Thursday, January 8, 2009

Pakistani Terror and India’s Options

Pakistan’s historical ties to jihadi terror

Pakistan’s jihadi factory has been in operation since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. Pakistan’s focus shifted to India when it started assisting Sikh separatist groups who were fighting India for a separate homeland – Khalistan. When the Khalistan movement failed, Pakistan in the late 80s started concentrating on training, financing and actively assisting so-called indigenous Kashmiri militant groups to achieve freedom (azaadi) from India.

The extent of Pakistani involvement in terrorism aimed against India is documented in a book titled Frontline Pakistan The Path To Catastrophe And The Killing Of Benazir Bhutto authored by Zahid Hussain, the Pakistan correspondent for The Times, London, and The Wall Street Journal. Very early in the book, Hussain lays out, in considerable detail, the extent of Pakistan's involvement and active support for terrorism by trying to 'Islamise a secular separatist movement' in Kashmir. The book also gives an account of how the ISI was used by its head Javed Nasir beyond Kashmir in the 1993 Mumbai blasts.

The book also reveals the close co-ordination of the Hafiz Saeed-led Lashkar-e-Tayiba with the ISI to infiltrate terrorists into Kashmir. The author wryly mentions the 'hundreds of LeT centres operating openly across the country.'

These centres drew recruits not merely from the unemployed but also from university students, thereby giving the lie to the still-repeated myth of an absence of education and material comforts being a contributory factor to terrorism.

Interestingly, most Lashkar terrorists are Pakistani Punjabis with few, if any, Kashmiris in their ranks.

Given Pakistan’s close links with terror it is stupid on India’s part to talk about co-operation and to expect any co-operation from terrorists to combat terror emanating from within their borders.

Pakistan’s reactions to Mumbai 26/11

After the terrorist attack on Mumbai, President Asif Ali Zardari said that he felt hurt and was pained by the carnage. The Prime Minister offered to send the Director General of the ISI to help in the investigations. The President later back tracked saying it was a case of misunderstanding on the part of the Indians and offered to send a lower ranking functionary. As the Pakistani hand in the terror attacks became apparent, it was a case of somersaults and flip-flops. Thereafter it was “show us the evidence and then we will take action.” Pakistanis did everything possible from denials to whipping up war hysteria and deflect world attention to a potential all out Indo-Pak war. However, India and the US kept up the pressure on Pakistan and the world saw Pakistan as the epicentre of Islamic terror.

After nearly 45 days of 26/11, India compiled a dossier comprising evidence of Pakistani involvement in the terrorist strike on Mumbai. The evidence was handed over to the Pakistanis on 5th January 2009. Pakistan’s reaction to the evidence submitted by India has been on expected lines – rejected as being insufficient. It has stated that the dossier on 26/11 given to it by India was based on interrogation of the sole surviving terrorist Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, a resident of Faridkot, Pakistan. Pakistan has reportedly told the US that the evidence provided by India is insufficient and no action can be based upon it.

"India's dossier contained nothing new and it was compilation of allegations against Pakistan that had already appeared in Indian media," the Nation quoted a Pakistan official, as saying.
Questioning the authenticity of Kasab's confession, Pakistan said: "The proof given by India are too insufficient to be made a ground for any action and that the statement evoked from Kasab under torture and violence of investigation agencies has no legal status," the Pak official said.

Naïve, it would have been for India to have even remotely expected the terrorist state to have looked into the evidence and acted upon it. A state which has denied that the lone surviving terrorist was Pakistani after the Pakistani media reported that he indeed was one; the denial of the evidence was only to be expected. But then how will Pakistan would react to the findings of the US law enforcement agencies which have been working closely with the Indian police and intelligence agencies in the investigation into 26/11? It remains to be seen whether Pakistan would do a limited “investigation” to satisfy the US and the West. Pakistan’s rejection of evidence dashes all hopes of so-called Pak co-operation in the war against terror. At least now India needs to realize that it cannot expect any responsible behaviour or neighborliness from an entity whose India-centric foreign policy has been based on spreading jihadi terror and bleeding India by means of thousand cuts.

The Poonch Encounter – Hill Kaka or worse a mini Kargil?

While India is cornering Pakistan with proof of its complicity in Mumbai 26/11 an encounter (which is considered quite routine in Kashmir) which started in the Batidhar forest of the Mendhar sector in Poonch on January 1, 2009 is turning out to be a sort of mini-Kargil with possibly well entrenched Pakistani army personnel passing of as Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Toiba, militants battling the Indian security forces for over 5 days. The terrain i.e. Mendhar has been well chosen, being forested and the techniques adopted quite similar to the one adopted at Mumbai. The reaction within India has been muted only because the combat zone is removed from civilian areas and close to the Line of Control and there have been no civilian casualties so far. However, this infiltration and engagement only shows the defiant approach of the Pakistanis and the determination to continue the proxy war against India.

The terrorists are suspected to be taking shelter in concrete hideouts, built deep inside the forest area. According to media reports, ten terrorists are believed to be holed up with adequate food, arms and ammunitions. 1500 security force personnel, comprising of troops from Rashtriya Rifles, Army's para commandos and special ops group of the J&K police are involved in the operations against the terrorists. The operation is spread over 8 square kilometers of forests. India has so far lost a Junior Commissioned Officer and a jawan, while four infiltrators are reported to have been killed in the encounter. At the time of this writing, the encounter was still continuing.

