India needs to understand these before it plays a role in the global war
Pravin Sawhney and Ghazala Wahab
As the war on terrorism completes its fifth year, it is becoming clear that while terrorism does pose a challenge to the world, it also offered an opportunity to the major powers to consolidate and expand their clout in and around their region. Under the expansive umbrella of terrorism, Russia and China held hands, strengthened and enlarged the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation with Central Asian Republics, ostensibly to foster economic cooperation and fighting the ogre of terrorism, but essentially to keep the US out. Pakistan, the long patron of state-sponsor terrorism, also saw in this the opportunity to reclaim its lost strategic space in Afghanistan by assisting the Americans drive out Mullah Omar’s Taliban and al Qaeda. Musharraf’s Taliban, are now making a spectacular comeback in the south and south-western Afghanistan. In addition, its mechanisations in Kashmir, which ideally should have qualified as promotion of terrorism got the honourable sobriquet of a just freedom struggle.
As far as the US is concerned, its area of influence is, well, the whole world. Hence the battlefield of terrorism has extended to all the places where the US writ is not law. Afghanistan was followed by Iraq, and though strident noises have been made about Iran’s dubious nuclear programme, for the moment the war will remain in Iraq and Afghanistan. Like a septic wound, the Palestinian issue refuses to die down, so whether the US takes an active interest in it or not, the Palestinians will continue to kill themselves in order to kill the Israelis. This, in short, is the war on terrorism: an opportunity for major powers to effect strategic realignments. However, before the major players get into the new balance of power, they have to be conscious of two important rules of the game: One, the war within their borders is their own and no outsider would either help or support their case impartially. Moreover, winning the internal battles themselves will enhance their prestige in the neighbourhood. Two, to be recognised as a major player one cannot be seen piggybacking on the US.
Interestingly, India wants to play a bigger role in fighting international terrorism. Given that it does not want to put boots on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq, it has to deliberate very carefully where exactly it fits in. The reason for India not sending troops abroad is not because it feels that its army is overstretched in internal stabilisation duties, and continues to grapple with terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Though New Delhi say that it will send ground troops only under the United Nations aegis, which is absent from the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the real reasons are that it does not want body bags to come back from wars whose motives and progress are suspect and lack the unanimous support of the world community. While such a move may have a domestic communal backlash, it certainly will bring al Qaeda into J&K, making things more difficult for the army. Therefore, the logical choice for India is to seek a role in the maritime security of the sea-lanes in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). This is less daunting as maritime terrorism has still not reared its head, and the challenges are largely confined to piracy on the high seas and trafficking of arms and drugs. For this reason, India has signed a Maritime Cooperation Framework (MCF) with the United States, the mightiest extra-regional navy in the IOR. Under the MCF, India has decided to sign the Logistics Support agreement, implying that both countries can share respective assets and infrastructure for safety and security of the IOR, and the Container Security Initiative (CSI), which means that naval container carriers to and from Indian ports will be up for physical scrutiny for any illegal wares. Speaking in Singapore on June 3, defence minister, Pranab Mukherjee said that, ‘India is taking steps to join the Container Security Initiative (CSI) and has identified the Nhava Sheva (commercial port in Mumbai) for purposes of executing this intiative.’ India now wants to enter into similar agreements with friendly countries in Asia. For example, Mukherjee further said that, ‘India welcomes the three nation initiative on monitoring shipping through Compulsory Pilotage project of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Subject to the desire of the littoral states, as a major user-state, India would be willing to assist the project in whatever capacity is deemed suitable.’ Speaking at the same forum, the defence minister left little doubt about India’s growing stature.
