Why is India under unremitting attack from Pakistan? Does the dispensation have the gumption to answer this straight question in any straight forward manner? In its answer lies the solution to proxy war being waged by Pakistan. It is not just ‘territory’, the honest answer would contain some ‘non-territorial’ reasons, politically dreadful and explosive.
Terrorists attacked an Armoured Unit in Samba in the morning of 26 September. The Second-in-Command (2IC) Lt Col Bikramjeet Singh was killed and the Commanding Officer Colonel Avin Uthaiya received bullet injuries. There was another attack on a police station at Kathua. At least twelve people were killed and four injured in the twin terror attacks. The usual suspect is the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), rather its latest ruse, Shohada Brigade. These attacks were in the region, located in proximity to the International Boundary (IB), not the least disputed. Simultaneously, from across the Line of Control (LoC) there was brazen infiltration bid in the Keran Sector by at least 30 Pakistan-based militants of which a dozen were eliminated by the Indian Army.
An Act of War!
The attack thus emanating from Pakistan’s soil addressed both the LoC and the IB. The simultaneity and the coordination of the attacks separated by hundreds of kilometers could not have taken place without the orchestration of the Pakistani dispensation. This constitutes an act of war!
The attack on the armoured unit is a perfect paradigm of “proxy war”. An armoured unit equipped with 45 tanks packs enormous amount of fire-power. It just took three militants to neutralize it, not on physical but strategic terms. It is seldom that in a conventional war, both the CO and 2IC become casualties. Imagine its ripple effect on the Indian Army. The attack unambiguously demonstrated that conventional military superiority bereft of resolute and patriotic leadership can be paralyzed by a sleazy adversary with cowardly reliance on irregular warfare as a matter of strategic faith.
Proxy war or sub-conventional war affords deniability to the perpetrator. Diplomatic visits and engagements serve tools for deniability and diplomatic reprieve to the perpetrator to perpetuate and calibrate ‘proxy war’. Pakistan has mastered this art and India, a country impoverished of strategic wisdom, has allowed itself to be a confounded victim. The cycle of terror and talks hence continues unabated.
Shamelessly, this time too, the discourse in the country, specially media ,was not on the strategic enormity of the attacks across IB and LoC, not on the sacrifices made by our security personnel, but on the poser ‘whether PM Manmohan Singh would or should meet his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif’. Remember this was no summit meet but on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. They pretended as if the talks were an end in itself. They did not deem, like in past, and part of strategic script , talks would further fuel the proxy war being waged by Pakistan.
Negligible Peace Constituency
The decision-makers in India, complicit with incorrigible segment of commentators and media establishment were at pains to distinguish between ‘Nawaz Sharif’, the secular political and democratic ‘face of Pakistan’, and the military-intelligence establishment. They with great elan suggested that the two were at cross purposes. Nawaz Sharif, they maintained was part of the constituency desperate for peace. The latest attacks they construed were to derail the ‘peace process’. Nothing could be farther from truth. There is insignificant peace constituency left in Pakistan.
The support provided by the terror outfit ‘Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’ (LeJ) to Nawaz Sharif in the recent elections is common knowledge. It is also documented that Nawaz Sharif’s brother Shahbaz Sharif, the Chief Minister of Punjab, has provided Rs.61 million budget allocation to Hafiz Saeed in the current fiscal. The Punjab Govt also provided Rs.350 million grant-in-aid to ‘Markaz-e-Taiba’ of Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ul-Dawa (JuD) for setting-up ‘Knowledge Park’. The JuD center, which was located at Murdike on outskirts of Lahore, was taken over by the Punjab government shortly after UN Security Council designated JuD a front of the LeT in the wake of Mumbai attacks. In fact, the police in Punjab let all the LeT leaders escape arrest and only a year later the Shahbaz government approved a grant one million US dollars to LeT.
Imran Khan’s Tehreek-i-Insaf not only collaborated with jihadi elements in run-up to the elections but runs the government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa with Jamaat-e-Islami. The government has restored the violent jihadi content in the school text books in the province, which was removed by the Awami National Party (ANP), when it came to power in 2008.
The stark reality therefore in Pakistan is that apart from the military-establishment, nearly all mainstream political forces are in truck with the jihadi outfits.
