India should match its response to Musharraf’s speech by action, not by rhetoric

By

Maj. Gen. S. C. N. Jatar, Retd

The anxious face-off on the borders is likely to prolong although Musharraf has said that he is banning Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad and that he will not allow Pakistani territory to be used for terrorist activities. Musharraf is actually buying time and the Indian government’s predictable reaction "We would assess the effectiveness of the commitment only by the concrete action taken" is also no more than gaining time. Only astute political acumen and sound military leadership can now tilt the balance in India’s favour. Else, it will remain a permanent blot on India.

Musharraf has not disallowed terrorist activities from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. He has reiterated Pakistan’s moral, political and diplomatic support to the "Kashmir Cause". He has said, "Kashmir runs in our blood." Judge Musharraf by his past record of duplicity (supporting the international coalition and clandestinely allowing Pakistani regulars to fight for the Taliban is just one example). Evaluate his intention by his record of permitting Jaish and Lashkar to shift base to POK.

His Kashmir policy remains the same considering his pronouncements, "Let human rights organizations, Amnesty International, the international media and U.N. peacekeepers be allowed to monitor activities of the Indian occupation forces and mediation by the US for the Kashmir issue" and "The Kashmir problem needs to be resolved in accordance with the United Nations resolutions." He suffers from terrible amnesia because he completely forgets the carnage committed by Pakistan based terrorists and the ethnic cleansing of the pundits of Kashmir. He has imposed a virtual iron curtain on developments in POK and the Northern Areas to keep world media and public opinion in the dark about the real situation there. For nearly two years the world was not aware of the massacre of the Shias in Gigot in 1998 by the tribal hordes of bin Laden instigated by Musharraf. The world was ignorant of the demonstrations all over POK in 2000 against the proposal of the military junta to raise the height of the Mangle dam to benefit the farmers of Punjab. The Amnesty International's report on the Pakistani ban on pro-independence groups/individuals contesting elections in POK has hardly received any publicity. Amazingly, he misleads the world when he talks of UN resolutions because the UN has clearly said that Pakistan has no role to play in any referendum and that Pakistan has to withdraw its troops completely from POK.

Key constituents in the Pakistani army and the ISI have encouraged Jihadi groups.. Musharraf did not broach any corrective actions against these elements who continue to shield the Taliban. A bizarrely distressing example was when Maulana Masood Azhar was freed and permitted by the ISI to establish the Jaish although his freedom originated from a crime – that of hijacking IC-814. He did not either announce criminal proceedings against Azhar for hijacking, albeit in Pakistani courts.

What is Musharraf gaining time for? Foremost, he is pleasing the US so that he continues in office after elections in October 2002. Second, he is counting on the current administration in Afghanistan collapsing after the Loya Jirga so that the Taliban being sheltered presently could come to the fore. He is banking on their support to create terrorism in J&K from bases within POK. Importantly, he is parrying an attack by Indian forces. That is why all this hype of "Give time to Musharraf to implement what he says".

From all accounts, the mobilisation is like a "flag march" and government is exerting only political pressure. The only options left now in this regard are to severe diplomatic ties with Pakistan, abrogate the 1950 Indus Waters Treaty and end its most favoured nation status. India is gaining time to complete the mobilisation of the defence forces currently in full swing. The usual glitches that have arisen have to be overcome. Then, the government cannot appear to give way to Pakistani threats and US pressure at the UP elections. However, the questions in the minds of the public are whether the government would stand down after the UP elections?

If India now backs out, it would be a terrible blow to its image, its pride as a nation and its psyche. The only option is to plan a "powerful retribution strike" with a limited objective of capturing an important communication centre in Pakistan. "Limited" because India would not get more than four to six days before a ceasefire is declared. "Communication centre" because it will hurt Pakistan and show Indian superiority in the selection of an objective, political insight and good military leadership. The other alternative to send special forces to attack terrorist camps in POK is no longer there because there are no terrorist camps in POK now, neither does Pakistan need any with fleeing Taliban to substitute. Launching a large-scale ground attack to capture strategic objectives in POK across the LoC without fear of UN intervention, would prove costly in time and casualties with the inherent danger of Pakistan capturing similar terrain on the Indian side.

Much has been made of Indian superiority over Pakistan in air, armour and artillery. It is not the overall superiority that would matter in a short swift war but the skill of the Indian political leadership to lay down a simple clear-cut aim to the defence forces and the ability of the Indian military command to execute a swift decisive operation.

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January 14, 2002

a. Pakistan has not yet rejected the request for political asylum of Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban

ambassador to Pakistan. Pakistan had asked Zaeef to leave the country but no time frame was give. There are

already reports of Al Qaeda and Taliban seeking refuge in Pakistan in large numbers.

b. Al Rashid Trust is active despite the ban imposed by the military government. The Trust’s mouthpiece is

publishing appeals to Muslims in Pakistan to extend financial and material aid to suffering Afghans. As per a

report in Asia Times, the Al Rashid Trust is closely linked to Jaish. Due to the freeze ordered by the State Bank

of Pakistan, the Trust has opened new accounts in the names of individuals.

c. After the killing of Al Badr chief Hafiz Ehsan Ali (also known as Dr. Nayeem), Engineer Jamal has been

appointed as the new chief indicating the revival of Al Badr.

d. Osama and Taliban supporters have formed a new terrorist group called Jandullah (Thanks to Allah).

According to a report, Jandullah’s network has already been established in he Arab states, Pakistan, India,

Bangladesh and some European countries. A person called Shahbaz Khan in Pakistan is heading Jandullah.