Pak jihad against India
by Ramtanu Maitra on 01 Jul 2011 8 Comments

The killing of Osama bin Laden may not seriously affect the ongoing war in Afghanistan, but it could hasten the professional demise of Pakistan’s all-powerful army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Reports leaking out of Pakistan indicate that the eleven corps commanders, in whose collective name the army chief crushes Pakistan’s democratic forces from time to time, have turned against him because of his alleged cooperation with the United States. While Washington is expressing a great deal of concern over this development, it is also relevant to evaluate what it means for India.


One leaked report coming out of Pakistan’s highly-secretive security apparatus indicates that during a late-May meeting of the corps commanders with the army chief at Pakistan’s National Defence University, one officer stood up after Gen. Kayani’s address and challenged his policy of cooperation with the United States. The officer asked, “If they don’t trust us, how can we trust them?” according to Shaukat Qadri, a retired army brigadier and former president of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute. Qadri, who is an avowed India-hater, says General Kayani essentially responded: “We can’t.”


Paranoia over US-India relations


Behind the anti-US upsurge within the Pakistani military, the shadow of US-India relations looms large. The jihadi faction of the Pakistan military was willing to play ball with the US so long Washington remained indifferent to its relations with India. But this has changed. It has become evident to Rawalpindi (headquarters of the Pakistan army) in particular that the United States has abandoned the old habit of formulating its policy on the subcontinent putting India and Pakistan in the same category. Washington’s growing economic relations with India and some agreement with New Delhi on regional strategic matters, for whatever reason, has long been a matter of discomfort to Islamabad.


Islamabad is aware that Washington has now firmly hyphenated Pakistan with Afghanistan, giving rise to “Af-Pak” diplomatic activities. According to Washington, both Afghanistan and Pakistan are nations in turmoil that have harbored and sheltered anti-US elements with the intent to hurt American interests. The jihadi segment within the Pakistan military has also realized that the US will not condone further Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attacks against India. The US investigation of the Mumbai terrorist attack of November 2008 did not go down well with the Pakistan ISI. In addition, the jihadi faction within the Pakistani military is now convinced that it was the United States that brought India into Afghanistan, allowing it to invest heavily to win the hearts and minds of the Afghans and to spy on the Pakistanis.


The recent visit to Afghanistan by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, where he expressed his good wishes for Afghanistan’s “process of national reconciliation,” was read in Islamabad/ Rawalpindi as an Indian effort at the behest of Washington to open up channels for negotiations with the Taliban, Pakistan’s alleged assets. Manmohan Singh’s declaration that Osama’s death created a “new situation” further evidenced India’s interest in helping shape a peaceful future in Afghanistan. The jihadi faction of the Pakistani military, paranoid as it is, considers these Indian initiatives to have originated in Washington.


Jihadi military on the rise


Qadri’s anecdote aside, what is evident is that a large section of the Pakistani military, whose bread and butter has been to be virulently anti-India in order to stay in power and enjoy the benefits that flow with absolute authority, is becoming increasingly aligned with the terrorists and jihadis. This has been evident over the years. Those who had doubts about the growing power of uniformed jihadis should take note of the 22 May attack on Pakistan’s Mehran naval base. That attack not only led to the death of 11 Pakistani navy officers and destruction of two highly-prized P-3C Orion aircraft supplied by the United States, but made some of Pakistan’s mainstream media scream that it was an assault on the state of Pakistan.


It is apparent that while the attackers were skilled terrorists trained and armed in Pakistan under the watchful eyes of the military, it was certainly Pakistani military personnel who opened the doors and let fellow officers be killed and aircraft destroyed. This shows how much the jihadi military has gained ground in Pakistan and how ruthless it has become. This development poses a greater future threat to India than to the distant United States.


In earlier decades, Washington’s close relations with Pakistan were the cause of great uneasiness in India. That relationship was transactional by nature. Pakistan did the “dirty” work on behalf of the United States, and the Pakistan military got arms and cash in return. In maintaining this relationship, one US president after another sacrificed the much-vaunted values of democracy and tolerated Pakistan’s illicit nuclearisation and proliferation. Because of the nature of the relationship, Washington also looked the other way when the Pakistani military, as part of state policy, ran terrorists inside Kashmir to commit violence and challenge Indian security forces.


