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Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 3, No. 40, April 18, 2005

Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal





A Prime Minister Speaks: Finally, a Clear Voice on Terror
K.P.S. Gill
Publisher, SAIR; President, Institute for Conflict Management

There can be no political compromise with terror. No inch conceded. No compassion shown… There are no good terrorists and bad terrorists. There is no cause, root or branch, that can ever justify the killing of innocent people. No democratic Government can tolerate the use of violence against innocent people and against the functionaries of a duly established democratic Government.

For far too long, now, the political discourse on terrorism has been clouded by a wide range of misconceptions, a great deal of muddle-headedness and at least some self-serving pretensions, and these have persistently stood in the way of evolving a coherent national policy against this scourge, even as they have obstructed India's Security Forces (SFs) time and again from taking necessary action. In numberless cases, where the SFs have, at great costs and with untold sacrifices, imposed a measure of order in areas of widespread violence, the advantage has quickly been wasted by political adventurism and unprincipled deals with extremist leaderships that have restored the sway of violent anti-state groups in wide areas of the country. Political leaders at the highest levels have repeatedly propounded the false sociologies of 'root causes' and the fiction that terrorists and other extremists, who have taken hundreds of innocent lives, are best treated as 'our children' who may have 'lost their way'. At the same time, many political parties have entered into deceitful pre-election alliances to secure extremist support during the polls, against promises of a 'soft-line' in the post-poll order.

Even where political leaders have, in the past, condemned terrorism, they have found it expedient to qualify their remarks with platitudes about 'wayward children', 'legitimate grievances' and the need for undefined and inchoate 'political solutions'.

In a radical departure from this feckless tradition, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has now articulated what can be a sound and secure basis for a national counter-terrorism strategy and internal security policy. At the Chief Minister's Conference on April 15, 2005, the Prime Minister's statement was crystalline in its clarity, sweeping aside the accumulated debris of discredited political rhetoric - much of it emanating from his own Party and Cabinet colleagues - to establish and impose the beginnings of a consensus on a fractious and opportunistic political community, as he emphasized the dangers of "terrorist groups, organized crime syndicates, drug trafficking and external forces interested in destabilizing our polity", and "urged leaders of all political parties to ensure that such forces and groups are kept away from our political processes. We need to have zero-tolerance for criminalisation of politics in our country."

It is unsurprising that such a statement should come, eventually, from an economist Prime Minister, as he confronts the challenge of integrating India's economy with the emerging global order, and securing for the country its rightful place among the 'great powers' of the future. For decades, expenditure on policing and internal security has been casually dismissed by planners as 'non-developmental expenditure' and, consequently, in some sense, 'wasteful'. Instead, it has frequently been argued, massive investment in areas of strife would address the 'legitimate grievances and aspirations' of the people, and magically wipe out violence. Billions of rupees have, consequently, been poured into a bottomless pit, with no visible impact on the intended beneficiaries, even as a corrupt politicians-bureaucrat-contractor nexus has profited hugely, and substantial volumes of these funds have also flowed into the hands of insurgent and terrorist groups. At the same time, ill-equipped State Police Forces, increasingly supplemented by Central Paramilitaries and the Army, are thrown into unequal and unending wars against elements that are complicit with their own State political leaderships, and that, at least on occasion, have had supporters in the national political leadership as well.

Prime Minister Singh, however, clearly recognizes the "huge societal costs" of the multiple anti-state movements across the country, and notes:

Investments are unlikely to fructify, employment is not likely to grow and educational facilities may be impaired… Delivery systems are often the first casualty. Schools do not run, dispensaries do not open and PDS (public distribution system) shops remain closed. Public service providers can now ascribe all their inefficiencies to "extremism".

Recognizing that "the challenge of internal security is our biggest national security challenge today," Singh has called for urgent police reforms, efficient policing, special attention to intelligence gathering and the modernization of intelligence services and Security Forces.

Clarifying another element of frequent political double-speak, the Prime Minister dismissed efforts by many to underplay the growing dangers of Left Wing extremism (Naxalism), emphasizing the "inter-State and external dimension to Naxalism today. This requires greater coordination between State Governments and between the Centre and States. We have to take a comprehensive approach in dealing with Naxalism given the emerging linkages between groups within and outside the country…"

Singh reiterated that, "while talks and negotiations should always be welcomed", these can only be with groups that abjure violence:

…the basic issues regarding violence and the State's obligation to curb it should be clarified at the outset, so that there are no misunderstandings or a feeling of being let down at later stages. In our country, symbols and gestures matter. Nothing should be done which detracts from the authority of the Indian state and its primary role as an upholder of public order. The State should not even remotely be seen to back away in the face of threats of armed violence.

