Tag Archives | Jammu and Kashmir

The Babar of tribal lashkar

How the Pakistan army was involved in the ‘tribal incursion’ of Kashmir in 1947-48

For those who are still under the delusion that Pakistan army wasn’t involved in the so-called “tribal incursion” of Kashmir in 1947-48, here is an old interview with Major General (Retired) Naseerullah Khan Babar.

Naseerullah Babar later served as the interior minister of Pakistan in the Benazir Bhutto government from 1993-1996. While most people remember Babar for his active role in starting the Taliban in Afghanistan and for aggressively fomenting the militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, this interesting bit about his association in the 1947-48 Kashmir War caught my eye.

I would like to add that during my stay in PMA I volunteered for service in Kashmir and took part in the 1947–48 Kashmir War as commander of a Tribal Lashkar in Jul/Aug 1948 in the Poonch Sector.[link]

This is truly amazing because cadets still undergoing military training at Pakistan Military Academy actually volunteered and commanded tribal Lashkars in Kashmir in 1947-48. Understandably, the Zias, Mushharafs and Kayanis of the later era just built upon such glorious foundations laid in Pakistan Army by its founding fathers.

Of course, as this blog has argued earlier (here), it only goes on to prove that the Islamist jehad by Pakistan in Kashmir didn’t start in 1989. It started in 1947.

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‘Not news’ from Kashmir

The signs of normalcy from Kashmir that do not make much news

“For most folks, no news is good news; for the press, good news is not news.”~Gloria Borger

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Size does matter

How big is the Vale of Kashmir?

Click on the map above to see a larger image

[Map source: Perry-Castañeda Library, University of Texas]

Take a close look at the map above and observe the size of the Vale of Kashmir. The Vale of Kashmir, which is often used synonymously with the state of Jammu and Kashmir in international forums, is the only portion affected by separatism in the state. It is a valley roughly 130 kilometres long and up to 55 kilometres wide astride the upper Jhelum River. To put that into perspective, the complete area of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is approximately 220,000 square kilometres. Even if one were to go beyond the Valley and consider the complete Kashmir region — mind you the areas outside the Valley in Kashmir region are not really affected by separatism — its area is officially 15,893 square kilometres (around 7% of the area of the state).

Sounds clichéd yes, but size does matter.

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Fowl n’ Fair

Clucking about Kashmir at international fora won’t make a difference.

Pakistan Foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi has been doing the usual circuit in the US during the annual silly season of UN General Assembly meeting. In an address to the Council of Foreign Relations, Mr Qureshi again revived the old chant:

“We call upon the United States particularly, which is pressing so responsibly for peace in the Middle East, to also invest its political capital in trying to help seek an accommodation for Kashmir,” he added.

The foreign minister said, “It has always baffled me that the international community has long recognized that the Palestinian question is the core issue to peace in the Middle East, but does not seem to understand that, similarly, until the status of Jammu and Kashmir is resolved, real peace in South Asia will remain elusive.[SANA]

Of course, this argument — solve Kashmir to remove Pakistan’s neuralgic animosity towards India — is all about somehow drawing in Kashmir and India as a part of the US AfPak strategy, especially now that the next big AfPak review is slated for December. But Mr Qureshi is unlikely to have his way. Even if one were to ignore the recent developments in Asian geopolitics concerning China, which propel India as an indispensable ally of the US in the region, it has been recognised in most circles that Mr Qureshi’s argument is deeply flawed.

The argument, for example, has been demolished by none other than Ms Christine Fair, former Rand Corporation expert on South Asia and currently an assistant professor in security studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

“I don’t believe in the (Special US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard) Holbrooke crap about you solve Kashmir and you make Pakistan sane. I believe it’s necessary albeit terribly insufficient condition to get Pakistanis to tell the Army to lay off (in its machinations against India) if you resolve the Indo-Pakistani issue. Whether that can ever happen is irrelevant,” she said.[Rediff]

Now Ms Fair, for those who care to remember, is not an India sympathiser. Her remarks at a Foreign Policy Round-table in 2009 have been often quoted — and misquoted — by Pakistani commentators to prove that Indian intelligence agencies are causing all the trouble in Balochistan from the Indian consulates in Afghanistan.

In her essay for the recently released The Bellagio Papers, Ms Fair further explains why Pakistan will not give up its use of militant proxies against India.

