By Curwen Ares Rolinson – So this is a curious thing. The recent attack in Kashmir was carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammed, headed by a figure by the name of Masood Azhar. Understandably, India sought UN assistance in curtailing this ongoing threat; a move which the People’s Republic of China has (once again) blocked. Just as it has consistently done for more than ten years now.
China is often talked about as having something of a reputation for taking a dim view of “militant” or even merely “political” Islam. In fact, it’s one of the key ‘official justifications’ for their “re-education” efforts and detention programmes for the Uyghur population in their west. [I maintain that the actual objective of these policies is the disintegration, digestion, and consequent re-assimilation of the Uyghurs from a distinct people into a pliable sub-component of the overarching PRC whole; but I digress]
And yet, evidently when it comes to militants who’re animositic against India, the PRC is quite content to not just ‘look the other way’ – but actively facilitate their defence. Even right there in full view on the world stage and at the highest levels.
Perhaps this helps to explain why we rather often hear of these Sunni extremist groups attacking Shi’ites, Sufis, and others inside the borders of their host nation – yet despite the very large PRC presence within Pakistan, we do not seem to hear of similar attacks against them.
But that is not the only international direction whence the trails of blood associated with JeM lead.
The organization itself is significantly a creation of the Pakistani state’s ISI; and has been actively aided and abetted by Pakistan (or, perhaps more accurately, by various powerful official elements *within* Pakistan) throughout the span of its existence.
Now, the full story of JeM’s ongoing relationship with the Pakistani state is lengthy, intricate, fascinating, and sadly well beyond the scope of this piece.
Suffice to say, that when it was announced that Pakistan had taken Masood Azhar into “protective custody”, it is probably best to construe that literally – i.e. that they were being *protective* of their prized asset.
Yet JeM did not spring forth from the ground of its own accord and fully formed, at some point in the 1990s.
Rather, it had its origins amidst the general milieu of insurgency forces founded to combat the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan more than a decade prior. Indeed, this is where Masood Azhar first got his start, rising to prominence within the Harkat militant groups then active within that conflict as an orator, organizer, and even something of (perhaps ironically) a diplomat.
It is therefore worth noting that although the ISI itself appears to have played the lead state-actor role in coagulating these forces once again following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and consequent Taliban victory in 1989 and 1992 respectively, this is a post-facto topiary of the terroristic plant.
The actual inception and initial growth-fertilization can be laid squarely and directly at the trowels of the United States – along with the ‘usual suspects’ such as Saudi Arabia, and of course Pakistan.
By this, I do not simply mean that these powers sought to find friends who would also oppose the Soviet assistance mission in Afghanistan. But rather, that they directly funded, trained, provided armaments, and otherwise supported and directed these groups that would one day coalesce into what is today JeM.
In fact, as an amusing aside, it was the CIA who provided one such predecessor tendency – the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen – with stinger missiles for use against Soviet aircraft. Why is this ‘amusing’? Well, following the withdrawal of the Soviets and the subsequent victory of the Taliban in Kabul (events separated by almost three years), the CIA suddenly realized that maybe having extremist militant groups running around with top-of-the-line American anti-air missiles might be a potentially questionable idea.
So they organized a buy-back programme. Which met with little, if any success. The Mujahideen, understandably, feeling that they’d have far more use for munitions than for money (not least since it appears likely that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan never really ‘turned off the taps’ in these cash regards) in their newfound re-purposement as a set of blades less *specifically* pointed at a single country or combat-zone.
However, to quote the old adage – “The Devil Is Not Mocked”, and it appears highly likely that the subsequent round of American cruise-missile strikes upon HuM camps later on in the decade were a direct consequence of this ‘insubordination’ against their former Washington-(well, Langley-)based masters.
As it turned out, I suppose, the more recent express shipment of American missiles to HuM turned out to be ‘bigger’. Albeit still subsonic. [One wonders how long it shall take for a similar such ‘delivery’ to have to be made to many of the “moderate rebels” the US chose to back in Syria not so long ago – the Marx quip about history occurring twice .. the first time as ‘tragedy’, the second time as ‘farce’, rings in my ears]
In any case, the point of all this is that it is not hard to see why Pakistan went down the path of both courting and supporting these militants for the purposes of their ongoing covert aggressions against India. After all, they’d literally seen the significant efficacy of such a strategy directly in play on their own border against a Superpower only a few years before.