Washington did not endorse those acts, but refused to acknowledge and condemn them. It was convenient for Washington to do so in order to maintain its transactional ties with Pakistan. What we are observing now is not only a transition in the nature of the Pakistani military, but also a change in its handlers. The jihadis who are now foot soldiers of the Pakistani military draw succour from Saudi Arabia that promotes the virulent Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam (its national religion). Saudi money is being pumped into Pakistan to promote Wahhabism. Though secretive, the Saudis are quite indiscriminate about the methods used to achieve their ends. Any Sunni Muslim group willing to promote Wahhabism - whether through acts of terrorism or through Wahhabi education in madrassas or through peaceful preaching - gets aid from Riyadh and elsewhere in the Gulf.


Saudi foot soldiers


In Pakistan, the Saudis use the first two methods. Madrassas were set up in the 1980s in a concentrated way to train jihadis and suicide bombers to capture Kabul after the Soviet army left and US interest in Afghanistan waned. The Pakistani military, besides enjoying a fresh source of money from the Saudis, found that the Saudi-funded madrassa graduates were highly useful manpower to capture a divided Afghanistan in the midst of civil war waged by various groups of Afghans. It was Saudi money, the madrassa-trained jihadis, and the Pakistani military, that created the Taliban in Afghanistan.


But the primary interest of the Pakistan military, even before it was infested with jihadis, was to keep India out of Afghanistan. Pakistani strategists have perpetrated a hoax for years that Afghanistan must be controlled in Pakistan’s security interests. They say “strategic depth” must be secured in Afghanistan against any potential Indian aggression. The Indian bogie was also at the centre of Pakistan’s weaponization. Pakistan’s nuclear programme was sought to be sold around the world as a deterrent against potential Indian aggression. The Pakistani military brass, who were beneficiaries of arms and cash transfers from the United States during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, reached out to the jihadis, included them in their midst, and considered the whole as a tactically suitable arrangement. They found that no one, no ordinary Pakistani, was as committed and as driven against “Hindu India” as these jihadis.


The jihadis came from far and near, and all they wanted was what the Wahhabis demanded - to establish a caliphate throughout the world and impose Sharia. It was their anti-India zeal that the Pakistani military liked most. During this interim period, the Pakistani military used the national treasury and Saudi cash to set up hardcore anti-India terrorists who had only one goal - to commit terrorism inside India to force New Delhi to loosen its grip on Kashmir.


One other reading in Islamabad/ Rawalpindi was to create conditions that would force India to engage in a war with Pakistan. Such a development would then further the cause of the jihadis, almost the way the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 led to their proliferation decades later. Either because they did not have the wherewithal to understand the consequences of their actions, or their anti-India zeal was so intense that they did not care, the Pakistani brass landed themselves on a slippery slope. They did not realize a gentle push could cause their make-believe world to crumble. That push came with the US invasion of Afghanistan and with Washington publicizing its plan to eliminate the al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership.


Initially, Pakistan put up a front office for the Americans that was devoid of jihadis. But in the back, the jihadis were assembling. The Mehran base attack shows that the back-office uniformed jihadis of Pakistan are now pretty much calling the shots.


India, the jihadi target


This development means that India will have to prepare itself against a permanent enemy. That is not to say that this enemy will operate only from outside, which it will, if it hasn’t already; it will also build nests within India. India’s internal situation is highly unstable thanks to the visionless leadership that has held the reins in New Delhi for years. India’s borders have remained vulnerable, and hundreds of millions of Indians have been left out of the GDP growth process, becoming bitter and vengeful.


Once the Afghanistan war comes to an end or stalemates with the bulk of foreign forces withdrawn, the jihadis will focus against India, a potentially vulnerable target. The 26/11 carnage in Mumbai, in particular, made it evident that the jihadis have facilitators within India’s security and political system and elsewhere. In a country like India, a small amount of money goes a long way in buying facilitators.


All by themselves, the jihadis would not be able to cause much harm to India. Over the recent decades, a non-jihadi but anti-India Pakistani military working hand-in-glove with the jihadis did some damage, but it was contained. However, a jihadi Pakistani military working with jihadi-terrorists, with a single-minded focus on harming India, is quite a proposition to deal with.


The author is South Asian Analyst at Executive Intelligence Review News Services Inc.

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