…until Pakistan is ready to give up its commitment to instrumentalizing Islam for domestic and external purposes, Pakistan will never be able to resolve its existential and neuralgic issues with India. As neither any durable resolution with India is on the horizon, nor is a preparedness to abandon Islam as an instrument of policy, Pakistan is likely to continue using militant and Islamist groups to manage an array of domestic and external challenges.[link]

This indeed is the real problem which besets any attempts of normalcy in India-Pakistan relations: the deeply-rooted military-jehadi complex in a nuclear Pakistan. Dismantling it is no easy job, and the world — including India — has neither gumption nor the capacity to undertake this challenge.

This theatre of the absurd from Pakistan is thus not going to end soon. Let us learn to live with the clucking of Mr Qureshi, who obviously hasn’t heard of this one from Ayn Rand yet:

You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.

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An anecdote to dispel two myths

Jehad in Kashmir didn’t start in 1989. And Islamisation of Pakistan didn’t start with General Zia.

Here is Lieutenant General (retired) SK Sinha recounting an incident from the 1940s:

It was in Indonesia in 1946, as a defending officer. I had to defend Aslam Khan and Mohammad Shareef of 4/8 Punjab Regiment. They had deserted with their weapons and had been taken prisoners in battle wearing the uniform of captains in the Indonesian Army. At the summary of evidence they had stated that they answered the call of Islam and were fighting for their Indonesian Muslim brothers. They were charged with waging war against the King and for desertion with arms in war. Capital punishment is prescribed for both offences. I was at a loss as to how to defend them. When the summary of evidence was recorded they were not told that it was not incumbent on them to make any statement, but should they make one it could be used as evidence against them in a court martial. My request for a fresh summary of evidence, on this ground, was accepted. The accused now stated that an Indonesian girl had offered them cigarettes and that they had passed out on smoking these. When they recovered, they found themselves in an Indonesian Army camp. They joined the Indonesian Army so that they could get back to their regiment at the first opportunity. They were convicted and sentenced to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment, a light sentence considering they could have been executed. Little did I know that Aslam Khan, grateful to be alive, would have another role to play.

Pakistan invaded Kashmir in October 1947 but denied complicity, saying it was a freedom struggle that was raging in Kashmir. I had to collect evidence of Pakistan’s involvement to be presented to the UN commission due to visit India. I went to Yol, where Pakistani prisoners were kept. I met Aslam Khan there. He told me that after Partition he and Shareef were released from Jhelum District Jail and hailed as heroes as they had fought for Islam in Indonesia. They were reinstated in the Army and promoted to junior commissioned officers. He was prepared to depose before the UN commission that he was with his battalion fighting in Kashmir.[Asian Age]

This anecdote should dispel two misconceptions that exist in the minds of many Indians. The first one is about Kashmir, where many believe that Islamist jehad started in the state only after 1989.  Praveen Swami has written a brilliant book on the subject — India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad: The covert war in Kashmir, 1947-2004 — but it has unfortunately not received as much public recognition as it deserves.

This book explores the history of Jihadist groups in Jammu and Kashmir, documenting the course of their activities and their changing character from 1947 to 2004. Drawing on new material, including classified Indian intelligence dossiers and records, Praveen Swami shows that Jihadist violence was not, as is widely assumed, a phenomenon that manifested itself in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir only after 1988. Rather, a welter of jihadist groups waged a sustained campaign against Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir from the outset, after the Partition of India. This book first analyses the ideology and practice of Islamist terrorism as it changed and evolved from 1947-1948 onwards. It subsequently discusses the impact of the secret jihad on Indian policy making on Jammu and Kashmir, as well as its influence on political life within the state. Finally, looking at some of the reasons why the jihad in Jammu and Kashmir acquired such intensity in 1990, the author suggests that the answers lie in the transfiguration of the strategic environment in South Asia by the nuclear weapons programme of India and Pakistan. As such, the book argues, the violent conflict which exploded in these two regions after 1990 was not a historical discontinuity: it was, instead, an escalated form of what was by then a five-decade old secret war.[Link]

The second myth is directly related to the first one. That Pakistan’s Islamisation started only during the reign of General Zia-ul-Haq, and that too largely because of the US support to his regime, is the myth that stands discredited by this anecdote. Farzana Sheikh’s Making Sense of Pakistan does a great job of demolishing this myth. In her own words:

With hindsight it is clear that the main impetus behind this book stemmed from my rising frustration with existing explanations about the causes of Pakistan’s long-standing malaise. Too many of these interpretations, it seemed to me, were merely concerned either to pin the blame on the nefarious role of foreign powers, especially the United States, or the failure of successive generations of leaders to live up to the vision of Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Few were inclined to wrestle with the issue of Pakistan’s uncertain identity or examine the constraints created by its conflicted relation with Islam.