Few in India have recognized or even understood the enormous effort and sacrifice that has gone into the preservation of the 'symbols and gestures' of Constitutional Democracy. It is useful, in this context, to recall a small example of a 'routine' operation during the recent Assembly elections in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Bihar - areas widely afflicted by Naxalite violence. A contingent of the Punjab Police (PP) was deployed in Chhattisgarh for 22 days on polling duties, with a large proportion of these in the Bastar area, including four of the areas worst affected by Naxalite violence: Jagdalpur, Kanker, Bijapur and Dantewada. One party of 50 PP personnel, accompanied by one local policeman, started from Bijapur to go through forests to reach a place called Sundra, to prepare a helipad so that electoral officials and materials could be brought in. This short journey was to be completed in two stages, with an overnight stop at Sagmeta. They moved from Bijapur at 07:00, and by 10:00, they were in the thick of the forest. They were greeted by as many as 19 landmine blasts, coupled with heavy firing. The commandos retaliated and used area weapons - 2-inch mortars, GF rifles (grenade launchers), Light Machine Guns and ALRs. They found that all the existing forest trails were mined, so they marched cross country, cutting a path through the forest and reached Sagmeta, just 15 kilometres from Bijapur, at 17:00, completing the journey in over 10 hours. At Sagmeta, from 23:00 to 05:00 the next morning, there was a pitched battle between the police party and the Naxalites who were surrounding them from all sides. They then received information that the route to Sundra was heavily mined. The party consequently stayed on at Sagmeta for another day. Firing on the party started again at 2200 and continued till 0500 the next morning. A helicopter was eventually pressed into service, and lifted one party - about half a platoon - who secured the ground at Sundra. The remaining policemen were then airlifted to create and secure the helipad. They came under heavy fire from the Naxalites through the night at Sundra as well. For those who have not faced fire, it is difficult to understand the enormous courage and character that it would have taken this small contingent, as they confronted a faceless enemy, although unused to the terrain, being in the area for the first time. It is a tribute to their ruggedness, their training and their experience in fighting terrorism in Punjab that, despite the fact that they took casualties, they managed to set up the polling station, and polling did take place. What they saw was often horrifying, as people with mutilated limbs lined up to cast their votes. These were the victims of Naxalite 'justice', their limbs cut off - often by their own relatives on Naxalite orders - on the mere suspicion of being 'informers'. After polling was over, the party returned, once again under heavy fire throughout the night. While details of this expedition are available to me, it was far from unique, and other parties in Kanker and other districts were also subject to organised attacks - though this was the most vicious. All Forces deployed for election duties in the area suffered casualties, and 32 SF personnel lost their lives during the elections in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

Prime Minister Singh has now made it clear that "there is no place for violence and extremism of any kind in a democratic, rule based society", but translating his newly articulated vision into policy will require political will and perseverance. I have, for nearly a decade now advocated the need for a national policy that would recognize the existing and future threat-potential of terrorism and low intensity wars, and create the basis for a radical reformation of internal security forces and strategies, to create the skills, knowledge, attitudes and infrastructure necessary to confront these dangers. It is now necessary to initiate immediate processes to reform the institutional structures that impinge upon internal security management - the SFs, the justice system, intelligence agencies, the bureaucracy, and most importantly the deeply compromised political structures of this country.

Unless the Prime Minister can secure these ends, his exceptional statement on terrorism and internal security would, regrettably, be just that: an exceptional statement.


A Strategy of Failure
Guest Writer: Suman Pradhan
Kathmandu-based Journalist and Analyst

Forty five years ago, in December 1960, King Mahendra dismissed Nepal's first elected Government and instituted a system of absolute monarchy that was only dismantled in 1990. In its place came multi-party democracy and constitutional monarchy. But the Royal coup on 1 February 2005 by his son, King Gyanendra, has once again taken Nepal back to the days of absolute monarchy.

Though the King has not banned political parties as his father did 45 years ago, space for political activism is severely restricted. Tough emergency measures since 1 February have curtailed not just the political parties but also civil society, the media and development agencies. Strong condemnation of the coup within and outside the country has done little to influence the regime's policies.