Indeed, with many of the groups and individuals already conveniently operating out of Pakistan anyway, you could say that it was something of a no-brainer (or certainly a no-scruples) initiative for them to undertake.
Now having said that, whether Pakistan had a *direct* hand in the most recent outrage in Kashmir, I cannot say. India appears to believe so – and not least given the history, I would be highly surprised if somebody in the ISI *wasn’t* at the very least aware of and encouraging, if not actively facilitating the action in question.
However, it is worth noting that JeM has gone ‘off the leash’ of Pakistan before – and acted rather ‘beyond’ its intended mandate in ways that have proven embarrassing, complicating, and even downright dangerous for Pakistan before. The 2001 attack on India’s Parliament, with its resultant American castigation of Pakistan for its role in harbouring JeM, followed by not only the group’s banning within Pakistan but a wave of JeM ‘reprisal’ attacks against Pakistani state targets, springs instantly to mind.
So where am I going with all of this?
Well, it’s simple.
Over the past few months, I’ve seen a number of voices attempting to lay the blame for the entire security situation in Kashmir upon India. Indeed, one article that I am thinking of – which sought to utilize this as part of a generalized attack upon US Presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard – appeared to be quite pointedly singling out Hindus as the alleged ‘guilty party’.
Yet clearly, it is not India that has been engaged in setting up Sunni ‘pocket insurgencies’ to fight against the Soviets and then against India Herself. Nor has it been India seeking desperately to shield these dubiously controllable ‘assets’ from the scrutiny or the sanction of the global community of nations – at the UN, or otherwise.
Instead, it has been the snake and the scimitar to the north and the west of India respectively, who have each in this situation been the resounding answer to the age-old legal maxim of inquiry: “Cui Bono?” And who have, more importantly, been continually caught out red and/or green handed working to facilitate and protect these very same extremist efforts against the world’s largest democracy.
So if you want somebody to blame for this recent atrocity in Kashmir, then yes – by all means – curse the name of Masood Azhar. And most definitely positively anticipate the impending Indian response against Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Yet remember most wardingly – that these horrific actions did not occur in a mere vacuum. And that other, great(er) powers are out there, quietly lucking lips with enthusiasm at the resultant strategic shifts on the geopolitical chessboard (funnily enough, and not at all coincidentally, occurring in the same general area wherein the ‘Great Game’ of the 1800s was *also* played out, once upon a time – not for nothing is it often said that while history may not exactly repeat … it sure does often rhyme!).
This also has overarching implications even for those of us who are handily separated from the Subcontinent by at least one and a half oceans, here in New Zealand.
At present, we are having a significant national debate over the alleged “alignment” of our foreign policy – particularly as applies the PRC’s energetic strategic expansion into the Pacific, and the corresponding American efforts to counter same.
Both of these purported ‘great’ powers have had a hand in what has gone on this past week just gone in Kashmir, as well as – through their broader foreign policy and covert,conspiratorial stances – the larger set of events and affairs that that ties into.
Neither can be trusted. Although, to be fair, the Americans’ *active* role in such proceedings was rather longer ago (notwithstanding, of course, the apparent fact that their efforts in and around Syria would seem to suggest they’ve learnt nothing or next to nothing in all of that time).
Over the course of the last two-and-a-bit years, I have repeatedly endeavoured to make the case that New Zealand – and other smaller and/or more principled nations like her – should be actively enthusing the idea that we Stand With India.
Whether in the context of a new ‘Non-Aligned Movement’ style collaboration fit to contest the emergent competing global ‘hegemonies’ of this age; or more simply and tightly focused upon the idea of India as the only seriously viable bulwark against the People’s Republic of China. And/or, in either case, as a staunch support for the hoped-for paradigm of ‘multipolarity’.
I shall not relitigate those arguments in any great detail here.
Suffice to say, what has been unfurled and revealed about the torrid tendencies at play in Kashmir this week has only strengthened that position.
Yet even were this not immediately and materially relevant to us over here and outside the country in question; I should still conclude this article exactly the same way:
For emotional reasons, for compassionate reasons, for principled reasons, for pragmatic reasons –
Now, indeed, is the time to #StandWithIndia
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