Brig Anil Gupta
The broad daylight cold blooded murder by jihadi terrorists of a devoted Rashtriya Swayam Sevak (RSS) leader and his police guard in Kishtwar town of Jammu cannot be treated as a stray incident but it is part of a bigger game plan. In the last six months, it is the second such incident in the area. Earlier, two Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, Parihar brothers, met a similar fate in the month of November last year. This region, known as erstwhile Doda district, was engulfed with terrorism in the last decade of the twentieth century and remained a hotbed till the Indian army was successful in rolling the Pak-sponsored terror north of PirPanjal confining it to Kashmir Valley in the first decade of the current century. The aim of spreading terrorism in this area was to scare away the Hindus and force them to leave so that these areas like Kashmir are also made monolith. Bharatiya Janata Party launched Doda Bachao (Save Doda) movement in 1993 to draw nation’s attention about targeted killing of Hindus and came to the rescue of Hindus and advised them not to abandon their homes as by doing so they would be contributing to the enemy’s design of altering the demography of the region. The riots that were engineered in this area in 2008 and 2013 were also aimed at the same. However, due to the efforts of leaders like Chanderkant Sharma, the victim of the recent terror attack and Anil Parihar, the victim of earlier terror attack who worked hard to keep the minorities united and motivated to face the challenge, the ugly design of vested interests failed.
The evil intent of Pakistan is to drive out all Hindus from the areas and then stake claim to them, saying these areas are after all Muslim-majority areas to which it (Pakistan) had a natural claim. This is the reason for the attacks on minorities in Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban, Upper reaches of present Reasi district and even in Akhnoor. These attacks have been witnessed on the minorities in Poonch and Rajouri also.
There is a well thought out desire and design and a devious thinking coordinating these apparently isolated incidents of terrorism. They have only one purpose, driving out the Hindus from the areas already mentioned to give a concrete shape to the concept of Greater Kashmir, which in itself is not the end but only a means to an end.
A Greater Kashmir which Pakistan is relentlessly trying to shape up on the territories of India lying in the Kashmir Valley and large parts of the Jammu region is a shadow of the 1950 Dixon Plan and the latest Musharraf Plan. It has been pursuing its goal with single minded devotion and no setbacks have dissuaded it from this pursuit.
Is it by chance or design that the Autonomy Report prepared by the National Conference, with Dr Farooq Abdullah as its Chairman and three members all Muslims, also promotes this sinister concept of Greater Kashmir? While Dr Farooq Abdullah has not signed the report for reasons best known to him, it has been signed by Syed Mushtaq Bukhari from Surankot, Akbar Lone-a rabid Pro-Pakistan MLA from North Kashmir and then Finance Minister Mohd Shafi. The report poses a serious threat not only to centuries old historical and traditional boundaries of the Jammu province but to its harmonious and secular existence as well. Just like Pakistan, Kashmir centric parties like NC, PDP with support of Congress are determined to cut to size the Jammu province based on religious lines as is evident from the statements being made by their leaders time and again.
Jammu Province has been the sole sufferer when it lost territory and people due to Pakistani aggression in 1947, 65 and 71. Not satisfied with 4600 square miles of territory of Pakistan Occupied Jammu Kashmir, which comprises major tracts of Jammu province, Pakistan always wanted to be in control of the area North and West of Chenab River and south of PirPanjal which separates it from Kashmir. Greater Kashmir concept also includes Kargil district of Ladakh region because of the two important tributaries of Indus River flowing through it. Pakistan calls Jammu and Kashmir an “unfinished agenda? of partition and its jugular vein. Since 1989 Pakistan has embraced Mao’s dictum of “guerrilla warfare” and low-intensity conflicts, cross-border terrorism, infiltration, cease fire violation etc to keep the pot boiling.
Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) is strategically and geo-politically important to both India and Pakistan. But the real bone of contention between the two nations is the geo-economic importance of the region. J&K is the key to “water vulnerability” of Pakistan.Pakistan claims Kashmir to be her lifeline. However, this lifeline is incomplete without the water of Chenab River.Pakistan’s total requirement of water is met by the Indus and its tributaries flowing through J&K. The then Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1951, described the strategic value of Kashmir to Pakistan as, “Kashmir is very important . . . The strategic position of Kashmir is such that without it Pakistan cannot defend itself against an unscrupulous Government that might come in India.”
