Part 1-The Jammu and Kashmir Theatre


Lt. Gen. Eric A. Vas [Retd]

The concept of religious groups having the right to claim a separate national identity has never been accepted by India, which succumbed to Muslim League bullying tactics and accepted the Partition of India in order to avoid bloodshed.  In 1947, there was no question of Pakistan having the right to Jammu & Kashmir [J&K] merely because it is a Muslim majority state. When tribal raiders, sponsored by Pakistan and lead by regular army officers, overran the state and almost reached Srinagar, the Maharaja signed the instrument of accession and joined India. He then handed over the administration of the State to the popular Muslim leader Sheikh Abdullah

When the Indian armed forces were flown into Srinagar, there was overwhelming public support in the Valley for India.  While the raiders were being swept back into Pakistan, the Government in Delhi, an aggrieved party, made a formal complaint to the UN Security Council, which named Pakistan as the aggressor. The UN ordered a cease fire and ordered the withdrawal of Pakistani troops and raiders from J&K.  This was to be followed by a UN-supervised plebiscite to decide the will of the people.  The Cease Fire was accepted, but the other two provisions of the UN Resolution were never implemented...

At that time, Pakistan became an ally of the US in its confrontation with the Soviet Union.  It received massive military aid from the US.  Misjudging its strength, successive governments in Pakistan fought two more wars against India. In the Indo-Pak War of 1971, Pakistan suffered a crushing defeat. Over 92,000 of their officers and men were taken prisoner. East Pakistan was renamed Bangladesh. By then, Pakistan had come to realise that they could not defeat India in a conventional war.

In the early 80s, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan resulted in a fresh US-Pak alliance with renewed military aid.  Pakistani officers and men had an opportunity to lead Afghan insurgents in their successful guerrilla war against Soviet forces. Pakistani strategists asked themselves, “If we could defeat a super power in Afghanistan, why not adopt the same tactics and defeat the Indian Army in J&K?”  This simplistic view overlooked the important fact that in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union was fighting against an angry anti-Soviet Afghan people, backed by the US and Pakistan. The situation in J&K is quite different. Ignoring this fact, they began to launch well-trained guerrilla fighters across the line of control.   Contrary to Pakistani expectations, there was no popular uprising in J&K and the Indian Army proved to be a tough opponent.  Moreover, when the Cold War ended, Pakistan was no longer a front line US ally against the Russians, and was no longer the recipient of generous US economic and military aid.

Nevertheless, Pakistan continued to wage a low intensity proxy war in J&K.  The aim is to win Kashmir Valley.  The tactics used is cross border terrorism by foreign militants in the guise of freedom fighters. The propaganda line adopted to sustain this war and win internal support and international sympathy is that "Pakistan has been cheated. This Muslim-majority State should have acceded to Pakistan under the terms of the partition in 1947. India is using its armed forces to suppress Kashmiri Muslims who are demanding the right for self-determination.  India is afraid to permit a UN supervised plebiscite to ascertain the wishes of the people."

However propaganda could not conceal that Pakistan's economy was in a hole with reserves of barely $3 billion and big deficits in goods and services.  Moreover, international TV programmes depicted India's booming life style.  More importantly it showed how Indian Muslims were playing an equal and sometimes dominating role in every sphere of activity: social, political, military, in sports, in art, music and the film industry.  This convinced many Pakistanis that Muslims in India were not being treated as second class citizens. They began questioning the relevance of Partition. Some recalled that on his death bed Jinnah had regretted the formation of Pakistan and called it "the greatest blunder of my life." Pakistani morale on the home front began to fall.

Elected politicians in Pakistan, conscious of public opinion, wanted a rapprochement with India.  Military leaders and fundamentalists were determined to prevent this.  Every time there was a move towards friendship, the military organised a coup, deposed their elected Prime Minister and justified their actions on the grounds of security. They proclaimed that India was trying to undo Partition and make it a client state. They used the fear of India to unify the country.  They also adopted the slogan "Islam in danger" in order to progressively Islamicise the armed forces and society. This enabled them to retain a façade of popular support.

However, the practice of clinging to political power by appealing to religious sentiments saw the rise in Pakistan of intolerant fundamentalism, which resulted in suppression of Ahmediyas, who were branded as non-Muslims. This was followed by an increase in sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shias.   Moreover, nothing could conceal the steady downward slide of the country's economy. Nevertheless, General Musharraf continued using militant groups to carry out acts of terrorism across the Line of Control in J&K.

