The J&K ‘Peace Process’
Since the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in the year 2000, there has been a cessation of offensive operations by security forces (SFs) against the terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).1 Loosely referred to as a ‘ceasefire’ this initiative was intended to establish the context and ambiance for a more profound and effective ‘peace process’. Some official announcements, in early April 2001, including the identification of K.C. Pant, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, as the Government’s ‘chief representative’ in negotiations on Kashmir, also indicated that such a peace process was evolving into the more significant stage of negotiations.2
The intervening months since the first announcement of the ‘ceasefire’ have seen a great deal of commentary on the content and character of the ‘peace process’. Not unexpectedly, the process has few opponents, and the occasional voice that is raised against it comes from those who argue from purely tactical perspectives of the perceived ‘loss of control’ on the part of the SFs3, the rising trend in the killing of civilians4, the greater audacity of terrorist attacks against SFs and an increasingly adverse ratio of SFs to terrorists killed,5 the resumption of local recruitment to terrorist ranks,6 and the re-emergence of mass protests and demonstrations in support of, or coordination with, the terrorist agenda or actions.7 Others have questioned the specific initiatives that comprise the process, their timing, and the fact that they ‘fall short of the minimum needed’ for effective dialogue.8 Few analysts, however, have even considered questioning the fundamental wisdom of the efforts to initiate a peace process along present lines in the State.
This is far from surprising. There is something perverse, even reprehensible, in attempts to question or oppose any effort to ‘make peace’. To oppose or criticize a ‘peace process’ is to manifestly declare yourself on the side of bloodshed, of violence and of war and, consequently, is disturbingly politically incorrect. This purely semantic construction has resulted in a significant suspension of critical faculties, and has had a severe dampening and distorting influence on the discourse on this issue.
This is dangerous. Any permanent peace can only be created out of a process and perspective that is firmly rooted in the realities of the ground. The belief that good sense, good intentions and good men can, or will, eventually prevail over these flies in the face of the evidence of history.
The Evil that ‘Good Men’ Do
The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has given rise to some of the most celebrated ‘peace processes’ in recent times – and these have produced a slew of Nobel Peace Prizes.9 This last is an important consideration, and there is a strong stream of opinion in recent years that the pace of negotiations was being ‘fast-forwarded’ by personal ambitions to produce a ‘solution’ within an irrational and extraneously imposed time frame that would secure this high award for its architects.10
Nevertheless, the most recent of peace processes on the Palestinian issue, the Oslo Peace Accord and Process,11 has been widely projected as a model for peace negotiations worldwide. Towards the end of 1999 and in early 2000, there was a sense of imminence, of predestination, in the general expectation of a ‘final and peaceful resolution’ of the ‘Palestine issue’ through the Oslo Process, and there was immense shock and disappointment across the world when violence exploded in the region following what is now called the al Aqsa Intifada.12 There is a palpable eagerness for ‘peace at any cost’ among large sections of both the Palestinian and Israeli population, and especially among the young in Israel. The ‘peace constituency’ in Israel has played a critical, indeed defining, role in all recent elections – save the last in February 2001, which reflected the backlash against Palestinian violence and brought the hardline Ariel Sharon to power. Despite popular contemporary rhetoric, unfortunately, a sentiment in favor of peace is insufficient foundation for an effective process to secure such peace. In a context where even a single player considers violence a legitimate instrument of policy, the resolution of disputes demands far firmer grounding in fact – and the Oslo peace process was as divorced from such a foundation as could be conceivable.
The truth is that those who were peddling the notion that the Palestinian issue could be resolved within the framework of the Oslo Agreement, by suitably cutting up the available territory into unequal bits of exclusively administered zones, were talking, not of the geopolitical realities of Israel and Palestine, but of a country (or countries) of their own imagination. The absurdity of the Oslo process was obvious from its very inception to reasoned opinion on both sides, but was neglected by the ‘peace constituency’, and, by and large, by the ‘international community’, who were willing to accept even the most illusory process that appeared to ‘buy peace’ in the tiresome conflicts of this fractious region.
Well over two years before the al Aqsa Intifada, Nicholas Guyatt conceded that, in order to create an effective and realistic peace process to settle the Palestinian issue, it would be necessary to "lay to rest some of the assumptions about Oslo that distract from the reality of the present situation, and prevent us from identifying the real obstacles to peace."13 "The Oslo process," he asserted, "has actually worsened the situation in the occupied territories and confounded the possibility of a lasting peace."14 Similarly, writing as far back as in 1995, just two years after the Oslo process had been initiated, Edward Said had noted,
It is interesting that Israel should have succumbed to the seduction of an illusory peace process. Israeli policies have become archetypes of a realpolitik response to terrorism and the politics of violence. More significantly, it is difficult to understand how the Jewish people could have forgotten the history of successive negotiations of a ‘false peace’ that led up to the Second World War – and as a result of which more than 6.5 million Jews lost their lives in Nazi extermination camps. The Treaty of Versailles in the wake of the First World War and the Agreement at Munich in 1938 were both based on deeply flawed assessments of reality, and were the root cause of Hitler’s ascent and consolidation in power, and eventually of the horrors of a Second World War.
The Treaty of Versailles was the result of a desperate search "for the kind of peace settlement which would make impossible another war like the one that had just devastated the world," but history is witness to the fact that its draftsmen "failed in the most spectacular manner,"17 creating instead the very conditions that were eventually to be blamed for the emergence of Nazism and Fascism. Then, in 1938, when Hitler’s belligerence went beyond what could or should have been acceptable, the Munich Agreement sought to appease him by splitting Czechoslovakia and transferring substantial parts of it to Germany, reflecting an abject failure of reason and objective assessment on the part of the leadership in Europe. Eric Hobsbawm writes of
Hobsbawm observes further that, "the political realists of appeasement were entirely unrealistic in their assessment of the situation, even when the impossibility of a negotiated settlement with Hitler became obvious to any reasonable observer in 1938-39."19 Today, the very name of the then British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, among the chief architects of the policy of appeasement, is an appellation of contempt, synonymous with the failure of political will, indeed, with cowardice.
A more proximate, and no less compelling example is linked to the issue of Kashmir itself – Nehru’s feckless appeal for intervention by the United Nations in 1949, at a time when the military tide was turning inexorably against the invading Pakistan forces. Indeed, numerous facets of the conflict at that time are testimony to Nehru’s vacillation,20 and each of these is intimately known to the very political organizations that are, today, seeking to appease one of the most virulent terrorist forces and their sponsoring nations, through a negotiated settlement on Kashmir. These, indeed, are the same political formations who, for over five decades, were the most unyielding of Nehru’s critics, as they have been of the ‘politics of appeasement.’
It is clear that an unrealistic pursuit of peace can only defer violence, and often magnifies it. The notion of ‘peace at all costs’ is self-destructive, and negotiations based on false premises and projections, and on unrealistic or divergent assessments of realities on the ground, inevitably result in greater escalation – though they may produce a temporary and deceptive lull.
