Kashmir : The War of Arms and Hearts
Most wars are uncertain, some leading to victory, some in defeat. But sustained trans-border proxy war and jihad thrusts are more uncertain. It is possible to find our lasting solution to ethnic unrest, which is political in nature, but it is difficult to vanquish the enemy which directs the proxy war sitting in comfort of war rooms. The jihadis and terrorists bred by them taking advantage of certain unsolved legacy of history and religious susceptibilities are also mushrooming enemies, who are mostly invisible and rarely come under the hairpin of the guns of the defending soldiers. There is another war to win besides the military engagement; the war of minds.
So much has been written on Kashmir problem and Pakistan inspired and engineered jihad thrusts and terrorists actions that no new furrow can be cut by following the old grounds. It is better to focus on the players and the end results they expect and portray what the people of Indian Kashmir aspire for. Before we look into the dark areas of jihad campaign and internal failures let us have a look at the physical status of Kashmir, as it was thrown in the tailspin of partition and deceitful occupation by Pakistan.
In India there exist some misperceptions that Abdullah and Nehru’s Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Leh constitute the geopolitical status of Kashmir. Historically speaking the entire Northern Area of J&K ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh was annexed by Pakistan in collaboration with the British officers posted there as administrative and military heads. The area known as Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) or Azad Kashmir was annexed by Pakistan as Sheikh Abdullah and Nehru were not determined to allow the Indian army to chase away the Pakistani aggressors beyond Muzaffarabad. The sordid history of that episode has been bleeding India incessantly since 1948. This is an instance of effeminate foreign policy and inexcusable intervention in the war plan of the Indian army; a greater colossal blunder than emasculation of the armed forces between 1950 and 1962 that encouraged China to humiliate India and encouraged Pakistan to attack India again in 1965. Leadership failure has chained the country almost permanently to the Kashmir quagmire and possible future wars with China and Pakistan.
When India talks of Composite dialogue it probably means a fresh legalized partition of Kashmir along the Line of Control. When Pakistan talks about Comprehensive dialogue it means total vacation of Kashmir by India-ultimate fulfillment of the agenda of partition. When the Indian Kashmiri separatists talk about solution, some insist on merger with Pakistan and some others talk of independence-sans Indian and Pakistani interference; a South Asian Switzerland. Some politicians in India (including the Congress and Sangh Parivar Brigade) talk in term of restoration of the entire Kashmir to India. In the case of Congress this is a mere populist posture; not even a diplomatic approach and strategic formulation. The Sangh Parivar reflects common Indian sentiment but even during the BJP rule it did not make headway diplomatically, least to speak of strategically. The other political forces are busy with bread and butter and pocketfuls of people’s money. Existence of live contradiction in perception in India has contributed to the failure of structuring a broader bilateral and international diplomatic policy. Since military solution is not on the anvil the Indian forces are busy with containing the jihadi thrusts from Pakistan, which has often spilled over the borders of Kashmir and affected various parts of India. India’s failure on diplomatic as well as military fronts has given excessive leeway to the Pakistani Establishment and certain disgruntled elements in Indian Kashmir to intensify the jihad campaign. Let us examine the intricate machinery that Pakistan employ to bleed India.
It is necessary to analyze how Pakistan views and treats the occupied portions of Jammu and Kashmir. The so-called Azad Kashmir is totally under the control of Pakistan and ISI and Islambad’s will determine all the parameters of election to the legislative assembly, appointment of Governor and ministers. Most key officers are exported from Punjab and few key departments are held by serving or retired officers of the armed forces. In all practical considerations Azad Kashmir is an extended part of Pakistani Punjab, acting as a buffer and geostrategic depth for key cities of Pakistan which are at a vulnerable distance from Indian borders and even short range missile strike.
Before we proceed further it is necessary to discuss with the readers two important aspects concerning the Kashmir and general proxy war conducted by Pakistan. India is the only nation against whom hostile neighbours engage in proxy war by supporting the ethnic and ideological insurgents and the jihadi groups inspired by religious fanaticism which has become an integral part of the state policy of Pakistan.