The stark importance of this question has been brought home to me all the more sharply in the wake of Pakistan’s involvement in the “war on terror.” As someone called upon regularly to comment on and brief policy makers about the country, I have been obliged to lay out the complexities that shape Pakistan’s response or lack of response to terrorism. In doing so I have repeatedly emphasised that, ultimately, Pakistan will not be able to “do more” about terrorism until it has clarified its vexed relationship with Islam.[ROROTOKO]

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Other stories from Kashmir

Terror strike in Sopore and RAF employing non-lethal weapons for mob control in Srinagar.

The aim is not to over-emphasise a point but this news story from J&K [HT: @TheComicProject] serves as a timely reminder that terrorism has not vanished from the Kashmir valley yet.

Three policemen were killed when heavily-armed militants opened fire on them in Jammu and Kashmir’s Sopore town last night.

According to sources, the militants attacked the guards at the residence of Nationalist Political Party (NPP) leader Muhammad Abdullah Dar in Warpora area of Sopore.

The security men at the house returned the fire, triggering a gunbattle in which three policemen were killed while the militants managed to escape.[ANI]

Every single attack like this makes the security forces — mainly reliant on lethal weapons — more jittery while dealing with violent protestors. Thus the next news story from Srinagar is even more heart-warming. The Rapid Action Force (RAF) companies of the CRPF deployed in Srinagar have got the latest non-lethal weapons for crowd control such as the Active Denial System (ADS) and the Long Range Acoustic Device.

The CRPF officials said the RAF has brought along many “sophisticated mob control devices.”

“About ADS I am not sure but they (RAF) have many sophisticated mob control devices particularly the ones mounted on their vehicles,” the CRPF PRO Prabakhar Tripathi told Greater Kashmir. He said the forces would use the mob control devices only if a situation arises.[Greater Kashmir]

As the old saying goes, it is better late than never. But one can be reasonably certain that these non-lethal weapons would not be available in sufficient numbers to be deployed everywhere in the Kashmir valley. It is a good start but more needs to be done — to equip more units of the J&K police with such gadgetry for crowd control.

Finally, although Eeben Barlow says it in a different context, his views perhaps provide a decent explanation of government’s actions in Kashmir.

Yet, we seem to stand by and wait until the problem reaches a situation that it cannot easily be contained – and then we try to take action. Ironically, we then cannot understand why it is so difficult to resolve the issues, win the wars and end the conflicts. A 10-ton truck free-wheeling downhill cannot be stopped by simply jumping into its path. With enough men at hand, we can probably stop it but at an enormous cost in lives lost and collateral fall-out.

By allowing the enemy to gain momentum and maintain the initiative, we lose the ability to put a rapid end to it. Our reactive actions are almost akin to trying to stop that free-wheeling truck. And despite all the warnings, we act surprised when we are unable to stop it.

…If we continue to miss all of the warning signals flashed at us, we will continue to be reactive. The implication is that we will continue to be surprised, unprepared and find ourselves fighting on the back foot – often against untrained, ill-disciplined, out-numbered and technology-poor enemies.

Until such time as we begin to exploit our assets and resources to maximum effect and look for exploitation options whenever and wherever we can, we will remain at a disadvantage both on and off the battlefield.

We may appear to be politically correct but we will lose the battle – and there is no second prize for the loser – and the truck will keep rolling.[Link]

Indeed. It is not about appearing politically correct but about winning the battle. And about bringing the damn rolling truck to a stop, at the lowest possible cost and with least collateral fallout.

http://twitter.com/thecomicproject

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Its a continuum

Islamist foreign fighters didn’t start the jehad in Kashmir. They came to support and fight the jehad in Kashmir.

Mint has been and remains this blogger’s favourite newspaper. But when the wonderful editorial team at that newspaper errs in its assessment, the discrepancies have to be pointed out. On the twentieth anniversary of the mass exodus of Hindus from the Kashmir Valley, Mint — and it is not the only one holding this fallacious belief — blames this  movement of Hindus on the foreign jehadis who were pushed across the Line of Control by Pakistan.

Since 1994 at least, Pakistan has purposely injected hardline, jihadi, elements in the insurgency in the state. These foreign mercenaries are the ones who control the levers of violence in J&K. In contrast to the home-grown militants, these foreign jihadis are alien to Kashmiri ethos and toleration. Their presence and utility to the secessionist leadership in the state has made the return of Pandits impossible. So, in public all secessionists want the Pandits to return, their political choices make this impossible.[Mint]

Only if the editors at Mint had read one book on Kashmir which has been so strongly recommended by my fellow blogger The Acorn — or even his blogpost recommending the book — they would not have made this mistake of believing that Islamist jehad in Kashmir started in 1990. The book is India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad: The covert war in Kashmir, 1947-2004 by Praveen Swami.

