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Fuelling a proxy war

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    Fuelling a proxy war

    Fuelling a Proxy War
    Pakistan is Paying a Ruinous Price
    IT should now be obvious to India and the international community that General Pervez Musharraf is not likely to restore democracy in Pakistan and retire to play golf for quite a while to come. Pakistanis, having
    got used to misgovernance and military rule for nearly half the period
    of their independent existence, are not likely to rise in revolt against
    army rule. In any case, India can do precious little to influence events
    in Pakistan. Therefore, India's strategy should be to assess carefully
    the likely course of developments in Pakistan and their positive and
    negative impact on India and Indian security and to work out steps to
    limit any possible damage to this country. This has to be done without
    any sentimentality, in a cold and calculated manner. While some amount
    of public relations rhetoric on democracy is in order, our bilateral
    relationship with Pakistan should be guided solely by India's national

    Direct Experience

    General Pervez Musharraf has had first-hand direct experience of what
    happens when he tries out military engagements with the Indian Army. He
    might try to overreach himself and take the Indian Army by surprise.

    However, when the Indian Army gets its act together, Pakistan finds it
    is not even able to give hundreds of its soldiers the decent burial they
    deserved and had earned in valiant combat. Of all the four military
    defeats suffered by Pakistan, the Kargil one is the most humiliating.

    The release of 93,000 prisoners, honourably taken captive at Dacca in
    December, 1971, was not as much of a humiliation compared to hundreds of
    soldiers dying without even being acknowledged. This experience could
    make General Musharraf a sober person and compel him to concentrate on
    attempts to stem the rot in Pakistan's economy and avert its sliding
    into the status of ``failed state''.

    While that would be a more sensible option, he might choose to wreak
    vengeance and try out yet another misadventure against India. In some
    cultures, vendetta is one of the core strands of societal tradition. One
    hopes that having been born in Delhi, General Musharraf is free of such
    tribal attitudes. As seen from the address of the Indian Prime Minister
    to the combined commanders' conference, and his press conference at
    Lucknow, India is wary of the new Pakistani regime's next moves. In the
    light of the Kargil experience, the Indian Armed Forces are better
    prepared and continue to improve their capabilities to deal with the
    proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir.

    The Pakistanis are under the impression, and some Indians too unfortunately share that perception, that the proxy war conducted by
    Islamabad has either been cost-free or is of relatively lower cost to
    them compared to what India has to spend. While there is a large element
    of truth in this, this is not absolutely correct. There are both direct
    and indirect costs to Pakistan. The majority of the infiltrator
    terrorists are mercenaries who have to be paid fees of Rs 3-5 lakhs for
    contractual services as terrorists for a short period of a few months in
    the Kashmir Valley. There are costs involved in training these hired
    killers, equipping them, keeping track of them in the Valley and staying
    in communication with them. Nearly two thirds get killed. There are
    costs of compensation for their families. These are direct costs which
    no doubt are only a small fraction of the cost India has to bear to keep
    the marauders' activities under control. There are, however, indirect
    costs to Pakistan which are quite substantial.

    Economic Decline
    The first and foremost is the punitive firing by the Indian forces
    across the Line of Control. Neelam Valley bears the full brunt of it and
    even in Kargil Pakistanis do suffer considerable punishment. Second, the
    additional Indian force deployment in Kashmir does exact a price in
    terms of Pakistani force deployment. Given that Pakistan's GDP is one
    sixth India's, Pakistan bears a much heavier proportion of the burden.
    Third, the miscreants who manage to get back after a mercenary stint in
    the Kashmir Valley become a major problem for Pakistani society as they
    fan the flames of sectarian and other violence, including large-scale
    killings. They are like tigers, which having tasted human blood, turn
    into man-eaters. They exact the maximum penalty from Pakistani society
    and the state for its proxy war in Kashmir.

    While Pakistani army generals, politicians and civil servants may not
    have computed the true costs of the proxy war in Kashmir for their
    country, one hopes the newly-imported American-trained economists hired
    by General Musharraf will be able to undertake this task in a
    comprehensive fashion. It is not a mere coincidence that the period of
    proxy war in Kashmir and Pakistan's steady economic decline and slide
    towards a ``failed state'' status are coterminus. No doubt the proxy war
    is not the only reason for Pakistan's misfortunes, but it is one of the
    important causes and an easily remedied one. If Pakistan continues in
    its ways, the minimum defensive measures India will adopt would push up
    the costs to Pakistan even more.

    Islamic Image

    This is the message India has to get across to the General. It has to be
    done in three ways. First, the Indian information campaign through the
    electronic media should be rigorously pursued. Television and the
    Internet are extremely powerful channels of communication. Second, third
    country diplomatic channels should be used. India should take the
    initiative to talk to western powers and Japan about a common strategy
    on nursing Pakistan back to democratic health. Third, the international
    financial institutions and the international business community should
    be mobilised to project to Pakistani rulers (who are today generals) the
    true costs of their confrontationist policy towards India and its impact
    on Pakistan's economy and society.

