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Kashmir region and Terrorism: 5 questions to Professor S. Krishnan.

Professor S. Krishnan, Seedling School of Law and Governance, Jaipur National University, explains for Talking About Terrorism how the last developments in the Kashmir region affect both countries and what are the links to terrorism.

India Kashmir, Dal Lake

Context: On February 14, 2019, at least 40 Indian paramilitary police were killed in a terrorist attack on the Srinagar-Jammu highway in Indian-administered Kashmir. The Pakistani group Jaish-e-Mohammad has claimed responsibility.

Question: What Is the Jaish-e-Mohammad agenda?

The attack on 40 CRPF personal by the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JEM or Army of Muhammad), Pakistan-based armed group, was linked to an attack on an Indian security forces base at Uri, killing 19 people. It was described by the JeM as a pre-planned operation carried out on the Sunjwan Camp by JeM as part of “revenge” operations launched by the ‘Afzal Guru Shaheed Squad’ in Kashmir. But looking into the real background, the Indian Parliament attack by the group under Afzal Guru (who was hanged later) and 1971 war (wherein 90,000 Pakistani soldiers were taken as prisoners in war and they were released in 1998 by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee) were the reasons that prompted the Jaish-e-Muhammad to take revenge.

Jaish-e-Muhammad's agenda seeks nurturing pan India Islamist goals and aims to undermine and overthrow Indian control over Indian-administered Kashmir through attacks on security and government targets.

Another primary agenda is to separate Kashmir from India and merge it into Pakistan. Since its inception in 2000, the terror outfit has carried out several attacks in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It projects Kashmir as a “gateway” to the entire India, whose Muslims are also deemed to be in need of liberation. After liberating Kashmir, it aims to carry its ‘jihad’

to other parts of India, with an intent to drive Hindus and other non-Muslims from the Indian subcontinent. It has maintained close relations with Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and continues to be allied to them. JeM also aims to drive the United States and Western forces from Afghanistan.

The JeM has started becoming active in Kashmir over the last few years. The Pakistani handlers of the JeM had revived the organisation as part of its sinister plan to revitalise jihad in Kashmir. This shift in favour of the JeM was partly prompted by the need to make the LeT/JuD take a bit of a back seat in Kashmir because of the heat that was on the organisation. From around 2012-13, a concerted effort was being made in Pakistan to drive a wedge between the predominantly Pashtun Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and qthe Punjabi Taliban. It was around this time that Masood Azhar, the chief of JeM had once again become visibly active. The JeM, it was rumoured at the time, would redirect the Punjabi Taliban lot to Kashmir where the rumblings had started of a new wave of terrorism. Given the JeM and Deobandi terror groups expertise in suicide bombing, it was only to be expected that this tactic would sooner or later be deployed in the Valley.

While some reports claim that Pulwama was a revenge attack for the elimination by security forces of nephews of the JeM chief in Kashmir, we would be remiss if we think this was a one-off attack. Chances are that the scale of destruction will actually act as an inspiration for other such attacks, more so in the coming weeks when the security forces will be stretched to the limit because of the General Elections. It is of course entirely possible that the general elections might be postponed in the Valley because of the uncertain security situation. After all, the Pulwama attack would have instilled enormous dread in candidates who will be at their most vulnerable at the hustings when they have to pump flesh and come into close contact wi th their voters. The fear of targeted suicide attacks against politicians – Pakistani terrorist groups have perfected this art to intimidate candidates and voters and tilt the election results in a particular direction – will make the entire democratic exercise infructuous and therefore it is best postponed until security can be ensured to not just the candidates and the electorate, but also the security detail.

Question: What is your assessment regarding the timing of the attack?

The details about the attack are still sketchy. The explosives used, the network of the Pakistani terrorist group Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) responsible, the security lapses, whether it was planned or random are still unknown. The Pulwama attack, even if its perpetrator was from J&K, is a Pakistani origin strike. Separately, Indian security managers will have to find ways to address the causes that made at least one boy from the Valley (if this is true) become a suicide bomber on the instigation of a Pakistani terrorist group.The last major attack on

the security forces was at Uri in 2016. Have the surgical strikes after that attack set the benchmark for India’s responses to large terrorist acts that emanate from Pakistan? Asides of the explosive used, such an attack couldn’t have taken place without the involvement of at least half a dozen people. Someone has to arrange the explosive, another person builds the vehicle-borne IED (VBIED), someone else arranges the money, someone does the recce and gathers information about the target (which could mean an insider if this wasn’t a random attack, which seems unlikely). Other people will be involved in priming the bomber and keeping him motivated. There has to be someone who organises the place where the bomb is assembled and puts together other elements of the plot to operationalise the plan. Normally, the more the number of people the greater the chance of the attack being pre-empted because of information being leaked inadvertently. That this hasn’t happened means a major intelligence failure, but also that the cell responsible for the attack is very professional and proficient in carrying out its grisly task. And worst of all, it is a cell which is still out there and could launch other attacks if not apprehended soon.

Question: What has been the impact of it?

While terrorism affects a developing economy in a number of ways, the immediate economic impact of Pulwama will depend on how the government of India intends to deal with it. With Indian general elections around the corner, the government is under pressure to respond, or at least demonstrate that such actions are not without consequences.

It will not be easy for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to seek re-election under the shadow of Pulwama attack. 

In terms of pure economic measures, the government of India has withdrawn the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status and imposed a tariff of 200 percent on imports from Pakistan. However, it is unlikely to have a significant impact as trade between the two countries is just about $2 billion.

The Ministry of External Affairs statement on the Pulwama attack holds the JeM responsible and ascribes it to Pakistani state agencies. It correctly demands that Pakistan should give up its support for terrorist groups. More significantly, the MEA statement reiterates an appeal to all members of the international community to support Masood Azhar’s designation as a UN terrorist. This is a clear hint to China. It is noteworthy that the Pulwama terrorist attack has come

as the United States is negotiating the end of the Afghan war with Taliban. It has secured a measure of Pakistani goodwill for this purpose. Hence, for all their correct statements on Pakistan and terror the US and its Western allies are likely to press Modi not to take any action that will divert Pakistani attention from the Afghan front. India’s decision to launch a diplomatic campaign against Pakistan will have to factor this in. 

The incident was condemned by all nations across the globe, except Pakistan. Pakistan issued a rushed clarification on their non-involvement. This was changed thrice in a space of a few hours. This is acceptance of guilt. The announcement of responsibility by the JeM indicates the direct involvement of the Pakistan army in the incident. Pakistan’s role in destabilising the region is evident when its three neighbours, India, Iran and Afghanistan, accuse it of the same crime.

A warning to international players participating in the Pakistan super league to quit or face being banned from the IPL could have an immediate impact on cricket-crazy Pakistan. After all, IPL pays far more. It would convey Indian power and damage the reputation of Pakistan, especially as its PM is a former cricketer. A similar announcement that no medical visas would now be

issued would impact the local population. Kartarpur corridor should now be pushed back, while construction of dams as per the Indus water treaty speeded up.

Question: The Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan goes back to the Independence of both countries in 1947. What has been the impact of the Kashmir issue on the spread of terrorism in South Asia?

Former U.S. President Barack Obama has defined the elimination of terrorist networks in Pakistan and Afghanistan as crucial to U.S. national security interests. Yet some analysts say the territory of Kashmir could pose a problem to the administration’s counterterrorism efforts in the region. Often called one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints, Kashmir has been at the root of two large-scale wars and one limited conflict between India and Pakistan since the August 1947 partition. Tensions between the countries escalated in the 1990s with a rise in militancy in the Indian-administered region. There is little doubt that normalized relations between India and Pakistan, including a regionally acceptable settlement on Kashmir, would offer tremendous benefits to the United States. Indo-Pak tensions are especially dangerous because they bring two nuclear states toe-to-toe; theyd istract Islamabad from the urgent task of combating terrorists and militants on its own soil; and they contribute to Pakistani suspicions about India’s activities in Afghanistan. Thus, the long-standing dispute over Kashmir is one part of a wider regional dynamic that has direct implications for Washington’s ability to support a stable Afghan state and to address the threat posed by terrorist groups in South Asia.

Another issue that India is facing the financial funding of these terrorist activities. It is being that the UAE and Saudi Arabia have been busy cutting “secret deals with al-Qaida fighters having links with terrorist groups based in Pakistan, paying some to leave key cities and towns and letting others retreat with weapons, equipment and wads of looted cash … hundreds more

were recruited to join the coalition itself.” In 2009,  Wikileaks  published diplomatic cables from the US State Department which spelt out the same concerns. “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide,” the documents said.

“While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) takes seriously the threat of terrorism within Saudi Arabia, it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority …More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT, and other terrorist

groups, including Hamas, which probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources.”

The unsettled Kashmir dispute poses a potentially serious threat to the expanding interests the United States now has in South Asia. Any conflict between India and Pakistan sparked by the dispute could escalate into a catastrophic nuclear war.

Pakistan’s critical role since September 11, 2001, in shaping the future of Afghanistan has given the issue a further major dimension. The traditional focus of the Pakistan armed forces on combating a perceived threat from India and the continuing patronage that Pakistani intelligence agencies provide to Islamic

extremists in Kashmir make it more difficult, both politically and militarily, for

Islamabad to help the United States and its coalition partners combat the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda. These factors also heighten Pakistan’s own problems in contending with domestic extremists. Pakistani support for armed insurgents in Kashmir contributes significantly to tension with India and heightens Indian suspicion that Islamabad is responsible for perpetrating violence within India proper. And until a settlement is reached, there will be no dearth of “spoilers” eager for opportunities to inflame India-Pakistan relations.

Question: What should be done to counter this type of terrorism in the region?

Pakistan and India have fought three wars over the contested province of Jammu and Kashmir. While it may seem counter-intuitive to suggest that war is an institution of international society, its established rules make it an effective way of resolving interstate conflicts, maintaining a regional balance of power, bringing about shifts in international law, demarcating the borders between states, and enhancing justice in international society. On transnational terrorism, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation’s (SAARC) Convention on Suppression of Terrorism and its additional protocols represent legal efforts to forge regional counter-terrorism cooperation by SAARC’s member states, which include India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Diplomatic counter-terrorism initiatives by South Asian states have included the India-Pakistan Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism of 2006 and the SAARC Terrorist Offences Monitoring Desk of 1990. International efforts, including the US, China and Russia, to negotiate with the Afghan Taliban are also evidence of a broad attempt to bring stability to Afghanistan. Willingness on the part of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to participate in these diplomatic overtures underscores all three states’ efforts to engage with the institutions of diplomacy and great power management in order to stabilise the wider region. Thus, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan have repeatedly turned to the shared rules, norms and institutions of international society to work out their problems.

There is sufficient shared ground on which to build mutual understandings on contentious issues. Regional cooperation is in the interest of all three states and would weaken the actors who benefit from conflict.

It must be said to the credit of the SAARC founding fathers that they were sensitive to the menace of terrorism from their very first meetings. This led to the adoption of the SAARC Convention on Suppression of Terrorism at the 3rd Summit held in Kathmandu in November 1987. The convention was based on UN resolutions and various other international conventions adopted on related aspects. The problem of this convention was that it had to be ratified by each of the signatories, separately. This took years. The 1987 Regional Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism includes a definition of “terrorist acts” and calls for greater regional cooperation on legal issues, including evidence sharing, extradition, and information and expertise exchange. This was updated in a 2002 Additional Protocol, which incorporates into the original convention the obligations of states under UN Security Council Resolution 1373, adopted in the aftermath of 9/11. Although, the SAARC Secretariat is currently under-resourced, its existing offices and desks could be more effectively utilized if there were increased political will among SAARC members. SAARC countries have also called for the creation of an “INTERPOL-like” SAARC agency to increase the regional capacity of police forces throughout the region. This needs to be worked out.

Dr. S. Krishnan is an Assistant Professor in Seedling School of Law and Governance, Jaipur National University, Jaipur, Rajasthan. He had worked as an Assistant Professor in History in Apex Professional University, Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh. He has 3 and half years teaching experience. He had also worked as a Journalist for about 5 years in esteemed newspapers like Indian Express and Daily News Analysis, online newsportals and a magazine in Gujarat.


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