Saturday, 31 August 2013
Good nationalists and bad nationalists
Dr Shabir Choudhry 31 August 2013
Just like America has defined Taliban as ‘Good Taliban’ and ‘Bad Taliban’; secret agencies of Pakistan have also defined Kashmiri nationalists as ‘good nationalists’ and ‘bad nationalists’.
In eyes of the Pakistani establishment ‘good nationalists are those who talk about independence of Jammu and Kashmir, but all their efforts are designed to liberate the areas of Jammu and Kashmir under India. They justify taking help (arms, training, money, logistic support, guidance etc.) from Pakistan (also an occupier of Kashmiri territory) to be used against the other occupier – India.
‘Bad nationalists’, in view of the Pakistani establishment are those who have over the years understood their game plan; and want to treat Pakistan as an occupier as well. In view of the ‘bad nationalists’ the Kashmir policy of Pakistan is also imperialist in nature; but they have camouflaged it in name of religion and brotherhood, hence this hypocrisy must be exposed.
Furthermore, these ‘bad nationalists’ say Pakistani establishment has very shrewdly manipulated the situation and transformed Kashmiri rights movement in to a religious dispute, hence growth of the jihadi culture. These ‘bad nationalists’ believe that Pakistani establishment under cover of religion formulated such policies that distorted the real Kashmiri struggle and converted it to a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan; whereas the struggle was for independence of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
Also ‘bad nationalists’ believe the wrong and imperialist policies of the Pakistani establishment resulted in the forced division of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, hence our continued suffering and miseries. They think the Pakistani establishment has done more political damage to the Kashmir cause than what India has caused; however, India has committed more human rights abuses because of the Pakistani sponsored militancy and jihad since 1989.
The Pakistani establishment on the other hand thinks because the ‘bad nationalists’ do not accept their dictation or do not take the bait, so they must be projected as enemies of Pakistan and friends of India. In other words, their view is a Kashmiri could only be a pro Pakistan or pro India. In their view, those who are truly not pro Pakistan, meaning they do not take overt or covert instructions and support from Pakistan, must be pro India because they believe in democracy, secular society and human rights for all citizens of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
Over the years, ‘Bad nationalists’ have become wiser, more pragmatic and realist. They say whereas the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir is occupied and struggle must be for unification and independence of the State, but it was wrong policy to send people from Azad Kashmir to ‘liberate’ Kashmir under India. People under the Indian occupation must struggle there, and people under the Pakistani occupation must struggle against the Pakistani occupation. In other words people of Gilgit Baltistan must organise their own struggle, and people of Azad Kashmir must organise their own struggle against those who occupy them. How can we help people of Gilgit Baltistan or people on the Indian side when we are occupied and oppressed ourselves?
These ‘bad nationalists’ believe it was a considered policy of the GHQ of Pakistan to send people from this side of Jammu and Kashmir to the Indian side for the following reasons:
1. Hot headed Kashmiris from this side could become targets of the Indian bullets;
2. It will ensure that they pay no attention to their own miseries and miseries of people of Gilgit Baltistan;
3. It will fuel more anti - India feelings;
4. It will give this impression that the Kashmiris under Pakistan were happy, and that was why they were going across the LOC to ‘liberate’ their brothers;
5. And with massive propaganda, it will help to make India defensive on the Kashmir dispute.
‘Good nationalists’ regard Pakistan as a friendly country and take pride in having some association with their secret agencies and political elite. They believe Kashmiris should focus on the ‘liberation of the Indian occupied Kashmir’; while paying some lip service to the situation on the Pakistani side of Kashmir. They justify taking funds, arms, training, logistic support and guidance from the Pakistani secret agencies and use that to ‘liberate’ Kashmir from India, even though the world community regard that as a ‘proxy war’ which was designed to keep India engaged in Kashmir.
Also ‘good nationalists’ happily provide raw materials of human beings to be used in the battlefield against India; and systematically propagate against Indian position in Jammu and Kashmir; while practically hoodwinking what government of Pakistan do to people of Jammu and Kashmir and the Kashmir dispute itself. In many ways the ‘good nationalists’ have practically become a ‘B team’ of the Pakistani establishment; and as a reward they get certain privileges and monetary gains. They are also promoted and acknowledged at the national level; and at times, called to official briefings/consultations, either in Islamabad or in their diplomatic Mission in New Delhi and in other important cities of the world.
