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Kashmir just the beginning in jihadis' vision of war

Kashmir just the beginning in jihadis' vision of war

Author: Syed Saleem Shahzad
Publication: Asia Times Online
Date: May 20, 2002
URL: http://www.atimes.com/ind-pak/DE18Df03.html

The deadly hand of jihadis appears finally to have stoked the fires of confrontation to such an extent that a clash between India and Pakistan is inevitable.

Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged what was described by Indian defense officials as unusually heavy border fire on Friday in the south of Jammu and Kashmir following the attack on Tuesday in Indian-ruled Kashmir in which 35 people died. India has blamed Pakistan-backed Islamic militants for the incident.

Jihadi sources say that the latest attack in Kashmir is part of a much broader plan to push India and Pakistan into conflict and to foment unrest from the Indian subcontinent to Central Asia in order to complete their unfinished agenda of creating a bi-polar world of Muslims and non- Muslims.

Long before the events of September 11, Islamists had begun to rally in the face of what they perceived as spreading United States hegemony in the post Cold War era. Washington, they believed, was set on the elimination of fundamentalist forces in South and Central Asia - basically the remnants of the jihadi movements that fought in Afghanistan, and which, ironically, the US supported and helped equip. At the same time, the US would counterbalance the increasing presence of China in the region, which was quickly emerging to fill the vacuum left by the demise of the former Soviet Union.

Islamic militants, battle-hardened in the mountains of Afghanistan, formed the core of the opposition to the US challenge. And foremost among them was al-Qaeda, a coalition of several militant groups with members in many countries, with its vision of a polarized world. After the US overran Afghanistan, the base for most of the jihadis, they shifted to Indian-held Kashmir, and to India itself, from where they plan to stir India and Pakistan into fighting that they reason will inevitably draw in the US.

Prominent Pakistani defense analyst, Colonel (retired) Ghafar Mehdi, says that the current situation between India and Pakistan suggests that India will try to occupy some strategic areas of Pakistani-administered Azad (Free) Kashmir. Tuesday's attack has, in many people's eyes, given India the right to do this, especially in the "war on terror" era.

Prominent analyst on international affairs and former chairman of the international affairs department of Karachi University, Professor Shamim Akhtar, explains further, saying that for the first time Pakistan is engaged on three fronts - in its own tribal areas (along with the US in looking for al-Qaeda and Taliban forces), on its northeastern border with India, and on the domestic front, where militants are agitating against President's General Pervez Musharraf's alliance with the US.

The failed attack to blow up the Indian parliament on December 13 was the beginning of jihadis' new war aimed at raising tension between New Delhi and Islamabad to boiling point. Although Pakistan has denied the involvement of any Pakistani-based militant groups in this attack, insiders have no doubt that they were involved. A widely-publicized crackdown against militants in Pakistan announced earlier this year was aimed at clipping the wings of the militants, but few people of importance were detained. Mostly rank-and-file group members or those who did not toe the government line were taken in. And when subsequently released, they agreed to stop cross-border activities.

Further, Pakistan's Corps Intelligence, Military Intelligence (303) and the Inter-Services Intelligence have set out new guidelines for their contacts in the militant groups acting in Kashmir: they should act more like locals and sever ties with international groups such as al-Qaeda, and adopt more politics and less militancy. Those jihadis opposed to this have now made their base the whole of India, and once fighting does break out between Pakistan and India, their networks across India will be activated to play havoc with Indian interests.

This is the big game plan in which US and allied forces will have to become involved, and the battlefield will be from the Pansher Valley in Afghanistan to Kolkata in India.

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