‘India is one of the important legs of the Asian juggernaut along with China, Japan and Indonesia. In the Asia-Pacific region, India’s growing ties with the US and other countries in North and South America brings with it a commensurate role in the region.’ India, therefore, has already taken the big leap in military diplomacy, with the Indian Navy in the vanguard (FORCE, June 2006). Maritime security, however, is a challenge and not a threat. The real threat to India is from terrorism fully supported by Pakistan in J&K. The need is both to eliminate this menace and comprehend its changing profile being shaped by the global war on terror. Changing Pattern of Terrorism in J&K A fundamental issue should be clarified upfront that there is an insurgency in J&K. This means that the bigger threat are not the terrorists and militants that are fully supported by Pakistan, but the indigenous Over Ground Workers (OGW) within the state who facilitate terrorism by providing infrastructure, safe passage, intelligence and finances to terrorists (interview with the northern army commander, Lt Gen. Deepak Kapoor, FORCE, May 2006). Therefore, the three constituents that need to be addressed are: the terrorists, OGWs, and the people of the state who are being pushed towards radicalisation by India’s ineptness in handling the insurgency. Probably the biggest saving grace for India is that terrorists have so far failed to portray the proxy war inside J&K as Jihad with religious overtones as has happened in the international war on terror after the 9/11 events in the US. The need, therefore for India, is to have a sound and workable counter-terrorism strategy. This is not all. The Pakistan factor in Kashmir simply cannot be wished away. A good counter-terrorism strategy has three aspects: One, alongside capturing and killing terrorists, the need is to identify and apprehend the OGWs. Two, the grievances of the people should be addressed in order to halt radicalisation that creates militants and spawns the OGWs.
And three, conduct periodic raids across the Line of Control (LC) in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) to hit terrorist bases and training camps by ground and air. All this requires political will; complete synergy between the army, paramilitary and police forces; minimal interference by civilian intelligence agencies; and a national resolve cutting across political parties to tackle the proxy war and the grievances of the people. Unfortunately, all this is either missing or for reasons of guarding own turfs and for scoring political points is being done in half measures. Worse, the civilian intelligence agencies that are largely responsible for the malaise in the first place are spearheading India’s Kashmir policy. Regarding the terrorism pattern, it can be said that the terrorists’ morale is extremely low. The anti-infiltration techniques on the LC and the hinterland strategy of the army have reduced infiltration from the traditional routes. The ongoing ceasefire on the LC has helped the army a good deal. This explains that despite the onset of summer, when the snow melts and higher infiltration routes open up, ingress has not been easy for the terrorists. Moreover, there are reports of infighting within the terrorist ranks in the Valley. This has occurred for three reasons: foreign mercenaries that started coming in the state from 1993 onwards are too absorbed in al Qaeda’s global war of terror in Iraq and Afghanistan; Pakistan is concentrated on its western front against Afghanistan to make its own gains from the US war against al Qaeda and Taliban; and there is fight for leadership between the hardcore terrorists belonging to the Laskhar-e-Taiyyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammad of Pakistan origin and the indigenous Hizbul Mujahideen. Consequently, J&K is witnessing a throwback to the pre-1993 period. Instead of fighting the army and the other security forces in tactical battles, terrorists are now resorting to indiscriminate killings by bomb throwing. Innocent children and hapless women are being used for this purpose by terrorists. Even as this will alienate terrorists from the ordinary people, such acts create a big impact.