India also seems to be comfortable with ‘good nationalists’. Despite serious cases like murder of the army personnel, ‘good nationalists’ are treated like Mughal royalty. They are provided protocol, security and are allowed to travel to New Delhi, visit the Pakistani High Commission and there eat chicken tikkas, shish kebabs, biryani etc and come out with new instructions and, at times, money. They are also allowed to travel to other Embassies, meet diplomats, and address various conferences and seminars held in various parts of India.
As some ‘good nationalists’ are better than others and deserve more attention and privileges, they, despite very serious charges of killings and kidnappings are awarded with an Indian passport ‘despite the provisions of the Passport Act of 1967 prohibiting it’. A Delhi based senior security official, Tulsi once said. “Politics requires that these cases must linger. But that is hardly a long term strategy.”
This situation could be better understood with this real life example. Abbas Butt and I wanted to urgently consult one senior JKLF leader in Srinagar. We phoned his home and we were told by his colleague that there was a demonstration against India this morning and he was arrested. When we told him that we wanted some advice from him on very important issue, his colleague said: phone back at night he will be at home.
Abbas Butt and I were stunned to hear this. What kind of ‘arrest’ was this? The man was arrested in presence of so many people and media for doing something wrong, but his colleague knew his leader would be at home at night. We asked each other, what was going on there. After a bit of discussion we decided to phone another ‘nationalist’ leader in Srinagar and discussed this matter with him.
He laughed and said, ‘Choudhry Sahib you don’t know the ground reality here’. This phrase or sentence, ‘you don’t know the ground reality’ is very often spoken by the Valley based Kashmiris, and I have heard it hundreds of times; and honestly speaking I was sick and tired of this. However, on this occasion without expressing any resentment I asked him, ‘What do you mean by this’?
Summary of his short speech was: When a profile of a leader gets low or when his followers or people in general become little suspicious of his activities, this drama of ‘arrest’ is arranged. He said why is it that some leaders have been ‘attacked’ so many times but they are never injured. This kind of ‘arrest’ and ‘attack’ gives them a new lease of life.
‘This makes a lot of sense’, my colleague Abbas Butt said to me after we disconnected the phone call. He said, ‘this conversation has given us a completely new perspective on the Kashmiri struggle’.
We all know that ‘pro accession’ lobby whether they are on the Indian side of the divide or on the Pakistani side, they benefit from the ‘Kashmiri struggle’ in many shapes and forms; however we learnt that ‘good nationalists’ were also benefiting from the ‘Kashmiri struggle’ and from the miseries of the ordinary citizens of Jammu and Kashmir. May Allah SWT help us and grant us peace, happiness and independence?
Writer is a political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, 28 August 2013
The vanishing jihadists of Kashmir,
“Let India’s dark empire listen to this”, Hilal Ahmad Mir thundered in a rage-filled speech delivered to a small audience in the Kashmir town of Palhalan in 2010,“We will say this until we die: it will be either martyrdom or s’haria.” That year, violent street protests pitting protestors against police had broken out; over a hundred young people were killed. Mir ended up spending months in jail, before joining the Lashkar-e-Taiba. He met his end in May, shot dead by Indian troops.
His words, to some, seem prophetic.
Later this month, Zubin Mehta is scheduled to perform in Srinagar, an advertisement for the return of the normal world to the state. —an ambush, and the execution-style shooting of two policemen—give reason to fear the high-profile event might end up advertising something else. For the first time since 2002, killings have increased; infiltration is up; the Line of Control is on fire. Kashmir’s Islamist patriarch Syed Ali Shah Geelani has , saying India will use the music to drown out “sufferings of inmates of this beautiful jail”.
Even as Zubin Mehta performs on the banks of the Dal Lake, is the new moon of the Kashmir jihad rising?
Kashmiri villagers watch as a gun battle takes place between militants and the Army. AFP.
, commentators have been saying just that: that a new generation of educated Kashmiris is emerging, radicalised by the anti-India street violence of 2010. , and have all carried reports pointing to a rise in numbers of educated young people joining jihadist groups — and even chief minister .“The resurgence of militancy”, Shujaat Bukhari,“cannot be brushed aside”. He warns that “Kashmiri youth will repose their faith in violence”.
It’s a terrifying prospect — or, rather, would be, if the facts it is built on had a passing resemblance to reality.