After the 11 September 2001 attack in New York, General Musharraf had no option but to join the US-led coalition in the fight against international terrorism.  This decision meant abandoning a five-year old policy of support for the Taliban government in Afghanistan, and providing military bases on Pakistani soil for the American attack on al-Qaeda terrorists and their Taliban hosts.  In consequence, another hard decision had to be taken to crack down on militant fundamentalists inside Pakistan who support the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and form the backbone of terrorists operating within J&K.  These militants also want to oust pro-American Musharraf from Pakistan.

In taking these decisions, General Musharraf had to first deal with powerful generals within his armed forces who opposed his policies.  He sacked General Mahmood Ahmad, Chief of the Inter Services Intelligence [ISI] directorate.  He next sacked the deputy chief of the army staff, General Mussafar Usmani, an Islamist who favoured a less pro-American stance.  Both these officers were personally close to the President, having jointly carried out the coup against the government of Nawaz Sharif in October 1999 after Mr Sharif sacked General Musharraf while he was out of the country.

The bold decisions that the General has taken so far have proved to be a boon to his country.  As a reward, governments and international banks have rescheduled his country's debts over 30 years, reduced tariff barriers against Pakistani textile exports to America and the EU.  Governments have nudged donors, including the IMF and the World Bank and the Asia Development Bank to provide soft loans for restructuring the economy and boosting Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves.

Moreover, America has removed all sanctions against Pakistan, which were imposed in 1990 when the government in Islamabad was deemed to have crossed the line into nuclear proliferation.  It has provided $600 million in economic assistance for poverty alleviation, promised to try to write of its $1 billion bilateral debt, allow the Pakistani Army to buy military parts and spares for its ageing American weapons systems and restore its military to military contacts.

General Musharraf's is attempting to assume the role of a statesman rather than a mutinous soldier.  However, the threat of a fundamentalist backlash at home against him and his pro-Western and anti-fundamentalist supporters remains real.  Attacks by Pakistani terrorist groups on J&K's State Assembly and later on India's Parliament on 13 December 2001 were apparently carried out by defiant terrorists.  Their aim was to prove that their groups are beyond Musharraf's control, and to provoke a war between India and Pakistan in order to undermine Musharraf's regime.  The plan misfired in Delhi thanks to the prompt reactions of Indian security men and good luck.  Subsequently, India has mobolised its armed forces, which are presently deployed on the border.  [But imagine what would have been India's response if the Vice-President had been killed, the main entry doors blown up and about 50 MPs gunned down.]

India's current political and military responses to the Pakistani-sponsored low intensity war, which is taking place in J&K are on the right lines.  India declares that it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons, but that it is prepared to give a befitting response to any Pakistani nuclear threat. India has stressed that it is prepared to discuss any issue, including J&K with Pakistan, but only when it abandons its support of cross border terrorism. Meanwhile our security forces continue to intercept intruders, deal with armed terrorists, and the government attempts to improve the administration and encourage dissidents to join the political system.




Part 2- The Problem of Internal Security


The internal challenge that has faced India since independence is to maintain its traditional policy of unity in diversity while empowering the under privileged, and finding more room for equality and individual freedom.  Pakistan dreams of India being further partitioned into three or four parts. So while our security forces fight in J&K and our Armed Forces remain mobilised along the international border, Pakistan is busy directing a second "war" against India. That “war” is not being fought with weapons or for territorial gain. The aim is to undermine India's unity and its democratic system in order to prove that the Partition in 1947 was unavoidable. The tactics adopted is for their agents to continually provoke dissension and riots within the country.

. But let us not put all the blame for internal unrest on Pakistan.  The linguistic, religious, cultural and social differences, which are permitted to flourish in our country, are potential areas of internal conflict. Politicians who lack a national perspective are only too glad to take a volatile regional issue to the streets, thereby hoping to gain personal publicity and electoral votes. Undoubtedly, whenever happens, Pakistan is quick to exploit the situation.

