Pak Plots Intifada To Keep J&K On The Boil
3 October 2004
The Times of India
New Delhi: Pakistan wants to bring a bit of Gaza to Srinagar. While publicly waving an olive leaf, Pakistani foreign minister Khursheed Kasuri and foreign secretary Riaz Khokhar privately met Kashmiri separatist leaders during their New Delhi visit and suggested that an Intifada was Islamabad's new strategy to keep Kashmir on the boil. Recognising that cross-border terrorism no longer delivers, Islamabad believes generating an Intifada is the new means to both bleed Indian security forces and keep alive the claim that India is suppressing people's aspirations. As Islamabad sees it, an Intifada has multiple plus points. The phrase will evoke global sympathy because of its association with Palestinian children throwing stones at Israeli tanks, an effective imagery of Davids pitted against a Goliath. Simultaneously, it keeps the door open for a low-level form of terrorism that has the appearance of a homegrown origin, but will have the potential to harry India's security forces. According to senior home ministry sources, Kasuri and Khokhar also outlined how the Valley version of Intifada should be organised. This new strand in Pakistan's policy on Kashmir has several powerful underpinnings. Relentless US pressure to end terrorism in Pakistan means that ISI favourites like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed have had to be reined in, particularly since Pakistan can no longer claim with any credibility that the terrorists allied with the al-Qaeda and those in Kashmir are mutually exclusive. Besides, with almost all such groups under international ban, their operations inside Kashmir have become difficult. Second, infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistan is becoming more and more difficult. India, the US and the international media have taken to tracking infiltration figures as the barometer for the India-Pakistan peace process. Moreover, as an operating tool, it proves more openly than anything else, Pakistan's support to cross-border terrorism. High level sources in the foreign office confirmed that while there had been a large number of 'attempts' to infiltrate, only a handful of terrorists were getting across. Besides, although training camps still operate unhindered in POK, it's a matter of time before they too begin to feel the pinch. Third, the much maligned security fence on the LOC is beginning to pay dividends. There is only 65 km of LOC left to be covered and the government expects to complete it by next summer. With the ground sensors on the fence at work, they have been helping the security forces to reduce infiltration. But Pakistan is not about to give up what it still considers its most potent card in Jammu and Kashmir. The idea therefore is to finesse the export of terrorism to be seen largely as an indigenous movement: a homegrown Intifada designed to give Kashmiri protest against India greater credibility and Pakistan plausible deniability. Equally important, it takes away from India its PR edge that the terrorism inside Kashmir is exported from Pakistan. As per the plot, the separatists are to be 'encouraged' to band together under the leadership of the Pakistani favourite, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and under the banner of the latter's Tehrik-e-Hurriyat. The combination is proposed to include the former components of the Hurriyat as well as the militants of Hizbul Mujahideen (Majid Dar group). But there is one major flaw in this plan. The Kashmiri groups which are part of the separatist Hurriyat alliance are reluctant to coalesce under the banner of Geelani. So although Mirwaiz Umer Farooq obeyed the Pakistani diktat of travelling to Saudi Arabia to meet with senior Pak officials, the new band is no closer to consolidation than it was before. For India, a disintegrated Hurriyat is an advantage even though it remains clueless about engaging these elements in Jammu and Kashmir.