Two and half months later, with emergency still in force, there is little sign of improvement. Of course, two and half months are a short time to judge the performance of a new Government. But available evidence suggests that the length of time is immaterial for the simple reason that most of the present regime's policy assumptions are flawed and, consequently, point towards a continued future of violence and conflict.

Flawed assumptions

Politically, Nepal has never been as polarized as it is now. While the traditional ruling elite and the business and industrial lobby support the King's actions and point to the relative quiet of Kathmandu streets, the coup and the emergency have not gone down well among the majority. Recent polls have found that most Nepalis prefer multi-party democracy and constitutional monarchy rather than a dictatorship imposed from the Palace. For instance, a public opinion survey sponsored by the US-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) and conducted by AC Nielson / ORG MARG and Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research found "no significant support for an absolute monarchy and instead showed a great commitment to multi-party democracy and the rights it accords to the citizens of Nepal." Though the poll was conducted well before the coup, the NDI says its findings are relevant even after the coup. Another recent poll by sociologists Sudhindra Sharma and Pawan Kumar Sen, which was published in the Kantipur newspaper on March 26, found that 54 per cent of respondents supported full constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy. Only 5 per cent supported a Royal dictatorship.

Militarily, the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) and the other security services are still in a defensive mode, allowing the Maoists to seize the initiative at will. Recent military 'successes', therefore, are nothing more than a repulsion of Maoist attacks, and are not offensive operations in their true sense.

These flawed policies stem from flawed thinking and a serious mis-reading of conditions prior to February 1. The Palace acted on the assumption that the political parties, which had made a mess of democracy since 1990, are unpopular and have little support base. Palace actions were also justified on grounds that bickering between political parties was allowing the Maoists to gain the upper hand. And there seems to have been a strong belief that international criticism could be nullified by getting Nepal's other big neighbour, China, on its side. All these assumptions have been proven faulty.

Political trends

It is true that Nepal's political parties have little popular appeal at this point in time. Support for the parties is practically confined to their activists and partisan civil society groups. The population at large remains indifferent to their plight. Attempts by the parties to start a 1990-style People's Movement have consequently yielded no results. This may have given the Palace a window of opportunity to act. But windows of opportunity, by definition, are temporary. If the Royal regime makes serious missteps and fails to provide a general impression of progress, that window will close fast. That can be seen to be happening now.

The King's appointment of hardline Panchayat elements in his cabinet, the decision to revive hated Panchayat-era zonal commissioners, the campaign against democratic politicians through selective use of the Royal Corruption Control Commission, and efforts to constrict the role of the National Human Rights Commission by creating another parallel human rights body are all indicative of a vindictive approach towards political parties and civil society. Nepal's hapless citizens may not love the parties at this moment, but they definitely do not want a return to the past either. But reviving Panchayat era politicians and institutions has inevitably created the impression that the King is moving beyond his stated aim of establishing peace and strengthening democracy. What Nepal is witnessing today is the gradual dismantling of democratic institutions in favour of a Panchayat-style system. Even the King's announcement of municipal elections in his Nepali New Year's message on April 14 is being seen as little more than a diversionary tactics. This will inevitably erode whatever public support the monarchy may have had in the immediate days after the coup.

Even in their current dismal state, the parties are well placed to take advantage of these missteps. By constraining the political parties, the King has already wiped out the buffer between the monarchy and the people, between himself and the Maoists. And since the Palace is mistrusted by a large section of Nepalis, it is only a matter of time before perceptions about the parties change. The parties can hasten this process by instituting much-needed internal party reforms that deals effectively with corruption and allow for a new rejuvenated leadership to emerge. At the moment though, such tendencies have been pushed to the backburner as the parties rally to face the threat of an active monarchy. But in the short to medium term, as public support for their protests remain lacklustre, the parties will be forced to re-think strategy and come up with reforms that help them win public support again. Ironically, King Gyanendra could prove to be the biggest catalyst for this rejuvenation of the parties.

Advantage to the Maoists

The present schism between the monarchy and parties has predictably given the Maoists a huge advantage. The Maoists have also been boosted politically since the coup because, as some western diplomats in Kathmandu note, "they have actually come off better than the Palace in the eyes of the international community." Maoist attempts to lure the mainstream parties after February 1 speaks of the opportunities they see in the current situation. But the parties are not about to fall into that trap, despite increasing calls from within by vocal student and other groups. Nepali Congress (NC) president Girija Prasad Koirala, Nepali Congress - Democratic (NC-D) president Sher Bahadur Deuba and several CPN (UML) leaders have already ruled out that possibility. Almost all the party leaders realise that striking an operational deal with the Maoists could spell doom since that will mean the Maoists will have hijacked the political opposition to the Royal regime from the parties' hands. Such a deal will also give the regime a pretext to violently suppress the parties. None of the parties want that.