Nevertheless, over the years, a pattern has established itself in India’s political scenario: the ‘political realism of appeasement’ has made mass political violence the shortest route to political prominence. Any group that is capable of executing acts of violence beyond a certain threshold of intensity will, sooner rather than later, have the government talking to it, offering it a multiplicity of benefits and sending down high-profile negotiators to secure a ‘political solution’, offering criminals and terrorists prominent positions in the democratic processes of the State in which they execute their depredations. In case this does not mollify the leadership of such groups, the option of entering into extended and inconclusive negotiations with the government, even while they consolidate their power through unremitting violence, is always left open. The advantage for such groups of not allowing ‘negotiations’ to break down is that they confer a quasi-legal status on their activities, and leave the SFs reasonably confused, so that no effective action can be taken against the terrorist forces.
It is difficult to comprehend what precisely it is that forces each incumbent regime in India to embrace the ‘political realism of appeasement’, despite its manifest failures and the mounting evidence of chaos and violence that it yields. It is clear, however, that the present regime is yet to display the vision or the will to escape this disastrous propensity.
Fishing for Peace
On the face of it, the present ‘peace initiative’ in Kashmir does not appear to be ‘reality based’ in any meaningful sense, or to have any concrete strategic foundations. It is, by and large, in the nature of a ‘fishing expedition’: in the absence of a consistent or coherent policy to force a breakthrough in J&K – and such a policy is entirely achievable – a random element has been introduced to destabilize established equations in the hope that it may set in motion a positive chain that could, in the uncertain future, produce desired results. This is not a plan; it is a gamble. And it is destined to fail for far too many reasons.
The character of this initiative has, moreover, been substantially defined by factors extraneous to the conflict – such as specific pressure for peace initiatives from the US, especially during the period around the visit of the then President Bill Clinton in March 2000, and the desire to secure international approval.
It is, for instance, evident that the US was pushing the idea of negotiations with the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), and Clinton is known to have met their representative and lobbyist Ghulam Nabi Fai at Washington prior to his visit to India. In February 2000, moreover, a US Think Tank, the Kashmir Study Group (KSG), widely circulated a revised version of its ‘report’, Kashmir: A Way Forward,22 that was believed to substantially reflect the US perspective on a ‘solution’ to the Kashmir imbroglio. The chairman of the KSG, M. Farooq Kathwari, had personal connections with and access to Clinton.23 A Way Forward called for a communal trifurcation of Kashmir and gave rise to an intense and orchestrated debate in various US Think Tanks, and a substantial measure of behind-the-scenes lobbying. This included a visit by Kathwari to India, during which he met several senior leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). As Praveen Swami observes,
Kathwari’s visit to Kashmir was followed up by that of Mansoor Ijaz, chairman of the New York based Crescent Equity Investment Bank, and a member of the influential Council for Foreign Relations, in May 2000. Ijaz was also reported to be "personally close to US President Bill Clinton and a major campaign finance donor to the Democratic Party."27 Earlier, in April 2000, US Senator David Bonier had visited Srinagar and met APHC chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and other senior leaders, including Umar Farooq, Abdul Ghani Lone, Abdul Ghani Bhat and Abbas Ansari.28 A continuous shift on the government’s stance regarding talks with the Hurriyat was noticed in the wake of these meetings.29
Nevertheless, much of the ‘international and US pressure’ thesis is speculative. Of course, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s statement on the third extension of the ‘ceasefire’ in February 2001, did suggest that his government’s eyes are fixed firmly on the international response to its ‘peace initiatives’, perhaps more even than on the possibility of their success in securing peace in Kashmir. The Prime Minister had stated:
The government does, of course, have a legitimate interest in addressing international concerns and perceptions. Diplomacy and information are an integral component of any comprehensive counter-terrorism perspective, and the government’s success on this front is significant to the extent that it secures international support and approval for policies that are in the best national interest. To the extent, however, that these policies are dictated by a desire to secure such approval and support to the possible exclusion or detriment of the national interest, or for initiatives that are based on a false or distorted assessment of the position on the ground, they are unjustifiable.
The claim that the ‘ceasefire’ has resulted in a radical transformation of world opinion towards India and support for its policies on Kashmir, moreover, takes inordinate advantage of the ambiguities inherent in the situation. A positive trend in favour of the Indian position has been continuous since Pakistan’s Kargil blunder, and is more a consequence of what is happening in that country – and in the vortex of anarchy to its west, in Afghanistan – than of the sagacity or efficacy of India’s policies in J&K. Pakistan has, indeed, repeatedly shot itself in the foot over the past two years, and this is the actual cause of the tide of world opinion turning against it. Kargil ripped off the veil of pretence that Pakistan had nothing to do with terrorism in Kashmir, and that it only offered ‘moral support’ to what was an ‘indigenous and popular freedom movement’; soon enough, General Parvez Musharraf’s coup consigned the country to relative pariah status as a military dictatorship that had forcibly displaced a democratic regime; Musharraf’s domestic and foreign policy failures, particularly his inability to rein in the activities of fundamentalist forces within the country, and his continued and visible support to terrorists in Kashmir have constantly kept Pakistan in the glare of the international media in the worst possible light. All this has been aggravated further by the activities of extremist Islamist terrorists in Eastern Europe and the occasional terrorist attack directed against American targets, with a growing perception that Pakistan and Afghanistan provide the training ground and safe haven to these actors. Pakistan has escaped being declared a terrorist state by the US only because of the misconceived notion that, in doing so, the world would push it, as also its nuclear capabilities, inescapably into the hands of the fundamentalists, and consequently into the sphere of anarchy that is currently centered in Afghanistan.
The international concern on events in Pakistan has been considerably deepened by shifting US perceptions regarding the ‘locus of international terrorism’, and rising anxieties on Islamic extremism and terror directed against the West.31
Under the circumstances, the claim that India’s ‘ceasefire’ declaration in Kashmir has resulted in a radical transformation in international perceptions on the conflict in J&K and on Pakistan’s role, has limited objective merit. There is, of course, no set of criteria or indices that can help quantify any such international impact. But there is, equally, no extraordinary evidence that the outcome would be significantly different had India followed a consistent and coherent counter-terrorism agenda in J&K, ensuring that the civilian population did not suffer inordinately, even as the state applied all necessary force to defeat the terrorists.
Even if, however, it is conceded that the present policy is significantly the cause of a shift in international perceptions in India’s favour, it cannot secure legitimacy in the absence of an independent demonstration that it is a reality-based initiative with considerable potential to secure clearly defined objectives in the direction of a permanent peace. The events of the past months, and the larger context of the conflict in J&K, make any such demonstration an impossibility.
