There have been four massacres of innocent civilians, most of them reportedly Hindus, in the Jammu Division of Jammu & Kashmir (J & K)since June 30. In addition, there were also an attack on officials of the Border Security Force (BSF) and explosions and other incidents ofviolence in the Kashmir Valley.
These incidents, orchestrated by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan, have had the objective of announcing to the world that,contrary to the claims of the Government of India, the insurgency in the State is far from over and that the end of the conflict in the Kargilsector would not mean regional peace unless international opinion takes a more active interest in the Kashmir question.
An added aim, after Pakistan's capitulation to US pressure for the withdrawal of its forces from the Kargil sector, is to restore the morale ofthe militant groups in the State, which felt let down by the Pakistan Prime Minister, Mr.Nawaz Sharif's agreeing to the US demand.
In the proxy war launched by the ISI in the State in 1989, the operating principle was "hit and run", the aim being to create demoralisation inthe Indian security forces and the civilian population by inflicting large casualties on them. "Liberation" and occupation of territory was notthe immediate objective. The ISI had calculated that if it kept the Indian security forces bleeding, political and public opinion in India wouldultimately realise the futility of holding on to the State.
The proxy invasion plan of Pakistan's Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), Gen. Pervez Musharraf, changed the operating principle to one of"occupy and hit", the aim being to set up a bridgehead by occupying the ridges in the Kargil sector left unguarded by the Indian army duringwinter and thereafter spread the area under occupation each winter by taking advantage of its logistic difficulties. The role of the Pakistanarmy became primary in this operation and that of the ISI and the militant-cum-terrorist groups secondary.
The proxy invasion plan having failed partly due to the vigorous operations of the Indian army and Air Force and partly due to internationalpressure on Pakistan, Islamabad has now reverted back to the earlier operating principle of "hit and run", with the primary role once againbeing assumed by the ISI and its surrogates in the State.
The ISI's proxy war has passed through two stages. During the first stage (1989-92), the ISI played a direct role in providing financial,training and arms assistance to militant groups in the State. No intermediaries were used and assistance was given to any group, whichwas prepared to indulge in violence.
A large number of Kashmiri militant groups received ISI assistance during this period--some led by the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) of theJamaat-e-Islami which advocated merger of the State with Pakistan and others by the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), whichwanted independence. Within a few months of the start of the proxy war, the pro-independence groups set up their ascendancy over thepro-Pakistan groups.
Till 1992, the US and other Western countries looked upon the extremists as "freedom-fighters" and not terrorists and showed no interest inthe demand for independence. However, the situation changed after the extremists' attack on a group of Israeli tourists in 1992.
For the first time, there was concern in the West over the terrorist methods of these groups and over the role of the ISI in assisting them.There was also increasing interest in non-governmental circles in the US close to the Clinton Administration in the aims and objectives ofthe pro-independence groups. The feasibility of independence as a solution became the subject of study by many of thesenon-governmental groups.
Concerned over these developments, the ISI introduced two changes in 1993. First, it started using intermediaries for keeping the militancyalive instead of directly doing so. Second, it cut off assistance to all pro-independence groups and made future assistance dependent on therecipient group supporting merger with Pakistan.
The first organisation chosen as the intermediary was the Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan headed by Qazi Hussain Ahmed. Funds and arms andammunition were given to it and it was asked to take over the responsibility for running training camps in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK)and Afghanistan with the help of Afghan veterans and for distributing money and weapons to different pro-Pakistan groups. Most of theassistance went to the HM.
In 1993, the Taliban had not yet appeared on the scene in Afghanistan and the Hizb-e-Islami of Gulbuddin Heckmatyar was still the mostimportant and favored Pakhtoon Mujahideen group in Afghanistan. The recruits of the HM were trained in camps in Afghan territory byinstructors of Hizb-e-Islami and the Afghan mercenaries who came into Kashmir with the HM were followers of Heckmatyar.
Subsequently, the ISI started using the Markaz Dawa Al Irshad and its militant wing called the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA)too as intermediaries for funneling assistance to the extremists in the State. These organisations, of Wahabi orientation, are closer to theJamiat-ul-Islam of Pakistan headed by Maulana Fazlur Rahman and to the Taliban.
The ISI saw in the anger in the Indian Muslim community caused by the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December,1992, an opportunity todrive a wedge between the Hindus and Muslims in the rest of India, thereby adding to the difficulties of the Government of India. It alsowanted the extremist groups supported by it in Kashmir to attack the Hindus of the Jammu Division in order to drive them out.
Thus, from 1993, the ISI's assistance to the extremist groups in the State was made conditional on their supporting merger with Pakistan,agreeing to attack the Hindus in the Jammu Division and assisting the alienated sections of the Muslim youth in the rest of India indeveloping a militant capability by training them in their camps in Kashmiri territory.
The Jammat-e-Islami and the HM were reluctant to accept these conditions as they did not want to extend their operational aims beyondKashmir, but the Lashkar, the HuA and the Al Badr, which subsequently came into the picture, readily accepted them. They thus became theprivileged groups of the ISI from 1994 onwards and have now been orchestrating most of the violence in the State.
Though the HM, the Lashkar, the HuA and the Al Badr still claim to be working together, important differences divide them:
***The HM is essentially an organisation of indigenous Kashmiris, but the other three consist largely of Pakistanis, Afghans and Arab mercenaries.
***The HM describes its aim as the liberation of Kashmir from the control of the Government of India and its merger with Pakistan. The otherthree describe their aim as the liberation of Kashmir from the control of the Hindus and its merger with Pakistan, to be followed by a similar"liberation" of the Muslims in the rest of India. These three organisations view Kashmir as the "gateway to India" and call for the creation oftwo more Muslim homelands--one for the Muslims of North India and the other for those of South India.
***In pursuance of their aims, the Lashkar and the HuA have been spreading their presence to the rest of India and networking with Islamicextremist groups in other States.
***The HM is close to Heckmatyar whereas the other three are supporters of the Taliban. Angered by the proximity of the HM toHeckmatyar, the Taliban has closed down its training camps in Afghanistan and expelled its office-bearers from there.
***The Lashkar, the HuA and the Al Badr are strongly against the US, Israel and the ruling family of Saudi Arabia and are members of Osamabin Laden's International Islamic Front for Jihad against the US and Israel, but the HM keeps away from the anti-US and anti-Saudi rulingfamily activities of bin Laden.
In its eagerness to achieve its objectives against India, Pakistan, through the ISI, has thus been following contradictory policies. It seeksUS support for the internationalisation of the Kashmir issue, but has been arming groups, which vow to attack American targets, in order touse them against India. It describes Saudi Arabia as its closest Islamic ally, but has been sheltering groups which are carrying on acampaign against the Saudi ruling family and the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia.
The increasing concern in the US intelligence community over the use of these anti-US and anti-Israel groups by Pakistan in its attempts todestabilise India is an important reason for the sympathetic attitude of the US towards India during the conflict in the Kargil sector.
The US declared the HuA as an international terrorist organisation in October,1997, after which it has re-named itself as theHarkat-ul-Mujahideen and there have been reports that the US is collecting evidence against the Lashkar in order to make a similardeclaration against it.
Despite this, the ISI, with the approval of the Sharif Government, continues to use these organisations to massacre Hindus in the JammuDivision and to organise acts of violence in the Valley too. An intensification of such terrorist violence not only in Jammu & Kashmir, but alsoin other parts of India is to be expected in the wake of the set-back suffered by the Pakistan army in the Kargil area. Another danger is thepossibility of attacks on American targets in India by these organisations to give vent to their anger against the US and to createembarrassment to the Government of India in its relations with the US.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (Retd),Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.