There’s no shortage of anecdotes to back up the claim that there’s a rising tide of educated young Kashmiris queuing up to join jihadist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Muhammad. Kulgam’s Umar Ahsan Bhat gave his life to the Lashkar while pursuing a masters degree in zoology. Ghulam Nabi Dar was pursuing a masters in computer applications from Kashmir University; Muzammil Dar, a qualified pharmacist; Ibrahim Janwari, an arts graduate.
Each story, though, is a data-point — not a trend.
Trends, though, there isn’t much evidence of. Eight ethnic-Kashmiri jihadists have been killed so far this year, but just one had a graduate qualification while another was a college dropout. Just seven of the ethnic Kashmiri jihadists killed over the last three years had finished college.
Police list 36 local residents as active terror suspects, but just three — Shopian resident Muhammad Haq Malla, and Awantipora’s Shabbir Ahmad Mir and Reyaz Ahmad Naikoo — have graduate qualifications.
Evidence in several cases discussed in the media is, moreover, ambiguous. Litter resident Sajjad Yousuf Mir, killed on June 1, had a master of arts degree — but joined the jihad in 2008, well before the street violence that’s purported to have spurred large-scale radicalisation. Saifullah Ahanger, in a May 25 firefight that claimed the lives of four soldiers, was reported to have been an engineering graduate. He had, however, dropped out of his engineering course — and, more to the point, came from a family with a long tradition of involvement in jihadist activity.
Plenty of jihadists from phases of Kashmir’s history — among them, Wasim Khatib, the son of an élite family, who was studying for a pilot’s licence in the United States, Bilal Beigh, Ishfaq Majid Wani, Ghulam Ahmad Naikoo — were well educated.
“Frankly”, says Kashmir inspector-general of police Abdul Gani Mir, “There’s no evidence of a rise in recruitment, and none growing numbers of educated people are joining terror groups either.”
Mir has data on his side. The numbers don’t simply bear out claims of a significant drift of ethnic Kashmiris into jihadist groups, either. From a high 324 of ethnic-Kashmiri terrorists reported killed in 2001, the number has since declined to the low double-digits — and shows no sign of an upswing. The threat comes from men being despatched across the Line of Control, not a cause at home.
, when Hilal Mir began to be seduced by the idea of jihad, this outcome seemed improbable.Kashmir’s New Islamists, a coalition of figures on the religious right who had long worked to build a new foundation for the jihad that had been choked off by Pakistan’s beleaguered generals in 2001, thought their moment had come. The street protests that tore the state apart, they believed, were crucibles which a new generation of fighters were being forged.
2010, though, turned out to be a bloody sunset, not a new dawn.
The making of Kashmir’s New Islamist movement dates back to 1992, when their then-imprisoned patriarch, Geelani, wrote the , his prison diaries. Geelani warned Kashmir’s then-ascendant jihadists they were headed nowhere. “They have,” he argued, “Apparently miscalculated the enormity of the demands of the struggle and the strength of the power they are fighting against, fondly imagining that their goal would be achieved in no time.” The armed movement, he argued, didn’t have political direction — and would pay the price.
He was proved right. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligencehadbacked the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen—led, in the main, by men from Geelani’s Jama’at-e-Islami Geelani helped build. In 1997, though, then Jama’at chief GM Bhat saw defeat ahead, and called for an end to Kashmir’s “gun culture”. Three years later, his ally, the dissident Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Abdul Majid Dar declared a unilateral ceasefire. In January 2004, the Jamaat’s Majlis-e-Shoora, or central consultative council, went public with a commitment to a “constitutional struggle”.
Ejected from the Jama’at, Geelani set about building a new political movement, fighting struggles against alcohol, migrants, films, sex — all evidence, in his view, of an Indian anti-Islam plot.
In Geelani’s view, the scholar Yoginder Sikand has , Kashmir was just a site for an irreducible civilizational struggle: “For Muslims to stay among Hindus or in an environment which is very different from their own is said to be as difficult as it is ‘for a fish to stay alive in a desert’”.
New Islamist influence grew through the 2008 protests against the grant of land-use rights to the Amarnath shrine, which Geelani argued was the spearhead of a Hindu settler-colonial project. In to the journalist Aasha Khosa, he said the time had come to struggle for a Kashmir where “secularism should not touch our lives and we must be totally governed by the Koran”.