At the root of the proxy war problem is the psyche of the leaders and elites of Pakistan now embodied in the highest command of Pakistan army, considered as the soul of Pakistan. It is like the fabled witch: whose soul live in a parrot or a maynah. Till that bird is killed the evil soul cannot be subdued. India achieved that goal once but allowed the opportunity to emasculate the Pakistan army through the instrument of Simla Agreement 1972, which made the LoC permanent.
The controls the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Joint Intelligence North (JIN) conducts proxy war in Kashmir and the Joint Intelligence Miscellaneous (JIM) jointly with the JIN and JIX conduct jihad warfare in rest of India.
At present the main tool of operation is the Markaz- ud- Dawa al Irshad, the master terrorist organization located at Muridke near Lahore. The main operational tool of the Markaz and the ISI is Lashkar-e-Taiba and Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami (HuJI). The Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Allah) was established by Hafiz Mohammad Ibrahim and Zafar Iqbal in May 1990 under patronage of the ISI. Initially the volunteers were trained in NWFP and Afghanistan. Later the training facilities were shifted by the ISI in PoK. The head quarter of the Lashkar (Markaz-e-Lashkar) is situated at Muridke. This force, armed to the teeth by Pakistan army, and numbering about 3500 recruits (figure varies) is now totally under control of the ISI and Pakistan army. The Lashkar has not been allowed to mingle with Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan and Al Qaeda factions. However, the Lashkar is utilized mainly in Indian Kashmir, other parts of India on its own or in tandem with United Jihad Council of Syed Salahuddin and a major faction of the HuJI.
HuJI was formed in 1984 by Fazalur Rehman Khalil and Qari Saifullah Akhtar, as the first Pakistan-based jihadist – Islamic terrorist – outfit to fight alongside the Afghan mujahideens against the USSR. Khalil later broke away to form his own group Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA), which later emerged as the most feared militant organization in Kashmir. After the Afghan war this group was reassembled as Harkat-ul-Mujahideen after HuA was banned by the USA. The HuJI was directed by the ISI to export jihad to the Indian state of J & K. HuJI’s footprint was extended to Bangladesh when the Bangladesh unit was established in 1992, with direct assistance from Osama bin Laden. Illyas Kashmiri group of the HuJI is aligned with both Lashkar-e-Taiba and Al Qaeda. Both HuJI and Lashkar are encouraged to expand operation in Chechnya, Dagestan and other parts of the Russian federation.
The United Jihad Council or Muttahida Jihad Council was formed in 1994 of which Hizb-ul-Mujahideen is the largest and dominating component consisting members from Indian Kashmir and Pakistan. At present the ration of Indian and Pakistani component is 35%-55%. Headquarter of the Council is located near Muzaffarabad and all logistics are supplied by Pakistan army and the ISI. The member components are: Harakat-ul-Ansar, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, Al-Jihad, Al-Barq, Al-Badr, Ikhwan-ul-Mussalmin, Tehrik-ul-Mujahideen. Around 1999, as many as fifteen organizations were affiliated with the Council. However, the most important components are Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Al-Badr and Tehrik-e-Jihad. Most of these are recognized as terrorist organizations by the US and the UN. The US recently urged Pakistan to eliminate the Lashkar as the high profile attack on Mumbai (26/11) was jointly organized by Pakistan army, ISI, Markaz ud Dawa and the Lashkar. David Coleman Headly Tahawwur Rana now under trial in USA is also connected with Lashkar and Illiyas Kashmiri. Their links with serving Pakistan army officers have been well established by the US investigators.
