Col J P Singh
Post UNSC Resolution on Afghanistan, Indian permanent representative at the UN stated, “the members of UN Security Council reaffirmed the importance of combating terrorism in Afghanistan to ensure that the territory of Afghanistan should not be used to threaten or attack any country, and that neither the Taliban nor any other Afghan group or individual should support terrorists operating on the territory of any other country; shows that India fears Taliban supported terrorism in India (read Kashmir). Al-Qaida’s call for global jihad to liberate Islamic lands from its enemies in its congratulatory message to the Taliban for taking over Afghanistan after humiliating the US in the 20 year war has become a cause of anxiety for the democratic world. The last paragraph of the statement talks about its trans-national jihad by asking all terrorist outfits to join to liberate Palestine, Maghreb, Levant, Somalia, Yemen and Kashmir from the clutches of enemies of Islam. Despite currently heading UNSC, India remains hanging by the tenuous strings in the uncertainties of Afghanistan and Kashmir with no hope (in hell) to have peace in Kashmir. Future of Kashmir is at stake once again.
This hue and cry is because during their 1996 to 2001 rule, Taliban committed massacre of Afghan civilians, denied UN Food supplies to 16 lakh starving civilians and conducted a policy of scorched earth, burning vast areas of fertile land and destroying lakhs of homes. They put restrictions on several cultural activities. Women and girls were forbidden to attend schools and universities and largely banned from working. Purdah system was imposed and they were to be accompanied by a male relative outside the household. If women broke rules, they were whipped/ executed. Five times Namaz was made compulsory. Hindus, Sikhs, Bodhs, Christians and Shia Muslims faced widespread religious discrimination and cultural genocide. Taliban destroyed religious places and numerous historical artifacts/ monuments such as 1500 year old Bamiyan Buddhas. It was during this period that lot of Afghan jihadis entered Kashmir and inflicted unprecedented atrocities, against women in particular.
India didn’t expect Taliban rise despite knowing that America has lost the will to fight in Afghanistan anymore. This should have been clear ever since Trump started negotiations with Taliban. India should have pulled out of Afghanistan then and there thus saving millions and utilized it for strengthening our security in Kashmir. India kept backing up President Ghani’s dispensation and continued its development works. When Ghani fled from his country unnoticed, leaving everything at the mercy of dreaded Taliban, we did not know what to do. Ghani is alleged to have told his armed forces, which India had trained, not to resist the Taliban onslaught. In such case there was none to rescue Indians in Afghanistan. It means that India had lost the plot at the hustings. Why were our intelligence agencies not knowing about Taliban lightening run over Afghanistan and its outcome. Taliban conduct in rescue of passengers of hijacked IC-814 Air India flight from Nepal to Kandahar in December 1999 should have been fresh in the mind of Intelligence Agencies because that accompanied the release of three dreaded militants from J&K Jails including Mulana Masood Azhar who planned Mumbai terror attack, referred to as 26/11, in which 164 innocent people were killed by Pak terrorists. Yet we didn’t prepare for retrieval of our assets. Are we as a nation doomed to retell stories of our intelligence failure in the aftermath of each war? The intelligence failure of Kargil War was too vivid to be recounted when again in May 2020 there was similar intelligence failure in Eastern Ladakh enabling PLA unilaterally change the status of LAC to its tactical advantage. Let us not make similar mistakes over Kashmir this time.
Kashmir has always been under Taliban radar. Af-Pak watchers see Pak Deep State’s role in insertion of ‘word Kashmir’ in al-Qaida statement. Kashmir is already ravaged by Pak led militancy for 30 years. Pakistan created Taliban which led to Russian ignominious pull out and subsequent takeover by Taliban. This time also Pakistan is in the forefront in installing Taliban rule over Afghanistan. Soon after Taliban firms in, Pakistan will attempt to involve Taliban, al-Qaida and ISIS-K to create mayhem in Kashmir. As a layman I see our statecraft failing in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Tomorrow when Talib blood is seen in Kashmir, India will have to take the blame.
Foreign Minister and NSA are constantly in a huddle with PMO to decide India’s next course of action in such unpredictable and dangerous situation. Home Ministry has convened a meeting of top security officials from J&K. This also shows that dangers over Kashmir are looming large. In the CCS meeting post Panjshir fall, CDS and services Chiefs were not invited. Who among the invitees advises CCS better than the service chiefs on the emerging geo-strategic environment and its security implications as well as what is the plan and who is to take action, if action is intended, is a not known. What is seen is that ‘Nehruvian Era’ of not trusting the Services remains to this day and yet pushing them to action. But that can’t deter Veterans to put across their vision of saving Kashmir from Taliban (read Pakistan). Since my concern is Kashmir, I can’t miss the opportunity of putting it across unequivocally.
Pakistan is a nursery of terrorism. Taliban is a ‘Terror outfit’. It is creation of Pak ISI. Kashmir imbroglio is because of Pakistani strategic culture. Still while Taliban-US negotiations were going on, surprisingly, India in its best of the wisdom declared a ceasefire on the LoC thus giving Pak Army all the time and energy to synthesize in Kabul. For a long time Pak Army was kept tactically engaged and pounded on the LoC without a respite. It had been compelled to pull out forces from Western Front. Once the ceasefire was announced, Pak army and ISI was relieved to shift focus on Afghanistan. The net result is that Pak Army drivers are driving American Tanks and military vehicles which Taliban paraded in the civil streets of Afghanistan to scare Afghan citizens. Similarly Pak Air Force Pilots are flying American ‘Attack Heptrs’ deployed in Air Support to Taliban against Resistance Forces in Panjshir. Seeing the tough resistance faced by Taliban in Panjshir, Pak ISI Chief Lt Gen Faiz Hamid rushed to Kabul to negotiate Pak military help to invade Panjshir and assist in forming the govt thus inviting massive anti Pak street protests. After his arrival in Kabul, Special Forces and Air Force of Pakistan joined Taliban to enter Panjshir. Had India not offered this courtesy to Pakistan, American military arsenal would have been a deadwood for Taliban, LoC would have been active enabling Indian fighter Jets scramble in POJK and increase Army sabre-rattling in POJK even if no action intended. That would have saved Panjshir from humiliation and Pak military onslaught. Also Pak-Afghan border would have been left porous and easily crossable by fleeing Afghan refugees which would have destablised Pakistan. Such manoeuvers would have prevented ISI in helping Taliban militarily in its fight against Resistance Forces. While Indian friendly Afghan people are facing Taliban bullets for protesting against Pakistani footprints, India watches helplessly having let it happen.
As America has fallen from grace as a super power, India is bound to fall as regional power if it doesn’t act. Kashmir has to be made out of bound for Taliban. The way out to my mind is to destablise Pakistan. It is never too late to declare ‘Operational Alertness’ and mobilize forces on the LoC. This is also the time to capture/threaten various strategic objectives inside POJK. That will not only serve Indian interest in Kashmir but send a message to Taliban that India is no more a push over as of 1999. It will embolden Afghan resistance against Taliban rule. It will demolish Taliban perception that having defeated the super power of the world, they can turn around India to make Kashmir an Islamic State.
Col J P Singh