This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Author: Rudra Devacharya
Continued from Part 1
7) The early and mid 1990s were truly dark days for India, as many of us remember. J&K was overrun by thousands of foreign mercenaries of the ISI, trained in Afghan camps under the tutelage of Hekmatyar and others. Pandits were ethnically cleansed from the valley by the lakhs. Dost Gul occupied the Hazratbal shrine and Indian Army could not get him out. Harkat-ul-Ansar with its British-Paki cadres (including Omar Shaikh) were trying to "internationalize" Kashmir by kidnapping and murdering Western tourists. Meanwhile LeT and other groups were recruiting Punjabis to wage jihad in J&K, and also building bridges with the Islamist underworld of Dawood Ibrahim to terrorize the rest of India. Month to month, it seemed that we would inevitably lose Kashmir to an irrepressible wave of jihad.
At that time, India was growing economically bit by tiny bit. She was still fighting the Khalistani separatists in Punjab, also supported by Pakistan and tacitly by the West. Northeastern insurgencies also received a tremendous boost in this decade.
As the decade wore on, China's tremendous economic rise caused it to gain political influence in Washington with the Hamiltonians. The Clinton-Wilsonians (Albright/Brzezinski) jumped on the Hamiltonian bandwagon, and it seemed as if the US was prepared to accept China's nominal overlordship of the Asian continent, to Pakistan's benefit and at India's expense. Washington even suggested that China could be an "honest broker" in mediating between India and Pakistan on Kashmir!
It was only through the greatest and most steadfast heroism that India stood firm through these times. This was the WORST of jihad she faced in Kashmir. And Osama Bin Laden/ "Al Qaida" had NOTHING WHATEVER to do with it.
8 ) All the above is background.
Now we come to the story of OBL in the Indian subcontinent.
It begins in 1988 when OBL split from the Maktab-el-Khidamat, the organization that was originally formed under ISI/CIA aegis to funnel funds, weapons and materiel to the Afghan jihad. The rest of the OBL story can be seen as an effort by the Paki army/ISI to woo OBL back into their sphere of influence, with US support until 9/11, and for their own purposes after 9/11. But in 1988, he split from the Maktab, because he saw the US and the West (including Israel) as a greater enemy of Islam than any power that the Maktab was focusing on. That was the birth of OBL's very own Pan-Islamic agenda.
OBL's mission was intensified in 1991, with the stationing of US troops in Saudi Arabia after Desert Storm (whose successful completion also contributed to Washington's hyperpower hubris.) The stationing of US troops in the Holy Land of Islam, galvanized Bin Laden to declare Jihad against the West.
9) Bin Laden's chief targets were always the USA, the wider West, and Israel.
His base of operations was initially KSA, from where he was banished to Sudan in 1992. His chosen theatre was East Africa and the Arabian peninsula at this stage. However, he was already beginning to set his sights on the American homeland, as evidenced by the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing in which his associates like El-Sayyid Nosair and Ali Mohammed played crucial roles.
Around 1993-94, the charismatic Sheikh caught the attention of many Islamist opportunists from all over WANA (West Asia and North Africa region), including splinter groups of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood who had been lying in wait for just such an opportunity. Fighting against Western-proxy dictators in their home countries, people like Ayman Al-Zawahiri could hope for neither political success nor personal glory but under the banner of a pan-Islamist international Jihad against the greatest of Satans, all that might change!
Thus, the nucleus of Al-Qaeda was engendered.
10) It is important to note that at this stage, OBL never said a word about jihad in Kashmir.
In fact, Osama did not even mention Kashmir at all until about 2005. By that time he was a "guest" of ISI and the Hizbul Mujahedin, probably at Abbottabad. So, he was probably just relieving his polite obligations to his hosts by including Kashmir in his speeches.
There is a good reason why OBL was concentrating on Israel, the West and US-proxy-Saudi Arabia and could not care less about Kashmir. It goes back to the Arab Ghazi psyche. To people like OBL, disputes like Kashmir are beneath contempt for an organization of Al-Qaeda's scope and ambition. They are squabbles between lesser beings, not worthy of his time or effort.
OBL (and most Arabs) do not see the Pakistanis as Islamic brothers. In fact, they see the Pakistan-India conflict as something not very serious; it is a case of upstart recently-converted people fighting against kaffir who also are but highly Dhimmified and harmless people. From Arab point of view, If a serious conflict erupts, Pakistan (as Muslims) must be supported; however, it is better to maintain a distance from both Pakistan and India in general. Both have their uses. Pakis as servile mercenaries and dalals for China; Indians as cheap, docile and sometimes skilled labour. The idea that India constitutes a "threat to Islam" would have made an Arab Ghazi like Bin Laden laugh... Kashmir or no Kashmir.
11) 1996 is a pivotal year in our narrative.
The Taliban consolidates Paki army/ISI's grip on its Af-Pak empire with the full blessings of Washington. India is in dire straits. After PVNR, her governments are falling within months. Economic reforms are progressing erratically. Kashmir jihad is at its height. And now, with Taliban in Afghanistan, it seems that Pakistan will have even more capacity to leverage its strategic depth and intensify that jihad even further.
At this fatal moment, the Taliban invite OBL (whom Sudan is trying to expel) to come to Afghanistan.
12) The Taliban's invitation of OBL to the Indian subcontinent is secretly welcomed by many including Riyadh, Washington and Islamabad.
The US and Pakistan would very much like to see OBL turn his assets and energies towards the ongoing Af-Pak jihad against India. Saudi Arabia would be very happy with this as well. If OBL and Al-Qaeda throw their weight behind the Kashmir jihad, they will be diverted from targets that actually matter to Washington which are The US, Western countries, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The Paki army/ISI were happy too. They thought that the addition of OBL's Pan-Islamist banner, plus the vast West Asian funding networks of Al-Qaeda to the Kashmir jihad, will give them the ability to push India over the edge. They assure Washington that, with Taliban cooperation, they can keep OBL diverted away from Western interests and towards India.
13) This beautiful plan fails to take into account the tenacity, single-mindedness and commitment of OBL to his grand vision - "Pan Islamic jihad against the West". As stated before, he doesn't give a shit about Kashmir. It is beneath him and his army to get involved in such a lowly scrap. He is after the bigger prize - US, and Israel!
14) What slowly unfolds now, is the eventual demise of Pakistan's best-laid plans for Jihad in Kashmir.
For a while, ISI's "war of a thousand cuts" continues in force. The nuclear tests of 1998 firmly establish Pakistan's capacity for nuclear blackmail against India. In Kargil, Musharraf uses jihadis trained by Afghan war cadre in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, as the thin edge of Paki army's regiment Northern Light Infantry (NLI) wedge to occupy Indian land. In December 1999, Punjabi Deobandi terrorists use the sanctuary of Taliban-controlled Kandahar to hijack IC814 and demand the release of Maulana Masood Azhar, a development that leads to the creation of Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Everything seems to be going well for Pakistan. But meanwhile, OBL isn't involving himself in J&K (other than a few massacres of rebellious Shias in the Northern Areas at ISI's request.) On the contrary, OBL is using Taliban/ISI sanctuary to mount attacks on US interests in East Africa and the Arabian peninsula. Embassies, Khobar Towers, USS Cole. And finally, on Sept 11 2001, he masterminds the attack on Washington DC and New York City that makes him a household name.
Continued to Part 3