It may, of course, be accepted without prejudice to the above claim that the ‘ceasefire’ has altered the situation on the ground in Kashmir: Pakistan has been forced (through a combination of a variety of other circumstances and pressures) to adopt an apparently conciliatory line (though there is no change in its activities, or in the support to the training and motivation of militants by ‘autonomous’ Islamist groups operating from its soil); and deep divisions have been crafted within the rank and file of the militant and separatist leadership in the State, and particularly between the local militants and the foreign mercenaries and mujahiddeen. It is also the case that total killings in the State have declined over the entire period of the ‘ceasefire’, though civilian killings have shown a marginal upward trend,32 a result that could have been expected with a natural decline in terrorist and SF casualties because of the cessation of offensive operations by the SFs. While this may provoke a momentary sense of relief, all celebrations are premature. Nothing whatsoever has changed in the larger context of the conflict.
Who are we talking to?
K.C. Pant, the Centre’s ‘chief representative’ in the elusive dialogue in Kashmir, was given a mandate to talk to "the State Government, all political parties, NGOs, trade unions, social and religious bodies as also Kashmiri terrorist outfits desirous of peace to engage in a dialogue with him."33 It is premature to speak of the (presently limited) response to this sweeping mandate, but the evidence of recent history is overwhelmingly against any possibilities of significant success.
Unsurprisingly, the ‘peace initiative’ has been unambiguously, even violently, rejected by most of the terrorist groupings operating from Pakistan. When the Prime Minister announced the original Ramadan ‘ceasefire’, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) declared:
The Hizb-ul-Mujahiddeen’s response has, of course, been more guarded. It is dominated by cadres from Kashmir itself, and is sensitive to the growing public opinion in favour of peace. Indeed, the ‘ceasefire’ gambit was something introduced into the Kashmir equation by this group, when it unilaterally announced a ceasefire in July 2000 – a move that was hastily aborted as Pakistan’s pressure became irresistible for its leadership based at Islamabad. The Hizb maintains a general ‘ceasefire is not enough’ approach, while leaving room for negotiations. Nevertheless, there are elements within the organization who are rigidly against any negotiated settlement with India, and Mohammad Masood Sarfaraz, the ‘Supreme Commander’ of the Hizb’s Pir Panjal Regiment has clearly stated: "We will eliminate any individual who tries to sell-out the sacrifices of 90,000 Kashmiris… Whether it is Salahuddin, Dar or even G. M. Bhat."37
There is, of course, also a stream of relatively moderate opinion that questions the ceasefire on grounds of the dubious intent of the Government of India, but not the principle of negotiations, and could, consequently be amenable to a dialogue process under certain circumstances in the foreseeable future. The essence of the argument here is that these forces are irrelevant.
The lapse into obscurity of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) is an illustration of what lies in store for the ‘peace constituency’ among militant groups. The JKLF was the oldest and most powerful of terrorist organizations in the first phase of the current militancy, with its roots and militant activities dating as far back as 1977. It was the JKLF that spearheaded the movement in 1989, and carried violence to unprecedented levels in the succeeding three years. However, SF pressure and dissatisfaction with the Pakistani agenda in Kashmir forced it overground in May 1994. The JKLF’s declared objective of ‘self-determination’ and independence from both India and Pakistan was the source of growing disagreements with its Pakistani sponsors, and the role of the organization had been systematically undermined from the early 1990s with support to ‘pro-integration’ groups who supported a merger with Pakistan. Today, the JKLF is entirely without influence over the course of events in the State.
The JKLF has not been alone in its fate. The Hizb’s marginalisation in Kashmir after the aborted ceasefire of July-August 2000 has been continuous, and it is inevitable that, if the group does not outmatch the JeM and the LeT in audacity and brutality, it will be completely eclipsed, irrespective of its supposed ‘base’ in the local community. The JeM and LeT’s drive to recruit increasing numbers of local militant’s over the past year is to be seen in this light.
The fact is, Pakistan has never allowed any single group to establish its dominance in J&K after the first phase of terrorism, and has systematically promoted and undermined a multiplicity of groups according to its own perceived interests. The sudden and unprecedented rise of the JeM is to be understood within the context of this strategy. This is why Masood Azhar was facilitated in setting up this new grouping rather than being allowed to rejoin his parent Harkat-ul-Mujahiddeen (HuM), formerly the Harkat-ul-Ansar.38
There is another debate current in policy circles regarding the relative ‘popular support’ of these various groups, with the Hizb generally perceived and projected as the group that enjoys the largest local constituency by virtue of its cadres having the highest proportion of ‘local militants’. The LeT, the JeM and the HuM, on this argument, have little such support, as they are comprised ‘overwhelmingly’ of ‘foreign mercenaries’. Such a perspective confers quasi-democratic status on these various groups, suggesting that they articulate popular grievances through their violence, and is based on an altogether unsound understanding of political legitimacy and the character of ‘popular support’ in situations of widespread violence and breakdown of law and order. The fact is, the character of popular ‘allegiance’ and support in such circumstances is not defined by ‘ideological’ sympathies or ‘political’ affiliations; it is, rather, determined by a curious combination of fear and identification, powerlust and submission, need and exploitation. Within this warped spectrum, the ‘best’ group is the one that commits the most dramatic and unsettling acts of violence – even if these are directed against the civilian population, and the very constituency that the terrorists claim to represent. Public loyalties, in such circumstances, shift rapidly, following the ascent and decline of the power and effectiveness of particular terrorist organizations – and are eventually restored to the legitimate government when, and if, the terrorists are defeated. This was clearly witnessed in the Punjab, where the ‘overwhelming’ mass support of the Khalistani’s disappeared without a trace when the terrorists had been defeated on the ground.39 This is a recurrent theme, and has been substantially documented in the international literature. An analysis of the comparative ‘legitimacy’ of the South Vietnamese government and the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, for instance, identified the determining factors as: comparison of the relative risks of punishment; material contributions demanded; opportunities for reward; and the opportunities for meaningful activity provided by supporting one group or the other. The study concluded that the first of these factors, the perceived risk of death or other punishment far outweighed the others in importance.40 As one commentator expressed it in the context of conflicting gang loyalties and cooperation with the police in the American ghetto, "you can argue about whether security is 10 per cent of the problem or 90 per cent of the problem, but it’s the first 10 per cent or the first 90 per cent."41 The people’s loyalties are defined substantially by their perceptions of who can best protect their lives and properties or, conversely, in the absence of such protection, who constitutes the greatest and most effective threat to these. In a situation of widespread terror and the paralysis of the institutions of civil governance and justice administration, these are not ideological preferences or political sympathies; they are the imperatives of survival.
It should be clear, moreover, that, despite the hype surrounding the present ‘peace process’, this is certainly not the first initiative of its kind in the State. In February 1996, four 'commanders' from different terrorist outfits grouped under the banner ‘Forum for the Permanent Resolution of Jammu-Kashmir’ announced their willingness to initiate unconditional talks with the Union Government.42 The government had responded by declaring a 24-hour ‘ceasefire’ on that occasion of Eid, and the then Union Home Minister had held talks with the Forum on February 15, 1996.43 Negotiations stalled when the Forum rejected the Government’s move to hold elections in the State, and were not resumed thereafter.
