Praveen Swami

India using Afghanistan as base against Pakistan: Islamist groups

NEW DELHI: Investigators have begun to sift through the debris left behind by Monday’s bombing of the Indian mission in Kabul, searching for clues as to just who might have carried out the murderous attack.

Afghanistan’s secret service, the Riyast-i-Amniyat-i-Milli, India’s Research and Analysis Wing and the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency will also be scanning vast volumes of intercepted communications and pressing informants for clues

One important piece of the puzzle is, however, has long been in the public. For the past the last year, powerful Islamist groups have cast India’s presence in Afghanistan as a plot to bring about the disintegration of Pakistan.

During a May 9 sermon at the Jamia Masjid al-Qudsia in Lahore, Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed charged India with following a plan of destroying Pakistan.

“India,” Saeed continued, “is building dams on rivers flowing into the country. On the other hand, it is establishing training centres in Afghanistan where it is teaching its agents how to carry out terrorist acts in Pakistan. While our rulers insist that we should have good relations with the Afghan government, India is imposing wars upon us. Still, our rulers, pursuing a policy of unilateral friendship under foreign pressure, have promised the world we will not fight with India.”

Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa is the parent organisation of the proscribed Lashkar-e-Taiba which, in turn, is a member of the Al-Qaeda-led International Islamic Front.

But Saeed isn’t the only one making such claims. In May, a Jamaat-e-Islami spokesperson told Aaj Television that Pakistan authorities had erred in allowing the distribution of Indian films containing material objectionable and offensive to Islam.

He said: “India is our enemy, and has been at the forefront of efforts to destabilise and damage Pakistan. The Indian Army is massacring Muslims in Kashmir, while India is constructing dams on our rivers in violation of treaties, in order to turn Pakistan into a desert.

“Besides, Indian consulates in Afghanistan are busy in conspiracies to undermine Pakistan’s security. Still, we are providing India billions of dollars by importing its movies.”

Several jihadist ideologues have argued that circumstances are now right for Pakistan to adopt a more aggressive posture against India, in both Jammu and Kashmir and Afghanistan.

In February, former Inter Services Intelligence Directorate chief Hameed Gul wrote an article in the Nawa-i-Waqt, which asserted that the key to Kashmir is in Afghanistan. Lieutenant-General Gul argued that until the United States was defeated in Afghanistan, Kashmir would not be freed.

“But,” General Gul prophesied, “I, being a professional soldier, say with full confidence that the U.S. can never win the war against terror in Afghanistan or Iraq. Following a withdrawal from Afghanistan in late-2009,” he asserted, “the United States will disintegrate like the former USSR and this disintegration will result in the freedom of Kashmir.”

Some jihadists in Pakistan have called for military action to bring about this outcome, including the Hizb ut-Tehrira, a small group with little military capability, but considerable ideological influence among Islamists. Jihadists believe they have the backing of elements in Pakistan’s armed forces, a perception shared by several analysts.

In February, the deputy head of the Lal Masjid in Islamabad asserted that “a huge majority of Pakistan’s army does not want to fight us.” He said: “Had [President Pervez] Musharraf continued to support the jihad in Kashmir, the mujahideen would have broken India apart. Musharraf’s biggest crime is abandoning jihad in Kashmir. Now, we have a new army chief. I appeal to him to adopt the old policy of jihad.

Monday’s bombing, coming as it does in the context of heightened tensions along the Line of Control and in Jammu and Kashmir, has led many experts in New Delhi to fear his wish has been met.