Kashmir Turmoil: Proxy War is only a means to an end
by Anil Gupta on 04 Aug 2016 1 Comment

The latest revelation by Pakistani terrorist Bahadur Ali alias Saifullah, who was captured alive by the security forces in Kupwara sector, that he had met Hafiz Saeed twice in the Muzzaffarabad training camp, has cleared the mist surrounding the recent Kashmir turmoil. The involvement of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), a jihadi terror organisation, in the current impasse has been established beyond doubt.


A close scrutiny of the videos featuring Hafiz Saeed that have gone viral on the social media and his interviews to the Pakistani media have established the fact that he is the chief organiser of the current turmoil. His revelations, that include talking with Burhan Wani and the latter’s admission that “he is ready to die,” a few days before the Kokernag encounter in which he was killed, the telephonic call from Asiya Andrabi seeking help from Hafiz Saeed and Pakistani brothers, and the plan to help being finalised in just three days by the LeT, the presence of an Amir of LeT in the funeral procession of Burhan Wani, the seeking of Indian visa by Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), a cover outfit of LeT for carrying out relief operations in the Valley and collection of donations in name of Kashmiris by JuD volunteers in Pakistan, are indicative of the level of  involvement of LeT in the on-going unrest in the Kashmir Valley.


LeT, as mentioned earlier, is a jihadi terror organisation embedded in Salafi-Wahhabi ideology and subscribes to the philosophy of establishment of an Islamic Caliphate. Pakistan’s ISI is the main facilitator and coordinator for the fulfilment of this ambition of the jihadists. The proposed caliphate in South Asia is referred to as Caliphate of Khorasan. In order to achieve this aim, ISI has positioned its resources strategically.


While Afghan-centric terror outfits like Haqqani network, ISIS and Afghan Taliban operate from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, India-centric outfits operate both from the Western and the Eastern borders with India, with organisations like LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) operating from Punjab and POJK and ISIS, Al Qaeda in South Asia operating from Bangladesh. The ISI has succeeded to straddle India from both flanks, with the western flank more active in the current scenario.


Zia-ul-Haq, the Pakistani dictator, is credited with radicalising Pakistan and its Army. He is the author of the strategy of ‘bleeding India through thousand cuts’ and is the mastermind of ‘Operation Topaz’ (1989) to destabilise India. Kashmir was chosen as the battle ground and centre of gravity, ISI was the agency to supervise the operation. It all began with fuelling an insurgency followed by a proxy-war.


One of the major components of Operation Topaz was the radicalisation of Kashmir, while the Indian nation remained busy fighting the proxy-war. With the emergence of global terror outfits with the avowed aim of establishment of Islamic Caliphate, the ISI shifted the goalpost in Kashmir by including total Islamisation of society as the end result with the hope that an Islamised Kashmir will naturally be attracted towards Pakistan.


Unfortunately, despite enough indicators, the emerging threat continued to be ignored or underestimated. We failed to realise that the proxy-war is only a means to an end and not the end itself. Post 2010, there was decline in cross-border terrorism, but raising of Pakistani flags, celebration of independence day of Pakistan, anti-India tirade by Hurriyat leaders, rise of a new cult of local terrorists and unfolding of a new wave of militancy (‘New Militancy’) became more pronounced. Simultaneously, the Kashmiri landscape and social milieu was undergoing another type of change, Sufism was gradually sidelined by the radical Salafi-Wahhabi Islam coupled with mushrooming of mosques and madrasas (seminaries) with liberal funding of petro-dollars from Saudi Arabia and a few European nations duly sponsored by ISI. Zia was laughing in his grave as he could see his dream of radicalising Kashmir come true and ISI top brass was patting itself on the back for inching closer to establishing an “Islamic State” in Kashmir.


Has the present situation taken us by surprise? Were we too divorced from the ground reality or are we going to blame the intelligence apparatus for its failure? The answer is in the negative.


There were enough indicators especially after the emergence of ISIS and declaration of the Islamic caliphate by its chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who gave himself the title of Caliph. Defence analyst Alok Bansal had warned, “No doubt, it’s a major concern in terms of the country’s internal security. The IS jihadists have already announced a war in future from the soil of Khorasan that includes India. For the IS, their ultimate battle for global jihad will be on this land of Khorasan. They have also talked about Kashmir. The unfurling of IS flags will give a boost to the radicalisation in Kashmir valley, as more number of educated youth are joining militancy.”


Counter-terrorism analyst Anil Kamboj says, “It’s a matter of serious concern for Indian intelligence and internal security. The unfurling of IS flags doesn’t mean that they have made penetration in India, but it’s going to have an impact on local militants in Kashmir, who have been trying to control the valley since long. ISI through the Hurriyat leaders has been successful in creating disturbances in the valley. The IS flag is symbolic for the youths who are attracted to the IS ideology of brutal extremism.”


Even National Security Advisor Ajit Doval after his visit to Srinagar to take stock of the situation arising out of the unrest due to burning of an ISIS flag, had observed that the situation in Valley is not normal and radicalisation of educated Kashmiri youth by the militant outfits is a matter of great concern. Despite all this the state government and the Union Home Ministry remained in constant denial mode. Perhaps, they were looking for ISIS presence in the Valley, ignoring the fact that waiving of ISIS flags, though symbolic, was an indicator of  the ‘take over’ of Kashmir by the Salafi-Wahhabi radical Islamists.


Their assessment of no presence of ISIS was correct, but the conclusion that there was no spread of ISIS ideology was flawed because the ISIS and Salafi-Wahhabi ideologies were common, except that ISIS used brutal means to enforce its will. The ISI once again succeeded in hoodwinking our intelligence apparatus.


They ignored the fact that the presence of ISIS was not mandatory because all jihadi terror outfits share the common goal of ‘establishing supremacy of Salafi-Wahhabi Islam’ and ISI was an important cog in the wheel of jihadi terror. ISI had also succeeded in surreptitiously passing on the mantle of leadership to radicalised educated Kashmiri youth, reducing its dependence solely on the Hurriyat.


Let us come out of the misplaced notion that the current unrest in Kashmir is an outburst of anger by Kashmiris against the killing of Burhan Wani by security forces. Neither is it due to alienation of Kashmiris because of poor governance, lack of outreach by the elected representatives nor due to trust-deficit and sense of betrayal between the youth and the government. A new wave of militancy, proxy-war, mass protests and demand for ‘azaadi’ are only means for achieving the ultimate end of turning Kashmir into a hegemonic Islamic state duly aided and abetted by the Pakistani deep state.


Even Burhan Wani’s father in various interviews to media-persons admitted that his son was fighting for Islam. Any further delay in acknowledging the harsh reality will prove extremely dear. Hafiz Saeed is the visible face of ISI and doing its bidding.


Freezing of foreign aid to Salafi mosques, stopping the flow of ‘Hawala’ money, audit of madrasas including their modernisation and prevention of the misuse of religious places for anti-national activities as well as stopping the broadcasting of ‘taranas’ (songs/ballads) of ‘azaadi’ from the ramparts of mosques are some of the immediate measures required. The State has to be firm in its resolve. Half-hearted measures will only complicate matters further.  Last but not the least, the deep trust that Hafiz Saeed enjoys in the Pakistani deep state confirms complicity of the deep state. India should demand immediate UN sanctions against Pakistan and its declaration as a ‘terror state’.


Brig. Gupta is a Jammu based veteran and security and strategic analyst. His email is anil5457@gmail.com

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