Negotiations with Pakistan were subsequently inititated at Islamabad, and an agreement on the setting up of a ‘mechanism’ to tackle the Kashmir issue was concluded in June 1996. However, escalating violence in the Valley and differences over the modalities of the proposed talks, blocked the process in September 1997,44 and it was only resumed when Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief at New York in September 1998. The sequence of events that followed, with the Bus Diplomacy of February 1999, and the simultaneous breach of faith that was even then being engineered in Kargil, and that exploded into the War of May-July 1999, is too well documented to bear repetition.
In any event, given the immediate response of the existing terrorist groupings in J&K, it is clear that, despite K.C. Pant’s sweeping mandate, the effective scope of the present peace initiative is a ‘dialogue’ with the Hurriyat. But the Hurriyat, as even strong supporters of the peace process admit, is today "no longer in any position to deliver peace in Kashmir."45 Implicit in this statement is the suggestion that it sometimes was in such a position, and this is highly debatable. The Hurriyat was set up at the height of militancy in 1993 by a conglomerate of some 35 organizations,46 to provide overground support to a secessionist agenda, and has never made any attempt to conceal the fact that it works to further Pakistan’s objectives and interests in J&K. Indian Intelligence sources have long been aware that many of the Hurriyat leaders have been the primary conduits for foreign funds flowing from West Asian countries to various terrorist organizations operating in J&K. Today, moreover, the Hurriyat is weaker than it has ever been, and has, in essence, simply been rescued from oblivion by the Center’s eagerness to identify a relatively pliant ‘partner’ for a dialogue in Kashmir. To conceive of it as an effective partner in any peace process, or to accept its absurd claim to be the ‘sole representative’ of the people of Kashmir, is, once again, to confuse illusion with reality.
The fact is, all major or effective secessionist groupings in J&K – both overground and underground – are simply agencies of the Pakistani gameplan in the State, and to the extent that they deviate from the strategic perspectives and interests of their ‘principal’ they secure their own marginalisation.
There are two other major difficulties with a dialogue with any of these entities. The first of these relates to the impact on legitimate democratic groupings and activities in the State. When the ‘ceasefire’ was announced by the Prime Minister, while senior State politicians made the right noises, ‘welcoming’ the move, in private and through their aides they "were making no effort to conceal their fury with the peace process."47 Indeed, the release of the Hurriayat leaders from custody,48 and the first moves to initiate talks with them were specifically perceived as steps by the Centre to marginalize Farooq Abdullah’s ruling National Conference, and the Chief Minister’s ‘fightback’ through the ‘autonomy demand’ in June 2000 was essentially an effort to restore some balance and reassert his political significance.49
There is something absurd in accepting an organization that has no democratic credentials, and whose members are unashamed Pakistani proxies,50 as the ‘sole representative’ of the people of Kashmir in a negotiating process, and divesting the State’s elected political leadership of its locus standi in the political process. The Hurriyat, moreover, explicitly derives its influence and legitimacy from the power of the terrorist’s gun, though it may not openly engage in terrorist activities. To bring such an agency to the center stage of the negotiations, and hence of the political process, is a repudiation of the fundamental principles of democracy, and a deep injury to the democratic forces in the State who have, for decades now, been the target of the militant’s wrath.51
The second critical difficulty is the fundamental question of the principle involved in negotiating with terrorists and their front organizations, and in the effort to accommodate and appease the terrorist warlords operating out of Pakistan. As Yossef Bodansky expresses it,
The ‘Core Issue’
There is a final set of distortions that undermine the validity and efficacy of the current Indian initiatives, and indeed, the larger engagement with Pakistan, in J&K. These relate to fundamental flaws in the assessment of the strategic underpinnings and context of the conflict. As one commentator notes,
This is certainly an accurate perception of the short-term distortions that guide Indian and Pakistani tactics, but it fails to carry the analysis far enough, and is, indeed, a measure of Pakistan’s success in imposing its agenda on events in J&K.
Pakistan has repeatedly insisted that Kashmir was the ‘core issue’ between the two countries, and the greatest of the flawed premises of India’s strategic perspective appears to be an implicit, uncritical and de facto acceptance of this claim and its concomitant agenda. Pakistan has been extraordinarily successful in projecting and marketing this notion, not only to the Indian establishment, but also to the world at large. It is this success that constitutes the source of the extraordinary pressure, both international and internal, on India to seek solutions through negotiations within the State and with Pakistan. It is the belief that since the ‘core issue’ is Kashmir, it can be dealt with locally, and can be ‘resolved’ through the various petty plots to cut up the State on communal lines that are current today – along the LoC, or along the Chenab, or by clubbing together Muslim majority districts, etc. – and that, through this device, ‘peace’ can be purchased in perpetuity.
India has, at least in some measure, been encouraged in this line of thought by elements within the presently influential Hindu Right that seeks a ‘cleansing’ of the body politic through communal exclusivism or re-absorption. It is not possible, or the intent, here, to go into details of the support that the idea of a communal trifurcation of Kashmir has received from this ideological faction (imaginatively described by one commentator as the ‘lunatics in Nagpur’)56 but the position is well documented.57 The point here is that these perspectives covertly accept the Pakistani thesis that Kashmir is the ‘core issue’ of the conflict between India and Pakistan, and conceive of it as being susceptible to a ‘local’ resolution, ignoring entirely the real strategic position held and projected in the internal discourse – both by state and non-state actors – within Pakistan.
The fact is that the core issue is not Kashmir. It never was. It is the fundamentalist ideology, and the ‘two nation theory’ that excludes the very possibility of people of different faiths, cultures or ways of life coexisting within a single political order. The core issue, consequently, goes to the very heart and basis of India’s existence, as it does of Pakistan’s. The conflict between India and Pakistan is an irreducible conflict between democratic liberalism and a polity based on an exclusionary religious absolutism. Those who think it can be resolved through negotiated territorial concessions with the aggressor deceive themselves no less than the Chamberlains and the Daladiers58 who sought to bribe Hitler into peace with similar concessions. Even to conceive of a ‘settlement’ on Kashmir on the basis of a communal trifurcation would be a monumental blunder, at par with the Partition of India that destroyed and disrupted millions of lives, but solved nothing.
The error of those who seek a resolution of the Kashmir conflict in Kashmir is the inordinate focus on the transient geographical location of a conflict, to the exclusion of its ideological and material source, its strategic motivation, and political intent.
For any rational policy of resolution to be constructed, the conflict in Kashmir must be understood in the context of Pakistan’s strategy and "overriding interest… to achieve internal security by provoking instability among its neighbors,"59 of the extremist or pan-Islamic agenda in all of South Asia, and of integral links these have with the strategies and tactics that prepared the ground for terrorism in Kashmir.