The 2010 protests ended with disillusion, though: more than a hundred young people dead, businesses bankrupted, no cause achieved—and leaders like Geelani discredited.
In 1990, the journalist SanjoyHazarika the sunrise of Kashmir’s jihad. He wrote of how Islamists had “ demonstrated their influence by closing cinemas, beauty parlors, bars and video movie halls, describing them as un-Islamic”. He recorded a conversation with a young university graduate angry with what she saw as “Hindu domination”: “Their television programs are full of Hindu scriptures. Their police shoot our boys. Where is the democracy?”
Geelani is still having that conversation. Young Kashmiris mostly don’t.
There might be a few young men headed towards the Lashkar, but tens of thousands more are headed into the civil services and the private sector. There’s a growing tide of religious recruits to religious neo-fundamentalist causes like the Tablighi Jama’at, as well as a welter of pietist religious movements—but just as many to the aestheticised Kashmiri nationalism so fashionable among the metropolitan Left, and perhaps even more tothe culture of market capitalism.
Forced to shut down their war in Kashmir after 9/11, Pakistan’s besieged generals are hoping to resume their interrupted jihad once again. They’ll likely discover they have to resuscitate a corpse, not a cause.
Tuesday, 27 August 2013
Friday, 23 August 2013
China’s strategic interests in Pakistan’s port at Gwadar
March 24th, 2013
March 24th, 2013
Author: Ghulam Ali, Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad
On 30 January 2013, the Port Singapore Authority (PSA) abandoned administrative control of Gwadar port in Pakistan — five years into a 40-year agreement.
Pakistan has now handed over the ‘management and operation’ of Gwadar port to a Chinese company, and in another landmark decision, Pakistan has signed onto the Iran–Pakistan gas pipeline, much to the annoyance of the United States.
Commentators argue that both agreements are a political stunt; the incumbent government made these decisions shortly before it completed its five-year term in an attempt to restore its declining popularity. It has now left the next government to deal with the consequences.
Gwadar is located at the juncture of South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. It is close to the Iranian border and lies at the gateway to the Strait of Hormuz, a key world oil supply route. Some analysts argue the port could become China’s naval base in the Indian Ocean and enable Beijing to monitor Indian and US naval activities. The port has also been called the western-most link in China’s ‘string of pearls’
How valid are these claims and what is the port’s real importance to China?
Pakistan purchased the small town of Gwadar from Oman in 1958, but did not begin work on a port there until 2002. Pakistan lacks ports for shipping and maritime security — in successive conflicts, the Indian Navy quickly blockaded Karachi, severely limiting the Pakistan Navy’s manoeuvrability. Gwadar, a deep warm-water harbour 470 kilometres away from Karachi, seemed an ideal place for a new outlet to the Indian Ocean. At Pakistan’s request, China provided US$198 million for the first phase of the port, which was completed in 2006, but was lukewarm about further development. The project consists of three phases, so Pakistan is still waiting for investment to complete the remaining two.
The robust nature of China–Pakistan defence ties, and a number of interrelated developments therein, has catapulted the port to international attention. China is developing its own western region and has been building a network of roads in Pakistan, and intends to lay pipelines and a railway track. Pakistan offered China a ‘trade and energy corridor’ via Gwadar, linked to inland roads. The plan would see oil being imported from the Middle East, stored in refineries at Gwadar and sent to China via roads, pipelines or railway. Many Western and Indian analysts argue that China wants to gain a foothold in Gwadar for strategic purposes.
This analysis overplays Gwadar’s geo-economic importance and ignores important facts. Firstly, though China has built some roads in Pakistan, it still needs to lay thousands of kilometres of gas and oil pipelines and railway track in order to turn Gwadar to economic use. That will cost money, and China is reluctant to invest in this volatile part of the world. Secondly, Pakistan faces a low-scale insurgency in its Balochistan province — where Gwadar is located and through which the proposed pipelines will pass. A number of feudal lords are opposed to large-scale foreign investment, fearing it will bring an influx of outsiders.
They demand greater autonomy and royalties for the extraction of natural resources. Although China has developed local infrastructure, it is considered an ‘exploiter’. Some Chinese workers have in the past been victims of targeted attacks. Thirdly, the port has failed to draw any major business since its completion in 2006. The fact that the port remained unused was one reason the PSA withdrew. Unlike Islamabad’s tall claims about the port’s geo-economic significance, Beijing has taken a more cautious and realistic approach. China remains sceptical of the port’s profitability. Both in 2001, when it agreed to finance the first phase of the port, and in 2013, when it took over administrative control of the port, Pakistan had to drag Beijing into the project.