Like Mumbai 26/11, a dozen or so well-trained militants have been engaging more than one thousand troops thereby sapping our resources. Again an operation of this nature could not have been possible without the active support of the Pakistani army.

How does India move forward?

India while appealing to the UN and the international community for tackling terrorism emanating from Pakistan must hasten the pace of counter-terror measures. Firstly Pakistan with the evidence provided by India as well as Western security/law-enforcement agencies will not only NOT ACT, but try to avoid the pitfalls in the execution of future terrorist strikes. (The biggest pitfall in 26/11 was the capture of Ajmal Kasab, which provided evidence of Pakistani hand as well as a source of embarrassment)
India by giving evidence is only indirectly aiding Pakistan perfect the technique of asymmetric warfare. Sharing evidence with a criminal and seeking his assistance to solve a crime is ludicrous.

There is an immediate need for India to draw plans to bleed Pakistan with at least a hundred cuts in response to its policy of thousand cuts. India needs to recognize that Pakistan is a failed state (Pakistanis being unable to control large parts of North-West Frontier Province and FATA, day is not far when Pakistan may cease to exist as a state as understood in international law) with little or no control over its subjects and the army. India must not make the mistake of giving benefit of doubt to the civilian government of Asif Ali Zardari. Pakistani civilian government is as much culpable as the Army and ISI. India ought also not to make any distinctions between state and non-state actors. Pakistan has all along being stating that non-state actors may have been involved in the Mumbai carnage. In Kargil too, the Pakistanis kept repeating that Kashmiri freedom-fighters were battling Indian forces, till they were exposed.

India needs to talk less and act. Indian politicians including the Hon’ble Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues must exercise restraint while tackling this issue. A spokesman must be authorized to brief the media about developments to avoid conflicting opinions being aired on the issue.

India’s Options

Firstly, an undeclared policy that Pakistani citizens and Pakistani interests world-wide will be considered legitimate targets. This may include Pakistani missions abroad as well as its commercial interests.

Secondly, targeted assassinations of the military leadership of Pakistan, the ISI apart from terrorist operatives of all terrorist outfits operating from Pakistani soil or with Pakistani sponsorship.

Thirdly, a difficult but not impossible option is targeting financiers of terror outfits based in Pakistan and the Middle East. This will affect the fund flow to the groups.

Fourthly, targeting terror infrastructure in Bangladesh, (including the Bangladesh military intelligence) which serves as a launch pad for the ISI-backed HUJI and other groups through covert action.

Several experts have opined that surgical strikes on terror training camps need to be carried out. However, it must be pointed out that once the surprise element and stealth are lost, these strikes will have only symbolic value. Further, precision attacks on terror camps will be futile because these training camps consist of tents which are moved from place to place. Terror training camps may shift to virgin and new areas. According to B Raman, a noted counter terrorism expert, “air strikes may temporarily put a training infrastructure out of action, but not permanently. The American Cruise missile attacks of October, 1998, and their post 9/11 air strikes have not destroyed the training infrastructure of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The terrorists did suffer some casualties, which they were able to absorb and move to other places.” Moreover, these attacks will necessarily have to based on real-time intelligence and involvement of Special Forces.

According to Mr. Raman, a state cannot succeed against terrorism if it targets terrorists operating from foreign territory and not against the States sponsoring them and using the terrorists. For the same reason, the US-led coalition is unlikely to succeed in Afghanistan so long as they do not end the Pakistani sponsorship of the Taliban and its complicity with Al Qaeda. He also opines that Israel was unlikely to succeed against the Hezbollah and the Hamas so long as sponsorship by Iran and Syria did not end. In other words, in order to combat terror originating from Pakistan, India must be ready to take on Pak militarily.

In case of jihadi terrorism, the world needs to go one step further. The terror financing which comes primarily from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states must be stopped. As long as finance is available and the cause of jihad exists, terrorism will continue. It is difficult to root out the latter, namely the cause. But certainly efforts can be made to cut off the finance. One way would be targeting the financiers of terror by means of selective assassination/liquidation. The day we are able to instill fear in the minds of the so-called charitable organizations, jihadi terror will come to an end.

Another option which India should consider is physical elimination of families staying in India of certain wanted fugitives who are given asylum in Pakistan. This, though an unconventional option was used by the KGB in Lebanon in 1985. Four Soviet diplomats were kidnapped on September 30, 1985. Arkady Katkov, a consular attaché, was killed by his captors; the other three (Oleg Spirin, Valery Mirikov, and Nikolai Svirsky) were released a month later. KGB operatives in the area had identified several Hamas and Hezbollah operatives in the area. Prior to the release of the Soviet hostages a Hamas leader had been kidnapped by operatives from the Soviet Alpha Group. His mutilated and castrated body was left on the steps of the local headquarters with a note attached reading 'Two of yours a day until we get ours back’.
India must consider adopting a suitable option or a combination of measures which befits the situation; measures and options which will undermine the enemy’s ability to wage this type of war while at the same time impacting India minimally.