Shifting the Mujahadeen from Afghanistan to Kashmir
By B. Raman, director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai, India; retired additional secretary, Research and Analysis Wing (India's external espionage agency).
Afghanistan marked an important landmark in the evolution of covert action techniques. It was a proxy war, partly overt, partly covert, to make the Soviet troops bleed through the use of surrogates, without the direct involvement of U.S. troops.
Conscious encouragement of religious fanaticism was used as a covert action tool. Past covert actions of Western intelligence agencies were projected in ideological terms (democracy vs. communism), those in Afghanistan were projected in religious terms (Islam vs. communism). Jehad [religious war] was brought out of the closet of medieval times and used against the "evil empire" of communism, without a careful examination of its long-term implications for peace and stability in the world.
In their eagerness to take full advantage of the entrapment of Soviet troops in Afghanistan, Western intelligence agencies reverted to pre-1970s concepts, which viewed any means as good means for achieving a national security objective. Even the production and smuggling of heroin were encouraged to make the proxy war at least partly self-financing and to promote addiction amongst Soviet troops.
As a result of these ill-advised actions, Islamic jehad became a multi-headed hydra, striking here, there and everywhere. No country, with a sizeable Muslim population, has been able to escape its ravages. The Islam vs. communism clash has been replaced by an Islam vs. Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism clash.
The long-term objective of Pakistan's Army of Islam, vis-...-vis India, is no longer the acquisition of territory in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). It is to make the subcontinent safe for the spread of Islam by weakening Hinduism, by debilitating the Indian state and paving the way to restoring the Mughal state. This is an illusion, but illusions can cost lives and suffering. What is in danger is not just the future of J&K as an integral part of India, but the future of India as a secular, politically pluralistic and economically prosperous state.
Pakistan's objective of debilitating the Indian state does not date from its experience in the Afghan war of the 1980s. This has nothing to do with the two-nation theory, or the unfinished agenda of India's partition in 1947, as Pakistan describes its quest for J&K.
It has to do with a mindset riddled with complexes, a permanent hostility to India, a compulsive urge to take advantage of every difficulty faced by India, to keep the Indian military bleeding and a burning desire to prevent India's emergence as a major regional power.
Pakistan's proxy war against India began in the 1950s, when it started training and arming insurgents in India's northeast. Pakistan suspended this after the humiliating defeat of its army in 1971 and started it again in Punjab after General Zia-ul-Haq seized power in 1977.
What is new about the latest phase of its proxy war in J&K, and other parts of India, is the use against the Indian military of expertise, experience, arms, ammunition and other tools acquired under the supervision of the CIA in Afghanistan. What is equally new is the use of the clandestine Army of Islam, of Afghan War vintage, without the direct involvement of Pakistan's army.
The diversion of this Army of Islam from the battlefields of Afghanistan to J&K serves three purposes:
It keeps the Indian military and civilians bleeding without the Pakistan's military suffering casualties.
It keeps fanatical jehadis dying at the hands of the Indian military, thereby preventing their return to Pakistan and their clamouring for a Taliban-type rule there. In the Pakistan Army's perception, the longer the jehadis keep fighting and dying in India, the longer it is able to prevent a possible Talibanisation of Pakistan.
It provides a training and motivating force and a training ground for Muslim extremist elements from other parts of India, just as it functioned in the 1980s as a training and motivating force in Afghanistan for Muslims wanting to take up arms against the state.
The post-1989 phase of Pakistan's proxy war has an overt and covert components. The overt component relates to its political, moral and diplomatic support to indigenous Kash-miri organisations, its orchestration of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, its psychological war against India on human rights and other issues and its attempts to internationalise the issue. The covert component is about letting loose its Army of Islam against the Indian Security Forces and civilians.
Source: "Counter Proxy War," Sept. 11, 2001. Online at: http://www.subcontinent.com/sapra.html