In Pakistan, there could be internal differences between the political class and the military on power sharing, but there is near complete unanimity with regard to jihad and its anti-India objectives. Nawaz Sharif, therefore talking to Indian Prime Minister will always prove to be a regressive affair as far as India’s resolve and capability to tailor the response to proxy war is concerned. Such meetings are meant to manipulate and undermine the meaning and acts of war, something which the Indian political establishment completely, and the military establishment to great extent, have failed to discern. This can be ascribed primarily to the reason that India unlike Pakistan (since 1947) has never waged proxy war against any country, and therefore it does not realize its military, political ,diplomatic and most critically Intelligence, facets.
Jihadi Subversion of Universities
The Punjab province of Pakistan is now emerging as the new epicenter and base of Jihadis. Lahore, as per some reports, is now the hub of al Qaeda in the country. A communication center of the al Qaeda was busted in Lahore in August this year (read ‘Campus Terror’ by Khalid Ahmed, Indian Express, 27 September 2013). This center operating in the name of ‘International Technical Hub’ was receiving signals from Afghanistan. At least, half a dozen terrorists including women were arrested.
The Arab funded International Islamic University, Islamabad is the key the ideological nerve-center of global jihad. In fact the father of ‘global jihad’ and the mentor of Osama bin Laden , the Palestinian, Abdullah Azam taught in this university. The universities in Pakistan, as per Khalid Ahmed, are under complete sway of Islamic Jamaat Taliba (IJT), the student wing of JeI. The Lahore University of Engineering and Technology, where Hafiz Saeed served as a lecturer, is the most formidable stronghold of IJT. The Vice-Chancellor of Punjab University has lamented that the hostels in the university are infested with terrorists, but such is the influence of the IJT with the dispensation that nothing much can be done. Teachers betraying liberal outlook are routinely beaten up by the IJT cadres. The IJT and the JeI members have been providing shelter to al Qaeda elements.
It may be recalled that Sheikh Mohammad, one of the planners of 9/11, was arrested from women’s wing leader of JeI in Rawalpindi. Abu Zubayadah, a Saudi Arabian citizen belonging to the al Qaeda, was arrested in Faisalabad from a shelter given by Hafiz Saeed.
Together Hafiz Saeed’s JuD and the JeI command overwhelming influence on the youth of the country. All shades of jihadi organizations in Punjab, Taliban–Punjabinon-Punjabis as per Mr Khalid,are sustained by Al-Zawahiri’s Arab money, and muscle and purse of JuD. Hafiz Saeed is known for his spiritual links to the founder of al Qaeda, Abdullah Azam.
India Has To Go Alone
The operational links between al Qaeda, ISI, LeT and Taliban is well established. Supposedly, the Mumbai 2611 attack was undertaken by the LeT and its sponsors, only after a similar attack planned against Manhattan (including UN headquarters) was abandoned by al Qaeda because of the infiltration by CIA in the organisation. Was David Headley, therefore, responsible for shift of target from Manhattan to Mumbai? Headley after all, had infiltrated Al- Qaeda and later LeT and became its key operative. Having known the nuts and bolts of the LeT, why does the US soft -peddle on LeT and Hafiz Saeed? Is it because LeT was raised specifically to target India? The US never targeted LeT with drones or otherwise. There are some reports, which believe that there was a secret understanding between the US and Pakistan with regard to LeT.
There ‘global war against terrorism’ is therefore a fraud scripted by US which is evident from its support to al Qaeda affiliate Al Nusra in Syria. The bitter reality is that India will have to fight its jihadi rather proxy war all by itself. The much touted strategic partnership India and the US has only served the interests of the latter.
Punjab: New Global Jihad Epicenter
In a shift from Af-Pak region,the Punjab province of Pakistan is being nurtured by the jihadis of all hues as the base for the fresh jihad to be launched against the Afghan regime and its 3,50,000 strong new Afghan Army for takeover of Afghanistan. The province has been consciously chosen, as the Pashtuns in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Waziristan continue to be in an imbalanced state and the men who constituted the mainstay in the war against Soviet Union and later in support of Taliban regime, have suffered considerable attrition. Punjab province therefore is the new recruiting ground and jihadi hub.
Al-Zawahiri, the present head of al Qaeda, as per some reports, is located in the Punjab province, somewhere in the outskirts of Lahore. The attack in shopping mall in Nairobi,in which nearly 72 people were killed and more than 175 injured, by Al-Shabab group,( affiliate of al Qaeda) and the attack in a Church in Peshawar (72 killed) carried similar signatures as the targets were specifically non-Muslims. There are many Pakistanis apart from Afghans, Iraqis, Yemenese as well as Europeans in the ranks of Al Shabab. The overall direction is provided by Al-Zawahri.