    General Zia-ul-Haq had the knack of talking more about Nizam-e- Mustafa
    than in actually implementing extremist Islamic policies. General

    Musharraf too may indulge in various gimmicks to nurture his Islamic
    image but he should be careful about what he does on the ground. By this
    time, he should have realised the true state of Pakistan's economy and
    the nature of the obscurantist and feudal elite which makes any sensible
    economic governance impossible. In order to pursue this three-pronged
    strategy, India should have no hesitation in engaging Pakistani in an
    official- level dialogue.

    Since the beginning of the recent Kashmir crisis, Pakistan has continued its involvement in border exchanges with India and has supported Indian separatist movements through the Pakistani ISI. There are currently three fronts on which India and Pakistan are carrying out a low-intensity conflict: Kashmir, Assam, and Gujarat/Sindh []. In Kashmir, border shelling and infiltration by Moslem militants continues. In Assam, the ISI has been working with separatists in a recent bombing campaign against Indian rule. Tensions flared recently along the Gujarat/Sindh border with the downing of a Pakistani reconnaissance plane, though India claims the region had been the site of multiple incursions by militants prior to the downing.

    The ISIís actions in India and its military associations with Moslem militants are provocations that the Indian state simply cannot continue to ignore. The downing of the reconnaissance plane illustrates Indiaís dwindling patience toward Pakistan. While Pakistan is using the Indian attack on its aircraft as a way to repaint India as the aggressor, its own cross-border operations fly in the face of this argument. Pakistanís continued operations in India raise the question of what, actually, Pakistan is trying to do. With the current correlation of forces, a full-scale Pakistani invasion seems improbable at best. In fact, Indian military strength heavily outweighs Pakistanís. There are an estimated 980,000 active Indian troops with another 800,000 in reserve. In comparison, there are an estimated 562,000 active Pakistani soldiers with 500,000 reservists. India boasts 3600 tanks to Pakistanís 2200 and the Indian Air Force maintains 890 fighting aircraft as compared to Pakistanís 620. Pakistani troops are already committed in Afghanistan on the side of the Taleban militia, leaving Islamabad facing the possibility of waging two simultaneous wars on multiple fronts. In addition, India has the overwhelming advantage in simple numbers, with almost one billion people; Pakistanís population is estimated at 135 million.

    This being the case, the question is why Pakistan continues to provoke India. Pakistan may want Kashmir for ethnic and religious reasons and to provide strategic depth for Islamabad and northern Pakistan, but it only reaps those benefits after seizing the disputed state. Until then, a war for Kashmir puts Islamabad nearly on the front lines. Actions by the ISI, Pakistani troops, and Pakistani-based Moslem militants are bringing India and Pakistan closer and closer to a state of war. Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has used Pakistanís aggression as a way to increase support before the upcoming elections and to increase Indiaís military arsenal. This, along with the international support India received during the Kashmir crisis, makes it illogical for Pakistan to continue to goad India into another confrontation.

    While it may appear that the Pakistani government has lost its collective mind, we believe the more likely explanation is that it has simply lost a degree of command and control over its forces. Pakistanís decision to withdraw from Kashmir in response to growing international consternation left the military humiliated, the militant Moslems feeling abandoned and betrayed, and the ISI in deals with Indian separatists that were left unfulfilled. The ISI has continued operations with separatists, primarily in Assam but also in other places, even though the Kashmir conflict is over. The ISI was working with the separatists to gather intelligence of Indian troop movements in exchange for arms and tactical training. While there may be no immediate tactical use for the knowledge, the ISI has remained involved in inciting unrest in India.

    The Moslem militants were the most affected by Pakistanís decision to withdraw. Rather than fully accept Pakistanís decision, however, they have continued operations, albeit on a smaller scale, against Indian border outposts. While the Pakistani military has generally disengaged from the Kashmir infiltration, elements within the military remain involved. Overall, there is a general loss of coordination among the Pakistani government, the military, the ISI and the militants that had been present during the Kashmir crisis. While the Pakistani government was able to withdraw most of these elements from Kashmir, it has not yet regained full control or trust. This lack of control threatens to incite a larger war between India and Pakistan.


      Arif Jamal spends time among the holy warriors of the Tehreekul Mujahideen, a jihadi group involved in Kashmir which is undergoing a process of Pakistanisation

      Eight-year-old Allahditta is perhaps the youngest mujahid among those fighting or aspiring to fight the Indian army in the Occupied Kashmir. Fully motivated for jihad, he is already as well trained in the military craft as some of the grown up men standing alongside him.

      Allahditta is waiting for the day he will turn 18 and will be allowed to cross what the holy warriors call the 'khooni lakeer' and 'teach the Indian army a lesson'. Once the first battle has been won and an Islamic government established in Kashmir, he plans to move on to some other front elsewhere in the world. Jihad is a permanent occupation for the young boy and he has no intentions of getting education or learning a craft for making a living.

