking to the broad outlines of mutual CBMs. India has formally invited Islamabad’s attention to this issue. Obviously, this provocative military activity and reinforcement speak of some hidden plans of Pakistan army. It may not be necessarily a military action against India; it could as well have something to do with the mounting discontent among the large segments of Pakistani population. We know that Pakistani commanders did not hesitate to indulge in large scale massacre of Bengali civilians, mostly co-religionists, during the first phase of Bangladesh war. That cultural trait has never left Pakistani Army. The case of Nawwab Bugti and suppression of Baluch uprising are in sight.

Again it is nothing surprising on the part of al-Qaeda to say that Kashmir is the door for its jihad against Indian State. These were the precise apprehensions to which the Chief Minister of J&K State did refer more than once when his ruling coalition partner PDP very hectically worked to pressurize New Delhi into demilitarizing Kashmir. The prognosis has not ceased. It would be pertinent for the defence and home ministries as well as the CM of J&K to ask PDP stalwarts what would be their response to al-Qaeda threats? One expects PDP leadership to mobilize a vast and impressive contingent of thousands of volunteers from among its rank and file to deny al-Qaeda any opportunity of using their native land for the contemplated jihad in India. This would immensely enhance the nationalist profile of PDP and its leadership as the custodians of Kashmiriyyat.

As Musharraf did not find his Kashmiri spokespersons able to cut ice with the Indian home and defence ministry echelons, as no significant move on Kashmir debate is in sight, and above all as domestic chaos shows no signs of relent with the passing of each day, India’s adversaries have now played the trump card meaning the al-Qaeda latest tantrum.

Indian official spokesperson has said that New Delhi would examine the veracity of the CD through which a threat has been conveyed. Evidently, the Indian government will try to find out the truth, which it may or may not let her people know. But the fact remains that India is high up on the target list of al-Qaeda from the very beginning. Al-Qaeda has always been a keen supporter of Kashmir militancy. Not only that, during the administration of President Clinton, the American navy fired a missile from a naval ship in the Persian Gulf on the training camp of al-Qaeda in north – eastern Afghanistan and about eight Kashmiri militants receiving training in terrorism in that camp were instantly killed. Kashmiris did not bring out any protest rally in Srinagar against these killings as they generally do when something goes amiss with the Indian security forces. The reason was to keep the fact of Kashmiris receiving training in terrorism in al-Qaeda training camps a closely guarded secret.

Therefore the entire issue should not hinge on the veracity of the CD. That would be nothing short of suicide. A proper response to the threat should emerge from New Delhi, which must not respond as a solitary target. The time has come for her to test the sincerity of those who have promised to be aligned to her in resisting international terror. Pakistan does not stand outside that ambit because there is an understanding with that country too. Pakistan must collaborate with India in fighting the menace on her eastern front precisely as she is collaborating with the US on her western and north-western front. In that important decision is laid the safety and security not of India alone but of the entire Asia and the world.

(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University)

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