It is well known that the culture and religious practices of the Muslims of Kashmir had little in common with the rigid and distorted version of Wahabbi Islam – with its ideological source in Saudi Arabia – that is the dominant force among contemporary extremist Islamists. Kashmiri Islam was seeped with the mysticism and values of the devotional Sufi order, and the Kashmir Valley was, indeed, held up as a unique and inspirational example of secular values at the time of Partition and Independence, and in the decades that followed. The emergence of terrorism in the State was preceded by decades of religious mobilization and reorientation centered primarily in the mosques in the Valley, and when terror broke out in the late 1980s, it was these mosques that provided the motivation, the moral sanction, and the initial impetus, not only to the violence, but to the near complete ethnic cleansing of the Valley of its Kashmiri Pandit minority. It is interesting that, among the priority targets of the terrorists was the network of secular schools, most of which were shut down under threat, especially in rural areas, progressively forcing the children into the only surviving ‘educational’ institution – the madrassa – the ‘schools of hate’60 that created new "supply lines for jihad."61
There is, today, a sustained effort – with mixed results – to replicate these processes of religious mobilization and an extremist Islamist reorientation throughout South Asia. Moderate Islam is under a deep, penetrating and persistent attack in every concentration of Muslim populations throughout the region, and there is a continuous process of the ‘hardening’ of beliefs that can lend itself to the extremist jihad in an uncertain future.
It is important, however, to guard against a sweeping ‘demonisation’ of Islam.62 India has the second largest population of Muslims in the world (after Indonesia) – over 142 million. The total strength of extremist Islamist terrorists in India would number a few thousand in this population. The number of those who sympathize with their cause would certainly be many times greater, and those who are ambivalent in their responses could be a significant proportion of the total population. The fact, however, remains that even the sum of all these would be a very small fraction of those who seek to live in peace within the culture of coexistence that is the essence of the Indian way of life.
However, while the dangers of the ‘demonisation’ of Islam have been widely noted, both by neutral scholars and by the apologists for extremist Islam, there is a neglect of an even more vicious process of the demonisation of all other Faiths and nations among the people of Islam, and even of Muslims who do not conform to the perverse vision of the ‘fundamentalists’. There is a profound ideology of hatred that is being fervently propagated through the institutions of Islam, particularly the madrassas or religious schools and seminaries that are proliferating rapidly across South Asia, and it is winning many ardent converts. This is, as already stated, still a small minority among South Asia’s Muslims; but it is a vocal, armed, well supported, extremely violent and growing minority. The majority, by contrast, has tended to passivity and conciliation, and there is little present evidence of the courage of conviction or the will for any moderate Islamic resistance to the rampage of extremist Islam.
In India, while there have been several political factors and events contributing to higher levels of communal polarization in recent years, general communal conflict – expressed in the incidence of communal riots – has been on a decline. Political parties are yet to abandon the electoral strategy of exploiting religious sentiments and insecurities, but the mass base and credibility of those who seek to do so has suffered steady erosion. Nevertheless, the intent and strategy of Pakistan’s covert agencies and extremist religious groupings is increasingly apparent in a wide range of activities intended to provoke communal confrontations, engineer terrorist incidents, and recruit soldiers for a pan-Islamic jihad in pockets of Muslim populations across India. This is compounded by a process of ‘encirclement’ and massive demographic shifts that deepen the danger, particularly along India’s eastern borders.
It is significant, within this context, to note that, during a three-day annual congregation of the members of the Markaz-ad-Da’awa-wal-Irshad at Muridke, near Lahore, on February 6, 2000, the Amir (head) of the Markaz, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, declared that Kashmir was a ‘gateway to capture India’ and that it was the aim of the Markaz and its military wing, the Lashkar-e-Toiba, to engineer India’s disintegration. Saeed added that his organization’s campaigns in Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh) and Junagadh (Gujarat) were among its highest priorities. Abdul Rahman Makki, the LeT’s ideologue, expanded on this theme, proclaiming that the group had opened a new unit in Hyderabad to liberate the Indian city from "un-Islamic Indian rule."63 These declarations are, at once, an expression of the pan-Islamic ambitions shared by all extremist Islamist groups operating in the region, and a reiteration of Pakistan’s larger strategy of destabilization beyond the scope of the supposed ‘core issue’ of Kashmir.
Within this larger design was a series of 13 bomb blasts in various churches in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa between May and July 2000,64 executed by an obscure Islamic sect created in 1924, the Deendar Anjuman. The Anjuman is headed by Zia-ul-Hassan, the son of its founder, who is based in Peshawar, Pakistan, where the sect goes by the name, Anjuman Hizbullah. Hassan is also said to have floated a militant organization, the Jamat-e-Hizb-ul-Mujahiddeen in Pakistan, in order to ‘capture India and spread Islam’. Intelligence sources indicate that Hassan is bankrolled by the ISI, and the Indian Union Home Minister stated in Parliament that linkages between the Deendar Anjuman and Pakistan’s covert intelligence agency had been established by investigators.58 Investigations have exposed a network of the Anjuman’s subversive activities extending across several small towns and urban centers, including Nuzvid, Atmakur, Kurukunda, Palem, Vijayawada, Khammam and Nandyal in Andhra Pradesh; and Batakurki, Ramdurg and Hubli in Karnataka.
Another series of 19 explosions had earlier, on February 14, 1998, left approximately 50 persons killed and 200 others injured in the Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu.66 While the Al Umma group, founded by S.A. Basha, was blamed for these incidents, investigations and subsequent arrests exposed the involvement of a wide network of extremist Islamist organization across South India, including the Indian Muslim Mohammadi Mujahideen, the Tanzim Islahul Muslimeen, the Jihad Committee in Tamil Nadu; and the Islamic Sevak Sangh, subsequently banned and revived as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), headed by Abdul Nasser Madani. ISI agents said to have engineered and facilitated the incidents included Azam Ghauri,67 Saleem Junaid, Farooq Ahmed and Mohammad Mansoor.
By far the most dramatic serial blasts engineered by the ISI took place in Bombay on March 12, 1993, and these revealed a unique pattern of operation that has gradually consolidated itself over the years – the use of organized criminal networks to execute terrorist strikes. Nearly 1,800 kilograms of RDX and a large number of detonators and small arms had been smuggled through the West coast of India prior to these blasts, which killed over 300 persons and targeted critical commercial infrastructure, including the country’s largest stock exchange at Dalal Street. The explosions were executed by the notorious D-Company headed by Dawood Ibrahim. Ibrahim now lives in Karachi, and runs India’s largest criminal empire through aides located outside India, and primarily in the West Asia.68
India’s Northeast is another interesting area of emerging Islamist militancy, and here it combines with major demographic shifts that hold significant dangers for the future. Illegal migration on a large scale across the border from Bangladesh is the most potent single factor in the destabilization of this region. In November 1998, the Governor of Assam, Lt. Gen. (Retd.) S.K. Sinha, submitted a report to the Indian President which estimated the total volume of this infiltration at six million people. Most of this increase was concentrated in a few areas, with a dramatic impact on the local demography and, hence, politics. According to the report, four districts of Assam – Dhubri, Goalpara, Barpeta, and Hailakandi – had been transformed into Muslim majority districts by 1991 as a result of this mass infiltration. Another two districts – Nagaon and Karimganj – would have had a Muslim majority since 1998 and yet another district, Morigaon, is fast approaching this position.69 This demographic destabilization, combined with widespread violence and political instability in the region, has created a unique recruiting ground for the Islamists, and there has been a veritable efflorescence of Muslim terrorist groups operating along India’s borders with Bangladesh in the Northeast. In Assam alone, there are over 15 terrorist groups operating under an Islamic banner,70 and intelligence sources suggest that there are as many as 23 such groups operating in the Northeast. The ISI’s role in funding and arming these groups has now been fairly well documented.71
Serial bombings and overt terrorist movements, however, cannot be a measure of the penetration that has been achieved by the extremist Islamists and their state sponsors. Acts of terror – especially on a large scale – represent the culmination of years of preparation that are reflected in motivation, mobilization and organizational development. Evidence of these processes is mounting throughout India, and is reflected in the number, both of fundamentalist and of subversive groups in existence, and the geographical spread of their activities. The most prominent of these include the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JeI Hind), the All India Milli Council (AIMC), All India Jihad Committee (AIJC), the People’s Democratic Party (PDP, formerly the Islamic Sewak Sangh), All India Muslim Federation (AIMF), Muslim United Front (MUF), Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TNMMK), National Development Front (Kerala), Tabligh Jamaat, Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), Students Islamic Organisations (SIO), Al Umma, Al Jihad, the Muslim Sena Sanghathan, Ikhwan-ul-Muslameen, Islami Inqalabi Mahaz, Tanzim Isla-ul-Muslameen, and the Minorities United Front, among others.
