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Pakistan, Kashmir & The Trans-Asian Axis

by Yossef Bodansky

Kashmir is unique among all the crisis points along the Indo-Pakistani border in that a marked escalation of the fighting -- both insurgency and regular -- is virtually inevitable before any effort for a peaceful solution can succeed. The primary reasons is the extent of the ideological commitment and self-interests of several of the key players involved.

For Islamabad, the liberation of Kashmir is a sacred mission, the only task unfulfilled since Muhammad Ali Jinnah's days. Moreover, a crisis in Kashmir constitutes an excellent outlet for the frustration at home, an instrument for the mobilization of the masses, as well as gaining the support of the Islamist parties and primarily their loyalists in the military and the ISI.

The ISI has a major interest to continue the crisls. Back in the 1970s, Pakistan started to train Sikhs and other Indian separatist movements as part of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's strategy for forward strategic depth. Pakistan adopted the sponsorship of terrorism and subversion as an instrument to substitute for the lack of strategic depth and early warning capabilities. The Pakistani sponsored terrorists and the Pakistani intelligence operatives in their ranks would be able to warn Pakistan of any impending Indian invasion, and then Launch a guerrilla warfare against ths Indian Army even before it reached the border with Pakistan. Therefore, sponsoning separatist subversion has become a crucial component of Islamabad's national military strategy.

During the 1980s, the ISI completed a vast training and support infrastructure for the Afghan resistance that was also used for the training and support of other regional groups. There was a corresponding ideological development in Indian Kashmir. Since 1984, virtually suddenly, the prevailing popular sentiments in Indian Kashmir was that "Islam is in Danger," and that sentiment, rather that nationalism, began mobilizing the youth.

The timing of the change was not spontaneous. Hashim Qureshi, the founder of the nationalist JKLF [Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front] recently recalled how in 1984 ISI Generals and Brigadiers approached me with the offer: 'get us young people for training from the Valley so that they could fight India on return.' When he refused, Qureshi explained, his struggle was taken over by the ISI who installed Amanullah Khan. "It is tragic that so-called nationalist Amanullah Khan and some of his supporters started the present struggle in Kashmir in league with the ISI. A man with common intelligence can understand that any movement started in a Muslim majority area with the help of Pakistani military intelligence will eventually mean religious struggle." Qureshi stressed that by 1983 "Amanullah proved that he was an agent of the ISI" having sacrificed the nationalist liberation struggle in Kashmir on the alter of Islamist politics. Qureshi himself had to flee Pakistan and seek political asylum in Westem Europe.

Meanwhile, by the late-1980s, with the war in Afghanistan slowing down, the vast network of training camps for Afghan Mujahideen was transformed by the ISI into a center of Islamist terrorism throughout south Asia, as well as the melting pot of the world wide Islamist Jihad. This transformation concurred with an active ISI program "to initiate full- fledged subversion in Kashmir Valley' that is still escalating. At first, the ISI's assistance to the Kashmiri Islamists was funnelled through Gulbaddin Hekmatiyar's Hisb-i-Islami, thus providing Islamabad with deniability.

Similarly, the Armed Islamic Movement, as well as several Saudis, Gulf Arabs, and other supporters of Islamist causes, put Kashmir high on their list of jihads to be fought. Indeed, Kashmir is mentioned of lists of sacred goals recovered in Israel (HAMAS), Algeria (FIS), Sudan, Egypt, to name but a few examples. Kashmir is a high priority objective because of the firm belief in the possibility of success. It is an easy campaign to wage for logistical considerations because of the presence of numerous cadres and large weapon stockpiles in Afghanistan and Pakistan. AIM's operations are closely coordinated in Teheran and Khartoum.

Presently, Pakistani officials repeatedly vow to "liberate" Kashmir, or enforce the recognition of 'Muslims' rights in the Valley, even at a risk of a major crisis. This rising militancy of Pakistani officials is far from being empty rhetoric. Islamabad uses the escalation in Kashmir as a cover for the overall expansion of the terrorist training and support system for operations in Central Asia and elsewhere in the world.

In early 1992, with world attention paid to their presence in Peshawar area, some of these 'Afghans' were transferred to Azad Kashmir where new camps were being built for them by the Pakistani Army. By early 1993, there were over 1,000 'Afghan' Mujahideen in the Markaz-Dawar alone. Following the completion of advance training, they are being sent to Kashmir, Algeria and Egypt.

In early 1995, the Harakat ul-Ansar was maintaining offices in most Pakistani cities, as well as training facilities in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It expanded its global reach in support for Islamist causes. "Ours is a truly international network of genuine Muslim holy warriors," explained Khalid Awan, a Pakistani member. 'We believe frontiers could never divide Muslims. They are one nation and they will remain a single entity." Haraka ul-Ansar are known to be fighting in Kashmir, the Philippines, Bosnia, Tajikistan, and the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the ISI continues to provide the terrorists with new weapons. In the summer of 1993, the Kashmiri Mujahideen were provided with long range and powerful missiles -- Sarq missiles of Afghan War vintage. At that time, the Kashmiri and ISI crews were being trained in the use of these missiles in Pakistani Kashmir.

