India bled once again on Sept.24, 2002, when a group of at least two heavily armed terrorists strongly suspected to be belonging to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (Headquarters: Muridke, near Lahore) forced their way into the Akshardam Hindu temple in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, and killed 29 innocent worshippers at the temple.
India will continue to bleed helplessly unless and until its public opinion and policy-makers make a lucid analysis of the threat to its national security and unity posed by the Pakistani components of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front For Jehad Against the US and Israel, which have been responsible for a majority of the acts of terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and other parts of India since 1998, when they joined bin Laden's Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the International Islamic Front, which advocates and practises punishment terrorism, often through suicide terrorists.
Punishment terrorism was not born in 1998. It was first practised by Carlos, presently in jail in France, and his associates in the 1970s and the 1980s against Zionist and capitalist targets and has been practised by Pakistan and Afghanistan-based pan-Islamic terrorist organisations since 1993. The acts of punishment terrorism carried out by pan-Islamic terrorists between 1993 and 1998 were not marked by any co-ordination amongst different organisations.
Bin Laden, who had lived contemporaneously with Carlos in Khartoum, Sudan, till August, 1994, when the latter was kidnapped by the French intelligence agencies with the complicity of the Sudanese intelligence, emulated Carlos' united front tactics and brought about unity of action amongst the various pan-Islamic terrorist organisations operating from Afghanistan and Pakistan, after he shifted to Afghanistan in 1996. Thus was born the International Islamic Front.
In addition to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the Front has 11 other members--- five of them from Pakistan and the remaining from Egypt, the Central Asian Republics (CARs), Bangladesh, the Philippines and China (Xinjiang). While the Front as a whole looks upon the Christians and the Jewish people as the principal enemies of Islam, its Pakistani components characterise the Hindus as as great enemies of Islam as the Christians and the Jewish people and call for acts of punishment terrorism directed against the Hindus as a community and against India as the cradle of Hinduism.
The five Pakistani components of the International Islamic Front are the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ). All these organisations, except the JEM, were brought into existence by Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment in the 1980s for use against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan with the funds and arms and ammunition provided by the US, Saudi and other Western intelligence agencies. After 1993, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) diverted them to J&K for use in its proxy war against India. They have since assumed the leadership role in the terrorist movement in J&K and have been operating under the guise of Kashmiris. The JEM was born in 2000 through a split in the HUM.
The agenda of these four organisations is not confined to J&K. They look upon J&K as the gateway to India and say that the jehad in J&K is only the beginning of their struggle against the Hindus. They also say that after "liberating" J&K from what they describe as Hindu control, they would undertake the "liberation" of Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh and Junagadh in Gujarat, which they describe as rightfully belonging to Pakistan, and of the Muslims in other parts of India and ultimately set up an Islamic Caliphate in South Asia. The International Islamic Front calls for two Caliphates -- one in South Asia and the other in South-East Asia, consisting of the Arakan area of Myanmar, southern Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Southern Philippines.
While all these four organisations had in the past indulged in sporadic acts of terrorism outside J&K, only the LET has been systematically expanding its clandestine presence to other parts of India, specially Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, as a prelude to the next phase of its jehad against the Hindus. In the past, its cells had been detected as far down south as Hyderabad. And it has been recruiting locals in different States by exploiting the anger of the Muslims against the local administration for failing to protect them.
Al Ummah of Tamil Nadu, which was responsible for the Coimbatore blasts of February,1998, had not come to notice for any contacts with the International Islamic Front, but there were grounds for suspicion that it probably had contacts with the Islamic fundamentalist elements in Malaysia through Tamil Muslim migrants to Malaysia. With the recent detection by the authorities of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines of the existence of the cells of the International Islamic Front in their countries, which led to the arrest of a number of locals who had been to Pakistan and Afghanistan for training, including reportedly some local citizens of Indian (Tamil Nadu) origin, the danger of the Front spreading its tentacles to Tamil Nadu and the Eastern Province of Sri Lanks from its bases in S-E. Asia has increased.
These pan-Islamic terrorist elements had in the past been in contact with Dawood Ibrahim's gang, now operating from sanctuaries in Karachi, and other trans-national crime groups. For the Mumbai blasts of March,1993, the terrorists were recruited by Dawood Ibrahim's gang in Mumbai, got trained in HUM's camps in Pakistan and armed by the ISI. Trans-national crime groups supported by the ISI for use against India for intelligence collection and terrorism purposes have an active clandestine presence not only in Maharashtra and Gujarat, but also in Andhra Pradesh and other parts of India.
The nexus between these Pakistan-based pan-Islamic terrorist organisations and Al Qaeda on the one side and between them and the trans-national crime groups on the other poses and will continue to pose the greatest threat to India's national security and unity in the months and years to come unless and until they are neutralised to the last jehadi through appropriate pre-emptive actions carried out, if necessary, in Pakistani territory.
Stock responses such as winning the hearts and minds of the people, political and economic packages, autonomy for J&K etc will not work against these irrational organisations, which are wedded to their goal of eradicating the influence of Hinduism and establishing the supremacy of Islam in India and other countries of South Asia. How can one win the hearts and minds of irrational religious fanatics?
It would be unwise to count on the US to help us in our fight against these pan-Islamic terrorists. So long
as Pakistan's military dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, continues to act against terrorist elements
endangering American/Christian lives and interests, the US would not pressurise him beyond a limit to
act against terrorists threatening Indian lives and interests. India has to find ways of doing this quickly
and effectively on its own by taking our counter-terrorism operations into Pakistani territory, covertly as
far as possible and overtly if necessary. Till we do so, we are destined to live through more Gandhigram-like
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.)