Terrorism in Kashmir: The Non-State Actor Bugbear Printer-Friendly Page

Terrorism in Kashmir: The Non-State Actor Bugbear
Sreeram Sundar Chaulia

While promulgating a long overdue ban on 22nd December of two dreaded Pakistani terrorist organisations operating in Kashmir, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, US President George W. Bush fell into an incredulous trap by labelling them as “stateless sponsors of terrorism” which “committed acts of terrorism inside both India and Pakistan” and which aimed “to undermine Pakistani President Musharraf.” Considering the mountainous evidence to the contrary in the possession of the Pentagon and the CIA about the real genesis and nature of these outfits, it is a truly enigmatic public posture deserving careful dissection. Such gratuitously false and misleading classification and description of the major instruments of Pakistani state policy can be interpreted in three different ways, each not necessarily a watertight compartment from the rest.

First, America cannot afford to forgo Musharraf’s support when there are ample reasons to believe that Osama bin Laden and his henchmen are alive and have seeped through the Durand Line into the FATA region of Pakistan’s NWFP. Jihadi terror in Kashmir and India standing up to it firmly are ‘diversions’ to Washington’s uni-focal objective of stalking and decimating its immediate targets. Ipso facto, Pakistan’s creation, complicity and connivance with terrorism against India are condoned, expediently downplayed or deflected to chameleonic tanzeems instead of their real godfathers in Islamabad’s state and military-intelligence complex.

Second, America has failed to emerge out of the Cold War mindset of selectively viewing evil and, in consonance with ill-defined ‘national interest’, classifying some terrorists as ‘bad’ and others as ‘good’. For Reagan’s adviser Jeane Kirkpatrick, there appeared to be obvious distinctions between tolerable ‘authoritarianism’ and horrible ‘totalitarianism’; tolerable ‘freedom struggle/ militancy’ and horrible ‘terrorism.’ Terrorism in Kashmir was viewed interminably during the Cold War as a legitimate ‘freedom struggle’, a fortiori since Pakistan was a trusted client which danced to the beck and call of successive administrations from Eisenhower onwards. Present American reluctance to call a Pakistani spade a Pakistani spade stems from a hangover of Cold War mentality and the vestiges of US-Pakistan bonhomie during the anti-Soviet Afghan jihad. Affectionate first-name referrals to ‘Pervez’ in the defense department are further hints. that Musharraf enjoys a rapport with senior policymakers from the anti-Soviet jihad days, a rapport close enough for detaching him from his terrorist state policies against India.

Third, the Bush administration has fallen prey to idiosyncratic political science theorists and decided that “post-modern warfare” has ushered in non-state actors as the central level of analysis, and states per se are no longer the main perpetrators of aggression and terrorism. The simple dynamics of clearly identifiable bipolar conflict have melted into a bewilderingly complex set of ethnic, religious and linguistic tussles since 1991 and it is appropriate that America identify enemies from among these mysterious and exotic secessionists, rebel groups and multinational terrorist cells that operate independently for their own particularistic and irrational aims. States are largely bystanders or victims in this surge of mindless extremism and violence perpetrated by frenzied ‘interest groups’. Pakistan’s claim that it is the ‘victim of terrorism’ is thus cushioned by theoretical balderdash about “epistemic upheavals” which have “wounded the Westphalian notion of statehood” and turned terrorism into the bailiwick of stateless actors. The Pakistan government’s deliberate ploy of confusing LeT and JeM with sectarian Sunni and Shia gangs like Sipah-e-Sahiba, Tehreek-e-Jafria and Tehreek-e-Nifaz bolsters gullible US impression that the problem of terrorism lies with lawless non-state groups who take orders from no government in a bid to install Nizam-e-Mustafa (Islamic system of governance). Powellian reasoning then follows that since Musharraf is pretending to be a modernising Ataturk crusading against these “stateless sponsors of terrorism”, he must be hailed in public and heaped with freebies and loans.

Since September 11, an admixture of these three half-baked influences has caused American policymakers to ignore their real national interests and follow a lopsided policy towards Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorism. They ignored the Kunduz air-lift which could not have taken place without the highest Pakistani state authority’s consent; the deep-rooted ISI-Taliban narco-terrorist nexus which continued unhampered even after Musharraf’s “unstinted support” promise; the copious documentation provided by India linking Al Qaeda, LeT, JeM and the Pakistan army in an iron quadrangle; and the irrefutable fact that jihadi terrorism is being used by the state of Pakistan in furtherance of its strategic war to grab Kashmir, the so-called ‘unfinished business of partition’, from India.

Yossef Bodansky, Director of the Congressional Taskforce on Terrorism, warned precisely against such a ham-handed American approach by perorating in his bestseller, The Man Who Declared War on America:

"Ultimately the quintessence of bin Laden’s threat is his being a cog in a large system that will outlast his demise--state-sponsored international terrorism. Both regional and international terrorism can be used by a relentless and unscrupulous government to further strategic objectives, as Pakistan has proven by its war by proxy against India waged in Kashmir." (p.406)

It is the Pakistani state whose armed forces provide fire cover for ISI-trained jihadis to infiltrate into Kashmir. It is the Pakistani state that camouflages regular soldiers as mujahideen to ruthlessly mow down hundreds of civilians in Kashmir or launch quasi-wars in Kargil. It is the Pakistani state whose operatives kidnap and detain courageous journalists such as Ghulam Hasnain for exposing the unholy symbiosis of the government machinery and the Islamist tanzeems. It is the Pakistani state alone which can organise a blazing inferno in its own interior ministry building (a la Hitler’s Reichstag fire) and happily allow sensitive files on terrorists and India’s most wanted fugitives burn to ashes. To top it all, it is the Pakistani state’s own employees who co-planned the September 11th and December 13th attacks.

Post-modernism should not be stretched to absurdity and definitely be barred from informing practical US policy. Hizbullah does not become a non-state terrorist actor separable from the Lebanese government just because the Cold War ended. Nor can HuM, LeT or JeM be orphaned from their parent state paraphernalia in Pakistan.

When ‘Mustapha Kamal’ Musharraf tells a gathering of radical Islamic clerics not to meddle in Kashmir but just “leave it to me”, the omens are clear-cut. The Pakistani state will find ways and means to circumvent current global concern about terrorism against India, do its level-best to cover its own tracks and, once the din dies out, slowly but surely go back to square one. A new beginning for peace will thus not be made until the US calls Pakistan’s bluff about non-state actor centrality in terrorism and presses for systemic regime-change in Islamabad’s power pyramid. Pakistan’s undemocratic, militaristic and fundamentalist state is the greatest impediment to peace in South Asia and the biggest incubator of terrorism around the world. The task, to quote K. Subrahmanyam, is essentially to “de-jihadise the Pakistani state.”

[Sreeram Sundar Chaulia studied History at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, and took a Second BA in Modern History at University College, Oxford. He researched the BJP’s foreign policy at the London School of Economics and is currently analyzing the impact of conflict on Afghan refugees at the Maxwell School of Citizenship, Syracuse, NY.]