Pakistan’s attitude has not changed. Its tactics have.
The Indian home minister announced in Parliament that ‘the changed attitude of a neighbouring country have contributed significantly to the reduction of cases of violence in Jammu & Kashmir’. Gen Musharraf must be smiling.
Shivraj Patil’s statement suggests that a fall in the level of violence somehow indicates that the Pakistan-based jihadi organisations have given up their war against India as a result of the Pakistani government policy. A closer look at the casualty figures shows that the main reason why the number of fatalities was lower in the last two years compared to the previous two is due to the lower number of terrorists killed. Patil’s claim about the fall in the level of violence is dubious. But even the data were ignored, the jihadi threat is far from waning. The earthquake has made it plain that jihadi organisations have supplanted other institutions of the Pakistani state in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Gen Musharraf and his military establishment see no advantage in changing this. Far from putting an end to anti-India terrorism, Musharraf has only moved to control the timing and the flow of cross-border terrorism so as to extract concessions from India in the ‘peace process’.
There have been a number of factors that contributed to the relatively lower levels of violence in Jammu & Kashmir before the earthquake. The three most important were: effective counter-terrorism operations, restoration of the state legislature and the pressure on Gen Musharraf . The post-quake surge in violence bears this out. The diversion of troops for humanitarian relief and the replacement of the battle-hardened BSF with the CRPF resulted in a chink in India’s armour that the jihadis exploited with tremendous zeal. Similarly the jihadis welcomed the political change of guard in Srinagar with more violence, delivering a message to the new chief minister warning him against taking a hard line on terrorism. And with the Bush administration too busy dousing Iraqi flames in Washington, the pressure is coming off Gen Musharraf to deliver on the war on terror in general, and cross-border terrorism in Kashmir in particular.
If there really was a change in attitude, there should not have been an upsurge in infiltration attempts and terrorist violence in the second half of this year. Analysts like Praveen Swami contend that recent events point to the strengthening of the Islamist seige of the Pakistani state. That presents India with a tremendous challenge. But even if such a dire situation does not come to pass, it is clear that Shivraj Patil’s head-in-the-sand assessment is ‘just plain wrong’.