Barking, Start Biting
Talk to us on Jammu & Kashmir on our terms; otherwise, you will
continue to bleed."
That is the message from Islamabad underlying the brutal massacre of
28 innocent slum-dwellers, all Hindus, by terrorists near Jammu on
July 13, 2002. The massacre has elicited the standard
responses--- a tongue-in-the-cheek condemnation with a reiteration
of the call for dialogue by Islamabad; a forthright condemnation by
the USA, the UK and the rest of the international community with an
admonition to Pakistan to put a stop to terrorism directed against
India; and a plethora of Indian statements, which conceal behind a
facade of bravado, our reluctance to come to terms with the ground
reality in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), which dictates a policy
response based on a steely determination to make the state-sponsor
of terrorism pay a prohibitive price for continuing to use terrorism
as a weapon against India, unruffled by the pressure from the USA.
The ground reality is that since 1993-- and more particularly after
the formation of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front For
Jehad against the USA and Israel in 1998--- the Kashmiri militancy,
which started in 1989 due to indigenous causes, has ceased to be the
main source of the acts of Islamic terrorism in Indian
territory---in J&K as well as outside.
The Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HUJI),
the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), who are
now behind most of the bloodbaths in J&K, are not repeat not
Kashmiri organisations. They are Pakistani Punjabi
organisations,motivated and run by Pakistani Punjabi Islamic (mainly
Deobandi) clerics, who acted as the surrogates of Pakistan's
military-intelligence establishment in Afghanistan till recently and
had kept the Taliban regime propped up and who are being used by
that establishment to keep India bleeding without the Pakistani Army
getting directly involved and hurt. Even in Pakistan, they are
called the Punjabi Taliban.
The HUM is a founder member of bin Laden's International Islamic
Front and its leader Fazlur Rahman Khalil was a co-signatory of bin
Laden's first fatwa of 1998 against the USA. The others joined
the Front subsequently. These are pan-Islamic organisations,
whose agenda is not just confined to J&K. They look beyond
J&K to the whole of India and talk of their determination to
"liberate" the Muslims in the rest of India too.
All the suggestions for standard policy palliatives, which emanate
with tiresome routine, from many analysts such as free and fair
elections, an economic package, better governance; greater powers to
the State administration etc will not put an end to their terrorism.
Pan-Islamic terrorism is not due to political, economic and social
grievances. It is due to a conviction that Islam cannot
co-exist with other religions and that to kill in the interests of
Islam and the Shariat is a religious obligation and not a sin, even
if the killing involves the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Such pernicious ideas were the unique products of Pakistan's
Deobandi madrasas. One does not find them in the
statements and writings of the fundamentalist clerics in the rest of
the Islamic world, except those who had been infected by the
It is not as if Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani military
dictator, and his cabal do not understand the dangers which these
elements pose to their own country; yet, they continue to use them
against India. In their calculation, their policy of
using them serves two purposes. It keeps India bleeding till
battle fatigue sets in. It keeps these fanatics dying for
their cause in Indian and not Pakistani territory.
The Pakistani military-intelligence establishment has always
calculated---and rightly as seen till now---that so long as it
created the impression of co-operating with the US against
terrorists posing a danger to US nationals and interests,
Washington's actions against Pakistan for its India-directed
terrorism would be confined to friendly admonitions and nothing
Direct military strikes by India would not end the motivation
and depredations of pan-Islamic irrationals. On the contrary,
it would add to their feelings of martyrdom and aggravate their
irrationality. Coercive diplomacy would not be effective either, so
long as Islamabad thinks that Hindu India would continue to bark,
but would never bite.
Unless we start biting, we will continue to totter from one
pan-Islamic bloodbath to another. Biting does not mean moving
thousands of troops to the border and starting a war. One can
smile and smile and yet bite till it hurts. One can bite
stealthily and carry our counter-terrorism actions to the breeding
ground of terrorism, without having to use our Armed Forces.
Biting does not mean indulging in our own brand of terrorism.
It means exercising our right of self-defence against a
State-sponsor of terrorism and his terrorist groups in the most
The keys to an effective answer to pan-Islamic terrorism lie in New
Delhi and not in Washington DC, London or elsewhere. The first
step is the revamping of our national security management apparatus.
The National Security Council (NSC) and the National Security
Advisory Board, which were set up with so much fanfare in 1998-99,
only to gradually fade out of the national security calculus, have
to play an important role in finding answers to pan-Islamic
terrorism. The recommendations of the Task Force on the
revamping of the intelligence apparatus need to be implemented on a
crash basis. The Research & Analysis Wing, which was
rendered toothless in 1997, urgently needs to have its biting teeth
writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of
India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies,
arrangement with South Asian Analysis Group, New Delhi