Originally Published 2004-11-15 04:38:33 Published on Nov 15, 2004
Jammu & Kashmir will emerge as one of the key areas of conflict and is likely to witness an increased US interest during the second term of President George W Bush. The reasons are not far to seek. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has been Mr Bush's strong ally in the war against terror and will continue to be so. President Bush's return to the White House,
Prepare for a turbulent winter
Jammu &amp; Kashmir will emerge as one of the key areas of conflict and is likely to witness an increased US interest during the second term of President George W Bush. The reasons are not far to seek. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has been Mr Bush's strong ally in the war against terror and will continue to be so. President Bush's return to the White House, with a decisive majority in the current election unlike the previous one, is an endorsement of his decision to pursue, what his Administration has been claiming, a war against the global network of terror. <br /> <br /> What does this mean for Kashmir? A quick recap of the last phase of President Bush's first term would indicate a growing interest within the US Administration of taking a more pro-active role in Kashmir. The ruse has been, as always, to aim for a conflict resolution in the region. In all likelihood, this agenda will be higher on the priority list of the new Bush Administration. Pakistan is likely to exploit this situation to its advantage. President Musharraf's recent weather balloon on resolving Kashmir is a clear indication. Although it seemed as if he was thinking out of the box in trying to find a resolution to this vexed problem, the real idea was to create a diversion and a public debate among the intelligentsia which seems to be, quite often, swayed by momentary delusions about the Pakistan Army's strategic ambitions in Kashmir. <br /> <br /> The sudden deluge of comments on both sides of the border and in the US, mostly giving the benefit of doubt to the General, is a clear indication of the General's success. To offer a different perspective, it might as well be interesting to note that there was no opposition to the General's formula from the jihadi groups or religious political organisations, which seems to be clamouring for the removal of his Army uniform. This is intriguing given the fact that the General seemed to be abandoning what Pakistan has been pursuing for over half a century. <br /> <br /> In fact, the General was merely finding breathing space, waiting till his benefactor President Bush got re-elected. His gamble has paid off and he is, therefore, set for the next course of action. He is going to turn the heat on Kashmir. There is going to be a sudden spurt in terrorist violence across the State, including assassination attempts, massacre of civilians and attacks on the security forces. There are enough indications that terrorist training camps in POK have been quite active in the past few months, busy recruiting and training. Terrorist groups have been lying low but have been busy recouping and regrouping for a fresh onslaught. This is a fact which the world refuses to acknowledge. President Musharraf, despite his support of war on terrorism, has kept alive the terrorist infrastructure. <br /> <br /> A few facts about terrorism in, and by, Pakistan need to be clarified and emphasised. First, various terrorist and religious groups have come together in different combinations and hence are difficult to detect and destroy. Second, Al Qaeda has not only infiltrated these groups but also been using the infrastructure set up by these groups, like madarsas and mosques, to regroup after the bombing of Afghanistan in late 2001. Finally, many of the terrorist groups have been broken up by Pakistan's intelligence agencies under pressure from the US. <br /> <br /> However, the last point needs closer examination. Two of the most infamous terrorist groups, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Toiba, have splintered in the past three years. Both are banned by the US. It might seem a great victory for the war against terror. But in reality, the groups, by splintering, have only multiplied. Today, instead of one LeT, there are two splinter groups with similar objectives. Such mutations help terrorist groups to escape sanctions and operate below the radar level. To extend the argument, in relation to the LeT, the splinter groups have been consolidating their recruitment, funding and training during the past one year. <br /> <br /> More interesting is the case of United Jihad Council led by Syed Salahuddin, a Kashmiri terrorist who has been in operation for more than a decade without being either imprisoned or restricted by sanctions. Salahuddin is one of the lynchpins in Pakistan's Kashmir policy. He is the terror tap that General Musharraf once mentioned. Unlike Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, United Jihad Council is fully controlled and managed by the Pakistan Army. Salahuddin's Jihad Council, unlike Lashkar which claims to draw its sustenance from a particular Islamic school of thought based in Deoband, is purely a terror machine. <br /> <br /> Though Salahuddin has no religious affiliations, he is closely associated with religious parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami. He has no known sources of funding. There have never been reports of Salahuddin asking for donations, but he has been operating unhindered for the last several years, both in Pakistan and Srinagar. Nor does he have any known links with Lashkar or Jaish, except sharing the cause of spreading terror in Kashmir. This well-thought out policy of keeping a low profile has enabled Salahuddin to remain off the radar of international scrutiny till date. The Bush Administration has not factored in his terrorist group in the war against Terror, and neither has the Indian establishment while pursuing peace in Kashmir. <br /> <br /> A cursory analysis of some of the terrorist incidents this year clearly show the tactics the terrorist groups might employ in the days to come. The attacks will follow three clear patterns. First is the suicide attacks on security forces, particularly the para-military forces like the CRPF and the BSF. Four such incidents have already taken place this year on May 23, July 8, August 4 and November 4. Second is high-profile assassinations. The attempts on the lives of an MP, the Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and the chief of National Conference, Omar Abdullah, clearly points towards this strategy. And the last is the massacre like the one carried out on May 23, in which 30 persons were killed. <br /> <br /> There are reasons why the terrorist groups are targeting para-military forces and not the Army. In the past, the Army, a target of several assassination attempts, had responded quite strongly to such attacks by launching intensive counter-insurgency operations. Para-military forces, on the other hand, have limited mandate and fewer resources to take counter-insurgency measures. Policy makers need to address this issue urgently and not let terrorist groups take advantage of this flaw in the security matrix. <br /> <br /> There are also indications that infiltration from Pakistan has increased recently. In the first six days of November alone, the Army foiled four major infiltration attempts from across the LoC in which 11 militants, mostly Pakistani nationals, were killed. According to the Union Ministry of Home Annual Report 2004, Pakistan was reviving launching detachments, which were earlier closed and as many as 47 terrorists training camps have been established in POK, 26 in Pakistan and 10 in the Northern Areas. The report said as many as 13,000 messages were being passed on to terrorists every month through the 32 control stations clustered in six locations in POK and one in Pakistan. These developments are clearly indicative of Pakistan's strategy to keep Kashmir on the global agenda and help the US gain a foothold in the region. <br /> <br /> <strong> <font size="1">The author is Senior Fellow, South Asia Programme, and Director, Information Services, Observer Research Foundation.</font> </strong> <br /> <br /> Courtesy: Pioneer, New Delhi, November 10, 2004 <br /> <br /> <em>* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.</em>
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