Shortly after the Kargil War in 1999, a former Director General of the ISI was asked at a seminar in Islamabad, organised by the Jang Group of Newspapers as to what is the main aim of the ISI. He promptly replied: ?Our aim is to weaken India from within. And we can do it.?
The tragedy is that we have failed in India to understand the magnitude of the problems we face from terrorism sponsored from across our borders. Those who share the illusion that this problem will end if only we ?solve? the Kashmir issue to the satisfaction of Pakistan would do well to remember that on April 11, 1999, General Pervez Musharraf proclaimed: ?India is a hegemonic power. Low intensity conflict with India will continue even if the Kashmir issue is resolved.? Terrorism, in order to ?weaken India from within? is a continuing instrument of the State policy of Pakistan.
Pakistan believes that India fears the escalation of tensions into a nuclear conflict and will not resort to military action to counter it. And this belief was vindicated by the manner in which we responded after the attack on our Parliament in December 2001.
After having failed to create a Hindu-Sikh divide by supporting terrorism in Punjab, Pakistan turned to promoting terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir by initially funding, arming and training disgruntled Kashmiris with fundamentalist beliefs. When this failed, Pakistan resorted to the use of fundamentalist, armed organisations like the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and the Lashkar-e-Toiba which had links with the Taliban in Afghanistan , to wage ?Jehad? in Jammu and Kashmir. A Kashmiri led movement soon became an international jehad. It is important to note that ISI sponsored terrorism in India which includes the Mumbai bomb blasts was not condemned by the US and western allies, who instead preferred to lecture to India on ?Human Rights?. But by 1998 Pakistani organisations involved in terrorism, developed global links through the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan with Islamist movements in the Philippines, Central Asia, Chechnya, a number of ?moderate? Arab States and even in the US, UK, Australia and Western Europe.
The net outcome of these worldwide jehadi terrorism links emanating out of Pakistan and Taliban ruled Afghanistan was the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in New York and Washington DC . Those linked to the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 have since been found to be involved in terrorist activities in San Diego and Virginia in the US and in London, Spain, Australia, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Chechnya and even in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. It is primarily because of these links that the US and its allies acted belatedly to declare groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed as international terrorist organisations. Even Dawood Ibrahim was declared as a wanted terrorist by the US only after it was established that he had links with Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda. But we should be clear in our minds that as long as the US and its allies regard Pakistan as an ally and partner in their ?War on Terrorism? we can expect no significant help from them, in dealing with Pakistan sponsored terrorism against India, unless the groups involved have links with the Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. These countries, will in fact, go to any length to establish that we do not have enough ?proof? of Pakistani involvement in terrorism in India.
Despite the foregoing, there has been reluctance, especially during the last two years, to take a pro-active stance in exposing Pakistani sponsored terrorism to the world community. We have, for example, not demanded that the world community and the UN Security Council, that organisations like the Jamat ud Dawa which is the new name under which the Lashkar-e-Toiba operates should be declared as terrorist organisations under UN Security Council Resolution 1963. We have substantial knowledge that the so called ?United Jihad Council? which functions out of Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir coordinates terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir and has continuing and close links with the ISI. We have, however, done little to get international diplomatic pressure mounted on Pakistan to close down and ban the United Jihad Council.
While the impact of terrorism by foreigners can be dealt with and contained, we have been witnessing in recent years, the emergence of linkages growing between groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and small but radicalised sections of the Muslim community in India in promoting terrorist activities across India. The attack on Ayodhya in July 2005, the massacre in Delhi on the eve of Deepavali, the attack on the Indian Institute of Science in December 2006, the attack on the temple complex in Varanasi in March 2006 and finally the Mumbai bomb blast on July 11, 2006 were incidents in which Indian nationals provided a back up to the Lashkar-e-Toiba. We should remember that terrorism ended in Punjab only when the Punjab police took on and defeated the terrorists in the State. In dealing with terrorist challenges we now face we will have to ensure that the challenges are met in a united manner, transcending considerations of political partisanship. Pakistan'saim is to create a communal divide in India. We should not allow this to happen.
There are many who advocate that we should not talk to the Pakistanis. Nations interact with each other even in times of war. It is inevitable that the dialogue process with Pakistan will resume at some point in time. But this does not mean that we should turn the other cheek when Pakistan resorts to terrorist violence. There are several ways, overt and covert, through which we can raise the costs for Pakistan and even for its partner in terrorism, the Khaleda Zia Government in Bangladesh if they continue to sponsor terrorism against India.
Sadly, recent Governments have avoided effectively using such options. Constantly turning the other cheek is not the best way to deal with those who are out to destroy the very fabric of our society.
(The writer is a respected former diplomat, specialist on Indo-Pak relations and writes extensively on foreign policy.)