Jihadis set to spill over into Kashmir
By Zahid U Kramet
LAHORE - There was hope but no great expectations for the dialogue between
India's External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and Pakistan's Foreign Minister
Shah Mehmood Quereshi on July 15. And so the headline of a major
English-language Pakistan daily read, "They talked but said nothing" - an
outcome which proved pessimists' predictions.
Pakistan's bottom line had always been for progress on the disputed Kashmir
region and the Siachen Glacier dispute, with the reduced flow of downstream
water in the Indus River connected to the overall equation. The Indian side
declined to take up these major issues, saying it did not have the mandate.
Khrishna instead remained fixated on blaming Pakistan's Inter-Service
Intelligence (ISI) for terror activities in India, bringing the
talks to a virtual standstill, according to people with direct knowledge of the
The Siachen Glacier lies just east of the Line of Control between India and
Pakistan, it has been the scene of an ongoing battle between the two countries
since 1984. The glacier's melting waters are the source of the Nubra River in
Indian-controlled Ladakh, which drains into the Shyok River and in turn joins
the Indus, Pakistan's main water source. India abandoned plans to withdraw from
Siachen after Pakistan's incursion into Kargil in Indian-administered Kashmir
The larger Kashmir dispute encompasses much more than water rights. It is an
emotive issue stretching back to 1947, when Pakistan was carved out of British
India on the understanding that the sub-continent's Muslims constituted a
separate nation. Religion alone determined the territorial demarcation of the
two states. Kashmir was made an exception, which set the stage for two of the
three wars between the two countries in 1947 and 1965. Whether this was
contrived or accidental is moot, and both India and Pakistan suffer the
India's ruling elites were reluctant to admit that "a nation of converts"
constitutes a nation, while Pakistan has always seen Kashmir as "the unfinished
business of partition". The two countries stay eyeball-to-eyeball on the issue,
despite numerous efforts for the neighbors engage in dialogue, and both
countries have acquired nuclear capability.
In the postscript to the talks, Quereshi announced there had been some
deliberation on the Kashmir dispute, despite Krishna's initial show of
reluctance to address the issue. He also said he had drawn attention to the
human-rights violations in the valley with the recent Indian troop deployment
in the state's summer capital, Srinagar, that resulted in the killing of 15
civilians, following weeks of protests against Indian rule. Krishna drew
attention to a 40% increase in infiltration across the Line of Control,
insinuating that the violence was a result of this.
A complaint was then lodged by the Indian side against the Jamaat-ud-Dawa
(believed a front for the militant group, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, or LeT) accusing
its chief, Hafiz Saeed, of inciting the violence in Kashmir with inflammatory
statements. Quereshi wondered out loud why India's home secretary had issued
press statements on the eve of the foreign minister's talks reproaching
Pakistan's ISI for being instrumental in the Mumbai attacks of 2008.
And so the blame game went on until Krishna closed the joint address on the
hollow note of "starting this journey while being cognizant of the complexities
of the challenges", a statement which likely left the talks' American sponsors
baffled over what it will take for the two countries to work in tandem to
address the terrorist threat emanating from the northwestern mountain ranges of
South Asia, which has been playing havoc with North Atlantic Treaty
Organization forces in Afghanistan.
In the South Asian smoke and mirrors game, encouraging India and Pakistan to
work together will clearly take much more than the Americans bargained for. The
LeT, the organization India accuses of masterminding the Mumbai carnage, has
long been identified as a Pakistan proxy, bred to boost the independence
struggle in Kashmir yet reportedly bending only to Pakistan's military
The LeT was given free rein to collect funds and recruit members in Pakistan
before the 9/11 attacks in the US. Post-9/11, however, a large number of LeT
"strays", or breakaways, were found in the company of al-Qaeda-linked jihadi
groups that had adopted an anti-American position. This drew another picture
and the organization was banned. But it was not disbanded: its leaders simply
advised LeT members to keep a low profile in Pakistan, with the doors to India
purportedly left open.
Inevitably, the LeT was seen by the Indian ruling elite as complicit in terror
attacks that rained down on India. These include the December 2001 assault on
the Indian parliament that killed 12; the October 2005 Delhi bombings that
killed 62; the September 2008 Delhi bombings that killed 30: the November 2008
Mumbai assault which left 175 dead after a three-day rampage; and the February
2010 Pune blasts that killed nine. However, the organization denied any
connections to the assaults, claiming that targeting civilians went against its
Pakistan meantime was confronted by a vicious campaign of terror, beginning in
2001. This ran all the way up from Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi to
the Khyber Pass in the north. The restiveness in Pakistan's Balochistan
province was an added problem. Bomb blasts from 2007 through 2009 alone
accounted for 5,500 civilian deaths, and nearly every Pakistani was convinced
that India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) was behind the killings.
This notwithstanding, most looked towards a new beginning. A sea-change in
perceptions seemed to surface when the prime minister of Pakistan-administered
Kashmir, Raja Farooq Haider, asked in early July that Pakistan not link the
negotiations with India to the resolution of the Kashmir dispute, and advised
Pakistan to give up its "Kashmirfirst" policies "because of its internal
vulnerabilities". That story, however, was short-lived.
Just two days before the scheduled talks, Haider capitulated. At a political
conference in Muzzafarabad, the capital of the Pakistan-administered zone, he
announced the "talks could only be meaningful" if Kashmiris were included in
the negotiations. There was very little chance of that materializing this
early, given India had repeatedly rejected any form of dialogue that might
include the Kashmiri separatist factions Pakistan had in tow.
And these factions were there in earnest - as many as 17 groupings - including
the conference's organizer, Hizbul Mujahideen , led by Syed Salahudin.
Tellingly, they gathered under the United Jihad Council (UJC) banner and Haider
could not help being intimidated by them. But even if not, any thoughts on
reconciliation would have been quickly discarded when the Salahudin thundered
"the red carpet reception to Indian ministers in Islamabad has added insult to
The "clear and present danger" spelled out from the failure of the
Indian-Pakistan talks and the conference episodes, is that the jihadis are
gathering momentum and set to spill over into Kashmir. From there, or so the
region's political pundits have it, al-Qaeda had planned to move on into India
to secure "strategic depth" with heightened terror tactics. Then it can trek
onto Central Asia to forward the jihadi movement for the liberation of
Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban, in the introduction of his new offering Descent
into Chaos, described the support system of al-Qaeda's human resources
succinctly when he wrote, "to a handful of Muslims, al-Qaeda posed a
civilizational solution - albeit an extreme one - to the justice denied to
Muslims in Palestine [and] Kashmir". The failure of India and Pakistan to
resolve the Kashmir dispute will provide the international jihadi movement with
all the space it needs.
Zahid U Kramet, a Lahore-based political analyst specializing in
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, is the founder of the research and analysis
website theAsia Despatch.