Each of these organizations runs one or more non-governmental organization (NGO), many of which have offices abroad. Very substantial funds are received, and a range of interactions, including frequent ‘Tablighi conferences’ with foreign delegations, are organized. The flow of funds is primarily through hawala (illegal) channels, and while Pakistan largely defines the patterns of use and the beneficiaries, the preponderance of such transfers originate in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman. Thus, very substantial transfers of foreign funds generated in these countries under the pretext of providing relief to the Coimbatore riot victims are believed to have been used for the Coimbatore blasts.
The range, volume and the persistence of such subversive activity throughout the country is more a measure of Pakistan’s tenacity and the intensity of the extremist Islamist vision, than it is of the present impact these activities have had on the larger Muslim community in India. The tragic loss of life, the wasted human and developmental resources, and the atmosphere of fear and suspicion that sporadic incidents of terrorism generate notwithstanding, India has displayed the flexibility, the resilience and the political space to absorb a level of subversive and extremist Islamist activities significantly higher than the present. Nevertheless, the sheer lethality of weaponry and explosives, the possibility of an escalation to a new generation of Chemical and Biological Weapons, and the inherent uncertainty of the politics of a complex society characterized by immense religious and cultural diversity, make the existing risks and levels of activity unacceptable.
These risks are even greater and less acceptable in countries where such space is wanting, where political instability is at higher levels, and where the roots of democracy are yet to take firm hold of the soil. Islamist subversion, consequently, threatens peace and regime stability more immediately in neighboring Bangladesh, where religious extremism has emerged as a major threat to the prevailing political order and to internal security. There are grave and urgent dangers to peace and stability in Bangladesh: the revival of the activities of the Jamaat-e-Islami, the return to Bangladesh and its politics of Pakistan-backed elements who collaborated closely with the genocidal campaign of 1971 in what was then East Pakistan,72 the rising rhetoric of Islamic Hukumat (rule), and the deepening linkages between militant Bangladeshi groups and the extremist Islamists in Pakistan, Afghanistan and West Asia. Here again, the pattern of funding, subversion and mobilization through the mosque and the madrassa is clearly in evidence. Prior to Independence, there were 1,467 madrassas in Bangladesh. Their number has currently risen to over 6,500, with more than 90,000 teachers and about 1.8 million students. A large number of these institutions have been established as a result of massive foreign aid, primarily from Gulf countries, and largely unmediated by official channels. Bangladesh’s madrassas are the chief recruiting ground for Islamic militant groups, including several that are linked to Pakistan and also to Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaida. The latter category includes the Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami, which was established by Shawkat Osman, alias Sheikh Farid in 1992 with bin Laden’s backing, and which has an estimated strength of about 15,000. The Harkat maintains six camps in the hilly areas of Chittagong, where the cadres are given arms training. Several hundred recruits have also been trained in Afghanistan. The cadres, recruited mainly from among students of various madrassas, style themselves as the ‘Bangladeshi Taliban.’ Reports suggest that foreign-aided religious fanatics are actively conspiring to establish ‘Islamic hukumat’ by waging war and killing progressive intellectuals, as well as various minority groups and ‘heretical’ sects, such as the Ahmadiyas.73
In addition to the JeI, the prominent fundamentalist Islamist political parties in Bangladesh include the Muslim League, Tabligh Jamaat, Jamaat-e-Tulba and Jamaat-ul-Madrassin. One significant pro-Iranian group, the Islamic Shasantantra Andolan (Movement for Islamic Constitution), is also active. The subversive activities of the ISI and foreign extremist Islamist agencies in Bangladesh increased radically after Sheikh Hasina’s broadly secular Awami League came to power in June 1996, and this has contributed to an upsurge in militant and fundamentalist political activity. Superimposed over a history of military coups, a politics dominated by the rhetoric of Islam, and increasing international linkages, including networks with insurgent groups operating in India’s Northeast, extremist Islamic militancy constitutes the most serious existing internal security threat in Bangladesh.
The security agencies of the infant democracy of Nepal are also being challenged by rising extremist Islamist activity, despite the fact that Muslims constitute a bare three per cent of the population of this country. Such activity is, presently, primarily directed against India, but its linkages with organized criminal operations and the destabilization of pockets of Muslim concentrations in the Terai region bordering India are a cause of increasing concern for Kathmandu. A succession of recent reports has documented increasing activities of the ISI and by the Pakistan Embassy at Kathmandu, involving strong organized criminal networks and prominent political leaders in a range of activities targeting India and reinforcing the Islamist agenda within Nepal.74 The Muslim pockets of the Terai, especially Bardiya, Banke, Rupendehi and the Parsa-Morang belt have seen increasing ‘Tablighi’ activities, and the construction of mosques and madrassas with financial flows from Pakistan – often directly from the Embassy at Kathmandu – from Saudi Arabia and from a range of pan-Islamic organizations. Over the past two decades, more than 275 mosques and madrassas have been built in just the four districts of Rupandehi, Banke, Kapilvastu and Bardiya. There are some 15 major tablighi/ fundamentalist organizations in Nepal, and at least five of these are well within the ambit of Pakistan’s influence and control. These include the Jamaat-e-Millat-e-Islamia; the Nepal Islamic Yuba Sangh; the Nepal Muslim League; the Nepal Muslim Ekta Sangh; and the Democratic Muslim Welfare Association. Nepal is, consequently, emerging as an important ‘staging post’ for Pakistan’s strategy of erosion and encirclement against India, and is increasingly the preferred route for the movement of high profile terrorists to various areas of low-intensity conflict in J&K and the Northeast.
