Tuesday, 28 July 2015

As agencies investigate Lashkar links, Khalistani role not ruled out


By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 28th July 15

Details are still emerging about the daylong attack on Monday by three terrorists in the Gurdaspur district of Punjab, which borders both Pakistan and the state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). 

Intelligence agencies are searching for linkages to Pakistani groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) or Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). Simultaneously, they are trying to establish whether Pakistan-based Khalistani militants also played a role, direct or indirect.

Most intelligence insiders suspect the same Sialkot-based Islamist militant groups that have made a modus operandi in recent years of infiltrating and staging fidayeen (fight-to-the-death) attacks in the Samba-Kathua belt that borders Punjab. Having progressively discovered, including during a recent attack on March 21, that targets in Samba-Kathua are now heavily defended, the jihadis may have switched their attention 20-30 kilometres further south to Dinanagar, inside Punjab, where they struck on Monday, killing nine Indians.

Even so, experts like Ajai Sahni of the Institute of Conflict Management, are not ruling out a role by Khalistani militants who have conducted a low-intensity Sikh-separatist campaign from Pakistan since the end of the Punjab insurgency in the early 1990s.

Just a fortnight ago, a photograph appeared on social media showing Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) general secretary, Gopal Singh Chawla, and PSGPC office bearers meeting Jamaat-ud-Daawa (JuD) chief, Hafiz Saeed. The JuD is widely known to be a front of the LeT.

“While Khalistani and Kashmir-focused groups have not so far cooperated in staging attacks, we know Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has been pressuring the Khalistanis to earn their keep in Pakistan. The ISI has been propagating the concept of K-2 --- Kashmir and Khalistan --- to keep India under pressure on two fronts”, says Sahni.

Noted Pakistan expert, C Christine Fair from Georgetown University, Washington DC, adds that there is credible information that Khalistani separatists in Canada, which has long been a hothouse of separatist activity, recently met ISI representatives there. There is little clarity about what this might mean for the K-2 project, or whether this could portend the revival of urban militancy in Punjab.

Either way, the Punjab Policy needs to prepare itself, both for a revival of Khalistani activism and for the spill-over of terrorism from the Kathua-Samba belt in J&K. Certainly, in the current operation, the Punjab Police has not acquitted itself with credit. It is worrying that they allowed three terrorists to kill nine Indians, including a superintendent of police, and to have taken over a police station well inside Indian territory, from where they fought off much larger numbers for over 12 hours.

While this is the first cross-border terror attack in Gurdaspur, that district has historical and emotional resonance for Pakistani, which has linked it with the J&K dispute since the time of partition. Pakistan had expected that Gurdaspur, which was a 51 per cent Muslim-majority district, would be allocated to Pakistan by the Radcliffe Commission. However, the Radcliffe boundary awards transferred only Shakargarh tehsil to Pakistan, leaving the rest of Gurdaspur with India.

Pakistani historians still fume that this was done at the instance of Lord Louis Mountbatten, who allegedly conspired with Nehru to ensure that the crucial highway to J&K, which passes through Gurdaspur district, remains with India.

It is this highway, running along the Indo-Pakistan border from Pathankote to Jammu, via Kathua and Samba, which has been frequently attacked by infiltrated fidayeen groups. Monday’s attack was only the latest. 

1 comment:

Jean Luc Picard said...

Before we get into some irrelevant dead arguments about partition (that generation being already or is in the process of meeting its maker), we need to be aware of this generations issues.

Punjab today is a prosperous state and there is plenty wealth afloat. Hence, it is a ripe target market for recreational drugs (and no the drug abusers of today are not of the Punjab Militancy generation, they have only parental recordings about those times and heart of hearts dont give a damn about it. All they care about is their new psuedo urban lifestyle.) The Pakistan Military has realized this and is evolving a Hybrid military strategy.

Broadly, its new military strategy is similar to the mexican cartel drug war with the US state of Texas, Arizona and California. This same type of strategy was employed by the British in the Opium war against China.

Unlike the Population in J and K which is radicaliz-able(preparable for chaos to bring in a politcal resolution by military or diplomatic means), Punjab has been a traditional strong hold for India. To mitigate this factor, Pakistan's Military has resorted to supporting and managing the drug trade to ruin and subvert the population, preparing it for other designs.

A terror attack on a pre-determined target (per the attackers GPS), a police station of a border town, which is located on the drug smuggling route, not in Kashmir suggests a change. It combines the traditional Terror campaign with the lucrative drug trade.

It is quite possible, that the Dinanagar and Gurdaspur's Police was being a thorn in the drug flow and this terror attack is essentially a 'Hit' on them specifically.The idea is to terrorize the cops and administration, so as to pave the way for more drugs, which in turn paves the way for, insurgency and lastly a political separation from India or amalgamation with Pakistan. If not it will diminish the growth of India's most prosperous states effecting the country as a whole.

Media must investigate the contribution of Dinanagar and Gurdaspur Police in combating Narcotics in the last 5 years. Our Military and Intel community must look at the drug trade not as a law and order problem but as Terror enabling national security threat.

With addiction rates in the Punjabi youth surpassing Mizoram (which is really bad). We should be concerned.