For example, according to the South Asia terrorism portal, a Delhi-based NGO, there were 490 deaths due to terrorist violence in J&K from January to June 18 this year. For the same period last year, the figure was 844. Yet, during the recent spurt of innocent killings, India’s National Security Advisor, M.K. Narayanan himself visited the Valley. (He is the first NSA to do so). This, of course, does not imply that Pakistan will accept reduced terrorism. For instance, Pakistan has embarked on the strategy of broad-basing terrorism in India by attempting to inflame communal passions. Terrorist killings in Delhi and Bangalore, and foiled attacks on the RSS headquarters in Gujarat and at the site of Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh bear testimony to the growing tentacles of Pakistan’s nefarious activities. This is not all. Pakistan’s Inter-Services-Intelligence is taking a lot of interest in the growing Naxal movement in India. It is a matter of time before the Naxalites are provided support in terms of better equipment, communication systems and indeed training. Once this happens, the discordant paramilitary and state police forces will find it increasingly difficult to fight the Naxals, thereby putting additional strain on the Indian Army. And all this is not really into the future. Chances are that Pakistan’s patience with the ongoing peace process with India will snap after its 2007 general elections in which General Pervez Musharraf will retain hold over the country. While he is certain to continue as Pakistan’s chief of army staff, he may relinquish his presidency in favour of a pliable candidate who will do his bidding. Until the general elections in Pakistan slated for next year, Musharraf has his priorities cut out. These include retaining his hold over his army by increasing strategic space in Afghanistan by favourably stabilising the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which include Waziristan tribal agency where al Qaeda and Taliban militants are holed up; both supporting the insurgency (infiltration into the state as well as adding more over-ground workers) in J&K, and diversifying terrorism to other parts of India; continued financial and material support from the United States to Pakistan given its special status as a Major Non-Nato Ally in the international war on terror; and by ensuring that Pakistan’s proliferation record through the A.Q. Khan network remains under wraps.
Pakistan has repeatedly refused the US access to Khan because questioning him would expose the proliferation record of China more than Pakistan’s. China, after all, is the country whose material Pakistan had bartered to nations like Iran and Libya. The Kashmir Issue A rejuvenated and born again Musharraf is expected to arrest the drift in the peace process between India and Pakistan after 2007. This would witness the end of the 18 April 2005 joint statement between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Musharraf. The statement has accommodated the requirements of both sides: India wanted the peace process to be declared ‘irreversible’; while Pakistan required India to commit that ‘the two leaders will not allow terrorism to impede the peace process.’ This was felt necessary as both sides knew that the peace process was really expediency and not a genuine attempt to settle the Kashmir issue. The peace process means different things to India and Pakistan. The Congress President Sonia Gandhi herself has best articulated India’s approach to the peace process. Speaking at the inauguration of the Poonch-Rawalkot bus service on June 19, she said that, ‘Others (read, Kashmiri separatists and militants) should understand what we want and participate in the dialogue process. Our intentions are clear and simple — to resolve the Kashmir issue. But I don’t understand; if they don’t want to talk to a democratic institution, how can the issue be resolved?’ Simplified, India’s approach has three elements: One, to bring the two Kashmiri people across the divide in J&K together by various confidence building measures (CBMs). This will diminish militancy and insurgency, and may over an extended period of time result in a territorial solution of the state acceptable to India, the two Kashmiri people, with or without Pakistan’s nod.
Two, to bring all democratic, separatists and pressure groups within J&K together through a five-point plan which was unveiled by the Prime Minister during his second round table conference held in Srinagar on May 23. This includes strengthening the centre-state relationship, security, human rights, governance, economic future, and public confidence by the formation of five working groups comprising the people of Kashmir, central and state officials and experts. The important thing is that all suggestions must respect the territorial integrity of India, a condition unacceptable to separatists, militants and Pakistan. And three, to encourage people to people contact, trade and cultural ties between India and Pakistan. Therefore, the overall emphasis is on CBMs and status quo until the two peoples of Kashmir alone suggest otherwise. A senior Indian bureaucrat involved in talks with Pakistan told FORCE that, “We believe that bilateral talks under the composite dialogue will result in normalisation of relations between the two countries.” Pakistan does not believe so. Since assuming power in October 1999, General Musharraf has made umpteen tactical manoeuvres with the sole purpose of getting India to agree on territorial adjustments in J&K. He initially rubbished the 1972 Simla agreement, the 1999 Lahore declaration and questioned the utility of CBMs before finally agreeing to resume bilateral talks under the composite dialogue after the 2002 Operation Prakaram when both countries nearly went to war. His masterstroke was the 18 April 2005 joint statement with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, where for the first time the two sides agreed to work for the permanent solution of the Kashmir issue. Overturning the policy of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who in 1993 had linked the settlement of the Siachen issue with the Kashmir resolution, he nearly convinced the Indian Prime Minister that a demilitarisation of Siachen would indeed be a desirable move towards conflict resolution.
