Post-26/11: What India needs to do

31 01 2009

Source: DNA INDIA

In the introduction to her book What Terrorists Want, Louise Richardson explains why she studied terrorism “to try to establish why an otherwise responsible parent, student or teacher would chose to join a terrorist movement and remain in one and why a group of people would collectively choose to kill innocent people they do not know in order to advance some goal unlikely to be achieved in their lifetime.”
What happened in Mumbai on November 26, 2008 and continued for three days raises just these and several other questions. And what we have seen is no longer a proxy war, but an all out assault on the Indian state. It is an attack on all Indians and all Indians will have to be prepared to fight this one. It is far too serious to be left to politicians.
It may be state policy in Pakistan to use jehad as a deadly instrument of foreign policy and as a force equaliser against the superior Indian military, but then that state has the manpower willing to act as its emissaries in this bloody game virtually sure that they will die. There is a terrorist rationality in this seeming irrationality — of dying unsung for a cause unfulfilled. Perhaps the incident itself is the rationale. Perhaps the incident coverage by the media provides the narrative and renown for the future. Or perhaps, the debate that ensues with the pseudo-liberal platitudes provides some justification.
The terrorists who attacked Mumbai were seeking a global audience for their expression of hatred and the spectacular act was part of their psychological warfare.
Their inspiration may be the desire of their leaders and ideologues — like Syed Qutb, Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, Ibn Taymiyah and even Hafeez Saeed — to return to the glory of 7th century Islam. This would inevitably put them into conflict with the 21st century world including a large percentage of Muslims. Pakistani rulers have used Kashmir as glue for organising groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) as a policy instrument against India. It may now be getting out of control.
Why now?The question that many ask is that given Pakistan’s present political uncertainties, an economic crisis despite having just received an IMF bailout, and a security predicament in the NWFP and US pressure to co-operate, given the kinds of peace overtures coming from the president, why did it feel it necessary to indulge in this kind of adventurism. Maybe these are the very reasons why this adventure was necessary. All this is part of a devious plot, to create a crisis on the eastern frontier by having this terrorist act which is difficult for the Indians to ignore, then move troops away from the Fata and NWFP which would alarm the US/Nato in their battles against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The ensuing tension on the eastern frontier would absolve Pakistan of having to fight America’s war in the west unless the US is able to assure Pakistan that its eastern flank is not endangered by Indians.
A major terrorist incident in Mumbai would provoke an Indian reaction, raise tension and alarm the US. Kashmir would be back on the radar screen of the new president. So, if India could be made to see reason in this, Pakistan would be able to help the American cause in Afghanistan. There is considerable writing in the US precisely on these lines and a major terrorist action would be useful in impressing the new president anxious to find a different path to solving the Afghanistan imbroglio. The hope would be that the Americans would be able to leave Afghanistan with Pakistani assistance, Pakistan would have access to Afghanistan and Kashmir and, finally, the LeT would be the heroes.
As it is, the Pakistan army has been fighting its Fata campaign very half-heartedly and has been more interested in obtaining steady cash inflow of money from the US. The Pakistanis do not want to eliminate the Taliban as they would have future uses for it in Afghanistan and Kashmir in a post-US phase.
Sushant Sareen feels that there will be immense US political, military and economic pressure on Pakistan to prevent it from entering into a deal with the Islamists. If the Pakistanis defy the Americans, then they risk economic collapse and military confrontation with the US.
On the other hand, acceptance of US demands will cause public outrage as the US and Pakistani forces take on the Taliban and the Taliban retaliate by hitting in major towns and cities. In this context, the Mumbai plot was a way to pre-empt this pressure.
Over time, the Pakistani Taliban have been able to or been allowed to take control of large chunks of territory in Fata and Swat. The startling disclosure that Baitullah Mehsud, till recently accused of assassinating Benazir Bhutto, had now been declared a Pakistani patriot, who would allow the army to pull out and concentrate on the Indian frontier, could be an indicator of the shape of things to come.
It is possible that there is a strong difference of opinion in the Pak army about priorities — whether Pakistan should be fighting America’s war in the NWFP and killing their own Muslim brothers in the province or fighting its own war in Kashmir and against India.
Possibly, there are those in the Pak army who feel that Pakistan must not be seen to be fighting its own people -although that never bothered the Pak armed forces whenever they have had to tackle the Baloch. Maybe this is a victory for the Islamists inside the Pak army.
The Pak army’s badge of professionalism is heavily imbued with Islamic overtones. The Pakistani soldier and officer are different from the officers who graduate from Khadakvasla, Sandhurst or West Point. The man from Kakul trains under the motto ‘Jehad fi’isbillah’ — Jehad in the name of God. He leads a modern Islamic army and genuinely believes that he is the ‘protector of the faith’ and the ‘defender of the realm’.
And this army is steadily losing control of parts of its territory in the northwest as the Taliban spread deeper into Pakistan.
Pak army’s guided missileThe LeT (Army of pure), whose involvement in the Mumbai attacks is now established, is an Islamic terrorist force in Asia with links to Al Qaeda. Its network extends across South Asia, has links in Afghanistan, and has received generous donations from the Middle East especially Saudi Arabia. Besides, it also has the support of the Pak army and the ISI. Seed money came from Osama bin Laden and there have been generous donations from rich Pakistani businessmen. Saudi Arabia has sustained this outfit with considerable funding.
The political wing of the LeT, the Markaz Dawa Irshad, (renamed Jamaat ut Dawa renamed Idara Khidmat e Khalq) today runs 200 mainstream Dawa schools, 11 madrassas, two science colleges, an ambulance service, mobile clinics and blood banks. Its recruits are not ill-educated madrassa students, but well educated and educationally qualified urban professionals.
The Lashkar continues to have training camps in Muridke, with its headquarters near Lahore. The LeT has conducted operations in Chechnya, Bosnia, Iraq and SE Asia. The Lashkar is an invaluable asset to the Pak authorities as it enables it to keep the Kashmir option open even while supporting the US campaign in Afghanistan.
It is sometimes assumed, incorrectly, that the LeT is a Kashmiri outfit. It is a purely Punjabi Pakistani group. As an associate of Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Crusaders and Jews and then later to include Hindus, its scope of activity is beyond Kashmir.
As Wilson John of the Observer Research Foundation points out Hafeez Saeed’s favourite verse from the Quran is Wajahidu fi Sabilallah (Wage a holy war in the name of God). It was not too long ago when the LeT chief Hafeez Saeed told his followers in Lahore from where he usually doles out inflammatory sermons against India when he said, “India understands only one language — the language of Jehad”.
This was on October 13, 2008, a few weeks before the attacks on Mumbai were launched or as one can suspect, maybe by then the operation had already begun.

Vikram Sood is a former chief of the Reasearch and Analysis Wing. The second part of this article will appear tomorrow

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