Gwadar is not the only option for the Chinese in the Indian Ocean. It is not even the most viable option. Beijing has developed Hambantota port in Sri Lanka and built a container port facility in Chittagong in Bangladesh. In Myanmar, Beijing has built roads, dams and pipelines, and is looking to the ports of Kyaukpyu and Sittwe,
regardless of the fact that the latter is being built by India. Beijing intends to lay a pipeline from Kyaukpyu to Yunnan province. Chinese oil ships from the Middle East and Africa will cross the Bay of Bengal and unload at these ports, allowing oil to be piped to Yunnan. China appears more optimistic about the future of an Arakana–Yunnan pipeline than the Gwadar–Xinjiang pipeline because it considers Myanmar capable of protecting its assets.
Due to its strategic location, and because the strong military ties between China and Pakistan, Gwadar port has received excessive attention from the very beginning. Despite its being over a decade since China started construction of the first phase, no military-related activity has ever been observed there. If China intended to use a Pakistani port for naval purposes, Karachi, with its established military infrastructure, is an alternative that is available although Karachi has the strategic diswadvantage of proximity to India.
It is likely that China will develop the port quickly by making a bigger investment than the PSA, but its current interests appear commercial, aimed at securing its energy supplies. Moreover, Gwadar is just one of several options for Beijing, and due to the volatile security situation in the surrounding region it may not be China’s best bet. Gwadar is far from becoming a Chinese economic hub, let alone a security asset.
Ghulam Ali is PhD from Monash University in Melbourne and is presently assistant professor at COMSATS Institute of Information Technology in Islamabad.
A journey through River Jhelum
Thursday, 22 August 2013
Watch TV debate on 'Two Nations Theory and Kashmir' sponsored by Kashmir National Party; and hosted by Dr Shabir Choudhry
Watch TV debate on 'Two Nations Theory and Kashmir' sponsored by Kashmir National Party; and hosted by Dr Shabir Choudhry
Watch TV debate on 'Two Nations Theory and Kashmir' sponsored by Kashmir National Party- episode 14- part 1
Why is US giving Pakistan weapons to be used against India?
The Pakistani military’s signals to India are clear and present. The continuous attacks along the Line of Control are an unmistakable attempt to shatter the peace, break the long-held ceasefire and pull the rug from under the shaky feet of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The decade-old ceasefire needs to be maintained even though the Pakistan army and its affiliated jihadis would like nothing better than to destroy it and start the pot boiling. It would be a disaster to return to the days of easy infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir under the cover of heavy fire from the Pakistan army.
The Obama Administration needs to tell its friends in Rawalpindi in no uncertain terms to maintain the sanctity of the ceasefire. But so far, apart from anodyne statements implying equal responsibility for the killings on the LOC, it has said nothing to rein in the Pakistani military.
It is useful to look at the unhealthy US-Pak relationship: Reuters image
What’s more, it continues to quietly furnish sophisticated military weapons to Pakistan that are highly unsuitable against terrorists but very suitable against India.
In the context of the recent continuous tensions on the LOC, it is useful to take a hard look at the unhealthy US-Pakistan relationship of dependence, if only as a reminder of how some things never change.
Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, clearly the tactical winner in Afghanistan, is busy bolstering his against India in the fog of war. And with American blessings. He has amassed a goodly pile of big, new toys.
That Gen. Kayani would take maximum advantage of the US was expected but that Americans would stretch, tamper, and make a mockery of their own laws to allow it was not. That India’s interests would once again be ignored was surprising. Call me innocent.
The old mindset of some “babus” in the US State and Defence departments to keep Pakistan as a “regional balancer” against India is alive and well – an idea that incidentally also fits in with China’s plan of action. One official familiar with this thinking said the babus want the “Rawalpindi boys to be able to face India with dignity.” Thus the largesse of American weapons. Oh boy, I said.
The “dignity” has been furnished since 9/11 in the form of $20 billion, more than half of it in military aid of various kinds. The US government has funded eight P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, 2,000 TOW anti-armor missiles, 14 older model F-16 fighter jets, 59 T-37 trainer jets, one missile frigate, six AN/TPS-77 surveillance radars, and 20 Cobra attack helicopters among other weapons for Pakistan.