      At an age when children start going to school, Allahditta was brought to the Ma'askar Abdullah bin Mubarik by his father. Over time, he has been perfecting his military skills. During my recent visit, he exhibited his skills ably, unruffled by a hand injury he was carrying. Displaying grit and commitment at such a young, he is a source of inspiration for his comrades in arms.

      Sprawled over a beautiful valley in Mansehra, Ma'askar Abdullah bin Mubarik is the only training camp for the holy warriors run by Tehreekul Mujahideen. Between 50 and 100 mujahideen can train here with eight teachers and instructors at a time. The camp is named after the great Muslim scholar who collected the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on the subject of jihad. Bin Mubarik's book Kitabul Jihad or The book of Jihad is extremely popular among most Islamist parties engaged in Kashmir.

      Tehreekul Mujahideen traces back its origins to the movement with a similar name launched in 1826 by Syed Ahmed Barelvi and Shah Ismail Shaheed. This was the first major movement led by the Ahle Hadith of the subcontinent, whose number at that time was insignificant. The leaders of that movement were heading towards Kashmir when they were martyred in 1831 at Balakot.

      The ranks of Ahle Hadith, even though still a small group compared to others involved in Kashmir jihad, have grown unprecedentedly during the Kashmir jihad which began in 1989.

      In the beginning, the Tehreekul Mujahideen fighters comprised only freedom fighters from the Occupied Kashmir. The Pakistanisation of the group started when another small party called Jamiat Ahle Hadith Sindh merged its military wing, Harkatul Dawat wal Jihad, with Tehreekul Mujahideen in 1996.

      At present, Tehreekul Mujahideen is headed by Maulana Abdullah Ghazali, a founder member of the organisation. The amir of the Jamiat Ahle Hadith Sindh, Allama Abdullah Nasir Rehmani, holds the ceremonial post of the sarprast or the patron-in-chief of the organisation. However, for all practical purposes, the amir of the base camp, Sheikh Jamilur Rehman, is the man in charge of the Tehreek.

      Tehreekul Mujahideen's association with Jamiat Ahle Hadith Sindh explains the presence of large number of recruits belonging to that province. The party is making every effort to expand its support base, with some success. It has created pockets of support in industrially growing cities of Sialkot and Gujranwala. The two cities provide funds along with manpower. .

      Ahle Hadith being a relatively smaller group in Pakistan, Tehreekul Mujahideen cannot be very particular about which sect its new recruits belong to. But there is one condition attached, the new recruits must convert and become Ahle Hadith. The trainers at the Ma'askar have their task cut out; they are required to instill in the mujahideen the rituals and beliefs of the Ahle Hadith sub-sect.

      Mujahideen start their day with the Tahajjud prayers (offered in the small hours of the day) followed by Fajr or dawn prayers. After the Fajr prayers, they learn to read the Holy Quran. Understanding the Holy Quran is not necessary although some of them do try to study Arabic to understand not only the Holy Quran but also the books of Ahadith (sayings of the Prophet). All of them go for physical training before they can have their breakfast at 800.

      After the breakfast, they go into the surrounding valley area and the mountains for drills in which live ammunition is used. The arms include Kalashnikovs, hand-grenades, sniper rifles, RPG-7, rocket and mines. Lately the stress has been on the remote-control mines.

      Like in any real military training camp, the trainees are not only taught the use of these weapons, they are also lectured about the history and the theory of weapons.

      There is a break between 1200 and 1500 for lunch as well as Zuhr prayers. After that, the military training resumes and continues till sunset.

      The style of training is very professional. All recruits are required to undergo the basic minimum military training stretched over 21 days. The trainees can be as old as 80 years or as young as Allahditta. However, those who are sent for jihad are between the age of 17 and 30. They have to undergo an advanced military and commando training before they are allowed to enter the occupied areas. The advanced military and commando training may last between three and six months.

      The religious discipline at the Ma'askar is very rigorous. Religious rituals are required to be observed regularly. Failure to attend prayer congregations entails harsh punishment. There is dars or religious lesson after nearly all prayers. The topics for these lessons include the religious position of jihad, the life, wars and the person of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the lives of his companions, the belief in the oneness of Allah, the evils of modern life such as video games, the cinema, the TV, drugs, alcohol, the life of Syed Ahmed Shaheed and the life of Abdullah bin Mubarik. Tehreekul Mujahideen warriors are supposed to have at least some basic religious education as well.

      The current strategy of Pakistanisation of the party has saved it from dying a slow death, a fate many small groups engaged in Kashmir have met. This, however, has not given Tehreekul Mujahideen the vitality to grow at a pace which would have turned it into a major group numerically. The leaders of the group are on the lookout for fresh recruits as they go along training their wards as best as they can.