Having failed in its attempt to instigate separatism on a communal basis first in Punjab and currently in Jammu and Kashmir, the Pakistan Army Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) set about fanning the disaffection inherent in a body like the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). But the foreign instigation soon became apparent and SIMI morphed into Indian Mujahideen with the clear intention of inducing the same kind of deniability that pervades Pakistan’s involvement in cross-border terrorism by showing it as “indigenous”.
Chinese involvement in the encouragement of the jihadi terrorism dates back to the war against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan when it supplied Russian-origin weaponry to the Afghan mujahideen through the ISI. In spite of occasional manifestations of an anti-Chinese orientation among certain jihadi groups, especially those with a Turkic ethnicity as evident in the kidnapping and killing of Chinese technicians working on dam projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir or the recrudescence of Islamist terrorism in the Xingjian region of south-western China itself, Beijing is comfortable with the effect Pakistan-sponsored terrorism has had on the Indian security system.
Nonetheless, there is no gainsaying that many of the activists of the Indian Mujahideen are Indian Muslim youth suborned into terrorism by such influences as the Wahhabi movement exported by Saudi Arabia first to Pakistan and from there to India and the whole of South and Southeast Asia. Both SIMI and the Indian Mujahideen are recognized by Indian intelligence services as being selected by the ISI-controlled Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) to expand the Islamic fundamentalist movement in India.
The involvement of ISI handlers of the Islamist splinter groups within India is recorded in the intercepted conversations between them and the leaders of the groups operating in India. Pakistan is aware of the damning evidence and has been assiduous in preventing the voice imprint of the mastermind of the attack on Mumbai on 26 November 2008, Hafiz Mohmmad Saeed, to the investigators of the Mumbai case because it would conclusively prove that he was in constant touch with the Mumbai attackers and passing on instructions from ISI handlers which were carried out with devastating effect.
With indoctrination from the ISI which has long been under the influence of the Saudi Wahabbis, the Indian Islamist groups have been emboldened to commit more than a dozen strikes in India including the serial blasts in Ahmedabad and the ones in Mumbai last year. Much of the evidence has pointed to SIMI activists based in Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh to such an extent that intellectuals connected with that city had to protest against the stereotype that the city was the cradle of Islamist terrorism in India.
With Pakistan finding it increasingly difficult to launch terrorists against India because of the improvement in Indian defences against foreign intrusions, both Pakistan and China find it convenient to use and instigate indigenous disgruntled Islamist groups to stage attacks. Infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir is beginning to bring diminishing returns for Pakistan after more than two decades of sustained use of Islamist terrorism in what was believed by the Pakistan Army GHQ in Rawalpindi to be a natural crucible of terrorism in Muslim-majority Kashmir valley. Notwithstanding Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s threat of taking up arms against the Indian nation, there is enough evidence that the people of Jammu and Kashmir as a whole are fed up with the foreign-inspired insurgency and are actively seeking a more peaceful way of life.
That Pakistan has to become directly and overtly involved in trying to push Pakistan-trained terrorists across the Line of Control is an indicator of the desperation being felt in the Rawalpindi GHQ. It is no secret that the ISI finds it convenient to launch attacks against India timed at the precise moment when the political leadership shows an inclination to improve relations. It is, therefore, not surprising that the recrudescence of unprovoked shooting across the Line of Control should have occurred almost as soon as President Asif Ali Zardari made his trip to the Dargah at Ajmer. It is also a sure sign that Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani’s suggestion of a demilitarization of the Siachen Glacier cannot be trusted to ensure that other means of grabbing territory across the Himalayan heights where no demarcated border exists are not used after the Indian troops withdraw. Even the acceptance by Pakistan of Actual Ground Positions of the two Armies is no guarantee that General Kayani’s suggestion is not part of a larger game-plan to hand over the area to the Chinese.
It should be expected that even as the Pakistan Army is creating a diversion along the Line of Control, instructions have been sent to tanzeems like the Indian Mujahideen to activate their sleeper cells to launch terrorist attacks against Indian soft targets and create an internal security crisis.
Hence it no longer matters what is the nomenclature used to describe terrorist groups operating inside India — whether they are “indigenous” or “Pakistani”. If they are serving a foreign agenda, they ought to be dealt with accordingly.
(The writer is a security affairs analyst) (ADNI)