The parties' reluctance to join hands with the Maoists has not constrained Maoist activities. After February 1, the Maoists have been very active both in the military and political sphere. Imposition of repeated blockades and strikes, attacks on district headquarters and heavily defended military bases, speak of their continued capability to inflict damage at will. They have also managed to lure the Government into instituting policies that attracts more international condemnation, such as the village militia policy. But internal pressures within the rebel outfit also appear to be growing. There seems to be a policy tussle at the top rungs of the leadership which appear to have affected party morale to a degree. Recruitment and financial resources, already drying up before the coup, may have worsened in recent months. Interviews in the field indicate that Maoists have to rely more on threats and coercion than genuine public support to keep up recruitment in their ranks. For instance, there have been credible reports about how the Maoists coerced villagers in Rukum to participate in the deadly Khara attacks on April 8-9.

There is also indication that the Maoists do want a peace interregnum to shore up their organization and finances, but are caught in their own rhetoric. A peace dialogue with the current autocratic regime will likely harm the Maoists' image by providing legitimacy to the Royal coup. The reading therefore is that no peace talks are likely in the near term. The Government also seems to have reached the same conclusions, and has, accordingly, ratcheted up the rhetoric against the Maoists. But its military policy has failed to match its rhetoric.

Flawed counter-insurgency

The regime's flawed assumptions in the military sphere are obvious in the defensive nature of the war it is fighting. Before the coup, the RNA, the Armed Police Force and Nepal Police were all deployed in defensive positions. For any casual observer who has travelled through Nepal's districts, the most obvious aspect of security forces deployment was that they were guarding their own bases and perimeters. Offensive operations are rare, if any. And even those offensive actions which have been reported were no more than retaliatory or mopping up operations after a Maoist attack. The coup has not changed this dynamic. Nepal's security forces still remain in defensive formations, guarding their own bases. Of course foot patrols are sent out regularly, but they rarely venture into Maoist-controlled areas and mostly stay on or near highways and popular foot trails. The defensive posture of the security forces, coupled with the ill-thought out withdrawal of police posts from rural areas under the Unified Command concept, has given the Maoists an opportunity to extend influence beyond their traditional strongholds. The result is that, aside from urban areas and district headquarters, the Government's writ rarely runs in Nepal.

If the authorities gambled that this will change after the coup, it has not happened. The RNA leadership inevitably talks of military offensives just round the corner, but that corner keeps moving away. There are several reasons for this. One is that the RNA simply lacks the manpower and training to tackle an insurgency of this kind. Force numbers are too inadequate to have any meaningful impact, much less undertake offensive actions. And now, with the Maoists frequently using blockades and strikes to disrupt daily life, the RNA has been stretched thin to defend the highways while at the same time securing their bases and towns. Besides, the strategy is also handicapped by the lack of a hearts and minds campaign as well as a political component. In early April, during a briefing to diplomats and development agency heads in Kathmandu, the RNA "talked much about how they plan to win the war, but did not even say a word about the political components that must be a part of any such strategy," says a western development agency head. The usual military modus operandi is to use helicopter gunship with dumb bombs that cause more collateral damage than Maoist kills.

The flawed counter-insurgency strategy has been further exacerbated as the RNA grapples with the international arms embargo after the coup. Reliable military sources say that RNA has ammunition stocks to last just four months. If India and the West continue with the embargo, the RNA will be forced to seek military supplies elsewhere or begin manufacturing ammunition at home. RNA Brigadier General Deepak Gurung spoke bravely last month of manufacturing ammunition at home, but he did not specify whether the RNA had the capability to manufacture 5.56 mm bullets for both the Indian-made INSAS and US-made M-16 rifles.

