A Brew More Sinister ?

The recent escalation of violence in Kashmir is troubling. It comes after several months of relative calm in the Valley which saw its economy pick up on the back of healthy tourist arrivals. But since August, things started going downhill.

This return to normalcy would have given sleepless nights to the Pakistani establishment – the tourists were back and the Hurriyat under its moderate leader Ansari was warming up to New Delhi. This return to normalcy of course cut Pakistan out of the equation and all they got was a visit from Laloo Prasad Yadav.

Hence Pakistani puppeteers ditched the new act and went back to their regular violent routine. In Kashmir, a retired Geelani got back into action (old extremists never die…) and split the Hurriyat, and the Pakistani handlers of its constituents started coercing the Hurriyat leadership to back the Old Geelani. We came one full cycle when Musharaff launched his tirade at the United Nations last week.

Losing his grip

Musharraf only leashed his jehadis on the back of the massive troop mobilisation by India. In
his speech at the Asia Society/CFR last week, he mentioned that from a military man’s perspective he saw India’s “capability” and “intent” and it was the hostile nature of these that caused tensions to soar. He said that the intent changed this year, but the capability remained (which he sought to redress by asking the US for military hardware). What this means is that military mobilisation instrumental in persuading him to rein in his jehadis. Once the heat was off, there were no costs for him to reinvest in infiltration. So, when he saw how well and how quickly Kashmir went back to its peaceful ways he had nothing to dissuade him from unleashing his jehadis.

The domestic constituency

It is also very likely that the hardline extremist constituency within the Pakistan army was unhappy with the turn of events and these constituted a direct threat to Musharraf. Gen Mohd Aziz Khan made a speech to troops in which he directly criticised Musharraf’s truck with the US. It is likely that this faction is exerting pressure on Musharraf internally (through Gen Aziz) and externally through their proxies in parliament – the MMA. As Musharraf mentioned in his speech at the CFR he could not expect to stay in power were he to concede anything on Kashmir. The fear of a mutiny is likely to have driven Musharraf to order a return to arms for the jehadis.

The experience of Summer 2003 has made it clear to Pakistan that peace in Kashmir needs only a half-chance. This has only made Musharraf and his team all the more desparate.

For India it means that dangling a carrot alone will never suffice – a strong stick needs to visibly and constantly dangled too. It must ensure that Musharraf’s costs of supporting jehadis keep escalating.