News / Asia

India, Pakistan Tensions Expected to Rise

Supporters of Hafiz Saeed, the leader of a banned Islamic group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an alias of the Lashkar -e-Taiba terror group, rally against India and United States in Lahore, Pakistan in this Feb. 26, 2011 file photo.
Supporters of Hafiz Saeed, the leader of a banned Islamic group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an alias of the Lashkar -e-Taiba terror group, rally against India and United States in Lahore, Pakistan in this Feb. 26, 2011 file photo.
Reuters
Pakistan-based militants are preparing to take on India across the subcontinent once Western troops leave Afghanistan next year, several sources say, raising the risk of a dramatic spike in tensions between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan.
 
Intelligence sources in India believe that a botched suicide bombing of an Indian consulate in Afghanistan, which was followed within days last week by a lethal cross-border ambush on Indian soldiers in disputed Kashmir, suggest that the new campaign by Islamic militants may already be underway.
 
Members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant outfit in Pakistan, the group blamed for the 2008 commando-style raid on Mumbai that killed 166 people, told Reuters they were preparing to take the fight to India once again, this time across the region.
 
And a U.S. counter-terrorism official, referring to the attack in Afghanistan, said “LeT has long pursued Indian targets, so it would be natural for the group to plot against them in its own backyard”.
 
Given the quiet backing - or at least blind eye - that many militant groups enjoy from Pakistan's shadowy intelligence services, tensions from a new militant campaign are bound to spill over. Adding to the volatility, the two nations' armies are trading mortar and gunfire across the heavily militarized frontier that divides Kashmir, and accusing each other of killing troops.
 
Hindu-majority India and Islamic Pakistan have fought three wars since independence in 1947 and came close to a fourth in 1999. The tension now brewing may not escalate into open hostilities, but it could thwart efforts to forge a lasting peace and open trade between two countries that make up a quarter of the world's population.
 
“With the Americans leaving Afghanistan, the restraint on the Pakistani security/jihadi establishment is going too,” said a former top official at India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the external intelligence arm.
 
“We are concerned about 2014 in either scenario. If the jihadis (Islamist militants) claim success in Afghanistan, they could turn their attention to us. Equally, if they fail, they will attack in wrath.”
 
But Pakistan, which has a border with India to the east and with Afghanistan to the west, has concerns of its own. It sees India's expansive diplomacy in Afghanistan as a ploy to disrupt it from the rear as it battles its own deadly Islamist militancy and separatist forces. Vying for influence in a post-2014 Afghanistan, it worries about India's assistance to the Afghan army, heightening a sense of encirclement.
 
“I'm shocked by these allegations. Pakistan has its own insurgency to deal with. It has no appetite for confrontations abroad,” said a Pakistani foreign ministry official referring to the Indian charges of stirring trouble in Afghanistan and on the Kashmir border.
 
“If anything, we are looking at our mistakes from the past very critically. These accusations are baseless. India needs to act with more maturity and avoid this sort of propaganda.”
 
Both U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry spoke during visits to India recently of the need for New Delhi and Islamabad to resume their stalled peace process as the region heads into a period of uncertainty.
 
Full-scale jihad

 
At the core of that uncertainty is the pullback of militants from Afghanistan as U.S. forces head home.
 
FILE - Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed, April 11, 2011.FILE - Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed, April 11, 2011.
x
FILE - Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed, April 11, 2011.
FILE - Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed, April 11, 2011.
​Hafiz Sayeed, founder of the LeT, has left no doubt that India's side of Kashmir will become a target, telling an Indian weekly recently: “Full-scale armed Jihad [holy war] will begin soon in Kashmir after American forces withdraw from Afghanistan.”
 
The retreat of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989 brought a wave of guerrillas into Kashmir to fight India's rule there.
 
This time the additional risk will be the rivalry between India and Pakistan over Afghanistan itself, one that threatens to become as toxic as the 60-year dispute in Kashmir. The LeT has said it is fighting Indian forces in Afghanistan as well.
 
A senior LeT source in Pakistan told Reuters: “It is correct that the LeT cooperates with the Afghan Taliban (insurgents) when there is a question of attacking Indian interests.”
 
Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated last week after five Indian soldiers were killed close to the de facto border in Kashmir. India says Pakistani special forces joined militants to ambush a night patrol, a charge Pakistan denies.
 
Just days earlier, three men drove an explosives-laden car towards India's consulate in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, near the border with Pakistan. The blast missed its target and killed nine civilians, six of them young Islamic scholars in a mosque.
 
It is too early to say conclusively who was behind these and other attacks, but Indian and Afghan officials see in them the handiwork of the LeT and its allies. Such groups have doubled their attempts to cross into Indian-controlled Kashmir this year, according to Indian defense ministry statistics.
 
The result has been the first increase in Kashmir militant violence since a 2003 ceasefire on the border, which led to a decline in attacks, partly because Pakistan and the jihadi groups were preoccupied with Afghanistan during this time.
 
In the first eight months of this year, 103 casualties in militant-related violence were recorded in Indian Kashmir, compared to 57 in the same period of 2012, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, a think tank.
 
$10 million bounty

 
LeT was founded in 1990 in eastern Afghanistan by Sayeed, a Pakistani Islamic scholar whom India accuses of masterminding the rampage in Mumbai. The United States placed a $10 million bounty on his head for his alleged role in the attack, but he remains a free man in Pakistan, where he preached to thousands last week.
 
Although the group has global ambitions, LeT's primary aim is to end India's rule in Muslim-majority Kashmir. India and Pakistan each control a part of the heavily militarized land of lakes and orchards once known as “paradise on earth” and both assert claims over the whole Himalayan territory.
 
LeT has been working this year with several other Islamist outfits to train and push more Pakistani militants over the heavily guarded border into India's side, a veteran LeT fighter told Reuters in Pakistan.
 
“Jihad is being stimulated and various militant outfits are cooperating with each other under the platform of the United Jihad Council,” said the veteran, referring to an umbrella body.
 
Pakistan's new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, came to power in May vowing to improve ties with India and - until last week's flare-up along the Kashmir border - the two sides looked set to resume talks. Their prime ministers were planning to meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York next month.
 
The trouble is, says a retired senior Pakistani diplomat, there are “spoilers” on both sides who are not interested in seeing a rapprochement. In Pakistan, these include the militant groups, which he said operate independently.
 
“They don't seem to be able to control other non-government actors like the LeT. So that's the biggest worry,” he said.
 
The Pakistan military's refusal to dismantle groups such as LeT infuriates New Delhi and fuels hawkish demands for the kind of tough action that would risk escalation.
 
The senior LeT source in Pakistan denied the group was involved in the failed consulate strike in Afghanistan, but officials in New Delhi - citing intelligence intercepts - said they had been forewarned about LeT-trained hit squads plotting the attack.
 
Pakistan, whose intelligence agency is regularly accused of quietly supporting Afghan Taliban insurgents, says India's aid and missions are cover for carrying out covert operations there.
 
“Jalalabad was a message from the ISI in a long line of such messages,” said an Indian intelligence official, referring to Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
 
Tight security
 
Further east, on the line dividing Kashmir between Pakistan and India, ceasefire violations are up 80 percent compared to last year, according to India. On Friday night, the two armies exchanged 7,000 rounds of mortar and gunfire, according to Indian media.
 
Anti-Indian sentiment in Kashmir provides fertile ground for groups seeking to revive the militancy that roiled the region through the 1990s, but New Delhi has two things in its favor.
 
First, despite the uptick, violence in the state is still close to the record low it reached last year. Second, the Indian army has to a large extent sealed the rugged, fenced and land-mined border that divides Kashmir, leaving militants with a critically small number of cadres and weapons.
 
“We cannot send jihadists into India in big numbers like in the past because of tight security at the Indian side,” the LeT source in Pakistan said.
 
Speaking on the lawn of his official bungalow in the restive Indian town of Baramulla, J.P. Singh, the police chief for northern border operations, told Reuters the army and police had stopped most attempted militant crossings this year.
 
Still, India is preparing for an influx.
 
“Pakistan's agents and their proteges, the militants, are getting disengaged from the Afghan border and they have nowhere else to keep them and engage them, other than to push them to Kashmir,” Singh said. “Their presence inside Pakistan is dangerous for the internal security of Pakistan.”

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More