The figures are in a report published in July by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the non-partisan analytical arm of the US Congress. The report says the US Defence Department “characterized” the F-16 fighters, P-3Cs and anti-armor missiles as “having significant anti-terrorism applications.” The State Department claimed everything fits under “counterterrorism efforts, broadly defined.”
The broad is very broad in this case. The babus told CRS these weapons increase regional stability and “allow Pakistan to feel more secure vis-à-vis India, its better equipped neighbor.”
Psychoanalysis of what makes Pakistan “feel” more secure apart, what is galling is US officials “fiddling with the intention and spirit” of their own laws, in the words of one American analyst.
Moving on to the pipeline of weapons — Pakistan has paid $1.43 billion from its “own” funds to buy 18 new F-16 advanced combat aircraft. It has bought a variety of heavy bombs and 500 – repeat 500 –AMRAAM air-to-air missiles for $629 million. It also bought 100 Harpoon anti-ship missiles and 500 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles for a total of $400 million. Just for comparison — India bought 24 Harpoons from the US in 2011 for $170 million.
Pakistan military’s liquidity may astonish some, given that the country’s economy is in dire straits and is constantly mortgaged to the IMF. So how did they do it? Well, it was rather elementary. The US has transferred humongous amounts of money to Pakistan since 2002 leaving enormous scope for fiddling the books.
The ‘gravy train’ is called the Coalition Support Funds (CSF):Reuters image
The gravy train is called the Coalition Support Funds (CSF), which is actually meant to “reimburse” Pakistan for its “operational and logistical” support to US troops. On this train came $10.7 billion as of June this year.
Call it the great train robbery – the money was paid against actual (overinflated) invoices with little oversight. Most of this money likely came back to the US in the form of “Pakistani national funds” to buy the advanced weapons. These couldn’t be funded through US government programs because they were so blatantly inappropriate for fighting terrorists that even the most expanded American definition of “counterterrorism” couldn’t justify them.
The18 new F-16C/D Block 52 aircraft with advanced avionics valued at $1.43 billion and already delivered probably came from this liquidity. On the books the money is to feed, clothe and house poor Pakistani soldiers and supply them with ammunition while they take on the bad guys in the northwest of the country.
So rampant was the “mismanagement” of CSF, the US Congress was forced to look into it. A report by the Government Accountability Office in 2008 asked for more accountability and oversight on Pakistan’s reimbursement claims. But nothing changed in essential terms because the 2014 deadline for US withdrawal was approaching.
President Obama, who once clearly understood Kayani’s anti-India game, appears to have changed tack. His administration quietly issued two waivers in September 2012 and February 2013, setting aside its own certification requirements for Pakistan – that it cooperate on counterterrorism and non-proliferation. Curiously, the waivers didn’t make a splash in major US newspapers.
Ironically, Secretary of State John Kerry, who as senate chairman envisioned a “new” relationship with Pakistan by bolstering the civilian government, now oversees the dilution of that very idea. Sharif is not on his speed dial list. But Gen. Kayani probably is.
Where does this leave US goals of a strategic partnership with India is a good question to ponder.
Indian soldiers slain on LoC slept as death trap closed
Internal army investigations into the killing of five Indian soldiers on the Line of Control earlier this month has found evidence the men were killed as they slept, highly placed military sources have told .
The slain soldiers, investigators have concluded based on testimony from a survivor as well as analysis of injuries and bullet marks at the ambush site, are believed to bivouaced in a stone shelter for the night during the course of a patrol, leaving a sixth soldier on guard duty. The attack took place when the guard left the area for a few minutes to relieve himself, the sources said.
Did the soldiers relax due to the relative peace prevailing in the area they were patrolling? Reuters
Army headquarters in New Delhi declined to respond to multiple requests for comment from , saying saying only that an official investigation was still underway.
The killings have led to the disintegration of the ceasefire which went into place along the 740-kilometre Line of Control in 2003, with both armies trading machine gun, mortar and rocket fire on the arc that runs from Mendhar to Kargil. Indian troops were to have killed a Pakistani officer in the latest fighting on Monday, along the Line of Control in the Kargil sector.