Osama bin Laden’s Taliban and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan have so far not directly operated in Kashmir. However, Illyas Kashmiri, a Mirpuri PoK national had joined the Special Services group (SSG), a commando force of Pakistan. He later, under ISI direction trained the HuJI and the Afghan mujahideen. Later he broke away with the parent body of HuJI and floated his own outfit Brigade 313. It is affiliated to Al Qaeda and he often directs some of the Lashkar operations. Once he was arrested in India but escaped from jail. Later he was arrested on suspicion of attempt on life of President Musharraf for attack on the Lal Masjid. Kashmiri’s force often independently operates in Indian Kashmir and he was one of the masterminds of the 26/11 attack on Mumbai.
There are satellite images and other ground inputs about patronization of the jihad forces by Pakistan. Till 3 months back Brigadier Rathore was in charge of the Jihad formations and training and arming them with assistance from retired army and ISI officers. It is understood that a new brigadier is in charge of Pakistan’s Kashmir and India operations. Earlier nearly 18 camps were located in NWFP and Punjab. These camps have now been shifted to PoK. According to Indian sources there are 42 live camps in PoK where about 2500 terrorists are undergoing training.
Having discussed the basics let us understand what is Pakistan doing with the PoK and Northern Areas, comprising Gilgit, Baltistan, Skardu etc areas. Understanding POK and Northern Area’s problems would require a brief journey through the pages of history between 1935 and 1947. Sheikh Abdullah and Chaudhri Ghulam Abbas of Muslim Conference had spearheaded the movement for greater devolution of power to the subjects through elected representatives. The vortex of One Nation independence movement spearheaded by the Congress and the creation of Pakistan on the basis of presumed Two Nation theory had also affected the leadership of the Muslim Conference. Sheikh Abdullah charmed Nehru and Newton’s 3rd Law propelled Ghulam Abbas to the lap of Jinnah. These two leaders were willing to arrive at a compromise with Sir Gopalswami Ayeangar, than PM of J&K. The two Kashmiri rivals were united on the issue of opposition to the Maharaja but disunited on most other issues. Their ego bags had no space in a common political geography. In Nehru’s perception Sheikh wielded the key to Kashmir problem. Congress did not consider it necessary to tackle the Maharaja soon after 1940, when it was clear that Jinnah would not stop at anything but partition of India. He wanted his roast to be cooked according to his specifications with Kashmir thrown in as top dressing. Pakistan had not left anything to be decided by the departing British power.
Pakistan Occupied Kashmir comprises of the Muzaffarabad region, adjacent to Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Murree, Manshera and Gujrat etc strategic border areas of Pakistan. By grabbing these areas in 1948 Pakistan acquired a strategic depth against India’s conventional war thrusts. By technically integrating the POK areas with its main territory Pakistan had flagrantly violated the UN resolutions, Tashkent and Simla Agreements. Pundits have elaborated these aspects of Pakistan’s perfidious activities.
Indian mind is not trained to think in terms of understanding that vast areas of the kingdom of Kashmir, besides the Muzaffarabad region described by Pakistan as Azad Kashmir, are under Pakistani and Chinese occupation. These territories of the kingdom of Kashmir, which merged into India, have almost disappeared from Indian memory and are considered as ‘technical cartographic definition.’
The political class and the governments in India have so far not made average Indians aware of the fact that Pakistan had ceded 1/3rd of J&K to China on the strength of assumed parameter ‘the defence of which (the ceded area) is under the actual control of Pakistan.’ What follows from this assumption? Pakistan reserves the right to cede the Gilgit and Baltistan areas of Northern Areas of J&K to China or America on some other strategic consideration on the same plea of de facto military presence in the area. It’s as bad in international law as is the forcible amalgamation of parts of Gaza strip, Western Bank and Golan Heights by Israel. While Pakistan joins voice with other Arab governments to condemn Israel, it has no explanation to give to the people of J&K and India; the legal inheritor of the territories of the Maharaja of J&K. India has also not kept the item on diplomatic dinner plates in Agra, Delhi and Islamabad. The present foreign office diplomats and Track II and III diplomats are also not adding the POK and the Northern Areas including Areas Ceded to China to the menu card.
