Welcome to my blog: this is the story of our adventures in India: the wonderful, the strange, the downright bizzare & the not-so-nice. So sit back & enjoy the ride as we take you on a journey across the sub-continent (& everywhere in-between).
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Is there the potential for conflict on the Indo-Pakistan border ??
An interesting article about the potential for
conflict on the Indo-Pakistan border:
Insight: As Afghanistan Endgame Looms, a Deadly Edge to India-Pakistan
August 13, 2013
BARAMULLA/NEW DELHI, India — Pakistan-based militants are preparing to take
on India across the subcontinent once Western troops leave Afghanistan next
year, several sources say, raising the risk of a dramatic spike in tensions
between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan.
Intelligence source in India believe that a botched suicide bombing of an
Indian consulate in Afghanistan, which was followed within days last week by a
lethal cross-border ambush on Indian soldiers in disputed Kashmir, suggest that
the new campaign by Islamic militants may already be underway.
Members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant outfit in Pakistan, the group
blamed for the 2008 commando-style raid on Mumbai that killed 166 people, told
Reuters they were preparing to take the fight to India once again, this time
across the region.
And a U.S. counter-terrorism official, referring to the attack in
Afghanistan, said “LeT has long pursued Indian targets, so it would be natural
for the group to plot against them in its own backyard”.
Given the quiet backing - or at least blind eye - that many militant groups
enjoy from Pakistan’s shadowy intelligence services, tensions from a new
militant campaign are bound to spill over. Adding to the volatility, the two
nations’ armies are trading mortar and gunfire across the heavily militarized
frontier that divides Kashmir, and accusing each other of killing troops.
Hindu-majority India and Islamic Pakistan have fought three wars since
independence in 1947 and came close to a fourth in 1999. The tension now
brewing may not escalate into open hostilities, but it could thwart efforts to
forge a lasting peace and open trade between two countries that make up a
quarter of the world’s population.
"With the Americans leaving Afghanistan, the restraint on the
Pakistani security/jihadi establishment is going too," said a former top
official at India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the external intelligence
"We are concerned about 2014 in either scenario. If the jihadis
(Islamist militants) claim success in Afghanistan, they could turn their
attention to us. Equally, if they fail, they will attack in wrath."
But Pakistan, which has a border with India to the east and with
Afghanistan to the west, has concerns of its own. It sees India’s expansive
diplomacy in Afghanistan as a ploy to disrupt it from the rear as it battles
its own deadly Islamist militancy and separatist forces. Vying for influence in
a post-2014 Afghanistan, it worries about India’s assistance to the Afghan
army, heightening a sense of encirclement.
"I’m shocked by these allegations. Pakistan has its own insurgency to
deal with. It has no appetite for confrontations abroad," said a Pakistani
foreign ministry official referring to the Indian charges of stirring trouble
in Afghanistan and on the Kashmir border.
"If anything, we are looking at our mistakes from the past very
critically. These accusations are baseless. India needs to act with more
maturity and avoid this sort of propaganda."
Both U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry spoke
during visits to India recently of the need for New Delhi and Islamabad to
resume their stalled peace process as the region heads into a period of
At the core of that uncertainty is the pullback of militants from
Afghanistan as U.S. forces head home.
Hafiz Sayeed, founder of the LeT, has left no doubt that India’s side of
Kashmir will become a target, telling an Indian weekly recently: “Full-scale
armed Jihad (holy war) will begin soon in Kashmir after American forces
withdraw from Afghanistan.”
The retreat of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989 brought a wave of
guerrillas into Kashmir to fight India’s rule there.
This time the additional risk will be the rivalry between India and
Pakistan over Afghanistan itself, one that threatens to become as toxic as the
60-year dispute in Kashmir. The LeT has said it is fighting Indian forces in
Afghanistan as well.
A senior LeT source in Pakistan told Reuters: “It is correct that the LeT
cooperates with the Afghan Taliban (insurgents) when there is a question of
attacking Indian interests.”
Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated last week after five Indian
soldiers were killed close to the de facto border in Kashmir. India says
Pakistani special forces joined militants to ambush a night patrol, a charge
Just days earlier, three men drove an explosives-laden car towards India’s
consulate in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, near the border with Pakistan. The
blast missed its target and killed nine civilians, six of them young Islamic
scholars in a mosque.
It is too early to say conclusively who was behind these and other attacks,
but Indian and Afghan officials see in them the handiwork of the LeT and its
allies. Such groups have doubled their attempts to cross into Indian-controlled
Kashmir this year, according to Indian defense ministry statistics.
The result has been the first increase in Kashmir militant violence since a
2003 ceasefire on the border, which led to a decline in attacks, partly because
Pakistan and the jihadi groups were preoccupied with Afghanistan during this
In the first eight months of this year, 103 casualties in militant-related
violence were recorded in Indian Kashmir, compared to 57 in the same period of
2012, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, a think tank.
$10 MILLION BOUNTY
LeT was founded in 1990 in eastern Afghanistan by Sayeed, a Pakistani
Islamic scholar whom India accuses of masterminding the rampage in Mumbai. The
United States placed a $10 million bounty on his head for his alleged role in
the attack, but he remains a free man in Pakistan, where he preached to
thousands last week.
Although the group has global ambitions, LeT’s primary aim is to end
India’s rule in Muslim-majority Kashmir. India and Pakistan each control a part
of the heavily militarized land of lakes and orchards once known as “paradise
on earth” and both assert claims over the whole Himalayan territory.
LeT has been working this year with several other Islamist outfits to train
and push more Pakistani militants over the heavily guarded border into India’s
side, a veteran LeT fighter told Reuters in Pakistan.
"Jihad is being stimulated and various militant outfits are
cooperating with each other under the platform of the United Jihad
Council," said the veteran, referring to an umbrella body.
Pakistan’s new Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, came to power in May vowing to
improve ties with India and - until last week’s flare-up along the Kashmir
border - the two sides looked set to resume talks. Their prime ministers were
planning to meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York next
The trouble is, says a retired senior Pakistani diplomat, there are
“spoilers” on both sides who are not interested in seeing a rapprochement. In
Pakistan, these include the militant groups, which he said operate
"They don’t seem to be able to control other non-government actors
like the LeT. So that’s the biggest worry," he said.
The Pakistan military’s refusal to dismantle groups such as LeT infuriates
New Delhi and fuels hawkish demands for the kind of tough action that would
The senior LeT source in Pakistan denied the group was involved in the
failed consulate strike in Afghanistan, but officials in New Delhi - citing
intelligence intercepts - said they had been forewarned about LeT-trained hit
squads plotting the attack.
Pakistan, whose intelligence agency is regularly accused of quietly
supporting Afghan Taliban insurgents, says India’s aid and missions are cover
for carrying out covert operations there.
"Jalalabad was a message from the ISI in a long line of such
messages," said an Indian intelligence official, referring to Pakistan’s
spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Further east, on the line dividing Kashmir between Pakistan and India,
ceasefire violations are up 80 percent compared to last year, according to
India. On Friday night, the two armies exchanged 7,000 rounds of mortar and
gunfire, according to Indian media.
Anti-Indian sentiment in Kashmir provides fertile ground for groups seeking
to revive the militancy that roiled the region through the 1990s, but New Delhi
has two things in its favor.
First, despite the uptick, violence in the state is still close to the
record low it reached last year. Second, the Indian army has to a large extent
sealed the rugged, fenced and land-mined border that divides Kashmir, leaving
militants with a critically small number of cadres and weapons.
"We cannot send jihadists into India in big numbers like in the past
because of tight security at the Indian side," the LeT source in Pakistan
Speaking on the lawn of his official bungalow in the restive Indian town of
Baramulla, J.P. Singh, the police chief for northern border operations, told
Reuters the army and police had stopped most attempted militant crossings this
Still, India is preparing for an influx.
"(Pakistan’s) agents and their protégés, the militants, are getting
disengaged from the Afghan border and they have nowhere else to keep them and
engage them, other than to push them to Kashmir," Singh said. "Their
presence inside Pakistan is dangerous for the internal security of