J&K is the life-line of Pakistan is borne out by the fact that three out of six rivers, which run through Pakistan, flow through J&K, namely Rivers Indus, Jhelum and Chenab.While Indus and Jhelum flow through Ladakh and Kashmir Valley, Chenab flows through the areas of Jammu province which Pakistan wants to be included in Greater Kashmir. Thus, the end game is to wrest complete control of water resources (including Chenab) which is not feasible without formation of a Muslim majority Greater Kashmir. ‘Water security’ and not the well-being of Kashmiris is the ultimate aim of the Pak sponsored proxy war. The daily senseless killings of innocents by the Pak supported jihadi terrorists controlled through its proxies constituting Hurriyat leadership backed by Jamat-e-Islami and soft approach of so-called mainstream parties bordering secession, is the huge price J&K is paying for the water politics of Pakistan.
Pakistan has not even spared the people of occupied territories from its dirty water politics. It declared a “water war” on the people of POJK by diverting waters of Neelum (a tributary of Jhelum) river. Through an elaborate scheme that has changed the flow of the fresh water from the mountains to Punjab province and in the process drying up the river in the middle of the monsoon season. The electricity generated from Mangla Dam in POJK is entirely used in Punjab depriving the residents of POJK from benefitting from it.
The rivers of Indus, Jhelum, Chenab and Ravi provide the main drainage system for Pakistan. All these rivers flow through J&K and run into Pakistan because that is the natural lay of the land. All major valleys also open towards Pakistan as well. Agriculture in Pakistan is dependent on waters of these rivers and, therefore, J&K provides the life-line to Pakistan. Pakistan fears that India may at any time or during a conflict stop the flow of water leading to an economic and military disaster. There will be no ground defence of Pakistan if the rivers and canals of Pakistan are dried up as its defences are based on a network of canals. There will be no crops and drinking water as well. Pakistanis feel that such an act by India can cripple Pakistan militarily and economically. However, it is interesting to note that during the 1965, 1971 wars, limited wars of 1985 and 1999; India did not shut off water as it very easily could do. This probably made Pakistan temporarily complacent considering India to be a soft state and not daring to take such a drastic measure. This explains the reason why Pak sponsored terror remained confined to Kashmir for quite some time and Pakistan kept the concept of Greater Kashmir alive through its proxies in Kashmir and track II diplomacy.
It is often being said in some quarters that the hostility between India and Pakistan can end if the latter is handed over the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley. This is a fallacy because that leaves out the Chenab which flows through the Jammu region and Pakistan cannot afford to lose its water. The Chenab is vital for Pakistan and it wants to gain control over this river also.India is building three hydroelectric projects on the river and has also given go ahead for a dam on Ravi which is giving sleepless nights to present Pak leadership. Pakistan’s continued sponsorship of cross border terror and its refusal to put an end to it despite repeated warnings compelled the present Indian Government to adopt a hardline approach against both terror and Pakistan. While, the Indian Army launched successful counter terror operations in Kashmir in sync with the security forces, National Investigating agency (NIA) and the government tightened its noose on the Pak proxies that formed the terror support network or the Over Ground Worker (OGW) network. India also considered many non-military options as well to punish Pakistan including the option of controlling the flow of river waters strictly as per the Indus Water Treaty (IWT). “Blood and water cannot flow together,” warned PM Modi.
Pakistan’s 70 percent of total water requirement is met through water flowing from J&K and remainder 30 percent through underground water which is continuously depleting. If India successfully implements the provisions of IWT, Pakistan will not only have a major agrarian crisis but will gradually turn into a desert. With the Modi Government giving go ahead for construction of additional dams and barrages to prevent excess flow of water into Pakistan, the latter has once again intensified the proxy war by expanding the arc into erstwhile Doda district.
Pakistan is also worried that if Modi becomes the PM again there is a possibility that water may be used as a tool by the Modi government to try to teach Pakistan a lesson with non-military means. Major General Asif Ghafoor, Pakistan Military Spokesman, has warned the nation that, “Any future war that happens will be on the issue of water.”
The rise in terror activities apart from creating fear among the Hindu minority community and compelling them to migrate will also put a halt to various developmental activities including construction of dams and barrages and hydroelectric projects by raising the cost for Indian security establishment. This will ensure that the flow of water into Pakistan from these rivers does not reduce.
The killings of RSS leader Chanderkant Sharma and his PSO in Kishtwar is in keeping with a well thought out policy of using terror proxies as strategic assets and using the “low cost, high yield” tactics which furthers the objective of the Pakistan Deep State. This is not at all a mere isolated case of terrorists hitting out randomly as it is likely to be seen by many among us. Make no mistakes that it is very much a part of the bigger game plan which Pakistan has drawn.
(The author is a Jammu based political commentator, columnist, security and strategic analyst.)
Brig Anil Gupta