From interviews with multiple military and intelligence sources, it’s apparent that the ambush targetting the ill-fated patrol was meticulously planned. Troops of the 14 Maratha Light Infantry had just arrived in the Sarla battalion area of the 93 Infantry Brigade, stationed along the Line of Control north of Poonch, to relieve the 21 Bihar regiment.
The 21 Bihar regiment’s Shambhu Sharan Rai, Vijaykumar Ray, Premnath Singh and Raghunandan Prasad, and the 14 Maratha Light Infantry’s Pundlik Mane and Sambhaji Kute, were sent out on a patrol to familiarise the newcomers with the terrain.
The patrol headed out from Cheeta, a post six kilometres west of Poonch, along the Betad nullah, or moutain stream, which heads towards the Line of Control. They were headed for Delta, an occasionally-occupied position half-way to another major post, code-named Begum. The posts guard the Line of Control areas around the village of Khari Karmara, facing the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir village of Bandi Abbaspur.
Elsewhere on the Line of Control, troops would have been extremely cautious about resting in the course of a patrol. The troops had no reason to expect trouble, though: the Chakan-da-Bagh sector, home to a trading post where cross-Line of Control trade is conducted, has long been peaceful.
Late that night, the sources said, the men bivouaced at a position some 450 metres across from the Line of Control–having crossed the border fencing that runs some distance away. Kute was put on guard duty, while the other men rested.
Kute, the only survivor, has told investigators he saw the patrol come under fire from multiple directions, the sources said. He was, however, unable to provide substantial further detail – bar saying he thought some 20 men, some in uniform – had executed the pre-dawn ambush.
Forensics have shown the slain men were killed with single shots, fired at almost point-blank range, evidence of a surgical, well planned ambush. Kute, by his account to military investigators, had no opportunity to respond. Hopelessly outnumbered, firing back would have achieved nothing in any case.
“There’s little doubt it was a highly professional ambush”, a senior military official said, “and there’s no way it could have happened without Pakistani troops nearby knowing it was being planned”.
“This was not done by some semi-trained jihadis,” he said.
The survivor’s testimony may have resulted in Antony’s ambiguous statement in Parliament. PTI
Kute’s less-than-complete testimony, New Delhi-based government sources claimed, led union defence minister AK Antony to issue a ambiguously-worded statement soon after the attack, saying it was carried out by “20 heavily armed terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan army uniforms”.
Antony’s statement appeared to refute an earlier statement by the army, saying the killings were carried out by terrorists “along with soldiers of the Pakistan army”. In January, after the beheading of an Indian soldier, Antony had expressly charged Pakistan’s élite Special Services Group with the outrage.
Following protests in Parliament, Antony issued a blaming Pakistan’s army for the killing. Indian military officials say they have intelligence that elements of the 801 Mujahid Battalion, stationed across the Line of Control, carried out the attack.
There has still been no explanation of why the attack was carried out, and Pakistan has denied any role in the killings.
Fighting on the Line of Control has escalated steadily since January, 2008-less than three months after Pervez Ashfaq Kayani took charge as Pakistan’s army chief, replacing former president . Multiple skirmishes took place that year, culminating in the killing of 2/8 Gurkha Regiment soldier Jawashwar Chhame on June 5, at the Kranti Border Observation Post near Salhotri village.
In October last year, a broke out, sparked off by the construction of new border observation positions by Indian troops in Uri–building-works that Pakistan alleged violated the unwritten terms of the 2003 ceasefire. The low-grade skirmishes culminated in the beheadings of Lance-Naik Hem Raj and Lance-Naik Sudhakar Naik in January, allegedly by Pakistani soldiers, in January this year.
Friction between the two armies re-erupted periodically after the beheadings, with Pakistan claiming, in February, that one of its soldiers had been executed in cold blood after accidentally straying across the Line of Control and being taken prisoner. India, however, disputed this version of events. Pakistan also claimed that one of its soldiers had been shot dead in the Keran sector, in a cross-Line of Control exchange of fire.
Experts say a string of recent incidents show troops and paramilitary personnel have relaxed their guard, the consequence of a decade of relative peace in Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier this month, showed the army’s convoy protection parties and highway domination teams failed to respond for over fifteen minutes to an ambush in which eight Indian soldiers were killed. In March, five Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed in an assault on their camp in Srinagar, with terrorists again penetrating lax perimeter security.
“Kashmir has been quiet for several years now”, said military expert Mandeep Bajwa, “and that means people have let down their guard. This is a wake-up call for everyone”.