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Back To 1996 And Beyond

Last July, Pakistan reversed its strategy of not targeting Indian territory outside J&K with terror attacks in Ayodhya, Delhi, Bangalore, Varanasi and now Mumbai. Time to go back to the pre-Gujral policy of letting the intelligence agencies do the n

Back To 1996 And Beyond
Back To 1996 And Beyond
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

In cautiously-worded remarks after a visit to Mumbai on July 14,2006, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, has been quoted as saying with reference to the likely Pakistani role in the multiple terrorist strikes of July 11: "The terrorists behind Tuesday's serial blasts in Mumbai were supported by elements across the border. Without the support from elements across the border, the terrorists would not have been able to carry out strikes with such an effect. "

He did not name Pakistan, but it was obvious he had it in mind. During his meeting with Shri A.B. Vajpayee, the then Indian Prime Minister, at Islamabad in January, 2004, Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf gave a formal assurance that he would not allow the use of Pakistani or Pakistani-controlled territory for acts of terrorism against India. The expression Pakistani territory referred to Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Pakistani-controlled territory to Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan).

The government of Pakistan and the jihadi organisations controlled by it have been following a dual policy with regard to jihadi terrorism in Indian territory. They denied that what was happening in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) amounted to terrorism. Instead, they projected it as a justified "freedom struggle". The government of Pakistan did not deny that it was giving political, diplomatic and moral support to this "freedom struggle", but denied giving it any material support in the form of funds, training, arms and ammunition and operational guidance. The Pakistani jihadi terrorist organisations made no secret of their role in assisting this "freedom struggle". They did not hesitate to claim credit for their operations in J&K.

With regard to acts of jihadi terrorism in Indian territory outside J&K, the government of Pakistan always condemned it as terrorism and did not try to project it as a "freedom struggle". The Pakistani jihadi organisations did not condemn them as acts of terrorism, but denied any role in those acts. At the same time, they expressed their moral and religious support to their co-religionists in Indian territory who, according to them, were fighting for their "liberation" from Hindu domination.

Even before Gen Musharraf's commitment to Shri Vajpayee in January, 2004, one had noticed two significant changes in the activities of the Pakistani jihadi terrorist organisations operating in the Indian territory. First, there was a sharp drop in acts of Pakistani-sponsored jihadi terrorism in the Indian territory outside J&K. There was no major act of jihadi terrorism in the Indian territory outside J&K between September, 2003, and July, 2005. This was attributable to two reasons. A Pakistani decision to keep the operations of the organisations sponsored by it confined to J&K and successful preventive actions by the Indian intelligence, which detected and neutralised many sleeper cells in different parts of the country.

Second, the Pakistani organisations operating in the J&K started concentrating on attacking the security forces and their political masters and avoided attacking civilians. There were instances of civilian deaths as collateral damage, but very few targeted attacks on civilians. This change was probably motivated by the bad name which Pakistan was getting from the international community.

There was a reversal of this policy from July, 2005. Pakistani organisations resumed their acts of terrorism in the Indian territory outside J&K from July 5, 2005, when they unsuccessfully attacked a Hindu temple at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. This was followed by the twin explosions in a shopping area of New Delhi in October, 2005, in which 59 civilians were killed, the attack on the participants in a conference of scientists at Bangalore in December, 2005, resulting in the death of one scientist, the explosions in Varnasi, the Hindu holy town, in March, 2005, and the latest Mumbai attack of 11/7, which is the most serious and well-organised targetted attack on civilians since the March,1993 explosions in Mumbai.

Simultaneously, the Pakistani jihadi organisations resumed their policy of targeted attacks on civilians in J&K---- tourists from other parts of India, Hindus in the Jammu area etc. They have kept up these attacks. Interestingly, this period also saw the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) resuming its assistance to the Taliban and Gulbuddin Heckmatyar's Hizbe Islami to enable them to stage a come-back in Afghanistan.

Why this reversion to the pre-September,2003, version of the use of the jihadi weapon against India and Afghanistan? Two explanations are available from an analysis of reports from reliable Pakistani sources and Pakistani media reports. Firstly, an assessment by the Corps Commanders of the Pakistani Army in June last year that the non-use of the jihadi sword could result in the de facto status quo in J&K and Afghanistan becoming a de jure reality. They felt this would be detrimental to Pakistan's interests.

Secondly, Musharraf's need of the assistance of the jihadi organisations to defeat the attempts of Mrs Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians and Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League to win next year's general elections. In the elections of October, 2002, Musharraf used the fundamentalist organisations, which contested the elections, and the jihadi organisations, which worked in the field without contesting the elections, to defeat the candidates of the parties of Ms.Bhutto and Mr. Sharif. The result: the coming to power of the fundamentalist parties in the NWFP and Balochistan. This gave a filip to the activities of the remnants of the Al Qaeda and the Taliban, which enjoy the support of the ruling dispensation in these two key provinces.

It is said that Musharraf has already asked the ISI to give the jihadi organisations all the assistance they need for their operations in India and Afghanistan in return for their support to him and the parties controlled by him in next year's elections. He has also ordered the suspension of all action against madrasas, which have been training foreign jihadis.

It is, therefore, likely that the activities of the ISI-sponsored jihadi terrorist organisations in India and Afghanistan would continue and escalate in the coming months, irrespective of whether there is any progress in the dialogue between India and Pakistan or not. What should be India's response in respect of the peace process and the Pakistani-sponsored terrorism?

Under Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and P.V. Narasimha Rao, India  followed a policy of "talk, talk, hit, hit". They and their officials continued meeting and talking to their Pakistani counterparts, whether there was any useful outcome or not. At the same time, they gave a free hand to their intelligence agencies to do whatever they felt was necessary to hurt Pakistan covertly for its use of terrorism against India. This policy contributed in no insignificant measure to the success of counter-terrorism in Punjab.

Narasimha Rao added a psychological component to this policy to highlight before the international community Pakistani sponsorship of terrorism against India. It was largely as a result of this that he succeeded in persuading the Clinton Administration to place Pakistan on a newly-created suspected State-Sponsors of Terrorism from January to July, 1993.

15. Since 1996, our policy towards Pakistan has lacked coherence, lucidity and single-minded determination to hurt it. Shri I.K. Gujral gave up the "hit, hit" and the psychological components in the hope that this unilateral gesture would make Pakistan change its ways. His hopes were belied.

The hopes of our intelligence agencies that the BJP-led government would restore these components were belied too. One started feeling for the first time the impact of the US influence on our policy towards Pakistan. Fond hopes that the US would succeed in pressuring Musharraf to drop his jihadi sword have not materialised. The time has come for reverting back to the policy followed before 1996.

Talk, talk, bite, bite.


B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai.

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