Clearly, international condemnation of the royal coup and the effective arms embargo are having an effect on the RNA. While it is premature to say that such strains have forced the RNA to seek other means of fighting the Maoists, the RNA and the Government have shown a willingness to use unconventional methods of warfare. The foremost is the use of village militias, which could have serious long-term security repercussions. Though portrayed as a spontaneous uprising by common villagers against Maoists, village vigilante groups in Kapilvastu district have wrought carnage that can only invite Maoist retribution. A field study by a group of human rights organisations found that at least 42 villagers have died there, 31 of them killed by the vigilantes on suspicion of being Maoist sympathizers. What has gone underreported is that most of these killings, which occurred in the last half of February, have taken an ethnic/communal colour, as most of the victims are said to belong to hill tribes, who had settled in the fertile Terai plains over the last few years. One observer who travelled to Kapilvastu recently said that the carnage also appears to be a result of resource conflicts, particularly between the landlords and settlers. In any case, encouragement of village militias appears to be the Government's 'secret weapon' against the Maoists. The Minister for Information and Communication, Tanka Dhakal, has announced that the Government will implement development packages in those areas where the people take "courageous retaliatory action" against the Maoists. Such inducements are likely to further fan the violence in many more villages across Nepal.

In recent weeks, the RNA has used two strategies to counter growing perceptions of its failure: it has made strong attempts to fan rumours of an imminent split in the Maoist ranks, and it has also portrayed recent Maoist attacks as 'victories' for the RNA. Both are misleading. While credible reports have emerged about some sort of disciplinary action against top Maoist leader Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and his wife Hisila Yami, there is no concrete evidence suggesting that Bhattarai and Maoist 'supreme leader' Prachanda are on the verge of a split. Knowledgeable sources note that disciplinary action within the Maoist ranks is nothing new and point to the fact that Maoist eastern commander Ram Bahadur Thapa (Badal) himself was disciplined by the party a few years ago, but was again rehabilitated. In a statement issued on April 12, Prachanda himself alluded to this fact. Bhattarai too recently clarified, "debates and differences on policy are natural in a scientific party."

As for the RNA's second strategy, the Maoists did suffer heavy losses in the April 8-9 battle in Khara. RNA says that they recovered more than 150 Maoist bodies in the days after the fighting. But the operation at Khara was more a successful repulsion of a Maoist attack than an outright military victory. From a tactical perspective, this is unsurprising since the RNA has strengthened its base defences since 2003. The Maoists are no longer in a position to over-run RNA bases as was the case in 2001 and 2002. But the Khara operation highlighted that it is the Maoists who still hold the initiative. They choose the place and timing of battle rather than the RNA. And despite being unable to overrun the RNA base in Khara, the Maoists did have the satisfaction of knowing that they successfully probed and tested the RNA's defensive capabilities and tactics. Prachanda himself made this clear. Acknowledging losses on the Maoist side, he said on April 12, "the two-day Khara campaign has provided valuable experiences and lessons and will help in taking the war to a new level." Even the blockades imposed by the Maoists provide a glimpse of their capabilities. Only 10 percent of normal traffic runs on highways during blockades, and that too under heavy RNA security cover.

Misreading geo-strategic trends

The international community's response after the coup has highlighted the new geo-strategic realities in South Asia: no important power is willing to antagonize India over a marginal country like Nepal. The United States and United Kingdom have resolutely stood beside India in condemning the coup. Any indications that the US is willing to go it alone in Nepal was put to rest by US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice during her visit to Delhi in March. Similar though subtle signals have come from Beijing. The Chinese Foreign Minister's visit to Kathmandu in late March and early April did nothing to realize the regime's hopes of material support from China. While China is content to lend moral and political support, its relations with India are too important to publicly dare Delhi by supplying military assistance to Nepal. The joint-statement issued by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart on April 11 in Delhi is indicative of the tightening relationship dynamics between the two giants.

But the royal regime failed to read these signals correctly prior to and after the coup. Blatant efforts to play the 'China card' against India were based more on wishful thinking than current geo-political trends. China's interests in Nepal lie in a peaceful stable border and a firm check on the pro-Tibet activities in Kathmandu. These interests were, by and large, protected even by the party-based democratic Governments in the past. The King's coup does not change that reality on the ground except in one sense: the closing down of the Dalai Lama's office in Kathmandu four days before the coup to cultivate China. Besides this, and the reward of the "this is Nepal's internal affair" comment from China, the regime has failed to secure any material support. Misplaced hopes that the Chinese would supply arms and ammunition have come a cropper. Similar is the case of Pakistani efforts to help the regime with arms supplies. Without China's approval, the Pakistanis are not in a position to go ahead, which became awfully clear during the Kathmandu visit by a Pakistani economic delegation in late March.

Nepal's three-sided conflict is clearly worsening as an active monarchy steadily wipes out the political middle ground represented by the democratic parties and civil society. A flawed counterinsurgency model, made worse by resource constraints and a lack of political initiatives, has provided advantage to the Maoists. Failure to correctly read domestic and international trends means policy is being formulated in a vacuum, devoid of a pragmatic base in ground realities. Worse, by directly governing the country and dismantling democratic institutions in favour of an authoritarian system, the Royal Government is risking a popular backlash.