This book explores the history of Jihadist groups in Jammu and Kashmir, documenting the course of their activities and their changing character from 1947 to 2004. Drawing on new material, including classified Indian intelligence dossiers and records, Praveen Swami shows that Jihadist violence was not, as is widely assumed, a phenomenon that manifested itself in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir only after 1988. Rather, a welter of jihadist groups waged a sustained campaign against Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir from the outset, after the Partition of India. This book first analyses the ideology and practice of Islamist terrorism as it changed and evolved from 1947-1948 onwards. It subsequently discusses the impact of the secret jihad on Indian policy making on Jammu and Kashmir, as well as its influence on political life within the state. Finally, looking at some of the reasons why the jihad in Jammu and Kashmir acquired such intensity in 1990, the author suggests that the answers lie in the transfiguration of the strategic environment in South Asia by the nuclear weapons programme of India and Pakistan. As such, the book argues, the violent conflict which exploded in these two regions after 1990 was not a historical discontinuity: it was, instead, an escalated form of what was by then a five-decade old secret war.[Link]

Praveen Swami clearly brings out that Kashmiriyat — the syncretic tradition of Kashmir — which existed in some measure in rural Kashmir till the nineteenth century has been increasingly marginalised over the past century. Instead, a neo-conservative Islam shaped by West-Asian petro-dollars, often channelled through Pakistani agencies, has acquired primacy in Kashmir since 1948. You can also check out Ayesha Siddiqa’s review of Swami’s book here.

For a better historical understanding of the Kashmiri identity, to go along with Praveen Swami’s book, one must read Languages of belonging: Islam, regional identity, and the making of Kashmir by Chitralekha Zutshi. Here is an extract from the Book Overview at Google Books:

The few works of history and politics that have appeared on this region, moreover, insist on defining Kashmiri culture, history, and identity in terms of the ahistorical concept of Kashmiriyat, or a uniquely Kashmiri cultural identity. This book, in contrast, questions the notion of any transcendent cultural uniqueness and Kashmiriyat by returning Kashmir to the mainstream of South Asian historiography. It examines the hundred-year impact of indirect colonial rule on Kashmirs class formation. It studies the uses (and abuses) made of Kashmirs political elites by the state. It looks at the responses of Kashmirs society to social and economic restructuring. It shows that while all these historical changes had a profound impact on the political culture of the Kashmir Valley, there is nothing very inevitable or quite definite about the ‘political regionalism’ and ‘Islamic particularism’ of this area.[Link]

Kashmiriyat is today, at best, a convenient political slogan used by parties like National Conference to maintain their acceptability to Indians outside Jammu & Kashmir, while allowing it to simultaneously pander to the parochial political considerations in Kashmir. Kashmiriyat was dead long ago. It is a ghost that needs to be quickly buried so that well-meaning folks, like the editorial team at Mint, do not repeat this mistake — of believing that jehad started in Kashmir with the arrival of Islamist foreign fighters.

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More hugger-mugger of Kashmir

PM’s Fifth Working Group report on Kashmir’s relations with centre serves some purpose in the mêlée that is Kashmir.

The Prime Minister’s Fifth Working Group on Kashmir, dealing with centre-state relationship, headed by former Supreme Court judge S Saghir Ahmad has submitted its report to the Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir. This working group included Arun Jaitley of the BJP, Rahim Rather of the National Conference, Tara Chand Sharma of Congress, Muzaffar Hussain Beigh of the PDP and Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami of the CPI-M.

No one has heard of the recommendations contained in the reports of the four earlier working groups — all the working groups were established by the Prime Minister in 2006 on the eve of the second round table conference on Kashmir and their deliberations were boycotted by the separatists — and the progress made on them so far. These reports — on Strengthening Relations Across Line of Control, Confidence Building Measures Across Segments of Society in the state, Economic Development of Jammu and Kashmir and Ensuring Good Governance — were to be taken up in the third round table on Kashmir, which is yet to be convened.

Now that the Prime Minister’s Round Table on Kashmir doesn’t itself exist, there is not much reason to fret over the recommendation of more autonomy for the state of Jammu & Kashmir. More voluminous reports on centre-state relations, which have been in the public domain for decades now, have made far stronger recommendations but to little avail.

