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Terrorised for how long?

After the military coup in October 1999, there has been a substantial increase in the number of incidents of Islamist fundamentalist terro...

Written by Gurmeet Kanwal |
January 28, 2000

After the military coup in October 1999, there has been a substantial increase in the number of incidents of Islamist fundamentalist terrorism sponsored by Pakistan. Daring attacks on the camps of security forces in recent weeks and wanton acts of terrorism against soft targets such as train passengers bear witness to the concerted efforts being made by the Islamist terrorists operating in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and their ISI handlers to enhance the level of `proxy war’ in keeping with Pakistan’s strategy of `bleeding India through a thousand cuts’.

Three issues underpinning the present wave of terrorism need to be clearly understood if reasoned responses are to be formulated. Firstly, most of the terrorists now operating in J&K are foreign mercenaries and not `Kashmiri freedom fighters’ as Pakistan has been unsuccessfully trying to convince the world. Secondly, the present generation of fundamentalist Islamists, inspired by Osama bin Laden and the success of the Taliban experiment, is more motivated,better trained and equipped. Thirdly, sporadic incidents of terrorism against widely dispersed targets by motivated `suicide squads’ cannot be completely prevented.

How, then, should the Indian state apparatus fight the menace of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in J&K and elsewhere? The experience gained over ten years suggests that a reactive counter-insurgency policy, limited to military action against the militants within India’s borders, cannot eliminate insurgency. India’s counter-terrorism strategy needs to become proactive to reach across the country’s border with Pakistan to eliminate the problem from its roots.

It has been estimated that the ISI spends over Rs 5 crore per month to sustain its nefarious programmes in J&K. This does not include the arms, ammunition, explosives and equipment that are provided to terrorist organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. These have to be paid for in valuable foreign exchange. Obviously, a considerably large amount of expenditure is being incurred by the Pakistangovernment and various terrorist outfits to sponsor the so-called jihad in Kashmir. Pakistan’s doddering economy cannot possibly support such expenditure. It is well known that the ISI had surreptitiously siphoned off up to 40 to 50 percent of the large quantities of weapons supplied by the CIA for use by the Afghan mujahideen and that these weapons have eventually found their way into J&K.

However, it is not as well known that towards the end of the Afghan resistance against Russian occupation, `mullah warlords’ had taken over the cultivation and processing of poppy along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and that since then the illicit trade in narcotics has been generating hefty profits. These are being used to finance terrorism in J&K and Taliban in Afghanistan. This vicious politician-mullah-ISI-army racket suits the ruling elite in Pakistan and is a major cause of continuing conflict in Afghanistan and terrorism in Kashmir. Unless this enabling cause is eliminated, Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in J&Kwill continue unabated. India cannot do this alone. India needs to convince the international community to join hands with it to obtain UN Security Council approval to launch an international operation to eliminate the source of poppy.

Tarns-LoC, proactive measures need to be initiated to raise the cost for the ISI and the Pakistan army to train, equip and infiltrate foreign mercenaries into J&K. In military terms these could include raids on terrorist camps; ambushing of army convoys; missile, rocket and artillery attacks on headquarters and administrative installations; the blowing up of bridges, culverts, power stations and other infrastructural facilities supporting army deployments and punitive artillery assaults on Pakistani posts through which infiltration takes place.

Simultaneously, new diplomatic initiatives should be launched to form a common front with major democracies against terrorism and to encourage the UN to designate Pakistan as a terrorist state.

The author is a Senior Fellow atthe Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi

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