The Realities of 'Peace'
Ajai Sahni
Editor, SAIR; Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management

President General Pervez Musharraf's 'cricket diplomacy', and before that, the inauguration of the Srinagar-Muzzaffarabad bus service (opening a route that had been shut down for nearly 57 years), had, over the past weeks, once again pushed the Indo-Pak peace process into the media centre-stage. India had been guilty of the first phase of the frenetic media build-up, as both the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) State Government and the Centre enormously overplayed the 'bus diplomacy' - with a high profile inauguration by the Prime Minister at Srinagar, attended by Party Chief, Sonia Gandhi, and a phalanx of other political leaders [in stark contrast to the low-key inauguration by the 'Prime Minister' of Pakistan-held 'Azad Jammu and Kashmir' (AJK)]. Camera crews in India tediously covered "every inch of the journey" from Srinagar to the Kaman Post - the last Indian outpost on the bus route - and the newly refurbished Aman Setu (Peace Bridge) that spans the line between Indian and Pakistani control, hysterically projecting the bus service as a major breakthrough towards a 'solution' to the Kashmir imbroglio. Musharraf, on the other hand, dismissed the bus service as "a small step towards confidence building and a small contribution for the happiness of the people."

In the interim, the General appeared to have been plotting his revenge, as he forced an invitation - apparently to attend a match in the ongoing Indo-Pakistan cricket series - which he tenaciously expanded into a 'mini Summit' with the Indian leadership, insisting throughout that the Kashmir issue needed to be taken up "immediately" because "we don't have time." He did not elaborate on this claim, but earlier, on March 27, he had threatened that, if 'new Kargils' were to be prevented, the Kashmir dispute would first have to be resolved. However, if he had calculated on his capacity to force the issue and secure a dramatic breakthrough or at least some major concessions from the Indian side by raising the rhetorical intensity of the media confrontation several notches before his meetings with Indian leaders and officials, the eventual Joint Statement issued by the two countries at the end of his quick tour - during which he spent a little over an hour actually at the venue of the cricket match - demonstrated his failure. Apart from the widening of CBMs along lines already established in official-level talks - greater 'people to people' contacts; more trade; and advancing of 'institutional mechanisms' to focus on various outstanding issues - nothing of significance was wrested from talks with the Indian Prime Minister, even though these extended long beyond their scheduled half hour. Reports suggest, further, that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took this opportunity to reiterate his now clear stand that there would be no redrawing of the Indian map, and no 'further Partitions'.

Significantly, the Indian leadership had sent out strong and clear signals in the days preceding the General's visit, prominently: on April 14 the Defence Minister accused Pakistan of pursuing a 'two-faced' policy on Kashmir, at once sponsoring terrorism and engaging in negotiations for 'peace'; earlier, on April 8, the External Affairs Minister had stated that "all options" were open "except redrawing the map of India and having a second Partition"; and finally, there was the Prime Minister's own lucid and exceptional address at the Conference of Chief Ministers on April 15, in which he articulated an utterly uncompromising vision on terrorism and its sponsors, just a day before the General's arrival in Delhi.

The General's failed gambit was located in hard calculations that provoked his observation, "we don't have time." Transformations in the external and internal environment impinging on the sustainability of Pakistan's enterprise of terror, as well as on Pakistan's own future, have now demonstrated clearly that the military and terrorist adventurism of the past is no longer sustainable. To the extent that strategists in Pakistan have long been convinced - and rightly so - that without violence or the threat of violence, India will never concede anything on Kashmir, and the increasing difficulties of calibrating violence at a sufficient level within J&K, it is clear that the Pakistani strategy is running out of time. This is enormously compounded by Pakistan's rising internal difficulties.

For one thing, Musharraf's efforts at political management of increasing internal discontent and strife are not fructifying. His efforts to arrive at a deal with the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leader, Benazir Bhutto, appears to have fallen through (though Islamist extremist elements of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, increasingly restive with the passage of time, insist that Asif Zardari, Bhutto's husband, is being 'built up' through the orchestrated arrest of PPP cadres, and his brief detention on his return to Karachi, as part of such a 'deal').