As of the fall of 1993, the Kashmiri terrorists also began using sophisticated communication systems including small radios (including systems with frecuency hopping, selective broadcast, digital burst communications, etc.) and collapsible solar-panels for reload systems, as well as frequency scanning devise for detecting and homing on military- type broadcasting. All the communication systems are of NATO/US origin, with some components made in Japan.

The summer of 1994 was a fundamental turning point in the conduct of the Pakistan-sponsored Jihad in Kashmir. The change did not take place on the battlefield. In order to ensure its tight dominance over all aspects of the escalating Islamist Jihad in Kashmir; Islamabad organized the 13 leading Islamist organizations Into the Unlted Jihad Council [Muttahida Jihad Council - MJC] under the leadership of Commander Manzur Shah, the leader of Jamiat-ul-MuJahideen, and under the tight control of the ISI. Among the member organizations: Harakat ul-Ansar, Hizb-ul-Mujahldeen, Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, Al-Jihad, Al-Barq, Ikhwan-ul-Mussalmin, Tariq-ul- Mujahideen, and all other Islamist militant organizations. The declared objective of the escalating Jihad is to join Pakistan.

In early June 1994, Commander Manzur Shah declared that the sole objective of the escalating Jihad in Kashmir is to incorporate it into Pakistan. The declarations of all Kashmiri militant organizations have announced [that] Pakistan is their ideal and goal.... The freedom fighters will surrender [Kashmir] to the Pakistani military and govemment." Commander Manzur Shah stressed that "the Jihad has been getting stronger.. .The Mujahideen are getting organized now and are attacking the Indian military strategically." He admitted that Indian Kashmiri Muslim leaders were assassinated or attacked in order to prevent them from reaching an agreement with the Indian government. 'Wali Mohammed would not have been assassinated and the caravans of Farooq [Abdullah] and Rajesh Pilot would not have been attacked if the climate was conducive to political action."

Meanwhile, a campaign of assassinations was launched in order to eliminate the Kashmiri civic leadership that opposed the escalation of the Jihad. On 20 June 1994, Islamist terrorists assassinated the Kashmiri scholar Qazi Nissar Ahmat. He was kidnapped a night before and pressured to endorse the anti-lndia Jihad. He refused and was killed. A key member of the assassination squad was Fayaz Ahmad Mir a.k.a. Abu-Bakr of Hkb- ul-MuJahideen. Ahmad was the 17th Kashmiri Muslim scholar snd civic leader to be assassinated by Islamists for refusing to join the anti-India struggle.

This marked escalation in the ISl's support for the Islamist insurgency and terrorism in Kashmir is a direct by-product of Pakistan's national security policy and grand strategy. Ms. Bhutto has repeatedly emphasized the centrality of the annexation of the entire Kashmir for the long-term development of Pakistan. The new rail-line that will connect Karachi and Central Asia must pass through Indian-held Kashmir to be engineeringly and economically effective. Ms. Bhutto's Islamabad considers the opening of the road to Central Asia by using Pakistan as the region's gateway to the Indian Ocean as the key to the growth of Pakistan's commercial activities. Kashmir Is also Pakistan's true gateway to the PRC and into Central Asia -- the path of the new Silk Road. And there lies the future and strategic salvation of Pakistan.

Pakistan knows that the active pursuit of the current Kashmir strategy may lead to an escalation of the face off with India. Islamabad is ready to deal with this eventuality while increasing its all out support for the Kashmiris. Indeed, Pakistani officials are raising the ante of Islamabad's Indian strategy. In mid February 1995, a Foreign Ministry spokesman warned that "if India carries out another aggression and war breaks out between Pakistan and India, it would not be a war of a thousand years or even a thousand hours but only a few minutes and India, it would not be a war of a thousand years or even a thousand hours but only a few minutes and India should not be oblivious to the potential devastation." (The 'thousand year war" is a reference to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's statement of the extent of Pakistan's commitment to a struggle with India.) Other Pakistani officials were quick to clarify the statement. They stressed that the statement "warned India not by implication but in clear terms that the next war will only last a few seconds and will bring inconceivable destruction and devastation. This clearly indicates that the "Pakistani Government has bravely displayed its nuclear capability." The officials added that "Pakistan is really in a position to strike a heavy blow against India through its nuclear capability."

What is most significant in both the spokesman's statement and the subsequent clarifications is their context. The strategic logic of using the nuclear factor to offset any deficiencies in conventional military power has been the cornerstone of Pakistan's nuclear strategy. Recently, a more assertive element was first introduced to the nuclear strategy by Islamist politicians. The overall Pakistani strategic confidence has been expressed in brinkmanship statements coming out of Islamabad since the fall of 199 . For example, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the Jamaat-i-Islami Chief Senator, urged the Bhutto govemment "to declare Jihad on India to save Kashmiri Muslims from total annihilation." There is no other way to resolve the crisis, he declared. "Let us wage Jihad for Kashmir. A nuclear-armed Pakistan would deter India from a wider conflict," he stressed. Thus, the statement of mid February 1995 confirms that the Bhutto Government has indeed adopted the strategy and policy outlined by the Islamists.

 

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