Violence in Jammu & Kashmir; Convergence of strategic interests
After 7 years of decrease in violence, recently, the Director General (Police Chief) of the Police of Jammu & Kashmir S.P. Vaid, in Indian Administered Jammu & Kashmir, said that more than 200 terrorists had been killed by joint efforts of the Police and Indian Army in 2017. Out of these 200 terrorists killed, 120 (60%) have been identified as Pakistani Nationals.
Foreign militants carrying out attacks in Indian Administered Kashmir is not a new phenomenon, and it is widely believed by the International community that Pakistan’s military establishment, including its powerful Intelligence Agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has been sponsoring and arming an insurgency in Indian Administered Jammu & Kashmir since 1989. For the last three decades, the Valley of Jammu & Kashmir has witnessed thousands of incidents of violence in which, besides casualties of policemen, security officials and militants, many innocent lives have been lost.
Contrary to his step of banning terrorist organizations like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), former Pakistani President and Retired Chief of Army, General Pervez Musharraf, weeks ago stated on a Pakistani news-channel from Dubai where he is living in self-exile after being charged with treason in Pakistan, that he is the biggest supporter of LeT and its front organization, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), and declared his full support for these terrorist organizations based on the fact that they are involved in armed action against Indian forces in Indian Administered Jammu & Kashmir, thereby virtually admitting to providing safe haven to terrorist leaders in Pakistan and supporting terrorist proxies in Indian Administered Jammu & Kashmir.
Speaking from Dubai, General Pervez Musharraf said:
"The reason that I like these organizations is that I have always been in favour of action in Kashmir and pressuring the Indian Army there. I am the greatest supporter of LeT and I know they (LeT and JuD) are fond of me".
When asked if he 'liked' JuD and LeT Chief Hafiz Seed, the former President said that he does and that he has also met him. It is noteworthy to mention that Hafiz Saeed was designated a Terrorist by the United Nations under UNSCR 1267 (UN Security Council Resolution) in December 2008, following the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, in which 164 civilians were killed. The international community, including the US also designated him as a Global Terrorist (Specially Designated National under Executive Order 13224 by United States Department of the Treasury), which led Washington to announce a $10 million bounty for information leading to his prosecution.
In response to the United States’ War on Terror, ensuring uninterrupted inflow of hefty funds, Pakistan adopted a two-faced counter terrorism strategy which may be referred to as Pakistan’s Double Game, by systematically suppressing domestic groups that engaged in internal sectarian violence and subverted critical State objectives. By contrast, terrorist outfits operational in the Kashmir Valley, India and the Taliban in Afghanistan are still considered, ‘strategic assets’. This duplicitous game of distinguishing between ‘bad’ terrorists, those who target Pakistani Security Forces, and ‘good’ terrorists, those who advance its strategic objectives vis-á-vis Afghanistan, India and Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir, has designated Pakistan as a conflicted ally in the War on Terror and caused the country to emerge as the epicentre of global terror, thereby risking a permanent state of instability and international isolation.
According to estimates, around 200 terrorists are still active in the Valley of Jammu & Kashmir. The main organizations to which these terrorists belong are, Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM), Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Headquarters of these organizations are based in Pakistan and Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir, and the organizations, allegedly, continue to receive military and financial support from Pakistan’s military establishment.
In November 2017, China, once again using its veto-power, blocked moves to sanction Maulana Masood Azhar, Chief of Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM), under the Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee. “There was ‘no consensus’ on Masood Azhar’s role in terror attacks in India”, a Chinese government official was quoted.
China is facing an uprising of ethnic Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang, a provincial-level autonomous region in the northwest of the country. Chinese State-backed media claimed that 300 Chinese Muslims have aligned themselves with the so-called ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria, while the authorities blamed the violence emanating from its restive province on radical Islamist ideology and residents’ ties to foreign terrorist networks. A possible liaison between groups operating in China’s Xinjiang province and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), operating in the congested milieu of more than a few dozen extremist organizations in Pakistan, would jeopardize the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and an investment of more than $50 billion, while Pakistan also has to deal with its own restive province of Balochistan, through which this corridor passes. Last week, two suicide bombers attacked the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, capital of Balochistan, killing nine people and injuring 30, while the attack was claimed by so-called ‘Islamic State’.
The recent release of Hafiz Saeed from house-arrest, veto-wielding China blocking the UN in its attempts to sanction Masood Azhar, mutual interests of Pakistan and China to control its restive provinces of Balochistan and Xinjiang in order to safeguard the construction of CPEC, do not seem to be coincidental. China will tacitly support Pakistan against the TTP and Baloch Separatists, not because of Pakistan’s interests, but more so because it does not want religious extremism gaining foothold in its own Muslim majority-province where Muslims face persecution. According to Dilxat Raxit of the exile World Uyghur Congress, carried in a report by ‘The Independent’ on 29th September 2017, “Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang received a notification saying that every single ethnic Uyghur must hand in any Islam-related items from their own home, including Qurans, prayers and anything else bearing the symbols of religion".
As long as Islamic extremist groups in Pakistan and the border areas close to Xinjiang will focus on Indian Administered Jammu & Kashmir and India, and thereby ignore the plight of their Muslim brethren in Xinjiang and do not expand their operations or otherwise bridge their presence into China, Beijing will have no problem looking the other way. It will back-up Pakistan against the TTP and Baloch Separatists, and turn a blind eye to Pakistan’s State policy of sponsoring Jammu & Kashmir-oriented terrorist groups.
Flowing from this scenario, Indian Administered Jammu & Kashmir will have to brace itself for an increase of violence based on extremist Pan-Islamic ideologies. The political mainstreaming of Hafiz Saeed through a new party, the Milli Muslim League (MML), will make him and the likes of him, only stronger in Pakistan’s political environment, which will eventually exacerbate terrorist activities in Indian Administered Jammu & Kashmir in the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, the people of Jammu & Kashmir are fed-up with violence as they have been bearing the brunt of this proxy war for almost three decades. In order to motivate local militants to re-join their families, the Jammu & Kashmir Police has promised safety and a comprehensive rehabilitation policy. “This isn't only about militants who cross the Line of Control, but militants who are here and want to return to their families. We will forward our recommendations to the State government. Soon, a surrender policy will be put in place”, said Inspector General of Jammu & Kashmir Police, Munir Khan.
This initiative of the State Police was preceded and followed by various emotional pleas of families of local Kashmiri militants, on Social Media and in the press, appealing their sons to return back home and lay down arms. In November 2017, a footballer-turned militant surrendered a week after joining LeT, when he heard the please made by his mother on Social media. His surrender inspired other young Kashmiri boys who decided to return home.
Killing their own people, Kashmiri people, because of an ideology or religion has become a burden, especially for these young boys who do not know what they are fighting for. The surrender of these and other local young Kashmiri boys is an encouraging development and a clear rejection of violence while it emphasizes that the common Kashmiri is longing for peace. However, the moot point is, whether this will be an end to violence in Jammu & Kashmir or an increase of infiltration of hardened terrorists from across the border?