A detailed reading of the land mass transferred to China in 1963 indicate that Pakistan was preparing the grounds for a decisive round of war against India in 1965 with tacit Chinese help and silent nod from America, which was using Pakistan to build a bridge with China. After the devastating defeat in 1962 a stupefied India could do very little to stop China from grabbing a territory through deceit. Article Two of the treaty delineates the ceded area, which include important Passes like Mintake Daban, Parpik, Yutr Daban, Muztagh, and Karakoram.
The Gilgit and Baltistan tracts of the kingdom of Kashmir are known as Northern Areas. Maharaja of Kashmir occupied the territory in 1842 and the British recognized his sovereignty in 1846. Through a recorded history of turmoil, finally, in 1935 the British Crown assumed firm control of Gilgit Agency through a lease agreement. However, the lease did not terminate sovereignty of the Maharaja. During transfer of power, The British did not consider either India or Pakistan as legal claimants of this territory. Paramountcy was reverted to Srinagar durbar and only the Maharaja had legal rights to transfer that territory either to India or Pakistan.
Pakistan repeated the show it staged by stoking rebellion in Poonch, Mirpur and Kotli. It started negotiating with the figurehead rulers of the area and the Sirdars. Mostly Muslims, the Gilgit Scout was also influenced by Pakistan through local religious leaders, Sirdars and potentates. Like the ‘Provisional Government of POK’ a move was mooted by Shah Rias Khan to set up ‘The Gilgit Republic.’ History bears evidence of Pakistani connectivity of Rias Khan. Delhi or Srinagar could do precious little to intervene decisively as pro-Pakistani British officers controlled military balance. William Brown, the British major in charge of the forces of the Maharaja in his memoir ‘The Gilgit Rebellion’ mentioned that taking advantage of the withdrawal of the British the Pakistani authorities incited the Muslim tribesmen and arranged their congregation in Gilgit town. They were incited to kill Hindu and Sikh officials and other J&K citizen. Absence of authority, especially inability and helplessness of the circumstances of India allured Pakistan to incite Poonch, Mirpur type rebellion under leaders like Rais Khan.
Major Brown was the only military authority in Gilgit and his colleague Captain Mathieson was in Chilas. Brown put the Crown representative Ghansara Singh and his associates under house arrest on the ruse of protecting them. Major Brown came under severe pressure from his superior Col. Bacon at Peshawar and Col. Iskander Mirza, Defence Secretary of Pakistan to declare merger of Gilgit Agency with Pakistan. On the morning of 4th November, he raised Pakistan flag over his headquarters.
The area is divided into five administrative units: Gilgit, Baltistan, Diamir, Ghizer and Ghanche. A population of nearly 2 million inhabits the 72,495 square kilometer geographical spread. The main ethnic groups are Baltis (Balawaris), Yashkuns, Mughals, Kashmiris, Pathans, Ladakhis, Tajik, Uzbek, Mongol, Turkmen and population of Greek origin. Though Pakistan is trying to impose Urdu in the Northern Areas the main languages spoken are, Balti, Shina, Brushaski, Khawer, Wakhi, Turki, Tibeti, and Pushto.
Religious sect-wise breakdown of population in the Northern Areas is:
Gilgit – 60% Shia, 40% Sunni (imported from Pakistan); Nagar- 100% Shia, Hunza, Yasin, Punial, Ishkoman, Gupis- 100% Ismaili (Aghakhani), Chilas, Darel, 100% Sunni, Astor- 90% Sunni and 10% Shia and Baltistan- 98% Shia and 2 % Sunni. There are about 10% Nurbakshis in the Northern Areas. The Sunnis are predominantly Hanafi with sprinkles of Maliki and Hanbali sects.
While the PoK was granted some charade of self rule the Northern Areas were so far directly administered by Islamabad. Discontent at growing Punjabi domination and lack of any kind of self-rule had given rise to the demand of independent Balawaristan by some of the protagonists.
The Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order 2009, replaces the Northern Areas Legal Framework Order of 1994. Under the order, Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly will formulate its own Rules of Procedures, while legislation on 61 subjects will be done by a council and an assembly in their respective jurisdictions. The region will not be regarded as a province, as the self-rule has been granted on the pattern of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The self-governance to Gilgit-Baltistan will have no impact on the future of Kashmir. The Legislative Assembly will elect its own Chief Minister; however, the Legislative Assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan would have no control over defence and treasury. The elections in the areas would be held in October this year. Out of 36 assembly members, 24 would be elected directly whereas seven seats each would be reserved for the technocrats.
Pakistan views this as a landmark step towards integration of the occupied Northern Areas with rest of the country. In their view: The declaration of “Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009” has not only fulfilled the longstanding demand of the people of Northern Areas for self-rule on the lines of AJK type of governance, it will also frustrate the nefarious designs of Indian external strike in Northern Areas. It is beyond doubt that the Northern Areas of Pakistan lag behind the rest of the provinces of the country. Sectarianism, poverty, Indian connection, weak judicial system, burgeoning of small arms, and separatist forces like Balawaristan National Front (BNF), Karakoram National Movement (KNM), are some of the major concerns that had alarmed the NA Administration. Some of the demands put across by the people of Pakistan’s mountainous Northern Areas were: (1) Self-governance like that of AJK or as a province. (2) Fully autonomous Legislative Assembly with Chief Minister. (3) Set up an independent High Court and Supreme Court. (4) The reforms in education set-up, e.g., affairs of Karakoram International University to be straightened, quota for Gilgit Baltistan be separated from FATA, setting-up of Medical College and Engineering College. (5) The Land allotment to non-locals, NGOs and foreign Govts should be banned. (6) Economic Developmental Package for the uplift of common people. (7) Control over the sectarianism. This is far from the truth prevailing on the grounds. Discontent and preparations for armed conflict with Pakistan are growing in the Northern Areas which prompted Islamabad to depute two additional brigades and a large contingent of the ISI and the SSG.
Another issue that is disturbing India is Chinese intrusion both in PoK and the Northern Areas for execution of certain hydroelectric and other infrastructural projects. Pakistan and China signed a memorandum of understanding for construction of Bunji dam in Northern Areas in August 2009. The agreement was signed on behalf of Pakistan’s ministry of water and power and China’s Three Gorges Project Corporation by the Chairman, Board of Investment, Saleem Mandviwala, and Li Yang’an. The ceremony was attended by President Asif Zardari.
“Political and administrative reforms recently announced by Pakistan for its Northern Areas, known officially as Gilgit Baltistan, are basically aimed at providing better security cover for the rapidly growing Chinese interests in the territory. Gilgit, the Northern Areas capital, has acquired the status of a gateway to Central Asia in the wake of a Pakistan-China barter trade agreement and accords with Central Asian states. China has invested heavily in a range of projects in the Northern Areas and is poised to launch several new projects, particularly in power sector, costing billions of dollars. In August 2009, during a visit by Zardari to China, the countries signed a memorandum of understanding on construction of a hydro-power station at Bunji, in Gilgit Baltistan. The countries also agreed in June to allow market access for bilateral trade in 11 services sectors and to intensify their efforts to increase border trade, which constitutes merely 5% of their overall trade, and takes place through the Karakoram Highway (KKH), whose repair and upgrade is likely to be completed by 2012.” Syed Fazl-e-Hyder, in Pakistan acts to guard Chinese interests; Asia Times, September 4, 2009.
India has recently lodged protest with China for undertaking works in the Northern Areas and PoK as these areas are legally parts of India and Pakistan has no right to invite China to carry out development works in Indian Territory without Delhi’s concurrence. The Indian foreign minister is likely to take up this issue with his Chinese counterparts during his forthcoming visit to Beijing.
Having surveyed the panorama of geopolitical status let us examine if India can minimize or prevent Pakistan from launching jihad attacks from its soil against Kashmir in particular and India in General.