In Sindh, again, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) - currently a member of the ruling coalition - is straining at the leash. On April 11, Altaf Hussain, the founder of the MQM, demanded a "new constitution for Pakistan" based on "evolving geo-political and geo-strategic realities and the ground realities in the country." He also sought a review of Centre-State relations and the devolution of finances to the States, claiming that provinces other than the Punjab were being discriminated against under the present system, and further threatened that his party would walk out of the Government if military operations in Balochistan did not end, and the proposal to build new cantonments in that province were not abandoned. There are reasons to believe, moreover, that any effort to move ahead on the proposed Kalabagh Dam - essential to deal with the impending water crisis in the country - may plunge Sindh into widespread and violent protests and even the possibility of civil war. The Awami Tehrik had organised a major demonstration on March 31 against the building of the Dam, and the Pakistan Oppressed Nations' Movement (PONAM) had also called for strikes to protest the proposed Dam, the presence of the Army and the establishment of cantonments in Balochistan.

Potential political strife in Sindh would overlay the extended troubles in Balochistan and the North West Frontier Province, as well as the increasing restiveness of the radical Islamist elements within and outside Government. Incidents of violence continue in Waziristan, despite the claims of a 'settlement', and Balochistan has been destabilized to a point where it became impossible to go ahead with the scheduled inauguration of the new Port at Gwadar by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao during his visit to Pakistan on April 5-9, 2005.

There is, moreover, a real and increasing problem in the Northern Areas, where protests against school curricula imposing 'Sunni beliefs' on the predominantly Shia population, the demographic re-engineering of the region, and the issue of identity cards, are mounting, even as state repression intensifies, with several incidents of firing on unarmed protesters reported over the past months. Significantly, 'elections' to the Legislative Council of the Northern Areas - at best a toothless body - were held in October 2004, but a 'Cabinet' is yet to be constituted, because Islamabad will not allow even this figurehead to be constituted. It is inevitable that other issues will gradually surface in the Northern Areas - long neglected and forcibly kept out of the reach of the national and international media - as a discriminatory policy is pursued with regard to the other and relatively favoured division of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). Thus, while qualified enthusiasm has greeted the Srinagar - Muzzafarabad bus link, and tentative agreement appears to have been reached regarding the "operationalisation of additional routes including that between Poonch and Rawalakot", as well as the re-establishment of the Khokhrapur-Munnabao route, there is a studied silence on the Kargil - Skardu route that would bring two-Shia dominated areas closer. The sense of discrimination in the Northern Areas is accentuated by the fact that, while Muzzaffarabad is now linked to Srinagar across the Line of Control (LoC), the road between Muzzafarabad and Gilgit - both in PoK - lies in a state of disrepair, and the journey must be undertaken via Attock or Mansehra.

Overlying all these are the broader economic, social, political, demographic and resource crises looming in the near future. While Kashmir is an 'emotional issue' for the jihadis and for many ordinary Pakistanis, strategists recognize that the critical conflict is over the region's water resources. Projections suggest that Pakistan will suffer an acute shortfall of water well before 2010, unless new resources and reservoirs are made available, and, on the bounteous Chenab, these can only be safely and advantageously constructed in Indian J&K. In addition, the 'miracle' of Pakistan's projected seven per cent rate of GDP growth is widely thought of as being hollow - reflecting massive aid inflows and marginally improved utilization of existing capacities, but no creation of additional capacities or augmentation of investment flows. There has been no decline in poverty levels, and little by way of institutional reforms in critical areas such as education, which could impact positively on future growth. With one of the fastest-growing populations in the region - the country's population is expected to grow by nearly 100 million in 2020 from the 2002 level of about 148 million - Pakistan's developmental future is, at best, troubling.

Finally, the external environment is also changing dramatically, and even the qualified 'tolerance of terror' extended by the US is now being diluted, as America seeks radically improved relations - military, economic and technological - with India. Similarly, there is reason to believe that China's incentives to encourage Pakistan in its mischief are being progressively diluted by growing interests in trade with India, and in regional stability, as Beijing single-mindedly pursues its goal of economic reform and expansion.

These factors are now increasingly recognized by the thinking Pakistani, and are acutely confining Musharraf's room for manoeuvre. The 'Kashmir front' is no longer sustainable, as a multiplicity of 'internal fronts' open up. That is the key to Pakistan's increasing 'reasonableness'. It is a key India will do well to explore and exploit - especially if acts of terror increase with the melting of the snows in J&K.



Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
April 11-17, 2005

Security Force Personnel


     Jammu &










Total (INDIA)







 Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


Border Security Force submits list of 190 terrorist camps to Bangladesh Rifles: The Director General of Indian Border Security Force (BSF), R.S. Mooshahary stated on April 17, 2005, that the BSF has handed over a list of 190 camps of terrorist outfits in Bangladesh to the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) during a meeting between the two Forces, which concluded in Dhaka on the same day. Mooshahary added that the BSF also handed over a list of 161 terrorists taking shelter in Bangladesh and requested the BDR to take action to evict them. He also said that the 'general secretary' of the United liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), Anup Chetia, has been released from prison in Bangladesh but the authorities have not handed him over to India despite repeated requests. Assam Tribune, April 18, 2005.

BSF officer killed in firing by Bangladesh Rifles personnel: An Assistant Commandant of the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) was killed and two BSF personnel sustained injuries during firing by personnel of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) along the Lankabari border outpost in Tripura on April 16, 2005. "From the marks on the ground, the spot enquiry established that assistant commandant Jeevan Kumar and constable K. K. Surendran were dragged inside Bangladesh territory and attacked by the BDR, resulting in the death of the assistant commandant," said an Indian High Commission press release in Dhaka on April 17. The Hindu, April 18, 2005.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh holds talks with Gen. Musharraf: During their talks in New Delhi on April 17, 2005, Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, and the Pakistan President, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, are reported to have committed themselves to increasing the frequency of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service and commencing the Munabao-Khokhrapar railway link by January 1, 2006. While the Prime Minister described the talks as "very positive, fruitful and forward-looking," Gen. Musharraf said progress had been made in the discussions during which all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, came up.
The Indian Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran, later told the media that both sides had decided to "revive" their Joint Commission, intensify work in the private sector Joint Business Council and discuss obstacles to free trade at the Commerce Secretary-level Joint Study Group on economic issues. Saran quoted Dr. Singh as saying that he was willing to travel the road to "lasting peace" with Gen. Musharraf. The Prime Minister reiterated that, while redrawing of boundaries was not possible, India was willing to take steps to bring the people living on the two sides of the Line of Control (LoC) closer, including opening cross-LoC trade and transport links. Saran also quoted Gen. Musharraf as saying that confidence-building measures should be continued between the two sides and no "deadline" or "timeline" had been imposed to resolve the Kashmir issue, which had to be addressed. The Hindu, April 18, 2005.

Government open to talks with any group that shuns violence, says Prime Minister: While observing that violence will not win rewards and the Government will deal firmly with insurgency, Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, said in New Delhi on April 15, 2005, that the Government is willing to conduct an honest and meaningful dialogue with any group that shuns violence and is ready to engage in talks. Addressing the Chief Ministers Conference on Internal Security and Law and Order, he also said "There are no good terrorists or bad terrorists. There is no cause, root or branch, that can ever justify the killing of innocent people. No democratic Government can tolerate the use of violence against innocent people and against the functionaries of a duly-established democratic Government." Daily Excelsior, April 16, 2005.


60 Maoist insurgents killed during clashes in Rukum district: According to the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA), at least 60 Maoist insurgents are believed to have died during clashes with the troops at Dalphing in the western district of Rukum on April 13, 2005. RNA sources claimed the clashes occurred when a group of armed insurgents attacked a security patrol in the area. Nepal News, April 15, 2005.


11 Pakistanis in Spain charged over suspected Al Qaeda links: Spanish authorities have reportedly charged 11 Pakistani nationals over suspected links with Al Qaeda operatives who carried out the Madrid train bombings in March 2004, which killed nearly 200 people. One of the eleven, Shahzad Ali Gujar, is suspected of having transferred funds to Al Qaeda cadres, including Amjad Farooqi, whom Pakistani security forces killed during September 2004 and who was implicated in the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl. Investigators believe Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan received some 800,000 euros ($1 million) in funds from Spain. Mohamed Afzaal, believed to have headed the Pakistani cell in question, is suspected of sending money in September 2004 to Rabei Ousman Sayed Ahmed alias "Mohammed the Egyptian", who is currently in custody on suspicion of involvement in the train bombings. Dawn, April 14, 2005.

The South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) is a weekly service that brings you regular data, assessments and news briefs on terrorism, insurgencies and sub-conventional warfare, on counter-terrorism responses and policies, as well as on related economic, political, and social issues, in the South Asian region.

SAIR is a project of the Institute for Conflict Management and the South Asia Terrorism Portal.


South Asia Intelligence Review [SAIR]

K. P. S. Gill

Dr. Ajai Sahni

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