The timing of Sunday's attacks coincides with unrest in Indian-administered
Kashmir sparked by separatists protesting against Indian rule. More than 100
people have been killed since June.
Al-Qaeda-linked militant sources have told Asia Times Online that they aim to
escalate their activities in Indian cities and tap into the mass uprising in
The latest Delhi attack was claimed by the little-known Indian Mujahideen,
which earlier had claimed other attacks in India that were later proven to be
Kashmir boils again
The United States invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to topple the Taliban led
indirectly to the sting being taken out of the insurgency in Kashmir. Under US
pressure, Pakistan cooled its support for militants operating in
Indian-administered Kashmir. The US, as a part of the "war on terror", wanted
to close down as many war theaters in Muslim territories as possible as it
feared they were breeding militancy.
The next development, again under American influence, was to change the
leadership dynamics of the Kashmiri struggle. Groups comprising more radical
Islamist leaders were pushed into the background and replaced with moderate
faces more acceptable to Delhi and Washington. This, along with the reduced
militancy from across the border in Pakistan-administered Pakistan, helped calm
the indigenous Kashmiri separatist movement, effectively placing it on the
Now, though, after nine years the war in Afghanistan is a shambles and most
regional state and non-state players read that either the US will make an
honorable exit next year by recognizing the Taliban as the major political
force, or the war will drag on and the US will eventually have to make an exit
anyway, albeit a dishonorable one.
This perception of the failure of the American war has gradually reshaped the
political dynamics of the region.
The first change emerged in Indian-administered Kashmir, where leaders saw an
opportunity to pick up from where they had been in 2001, although now without
either India or Pakistan being in a position to manipulate events.
This week, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) led by Syed Ali Gillani
called for sit-ins for its "Quit Jammu and Kashmir" campaign in protest against
what it sees as Indian army atrocities in Kashmir. The APHC is a political
front of more than 20 political, social and religious organizations formed to
achieve the right of self-determination according to United Nations Security
Council Resolution 47.
Senior APHC (G) leader Masrat Alam said the group had adopted the slogan "Go
India, Go Back" and he appealed to people in all regions of the state to make
the "Quit Jammu and Kashmir" campaign successful.
The latest phase of the Kashmiri struggle - which dates to India's independence
in 1947 - has its roots in an incident in late April when the Indian army
claimed it had foiled an infiltration bid from across the Line of Control that
divides the two Kashmirs by killing three armed militants from Pakistan.
However, it was subsequently established that the encounter had been staged and
that the three "militants" were in fact civilians who had been lured into an
army camp with promises of jobs as ammunition porters. They were then shot in
cold blood for a cash reward.
Once news of this emerged, there was a spontaneous mass reaction and the Indian
security apparatus responded with a heavy hand, with each bloody encounter with
protesters leading to another cycle of deadly protests.
The campaign is mainly in the hands of youths who were children in the 1990s
and saw the mass victimization of Kashmirs by the Indian security forces at the
height of the unrest.
These youths are not only resisting Indian rule, they are also disenchanted
with Pakistan, which they believe sold out their interests in the name of the
"war on terror". This is the first time that processions don't have Pakistani
flags, and people don't shout "Long live Pakistan" slogans.
The situation in Kashmir remains grim, with most of the valley under a strict
curfew. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this month said at the start of an
APHC meeting, "The only path for lasting peace and prosperity in Jammu and
Kashmir is that of dialogue and discussion. Those who have grievances against
the government have to talk to the administration," he said. "But it is also
true that meaningful dialogue can happen only in an atmosphere free from
violence and confrontation."
The problem for New Delhi is that no separatist leader is ready to enter into
dialogue with India, including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is considered close to
New Delhi and who has a reputation of being a moderate face of the Kashmiri
struggle in trying to abandon the Islamist leadership led by Gillani.
A part of the reason is that the "Quit Jammu and Kashmir" campaign is in the
hands of youths who have taken the extreme position of "Kill us or leave
Kashmir". Gillani, a former chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir, has emerged
as a natural leader of this extreme position.
Gillani has presented Delhi with five conditions to defuse the protests. These
include accepting Kashmir as an international dispute - Delhi as all along
maintained it is a domestic issue - the release of all political prisoners,
demilitarization of the area and that action be taken against the forces
involved in civilian killings since June.
Delhi is unlikely to agree to any or all of these conditions. Pakistan,
meanwhile, is in no position to revive the Kashmiri armed struggle, given its
preoccupation with militancy in its tribal areas and heavy US pressure to
remain focused on that area.
However, al-Qaeda does not aim to miss an opportunity. According to militant
sources, al-Qaeda will step up strikes in Indian cities in the coming weeks to
spur the anti-India movement in Kashmir, which will eventually be taken into
al-Qaeda's broader regional theater.
Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can
be reached at email@example.com
Sheikh Amin contributed in this article. Amin recently authored the book
An Advocacy for Kashmir's Cause (Urdu).