Exploration of the history of jihadist groups in Jammu and Kashmir, and their activities since 1947
INDIA, PAKISTAN AND THE SECRET JIHAD — The Covert War in Kashmir, 1947-2004: Praveen Swami; Routledge-Taylor & Francis Group, U.K. and U.S.A. Distributed by Foundation Books, Cambridge House, 4381/4, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002. Rs. 495.
History, conventionally, gets reconstructed around the axis of mega events; around towering personalities and their complex relationships. Beneath these high points, however, flows a subterranean stream — invisible but powerful — of unknown events: of intrigues and manipulation, often of dubious legality and morality, which cast their long shadows on the course of history. If historians could have the luxury of access into these backroom operations, written accounts of our near past might look unrecognisably different. But, that rarely happens.
Praveen Swami’s India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad is one such bold attempt in this direction, connecting the largely-unknown behind-the-scene occurrences to the highpoints of history in Jammu and Kashmir from 1947. The author, as a journalist, has long been covering Jammu and Kashmir, and national security affairs which gives him a deep understanding of the subject.
Jammu and Kashmir’s post-1947 history has been disproportionately influenced by what in Clausewitzian terms could be called as “war through other means”, both in offensive and defensive mode. Right from its inception, Pakistan’s obsession with Kashmir led its policy to be dictated by two doctrinal fixations. Firstly, Pakistani strategists assumed that religion, in this case Islam, subsumes all other identities. Given a choice, they believed, Pakistan would be the natural choice of all Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir. Secondly, they believed — as did many colonial military strategists — that India was inherently weak and fragmented, and thus could be coerced to submission through a sustainable sub-conventional warfare despite its apparent military superiority.
Pakistan believed that given its state character and polity, India would find it difficult to respond effectively or make the costs unaffordable for Pakistan in a non-military covert offensive. It assessed that control of Jammu and Kashmir could be wrested through such a low cost offensive. It is most intriguing that despite being proved repeatedly wrong on both the counts, and having paid a heavy price for that, Pakistan’s self-belief in these credos remains largely unshaken.
Swami traces the course of this undeclared war by Pakistan, richly beefed up with authentic historical material and details. His account begins with the “Informal War” following accession of the state to India, subversion in the 1950s, followed by the infamous “Kashmir Conspiracy Case”, infiltration of saboteurs in 1960s under operation “Gibraltar”, and, finally, the sponsoring of high intensity terrorism during the last decade and a half. The trail reconstructed by him brings out an uninterrupted continuity in Pakistan’s thinking and action, bar a brief tactical hiatus following its decisive defeat in the 1971 war. Although the tactics and tools, sophistication and lethality of weapons used, the intensity and extent of logistic and infrastructural support, and selection of targets were upgraded particularly during General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq’s regime and after, the underlying strategy remained unchanged.
Nuclearisation has further emboldened Pakistan to raise the ante of its long-running covert offensive. The Kargil War was a manifestation of this strategic estimate, Pakistan working on the premise that India would confine its response to localised action and not escalate it to risk a nuclear war. India’s response to nuclear blackmail by Pakistan remains an issue that Indian strategists will have to ponder over seriously. Pakistani’s tinkering with Kashmir’s politics through the propping up of outfits and leaders supportive of its position, another issue carefully documented in the book, are also issues that remain sources of concern.
In this well-researched book, Swami uses new facts to build an absorbing and informative account that offers new insights into many landmark events of contemporary Kashmir history. Many years ago, I had seen a researcher’s doggedness and an intellectual’s curiosity in the journalistic exterior of Swami — traits an intelligence professional normally frowns on! His craving to know beyond the obvious and finding a conceptual explanation for what exists, has only sharpened with the passage of time. This is reflected in his book.
However, the study is still far from complete. Much more lies buried within Pakistan wherefrom most of the wily operations were launched, resourced, and controlled. One only hopes that more of the behind-the-scene operators, will, in time, follow Major General Akbar Khan — who commanded Pakistan’s drive towards Srinagar in 1947 — and give us information that can help make the story complete. Even on the Indian side, the author has not been able to conclusively develop many themes, which future historians must address. Among them are the details of precisely why and how Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, despite his almost visceral hatred of Pakistan, wittingly or unwittingly fell victim to its machinations. What exactly was it that went wrong between him and Jawaharlal Nehru despite their long years of friendship? And why was the Kashmir Conspiracy Case, after years of painstaking investigations which led to unearthing of a grave conspiracy to dismember India, not pursued in court ?
Pakistan’s compulsive anti-India fixation and its unshaken faith in the efficacy of covert methods will have to be factored in by India in formulating its security policies. “Let the past be forgiven and forgotten to start life on a clean slate” may be a good slogan — but it is bad doctrine. Presently, Pakistan is under pressure due to internal instability and external pressures, which have forced it to restrain and nuance its anti-Indian covert offensive. To mistake this for a strategic shift that is irreversible would be a grave folly. In an age when conventional wars have become unpredictable and cost-ineffective tools for achieving national objectives, covert wars, as a distinct form of warfare, are there to stay. The faster we internalise this reality and prepare for it, in both defensive and offensive mode, the more secure India will be.
Swami has done a commendable job by underlining this reality and giving new insights into the minds of those who control the real levers of power in Pakistan.