It is another matter that sense prevailed and India said that without authentication of present locations held by the two armies, a withdrawal of troops from Siachen would not be feasible. Musharraf has propounded his ideas on demilitarisation of Indian troops from J&K, and the need for self-governance in the border state under joint management of the two countries. India has stood firm that territorial adjustments with Pakistan, whether in Siachen, Sir Creek or in Kashmir are not possible. Even as one dismisses Musharraf’s opportunist past where he initiated Operation Badr (the war in Kargil) just when his government was talking peace with India or ditched the Taliban after 9/11, his recent statements are proof that he has not changed. For example, in January at the World Economic Forum in Davos where the world was talking trade, he talked about the need for resolving the Siachen issue. During his China visit in February, he linked the Kashmir and Palestine issues and sought outside help, from the US and China, to mediate in the matter. Moreover, he once again dwelt on the need for demilitarisation and self-governance in Kashmir. Misunderstanding the General’s real motives, the Hurriyat leader, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq during his visit to Islamabad in April said that China was also a party to the dispute (China occupies Aksai China and 5,000sqkm of Shaksgam valley of Ladakh). He was immediately snubbed by Musharraf, who said that under the United Nations resolution on Kashmir, there were only two parties, India and Pakistan, to the dispute, implying that the Kashmiri interests could be dumped when necessary. Islamabad cannot be more categorical on this issue after it has made clear that only those parties and candidates who swear allegiance to Pakistan in writing would be allowed to participate in the coming July 11 elections in Pakistan-held Kashmir. And Pakistan calls this area Azad (free) Kashmir. The truth is that as long as India does not agree to territorial adjustments with Pakistan, the proxy war inside Kashmir will continue. Therefore, what India needs is a successful and workable counter-terrorism strategy. There is little point in complaining about the continued existence of terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan along the LC in J&K. While a war-ravaged Afghanistan may find it impossible to stop Pakistan’s machinations of reviving the Taliban, India, which seeks a larger role against international terrorism, should be able to device and execute a counter-terrorism policy that compels Pakistan to end its proxy war inside J&K.
Global War on Terror
Just how wrong has been the US invasion of Iraq can be easily discerned by the findings of the recent survey done in 13 nations as part of the Pew Global Attitudes Project for 2006. Majority of people in Muslim countries whose governments have strong ties with the US, like Jordan, Egypt, Indonesia and Turkey do not believe that the Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks. More importantly, the Muslim Diaspora in Western countries blames the West for bad relations with the Muslim world. This clearly suggests that the future al Qaeda now lives within the West itself, especially amongst those nations that are perceived close to the US. These al Qaeda cells will continue to grow in direct proportion to the duration the US troops stay in Iraq. And despite the brave talks by the US leadership, their troops’ numbers, at present, stand at 1,29,500 with little possibility of a cutback by the year-end until the Iraqis are able to overcome their internal sectarian problems. This has created the urgent need for excellent homeland security not just for the US, but also its allies and friends. India, which is still untouched by al Qaeda must seek to resolve the Kashmir issue with Pakistan soon, strengthen its deteriorating internal security situation, and decide how close a relationship it desires with the US. Because even as the US is using the war on terror to refashion the Middle East to its advantage, the terrorists under the general banner of al Qaeda are convinced about their war against the US and its allies. Which is why, when they cannot target the US, they attack the allies like Britian, Spain and so on. There have been four fall-outs of the US war in Iraq: One, Russia and China are building up the Shanghai Cooperation Council to limit the US influence in Asia and the oil and gas rich Central Asian Republics. Two, Iran has emerged as the sole challenger to Israel in the Middle East. Three, Pakistan has exploited the power vacuum in Afghanistan to re-invent the Taliban to do its bidding. And four, the Palestine issue has once again assumed centrestage, forcing the US to pay attention to its resolution. All this has national security implications for India. The FORCE cover story explores these issues, including a review of the third round of composite dialogue between India and Pakistan as that would shape terrorism for us in Kashmir.