War in the shadows

04 Jan 2015


The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.
The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

ALL people of goodwill desire peace between Pakistan and India. Given their historical animosities, a close relationship is probably unachievable in the foreseeable future. But a ‘cold’ peace, which does not eliminate their fundamental differences but enables coexistence and cooperation, is possible.  

Unfortunately, even such a ‘cold’ peace is unlikely to be realised so long as India and Pakistan continue to wage their wars in the shadows.

A lot has been written and said about Pakistan’s support to insurgencies in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Not much has appeared about India’s longer and wider role in clandestine warfare against its neighbours, Sri Lanka, Nepal and particularly Pakistan. A quick viewing of a Facebook video of a recent lecture delivered by Ajit Doval, India’s ex-spymaster and now the national security adviser, should set all doubts about India’s clandestine wars at rest. Mr Doval calls Pakistan the “enemy”; extols Indian intelligence’s ability to compromise and infiltrate the Kashmir insurgency; crows about the beheading of Pakistani soldiers by the TTP and advocates a policy of “defensive offense” against Pakistan.

Pakistan will have to defeat India’s secret war against Pakistan if it is to defeat the TTP.

Actually, India’s shadow wars against Pakistan commenced in 1971 when it actively trained and financed the Mukti Bahini to fight the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan, laying the ground for India’s eventual military intervention to break up Pakistan. Even after the Simla Agreement, bomb blasts continued in Karachi and other Pakistani cities to keep Pakistan destabilised and defensive. New Delhi has missed no opportunity to support Baloch, Pakhtun and Sindhi ‘nationalists’ and other dissidents in Pakistan. 

Indira Gandhi’s attack on Amritsar’s Golden Temple created an opportunity for Pakistan to pay India back in its own coin. But its support for the Khalistan insurgency was also a ‘defensive offensive’ move to neutralise the threat of an Indian attack at the behest of its Soviet ally which Pakistan, in collaboration with the US, had pinned down in Afghanistan. India’s ‘warrior’ prime minister was assassinated by her Sikh guards. Eventually, after president Zia’s demise, the Khalistan insurgency was brutally put down by India. There is considerable speculation to this day whether the incoming PPP government released a list of Sikh insurgents to the Indians.

 Even as the Khalistan insurgency died, Pakistan was offered its own ‘opportunity of the century’ — as the East Pakistan revolt was called by the Indians — to secure self-determination for the Kashmiris. In December 1989, the Kashmiris revolted at the rigged elections there. On 20 December, hundreds of peaceful Kashmiri demonstrators were mowed down by Indian security forces, unleashing an armed struggle for freedom. Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, fresh from their success in backing the mujahideen in Afghanistan, opted to support the religious parties, instead of the indigenous Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, to lead the Kashmiri struggle.

Under the pressure of the insurgency, India agreed in 1994 to discuss a Kashmir settlement with Pakistan. India’s Foreign Secretary offered a settlement based on “autonomy plus, independence minus” for occupied Kashmir. Unfortunately, Pakistan was not quick enough to press its advantage and secure a good deal for the Kashmiris. India used the time to infiltrate and compromise the insurgency (as Mr Doval boasted). Some jihadi groups, like Al Faran, resorted to kidnapping and killing foreigners. This was the initial step in India’s campaign to transform the Kashmiri struggle from a legitimate liberation struggle into a terrorist movement.

 When the US, after 9/11, launched its war on terrorism, India’s principal aim became to equate the Kashmiri struggle with global terrorism and Al Qaeda. New Delhi got its chance when ‘terrorists’ attacked the Indian parliament in December 2001. Despite the fact that Pakistan’s culpability was unproven, a commitment was extracted from president Musharraf’s government that Pakistan would not allow its territory to be used for ‘terrorism’ against others. Acceptance of this ‘obligation’ was interpreted as an admission of Pakistan’s culpability. The Kashmiri struggle was over for all intents and purposes.

When Pakistan, under US pressure, attempted to curtail support to the Kashmiri ‘jihadi’ groups, some of them — who had developed connections with Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban — turned on their Pakistani patrons. Hence the two attempts on the life of former president Musharraf. However, some groups, like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, although outlawed and aggrieved with the government, refrained from attacking the Army or Pakistani targets and maintained their focus on India. They demonstrated their extensive capabilities in the Mumbai terrorist attack.

India, for its part, had already unleashed its so-called ‘defensive offense’ policy against Pakis­tan. Under the auspices of the Afghan intelligence directorate, headed by a member of the Northern Alliance, with which India had developed close relations during the civil war against Mullah Omar’s Taliban, India set up bases (in the guise of consulates) close to the Afghan-Pakistan border to sponsor and support the Balochistan Liberation Army. 

When the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) emerged from the embers of the Red Mosque operation, Afghan and Indian intelligence were quick to seize the opportunity to infiltrate and utilise some of its elements, particularly Baitullah Mehsud’s kin, against Pakistan and its armed forces. This has been openly admitted by Afghan intelligence. As Doval noted, there have been 40,000 Pakistani casualties attributed to the TTP’s acts of terrorism.

The situation in Balochistan and Fata became murkier due to rumours about the sponsorship of the anti-Iran Jundullah by certain Western agencies and the spate of recent attacks against China by the East Turkmenistan Independence Movement (ETIM), which was co-located with the TTP and other terrorist groups in North Waziristan and adjacent areas of Afghanistan.

Thus, for Pakistan, the Zarb-e-Azb operation against the TTP and its associates became an imperative, first and foremost, to protect the homeland, but also to prevent damage to its strategic relationship with China. It may be an added bonus that this campaign, which has also damaged all other militant groups in North Waziristan, has had a beneficial effect on Pakistan’s relations with the US and Afghanistan.

 However, Pakistan will have to defeat India’s secret war against Pakistan if it is to defeat the TTP. It is difficult to expect a change in Indian policy while people like Mr Doval are in charge.

 The key to defeating India’s designs is to secure the full confidence and cooperation of the Afghan government and utilise the influence of China, America and Russia to isolate and attack the TTP and its associated groups, especially Al Qaeda and ETIM, and deny India the bases and facilities to operate against Pakistan from Afghan territory.

It is only when the wars in the shadows are terminated that conditions may emerge for some form of normalisation between Pakistan and India.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2015

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