Militarily it is not impossible to make precision strike against the terrorist camps in PoK and Punjab. India has the technology to gather intelligence data about these camps. The moot point is can India be determined to launch Israeli like attack and US like strikes? There are risks of a limited war between India and Pakistan that may not turn nuclear. Would the USA support India against the known proclivity of China and Pakistan to internationalize the issue. India does not have sufficient drones to mount precision attack. Conventional advanced bombers and warhorses are not suitable for such attack. Moreover, India, at the 62nd year of proxy war must also evolve a policy to hit Pakistan decisively. This would require a comprehensive policy. Some political parties, which depend on Muslim vote, may not agree for a Bangladesh like operation. However, forward proactive policy remains the best option provided the political policy makers are committed to the cause and the armed forces are given appropriate mandate.
In the face of such impasse India can at best do firefighting in Kashmir and other places. Prolonged fire fighting generates big problem. Such operations alienate the people, allegation of human rights violation are pitted on flimsiest ground. Often excesses are committed by security personnel under conditions of severe stress. This is an intractable situation in an operational theatre. The militants try to terrorize the people to submission and in the process attack vulnerable targets. The security forces are compelled to operate in the populated villages that create hatred and aversion amongst the people. A defensive anti-guerrilla warfare suffers from such inbuilt disadvantages. However, record of the Indian security forces is more on the brighter side that than any isolated dark spots are left by rare acts of callousness.
India has managed to maintain a democratic political structure in the state. Despite Pakistan inspired election boycott by the militants and the separatist Hurriyat Conference etc the people of the state exhibited indomitable courage to turn up to cast vote; nearly 45-60% in different booths. It may be recalled that 40% voting is considered moderately high in disturbed situation. The common Kashmiri pine for peace and stability. They have understood that Pakistan is using them for scoring geostrategic and geopolitical victory over India. By involving China Pakistan is adding international dimension to the conflict. However, there is no organized political platform that can focus on the aversion of the people towards Pakistani interference. Even the leaders of certain parties which talk in ambivalent manner understand that their future is tied up to India and they cannot enjoy freedom in Pakistan. Most of them use shrill anti-India campaign to remain politically relevant.
orruption in public offices has affected the common people adversely. No job can be done without paying the local officers and political leaders. Even for agricultural loan and loans for fruit orchards are available against a premium cut. High cost of implements, pesticide and other inputs has impeded agricultural growth. On top of it the campaign for potato cultivation and cultivation of green vegetables has not been well accepted by villagers. Crop insurance against adverse weather is not available as yet. Introduction of terrace cultivation with adequate irrigation facility is yet to pick up in the lower reach hill areas.
Because of lack of industrial activity and other job opportunities the youth mostly remain unemployed and some of them migrate to other states for running carpet and handloom business. The handloom and handicraft industry are in shambles because of high cost of inputs and paucity of subsidy and grant. There is high potential for sheep breeding and wool harvesting industry, poultry and dairy projects. If properly encouraged by importing high yielding cows and introducing mechanized process Kashmir can emerge as the cheese capital of India. The NABARD has recently opened a one-man office in Srinagar which is neither in a position to conceive projects conducive to Kashmir and Jammu region and offering financial assistance. Economic and administrative neglect has also disappointed the surrendered militants as they have no means of viable livelihood. The degree of disillusionment is on the rise.
Talks with common Kashmiris indicate that they are tired of continuous military operations and violation of human rights. Security of life, women and property are main concerns. A good percentage of them understand the catch 22 situation created by Pakistan sponsored proxy war and jihad and India’s law and order response. They pine for peace and stability and economic advancement. The developmental administration has failed the state almost in every sector. The emphasis of the state and the central administration should be on the battle of winning over hearts of the people. Hopefully, multipronged offensive and defensive military actions would be accompanied by sustained and corruption free developmental activities. War for winning the heart of the people is more important than defensive war against jihadi guerrillas operating from Pakistan.