The audacity of attacks witnessed recently, as per some analysts, suggests a resurgent sense of triumphalism amongst the jihadi groups because of the envisaged withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan. The same sense of invincibility was palpable in the jihadi discourse following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. The series of attacks across the LoC and the IB including the latest in Keran and Samba sector, the attempted ethnic cleansing in Kishtwar, the demand for dismantling the Village Development Committees therein by members in ruling dispensation to facilitate cleansing, the insidious attack on Technical Support Group and the IB, and the devious planting of motivated reports by a bureaucrat in an Indian newspaper, preposterously insinuating a former Army Chief’s designs to dislodge J&K government, appear to be facilitation measures for the Pak sponsored jihadi project in India, particularly Kashmir. Colluding in this Pak agenda are segments of Indian establishment and press.
As the new global jihadi hub in Punjab grows the heat will be increasingly felt in India. Habib-ur-Rehman, a commander of the LeT, in a meeting of commanders convened recently in Muzaffarabad, exhorted them to carry out attacks in small groups in J&K. The attack therefore in Samba was not an intelligence vacuum. The jihadi threat is not confined to J&K. In this very month, there have been intelligence alerts regarding 26/11 type attacks by LeJ in Delhi and terrorist attacks in Mumbai, and South India. It is the same LeJ which enjoys effusive patronage of Nawaz Sharif.
Entire India is the Target
Calls made from ten different states including Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra indicate the phenomenon of Indian jihadi volunteers being sent for training with Taliban and al Qaeda. The Popular Front of India (PFI), a South India based organization was reportedly formed at the behest of al Qaeda and LeT. Two years back, four trained PFI cadres were apprehended in Kupwara in J&K. Another Indian from Tamilnaidu Mohammad Niaz Abdul Rashid accused of creating a group for ‘armed jihad’ told his French interrogators that he was part of PFI and was in contact with jihadis in Pakistan. Intriguingly, the PFI is still not a proscribed organization in India.
The proxy war soldiers and facilitators in India are spread all over the country. The jihadi threat looms all over. No amount of reactive strategies can insulate the people of India from such proxy wars. We will continue to bleed. We may have become blasé or inured because of the incremental destruction and casualties due to the very nature of proxy war, but examined in the totality, the secured space in India is rapidly shrinking even as our precious resources are being increasingly and inexorably being sliced in the name of security, predominantly reactive in character. We have failed to impose any degree of cost and caution on the perpetrator. The proxy war has the ability to neutralize our entire conventional military apparatus. If not immediately bridled it has the potential cause the wreck and cause implosion of the Indian state.
Hit the Nerve Centers
The solution to win the proxy war is to hit the nerve centers. All respectable countries, concerned about security of its peoples and their interests do so. A Pakistani General during a television debate with this author in the wake of the attack in Samba sector was brazen enough to say that in the backdrop of the fact that Pakistan is a nuclear state, India has no option but to talk. This indeed is the dominant strategic discourse in Pakistan. It needs to be disabused. This author told the Pakistan General that nuclear weapons are a ‘reality’ and in deference to the ‘reality’, India accepts the challenge. Tomorrow, a Hafiz Saeed, armed with a Pakistani nuclear weapon, which is a great possibility, cannot bring India to its knees. In that case, India has enough means to ensure that last of such criminals within and outside the establishment are nuked.
And finally, even as we made indecent hype about Manmohan-Obama and Manmohan-Sharif meet, let us not forget that the CO and the 2IC of an armoured regiment took charge and led from the front in dealing with the proxy soldiers of Pakistan. The 2IC lost his life and the CO received bullet injuries to save the nation in the ultimate analysis. The CO, whom I know personally from the days when he was a young boy is the son of one Col M M Ravi, who was awarded the Vir Chakra in the 1971 war. A worthy son of a worthy father! Warriors therefore are not easy to create. The CO’s wife, this author has learnt, never left the company of the bereaved 2IC’s wife, even as her own husband was being evacuated for surgery of his bullet injuries. She is believed to have said that the 2IC’s wife needed her more than her husband. But for such men and women proxy war by Pakistan would have consumed the country. After all it did reach parliament.
All the votaries of ‘uninterrupted talks’ with Pakistan at all costs must reflect on the question as to why India is being targeted? No diplomat, no politician has the moral courage to answer this question officially and formally. They do it in very eloquently in private. It is this duplicity that is killing India. It is this duplicity which kills all initiatives in forging the nation’s resolve in fighting the proxy war.
(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap)