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    South Asia
     May 5, 2007
The longest jihad
India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad by Praveen Swami

Reviewed by Sreeram Chaulia

Non-specialist writings on modern jihad as a form of organized political violence usually commence with the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan in the 1980s. However, decades before those two events, a secret jihad in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) had been kick-started by Pakistan that rages on to this day. For sheer longevity, it is second to none in the contemporary annals of Islamism.

In India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad, a revisionist history based on classified Indian intelligence data, Praveen Swami, senior journalist of Frontline magazine, highlights the ignored narrative thread of covert warfare in J&K. The author's counterintuitive proposition is that the sub-conventional war in J&K after 1989 was not the first but the fifth phase of a jihad of attrition that began as soon as Pakistan was created in 1947.

Phase 1: The informal war
At the dawn of independence, despite its ostensible military superiority, India's intelligence apparatus was in ruins. Qurban Ali, the senior-most officer, chose Pakistani citizenship and transferred every file of importance to his new home. In 1948, Gul Hasan Khan, the commander-in-chief of the Pakistani armed forces, candidly admitted that an "elder statesman" of his country arranged covert supplies of weapons to Islamist gangs battling the accession of Hyderabad to India.

In 1951, the first major low-grade terrorist initiative by Pakistan was calibrated destruction of telephone lines, bridges and guesthouses in J&K. The goal was to disrupt elections to the Constituent Assembly that was steering the state toward full-scale integration into India.

In the late 1950s, Pakistan's police intelligence trained covert operatives in guerrilla combat skills under the banner of "Mujahid Force". There were striking resemblances between the fundamentalist Islamist beliefs of these pioneers and those of a successor generation of jihadis. Besides sabotage, the early brigades bombed temples and mosques in 1957 to incite Hindu-Muslim violence in J&K.

Success was hard to come by and the Pakistan Intelligence Bureau's essentialist myths of Indian "submission and servility" were mercilessly exposed. Indian authorities charged a popular Kashmiri politician, Sheikh Abdullah, with colluding with the covert Pakistani agenda in 1958, but the evidence was inconclusive in what was known as the "Kashmir Conspiracy Case".

Phase 2: The master cell
India's humiliating defeat by China in 1962 opened the door of opportunity for a new round of clandestine war. Several in Pakistan's policy establishment were convinced that conditions in J&K were ripe for a mass uprising against India. Orders went out to "intensify the firecracker type of activity that was already current" and to "arm the locals against the Indian army of occupation" (p 55).

A central organization named "Master Cell" was set up in Srinagar to supervise several subsidiary groups assigned to conduct strikes and demonstrations in colleges, issue incendiary posters, train cadres in the use of weapons, and guide Pakistani irregular forces to government depots during the 1965 war with India.

In the event of Pakistan's defeat in the war, these cells were to facilitate the work of "stay-back agents" who would remain in J&K to carry out missions. One key cell member, Fazl-ul Haq Qureshi, stated that his group was "a nodal agency for freedom fighters who had come from Pakistan" (p 65).

Although India and Pakistan signed a ceasefire in September 1965, the undercover war went on. A terror campaign of lobbing grenades in commercial hubs and burning prominent buildings in Srinagar was kept up. Assassination threats were issued to pro-India politicians and rumors were spread about the presence an "execution list".

To whip up public emotions, religious propaganda continued apace in important shrines and mosques, and repeated allegations were made that the police harassed members of Muslim congregations. Swami notes that "the Master Cell was mired in communal politics and a right-wing vision of Islam" (p 71). Police raids eventually broke the cell up, and many of its members went on to reconcile with India, joining the government in high-ranking posts.

Phase 3: Al-Fatah
In the late 1960s, Pakistan's covert agencies turned to Algeria and Palestine for inspiration. The growing interest of Pakistan's officer corps in doctrines of non-conventional war led a new bunch of jihadis to derive tactical inspiration from left-wing anti-imperialist struggles. Swami comments that "the means of praxis of left [wing] insurgencies were dyed with the deep-green color of Islam" in a new outfit, al-Fatah (p 87).

In 1969, its recruits received clear instructions during a visit to Pakistan to launch intense attacks on government offices, banks and treasuries in J&K. Records indicate that al-Fatah succeeded in gathering 20 discrete sets of intelligence, including restricted Indian army documents, and passed them on to the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.

A daring heist opened the trail of the organization to Indian police, and it was shut down in 1971 well before much damage could be caused. In 1975, the bulk of its cadres went "mainstream" to endorse the agreement between Sheikh Abdullah and Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi on limited autonomy for J&K.

Phase 4: The war of many fronts
The creation of Bangladesh clogged the military pipeline of the secret jihad because Pakistan was racked by internal turmoil. Only in the early 1980s did the contours of a map for reviving the jihad become apparent.

This coincided with the elevation of Islam in Pakistan's military strategy and fresh confidence that "it could do to India what it had done to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan" (p 145). The assuring factor for Islamabad was that it energetically pursued a nuclear-weapons program as a "shield behind which the jihad could be pursued without inviting Indian retaliation" (p 141).

While J&K was still quiescent, Pakistan opened a new front by abetting terrorism in Indian Punjab. Swami furnishes considerable evidence of the direct involvement of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence in training and sheltering leaders of the Khalistan movement. The decision to arm and infiltrate massive numbers of mujahideen to fight in J&K was made "because of the success of Pakistan's low-cost, low-risk, high-return investment in Punjab" (p 153).

In 1987, the superficially secular Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and the chauvinist Jamaat-e-Islami received wholehearted authorization from Pakistan for a joint offensive in J&K. The dividing lines between Kashmiri nationalism and religious fundamentalism were, as always, exceedingly thin. Independence and Islam were interchangeable slogans in the minds of Pakistani planners. The gruesome killings, deportations and moral policing that ensued in J&K were "the outcome of the organic ideology of jihad, not the aberrant actions of marginal groups" (p 168).

Phase 5: The nuclear jihad
By 1992-93, Pakistan had thrown its weight behind the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and decimated the JKLF. To manage the covert war more thoroughly, from 1994 Islamabad pumped in more of its own nationals and those from the Middle East into J&K. Newer Pakistani terror groups saw Kashmir as "one battlefield in a larger war between Islam and kufr", or unbelief (p 180).

The Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, for instance, called upon its cadres to "capture Hindu temples, destroy the idols and then hoist the flag of Islam on them" (p 181). Such ideological venom was not a discontinuity but a natural advancement built on the views of jihadis of previous decades.

As India once again began to wear the jihad down, Pakistan planned the Kargil invasion to revitalize it in 1999. Even when this move boomeranged because of US fears of nuclear escalation, jihadis mounted serious pressure on India through a wave of terrorist attacks on civilians. Delhi faced "better armed and trained terrorist cadre than prior to the Kargil war, and in greater numbers" (p 193). The scale, frequency and geographical dispersion of fedayeen (daredevil but non-suicidal) attacks rose steadily, with regular bomb explosions in Indian cities, and jihadis vowed that "all of India's states will become Kashmir" (p 199).

As the set pattern would predict, by 2005, another ebb tide set in for the jihad, which lost its bite because of centrifugal tendencies. Violence in Kashmir reached its lowest levels since the late 1980s and infiltration across the Line of Control fell. Swami speculates that US pressure on President General Pervez Musharraf's regime and realization in Islamabad that the proxy war was bleeding Pakistan's economy may explain the lull. What is certain, though, is that jihadis' capabilities are untrammeled even if their intentions have been somewhat "worked on by Pakistan's covert services" (p 216).

The unmistakable lesson from Swami's account is that peace in Kashmir is chimerical unless the jihad is permanently interred. Too often in the past, it would lie low for a few years and then resurrect with greater firepower and viciousness. The late Pakistani prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's promise of waging a "thousand-year war on India", if unbroken, forecasts Phases 6, 7, 8 and so on of this longest jihad, well into the future.

India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad: The Covert War in Kashmir, 1947-2004 by Praveen Swami. Routledge, New York, 2007. ISBN: 9780415404594. Price: US$96, 258 pages.

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