The Partition of India and the initial isolation of Muslims from the main stream lead to the growth of the Bharatiya Janta Party [BHP].  Over time, this has come to be identified with the Shiv Sena, the Rashtriya Swayam-seva Sangh [RSS], Vishwa Hindu Parishad  [VHP] and their militant wing, the Bajrang Dal, which form the hard core of the Sang Parivar [the right wing Hindu Family]. All behave like the heirs of Jinnah and demand a pure Hindu rashtra.

Over the past fifty years of independence, thanks to sound policies and constitutional safeguards, Muslims slowly rid themselves of the trauma of partition and began entering the secular mainstream, where many of them soon rose to positions of influence in every walk of society.  Hard liners of the sang parivar resent the empowerment of the under-privileged and women, and the Constitutional safeguards given to them.  They especially resent the growing prosperity of sections of Muslim society, which they distrust.

Discouraged by repeated election failures the BJP decided to co[y the Pakistani military and play the Hindu card. They rode to political power on a VHP-led saffron wave which moved from Gujarat to Ayodoya, destroyed the Babri Masjid. and demanded that a temple be constructed on the site.    Because of this, the BJP .was able to gain political power in several states and lead a coalition government, the National Democratic Alliance, at the centre. Having tasted power, hard-line elements of the sang parivar begun behaving like mirror images of Pakistani fundamentalists. Their jehadi tactics, their hatred and fear of modern influences and open resentment against newly empowered sections of society, brings them into constant conflict with the core provisions of the constitution. This creates a law and order problem for the administration.  Persistent undemocratic behaviour of the hard-liners slowly resulted in loss of political support from the masses. These adverse trends became apparent from election results in Punjab, UP, Manipur, Uttaranchal and Delhi. This anti-BJP wave made the hard-liners fear a political and economic threat from KHAM [the Kshatrya, Harijan, Adivasi, Muslim combine] to their last strong hold of political power  in Gujarat..

Though a Supreme Court ruling stayed construction work at Ayodhaya, organised groups of VHP workers [kar sewaks] kept travelling up and down in trains from Gujarat to Ayodhya. Reportedly the kar sewaks were overbearing and kept baiting Muslim vendors at Godhra railway station, a volatile Muslim stronghold. One day, at the end of February 2002, a well-organised Muslim mob stopped on the train outside Godhra and launched a pre-planned attack.  A compartment was set on fire and over 50 kar sewaks including many women and children were burnt to death. The Gujarat government, instead of dealing ruthlessly with those criminals, unleashd revenge killings by Hindu mobs against influential Muslim political and commercial leaders elsewhere all over Gujarat.

After 72 hours, the authorities found that the mobs were out of control and could not be stopped from killing and looting.  This went on for more than two months and over 800 innocent Muslims and courageous Hindus who tried to protect them were slaughtered. Over one lakh Muslim refugees have taken shelter in refugee camps. Impartial observers and the National Human Rights Commission have pointed to the collusion, culpability and utter negligence of the State Government.  The PM during his visit to the stricken state said that what has happened in Gujarat is a shameful blot on the country. The State Government announced that victims who were kar sewaks would be given a relief grant of two lakh rupees; others would receive one lakh. The Chief Minister capped this discriminatory order by making an astonishing statement blaming the media and speeches made by opposition MPs in Parliament for what had happened.

Opposition parties and even some members of the National Democratic Alliance, have demanded the removal of Narendra Modi,the Chief Minister of Gujarat.  This is being resisted by the BJP. Even while Gujarat was burning, a defiant Bajrang Dal mob attacked and ransacked the Orissa State Assembly. Many are asking, "Are these miscreants any better than the Pakistani terrorists who attacked the J&K Assembly?" At a meeting of the RSS held in Bangalore in March, in an official resolution adopted the minorities were warned that the safety of Muslims lies in the goodwill of the majority.  This resolution arises out of the reality that the Sang Parivar considers person belonging to minority communities as second class citizens who can live in peace only at the mercy of the majority community. The Central Government may try to distance itself from such unbalanced statements, but millions of decent people who are proud to call themselves Hindus have come to see that the BJP's policy aims to secede from the psychological and cultural foundations of India, including Hinduism itself. Many perceive such policies to be separatist and anti-Indian and anti-Hindu..