In Sri Lanka, the Muslim community and emerging fundamentalist forces have generally aligned themselves with the interests of the government. The Island nation’s Muslim population is mainly Tamil, but has been driven out of the ethnically cleansed northern areas controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and is now concentrated along the eastern coast, the north-west coast, Kandy and suburban Colombo. Islamic fundamentalist mobilization in Sri Lanka began after a succession of attacks on the Muslims by the LTTE in the early 1990s, after which the government decided to arm the Muslim youth for self-defense. The conflict between Hindu and Muslim Tamils resulted in the polarization of mindsets on the issue of religious identity. There are, today, nearly a dozen Muslim fundamentalist organizations in Sri Lanka who are funded by foreign countries, primarily Saudi Arabia, with at least two political parties drawing significant support from Iran.
What we see, then, is a strategy of encirclement and penetration that seeks indiscriminate destabilization throughout the South Asian region, and its visible source is in Pakistan, though its financial flows originate in West Asia. Within the paradigm of Kashmir as the ‘core issue’, it may be tempting, under the circumstances, to explore the possibility of a permanent settlement with Pakistan, by which it makes firm commitments on the cessation of all such subversive activities throughout the region in exchange for territorial concessions. Once again, this would be a course of action based upon a complete failure of comprehension, both of the nature of the absolutist ideology of extremist Islam, and of the complex nature of the relationship between the Pakistani state and the terrorist groupings that currently act on its apparent bidding.
First, the extremist Islamist vision is not limited to South Asia, or to the new centers of instability in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, as some theorists believe, but extends across ‘God’s universal empire’. "The world is divided into opposing forces," Altaf Gauhar argues, "there is no common ground between secularism and Islam."75 Allah Buksh Brohi is more explicit:
The growth of these madrassas is, indeed, an accurate index of Pakistan’s mounting difficulties. In 1947, there were 137 madrassas in the entire country. By 1971, this number had grown to 900. But, with Zia’s policy of generously funding "madrassas of all sectarian persuasions…. by the end of the Zia era in 1988, there were 8,000 madrassas and 25,000 unregistered ones, educating over half a million students. As Pakistan’s state-run educational system steadily collapsed, these madrassas became the only avenue for boys from poor families to receive the semblance of an education."79 Sources indicate that by the middle of the year 2000, the number of madrassas had grown to nearly 9,500, and some commentators in Pakistan estimate the current number of unregistered madrassas at between 40,000 and 50,000.80
The mind-blunting curriculum of most of these madrassas entirely neglects all branches of secular instruction, including the basics of mathematics and science, and comprises 16 long years of purely theological education, recitation of the Quran, Fiqah (interpretation of the Sharia), and indoctrination for jihad. The inevitable consequence of such an education has been the chronic "inability to produce reality-based theories of change",81 extraordinarily narrow and exclusionary perspectives, and deepening sectarian divisions that spill over into increasing violence.
With an estimated 60 per cent of funding emanating from abroad, these schisms are magnified further by the ideological and strategic contests of foreign funding agencies and states. Afzaal Mahmood, for instance, notes that, "By allowing Iran and Saudi Arabia to fund, influence and use some sectarian organizations of their liking, we have virtually encouraged Teheran and Riyadh to fight a proxy war on the soil of Pakistan, with serious consequences for sectarian harmony and law and order in the country."82 Funds have also come from Libya, Iraq and several other Gulf countries, creating an intricately nuanced web of conflict.83
Shia and Sunni madrassas have spawned rival terrorist forces that visit gratuitous slaughter on sectarian rivals – most prominently, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) (Sunni); and the Tehrik-e-Jaferia Pakistan (TJP) and Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP) (Shia). There is also a deep schism between Sunni Deobandi and Barelvi madrassas, and a large number of Ahle Hadis madrassas have also emerged recently in Baluchistan, Sindh and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Most sectarian bombings and shootouts originate from or occur at mosques housing these schools, and a significant proportion of those killed are madrassa students.84 Patterns of international rivalry are also visible in some retaliatory killings. Thus, Iranian diplomat, Sadiq Ganji, was gunned down in Lahore following the assassination of SSP founder Haq Nawaz Jhangvi in March 1990. Similarly, the 1997 assassination of Jhangvi’s successor, Zia-ur-Rehman Farooqi and 26 others in a bomb blast at the Lahore Sessions Court, saw the alleged revenge killing of Iranian diplomat Muhammad Ali Rahimi and six others in an attack on the Iranian Cultural Center at Multan.85
Sectarian violence is, however, a relatively minor consequence of the proliferation of madrassas. Their primary output has been the export of international extremist Islamic terrorism, and this has created enormous internal concentrations of armed, trained and indoctrinated irregular (terrorist) forces who, at some point of time or the other, may have been supported by the government through the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) that oversaw the Afghan campaign, and that currently guides the export of terror into Jammu & Kashmir and other theatres across the world, but who do not acknowledge the power or authority of the government to define their long-term goals and objectives. Their allegiance is commanded by the various ‘spiritual leaders’ who run the madrassas that have acquired extraordinary notoriety over the past years, both as hotbeds of terrorism and as the spawning ground of the Afghani Taliban. It is here that a ‘theology of rage’ is taught, and the Talib (student) exhorted to practice a ‘sacred violence’ that is his greatest duty in Islam. These institutions include most prominently the Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqani at Akora Khattak; the Markaz-ad-Da’awa-wal-Irshad (MDI) at Muridke; the Jamiat-ul-Uloom Islamia Madrassa in Karachi; the Dar-ul-Uloom, Pashtoonabad; the Dar-ul-Iftah-ul-Irshad, Nazimabad; and the Ahle-Sunnat-wal Jamaat madrassa at Rawalpindi. Many of these institutions run a multiplicity of schools across the country – the Markaz-ad-Da’awa-wal-Irshad, for instance, had 137 madrassas by late 2000.86 These, however, are only a sampling, the visible tip of the iceberg, and there are hundreds of less known ‘Jihad factories’ – the ‘supply line for jihad’ – that indoctrinate their students and give them ‘military’ training, both for the sectarian war, and for international terrorism.
It has, consequently, become increasingly uncertain whether the Pakistani leadership is now "master or victim"87 of the militant fundamentalism it fuelled for its campaign against the Russian presence in Afghanistan through the 1980s, and continues to stoke in pursuit of its strategic ambitions in Kashmir. Indeed, the apparatus of training for terrorism reflects the same curious dualism and principal-agent conflict that characterizes the growth of the madrassas. A number of training camps, especially those that fuel the terrorist movement in J&K, are still run by the Pakistan Army and the ISI; most, however, function with various degrees of autonomy under the charge of quasi-independent extremist Islamic institutions and groupings; and even where active state support is lacking, their activities are fully tolerated on Pakistani soil. Occasional difficulties do, of course, crop up – and the Taliban in Afghanistan have been willing to give sanctuary and space to armed groups whose sectarian activities may have occasionally passed beyond Islamabad’s levels of declared tolerance, and whose sectarian orientation is in conformity with the Taliban’s own.88 This may also be a highly collusive and convenient arrangement, and Pakistan has, at least on occasion, found it expedient to relocate specific training camps in Afghanistan when international pressure becomes excessive. This happened in 1992-93, when Pakistan feared that the US would declare it a state sponsor of terrorism for its activities in J&K. Pakistan simply moved most of its Kashmiri militant groups to bases in eastern Afghanistan, and ‘privatized’ its support to the Kashmiri mujahidden, making the Islamic parties responsible for their training and funding.89 The shift was temporary, and while a number of camps continue to function in Afghanistan, there has been a proliferation within Pakistan as well, and one recent estimate places the number of existing terrorist training camps in Pakistan at 128.90 This is, however, a fluctuating figure, and the location of many of these camps is frequently changed. A significant number of such camps have been identified by various sources and agencies over the years, and they extend from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, through Pakistan, to Afghanistan.