The issue of federalism in India, though, remains a valid issue that should not be allowed to be brushed aside due to the problems of separatism in Kashmir. But the devolution of powers to the state government in Jammu & Kashmir cannot be treated in isolation; the issue has to be considered in a wholesome manner with the rights and duties of all the states under the Indian Union.

As an aside, the submission of this report serves another purpose — more intuitively tactical than intellectually strategic — for the Indian government at this point of time in Kashmir. Public declaration of withdrawal of 30,000 army troops from the state in last one year, quiet talks with the moderate separatists, rapidly declining violence figures and renewed emphasis on development and reconstruction — even amidst the overblown Shopian crisis — by New Delhi has helped fashion a narrative in Kashmir that has left varying shades of separatists, and their sympathisers, groping for a coherent and unified response to centre’s initiative. As this new working group report further muddies the waters, it makes the task of the the soft separatists like the PDP and moderate Hurriyat leadership even more unwieldy during the quiet negotiations with the centre.

As for Pakistan (and its agency-guided media), their cause is one of reaction, mostly negative.

Although momentum for resolution of Kashmir seems to be building in Centre’s favour, it is largely restricted to rhetoric and good intentions. The hard work of executing the plan lies ahead. Still.

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Some security-related data

Draw your own conclusions.

#1 – Trends of Violence in Jammu and Kashmir

Year

Incidents

SFs killed

Civilians killed

Terrorists killed

2004

2565

281

707

976

2005

1990

189

557

917

2006

1667

151

389

591

2007

1092

110

158

472

2008

708

75

91

339

2009(till March)

95

15

7

4

#2 – Details of ceasefire violations along the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir, including incidents of shelling.

Year

Number of Ceasefire violations

2006

03

2007

21

2008

77

2009

09 (till date)

Total:

110*

*Includes 47 incidents of trans-LoC firing.

#3 – Number of army soldiers killed on duty (Battle Casualties)

Year

Officers

JCOs

OR

Total

2006

17

17

193

227

2007

16

27

175

218

2008

16

15

146

177

2009(Till 20th July 2009)

5

3

60

68

Total:

54

62

574

690

Links here, here and here.

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No life saving kits for soldiers

The army has to take the blame.

There is an exclusive story in today’s Hindustan Times about the dearth of life saving kits for Indian soldiers deployed on the Line of Control and in counterinsurgency operations in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.

Official documents show that the Udhampur-based Northern Command, the nerve centre of the Army’s counter-insurgency operations, has ordered just 850 pouches of a granular haemostatic substance called QuikClot with proven clotting ability, in the last three years.

…At any given time, close to one lakh soldiers are directly engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir, Army sources said. The kits procured by the Army are hardly enough for them.[HT]

The news story says that there is no budgetary provision with the army to procure this life saving kit. This is partially true as powers of revenue expenditure up to Rs. 100 crore have been delegated to the service chiefs a few years back. So, the usual ploy of blaming the insensitive politicians and scheming bureaucrats won’t cut much slack here. Even these 850 kits have been procured from another government budgetary provision, called the Army Commander Special Powers Fund [ACSPF], which was started to allow field commanders to meet immediate and urgent requirements of counterinsurgency operations. As various CAG reports have evidently brought out, ACSPF has been used by the army to buy life saving items for troops deployed in counterinsurgency operations such as lawn mowers, grass cutting machines, televisions, coffee vending machines and so on.

The recent battle for transparency in the functioning of the Army Wives Welfare Organisation [AWWA] by an ex-officer through the means of an RTI application highlights the hypocritical nature of the army. Army is willing to fund AWWA, with which it proclaims no relation, with profits from Canteen Stores Department to ostensibly help the widowers and children of fallen soldiers. What is a better choice for these funds — to provide life saving kits to soldiers fighting terrorists or to buy sewing machines for widows and books for children of those soldiers once they die fighting terrorists.

It is easy for many serving officers, veterans and their sympathisers to blame the neta-babu axis for all ills plaguing the defence services. Well, the politicians and the bureaucrats have to take their  share of the blame for many things that are brazenly wrong with the defence services. But when will this ultra-vocal group of blind supporters, which believes that all problems in the services are a result of external factors, turn a similarly scathing gaze inwards?

If this example of callous and apathetic behaviour by the army and its brass doesn’t force this gang of supporters to think, introspect and question, nothing else probably will. The public image of respect for the uniformed person is further hardened by the views of these vocal supporters, allowing the services and their brass to virtually get away with murder. Public questioning of such decisions — internally and externally — in an honest and forthright manner, is the only way to wean away that protective shield and force the services to change for the better.

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