India must not tolerate jihadi strongholds on its own soil
From what is publicly known, the prime suspects in the terrorist attack on Mumbai are the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba and the banned Students Islamic Movement of India. There is, of course, at this time no evidence to connect these organisations with the bombings. Police have launched a manhunt for two suspects whose antecedents have not been made public.
Regardless of its culpability in the attack on Mumbai, the Lashkar-e-Taiba is a terrorist organisation with a declared objective of annihilating India. Despite promises and rhetoric, Gen Musharraf continues to allow the LeT and its parent ‘charitable’ organisation, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa to function very openly in Pakistan. Unlike other jihadi groups, the LeT/Jamaat-ud-Dawa does not really challenge Gen Musharraf politically. This partly explains the reason Pakistan has protected the LeT from the United States’ war on terror. The LeT also does the ISI’s leg work in India, which is another reason why Musharraf needs the LeT. For more than a year now, owing to the demands of keeping a peace process going, India toned down its demands for the dismantling of the LeT’s vast terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan. India’s rebuttal of Kasuri’s remarks and C Raja Mohan’s weather balloon in the Indian Express suggest that cross-border terrorism will soon be back on the agenda with Pakistan.
But even as India renews its attempts to compel Musharraf to act against the jihadis in Pakistan, it can begin to act against the LeT’s bases in Jammu & Kashmir right away. Pravin Swami reports that the India has been unable to dismantle the LeT’s three “strongholds” on India’s side of the LoC—in Bandipora, Yaripora-Shopian and Harwan—because it requires an additional division (about 15,000 troops) to be employed. The Army has those troops but cannot employ them in the prevailing mood of “demilitarisation“. And after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent lecture on human rights, field commanders may be forgiven for not being keen to take additional risks involved in a large scale operation against a few, albeit strategically important terrorists. Wiping out the nest is far better than swatting individual hornets.
If the Manmohan Singh government wants to really get tough on fighting terrorism, it can begin by authorising the troops to storm the redoubts that the LeT has established under their very noses. This means combat—not sightly, pleasant or palatable to the delicate sensibilities of the politically correct—but nevertheless, a credible signal that India will take the war to its enemies.