On learning that the European Union [EU] was planning to make a critical statement on Gujarat, a spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs said that India did not appreciate interference in its internal affairs by foreign leaders.  This did not stop the EU from declaring that, "The carnage in Gujarat was a kind of apartheid. The post Godhra violence was pre-planned and the pattern suggests that the attempt was to purge Muslims from Hindu areas;  the chief minister instructed senior police officers not to intervene in the rioting; the state and central governments failed to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of the victims…India cannot plead that the events in Gujarat are an internal mater as what has happened is a human rights issue as it was a kind of genocide and ethnic cleansing…  India as a signatory of the UN Convention on Human Rights is forbidden to conduct such violence."

News that relatives of three British citizens killed in anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat are going to move a British court of justice is an indictment of the Indian judicial system and a warning to politicians that "national sovereignty" cannot shield them from justice.

Responsible Indians are asking, "Why is this happening?  What can we do to prevent the hijacking of our respective religions by obscurantists?"  I dare say another learned commission will also ponder over this matter. As a security analyst one can only say that if a Pakistani was responsible for the Godhra incident, which resulted in the subsequent killings, then the agent has indeed done a very successful job.  If on the other hand the Godhra incident was not Pakistani-inspired, then we must admit that by our stupidity, we have given Pakistan exactly what they wanted.  Either way, Pakistani propagandists now have an opportunity to gloat over this failure of India's democratic system and India's claim to be a secular state.

Even with the best intelligence, incidents will occur from time to time.   Mass murders committed by hooligans are a law and order problem, which attracts the provisions of the Indian Penal Code.  Such crimes do not necessitate lengthy debates on cross border terrorism or concepts of secularism.  It is the direct responsibility of the local magistrates and police officials to ensure that guilty criminals are apprehended and an incident is not allowed to escalate.   In order to scotch wild rumours, spokesmen from the Home Ministry must keep the public informed of what is happening when a major event occurs. [This was well done during the Kargil War.] People must repeatedly be reminded on the radio and TV that communal violence only strengthens Pakistan's warped two-nation philosophy.  We must keep repeating that India is a multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-racial nation that ensures every citizen full rights under the rule of law.

Many ask, "What will happen in Gujarat?  Will the BJP alliance survive in Delhi?" It is beyond the scope of security analysts to make predictions on such issues. It is the people, through constitutional democratic procedures, who will decide those issues. No political party pretending to be civilized and disciplined can go on condoning such atrocities as occurred in Gujarat.  Either it must take every possible effort to put this down, or it must suffer the scorn and contempt of public opinion. Pakistan is naturally delighted by this turn of events.  It has lost no opportunity to tell the international community and their own people, "That the Gujarat killings have given credence to the Muslim League's theory that Partition was a historic necessity.  India's high-sounding constitutional safeguards of human rights is a hollow fraud.  Indian democracy conceals the reality of Hindu hegemony over Muslim, Sikh, Christian and Dalit minorities. Gujarat has demonstrated that elected Indian politicians cannot protect the lives and property of their citizens."

The common man in India accepts that Gujarat has been a national disaster; a political and social failure, which has broken the traditional bond of trust that had been built over centuries.  But after fifty years of independence, he has come to realise the power of his vote.  The vast majority has come to accept that Indian democracy, with all its imperfections, is still a better proposition than sterile military rule or governance by fundamentalists, which stifles the growth of individuality and the freedom to influence changes in policy..

General Musharraf says that he wants to be the Kemal Attaturk of Pakistan and modernise his country. However, in yet another gesture of defiance by fundamentalists in Pakistan, the American journalist, Daniel Pearl, was kidnapped and eventually slaughtered in Karachi.  Musharraf's. personal security has had to be intensified.  All this has enormous implications in the context of the "true democracy" that the military say they want to usher in next October when a General Election is scheduled. Constitutional amendments have already been decreed to grant a key role to the armed forces in politics.  It looks as if the General will stay in power for another five years. As long as democracy remains a distant dream in Pakistan, India's security forces will continue to face threats on two fronts.

It will be too much to expect that these shocking events, which are assuming international ramifications, would go unnoticed by the Armed Forces.  No soldier can be comfortable guarding the border if he has to look over his shoulder because he fears that his home may be on fire. Soldiers know that internal strife weakens India's security and its cause in J&K.  They are saddened that secular India lost a battle in Gujarat, but they are confident that India will eventually win the war on both fronts.