The ‘privatization’ of these camps and of the jihadi armies, however, has had disastrous consequences for Pakistan, and there is mounting evidence of a loss of control as the autonomous religious groups challenge, not only their Army and ISI handlers, but the government itself. No clear division now exists between various social, political, religious and terrorist organizations, and most groups that have actively participated in street violence and acts of terrorism, both within Pakistan and abroad, are also openly active on Pakistan’s political landscape. There has, moreover, been increasing penetration by extremist Islamic elements into Pakistan’s Army, and elements of ‘Islamization’ have been introduced into the Army’s training programs at various levels. In 1992, the then Prime Minister appointed a well-known Tablighi91 (congregationist), Lieutenant General Javed Nasir, as the Director General of the all-powerful ISI. General Pervez Musharraf’s military regime, moreover, clearly lacks the capabilities and support to contain the extremist elements and has, on more than one occasion, been forced to back off on policies and reforms in the face of Islamist opposition.92 The cumulative impact of nearly two and a half decades of ‘Islamization’ has now put in doubt the Army’s ability – indeed, will – to suppress the extremist Islamist forces in case of an open confrontation with government, and it is apparent that at least some sections within the Army would side with the extremists if such an eventuality emerged.
Such a confrontation now appears increasingly probable, if not inevitable. The madrassas and the mujahiddeen are entirely committed to the establishment of a ‘Taliban sytle’ government for Pakistan, and some of the groups recently put General Pervez Musharraf’s military regime on notice to establish ‘Islamic rule’ in the country, or to face the consequences. Maulana Samiul Haq, the chief of his own faction of the Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), speaking at the Jamia Ashrafia at Peshawar in January 2001, declared that both the so-called democratic and martial law regimes had been tested and had failed to deliver, and that, consequently, only the Islamic Sharia could ‘solve the problems faced by the masses.’ Maulana Jalil Jan, the provincial leader of the JUI (F)93 added that, if the government failed to implement Islamic Sharia, the ‘religious students will resort to the use of force to do the same’.94
Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, who headed the ISI through critical periods of the Agency’s campaign in Afghanistan, shares the vision of the Islamist fundamentalists and argues that "Pakistan will go through its own version of an Islamic revolution…. The army is the last hope. And if the army fails – and it probably will – then people will realize they will have to do it themselves, revolt against the system… Because everything else in this country has failed, Islam will have to lead the way."95
It seems clear that, unless current trends are radically and immediately reversed, it is only a matter of time before Pakistan is sucked into the turmoil of an Afghanistan-like anarchy.
These, then, are the state and the unruly agents that control the militancy in J&K, and with whom the ‘problem of Kashmir’ – and of extremist Islamist militancy in the entire region – will have to be settled. The Islamist madrassas in Pakistan are now reported to be mobilizing and training children as young as five years old for their jihad.96 It is essential to understand that no logic or reason – no negotiations – can deter individuals who are trained from such a young age for nothing but to kill and to die. It is precisely such processes of isolation training that the LTTE used in Sri Lanka to create its suicide cadres; and suicide squads, entirely unconcerned with any long term prognostications on their actions, will increasingly come to J&K to do the only things they know and understand: to kill and to die.
Enormous faith has been placed on the ‘international community’ by India in its hope that Pakistan will eventually yield to cumulative diplomatic pressure or to the economic burden of sanctions. But Pakistan can yield neither to economic imperatives, nor to international pressures, nor, indeed, can it stop at any limited concessions that it may secure through negotiations with India – for it is no longer in control of the forces of extremism that it has created and nurtured. It may, however, eventually yield to chaos. And while this may not be desirable even from the Indian point of view, preventing such an eventuality cannot be the overriding concern for an Indian government.
Despite its economic strength, its political resilience, and its military might, despite the courage and sacrifices of its combined Security Forces, India, today, projects an image of utter fragility and vulnerability to the world as a result of the vacillation and weakness of its political leadership and its bureaucracy. The rhetoric of being a ‘world leader’, a ‘great power’ has dominated recent political oratory, but India’s governments have not learned how to act even as governments of a principled democracy, leave alone a ‘great power’. Can those who advocate negotiations with terrorists and their front organizations over Kashmir, even conceive of the US Government initiating similar ‘negotiations’ to arrive at a settlement on the ‘issue’ of the US military presence in Saudi Arabia?
The meaning of democracy has been distorted beyond measure in India. The idea that everybody – including terrorists and mass murderers – must be ‘accommodated’ in the political process and kept happy within a democracy appears to be the thrust of the politics of ‘consensus’ that has been the unique product of a succession of corrupt and craven regimes. But one cannot strengthen the case for democracy by handing over power to those who reject its very fundamentals. Democracy is not the ‘soft option’ it is so widely thought to be in this country. It is an extraordinarily difficult form of governance, and demands exceptional discipline adherence to the rule of law, both on the part of the people and of governments. Freedom, in such a system, is not, as some would have us believe, a ‘birthright’; it is something that has to be fought for and defended, something that nations earn and preserve through blood and sacrifice. It is necessary now, if India is to survive, to abandon the whore’s ethic of consensus and appeasement, to take on the burden of responsible and principled governance, and to accept the inescapable fact that terrorism and the ideologies that inspire it will have to be defeated, and that nothing is going to change unless it is demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that violence will not profit those who seek to use terror as an instrument of policy. This is a demonstration that will have to be made, not only in Kashmir, not only in every theatre of terrorist violence in South Asia, but across the world. Before India can demand comparable and consistent action in this direction from the international community, however, it will have to escape from the ‘spectacular feebleness’ of its own past, and to exhibit the courage and the conviction to frame its own policies and actions on these principles.
This does not mean that there can be no legitimate peace process in Kashmir. Such a process is not only possible, but is necessary. It must, however, reject the very prospect of compromises with all forces that choose violence and terrorism as instruments of policy. Such a process can only be framed within the provisions of constitutional governance and of law; it must use legitimate democratic institutions and processes to address the just grievances of the people; it must restore the institutions of civil governance and justice administration in the State; it must create alternatives of political leadership within the communities in J&K; and it must, finally, reject the illusion of peace to embrace a real peace rooted in the strength and stability of principled democratic governance.