Hissing Rattlesnakes In Afghanistan


by Asif Haroon Raja


Unresolved Kashmir dispute, inflexibility of jingoistic and scheming Indian leaders to reconcile with Pakistan’s existence as an independent state and their burning desire to gain unchallenged hegemony over all South Asian nations has kept India and Pakistan on the warpath. Lack of trust built up as a consequence to three wars and two local conflicts together with competing interests of two rival super powers during the cold war gave grist to antagonism. Trust deficit and sense of insecurity came in the way of meaningful reconciliation between two neighbors.

Moscow helped India in development of its economy and became the biggest supplier of weapons to build up its military power. It also thwarted settlement of Kashmir issue by applying veto power whenever the issue came under the scrutiny of UN. Washington on the other hand outwardly declared Pakistan as its most allied ally and provided economic and military assistance so as to prepare it to confront communist challenge from the north, but inwardly it all along vied to earn the friendship of India. When the defensive arc to contain communism was being built, India and not Pakistan was the first choice of USA. When India declined, only then Pakistan was offered membership of SEATO and CENTO.

The US tilt towards India was first seen during and after 1962 Sino-India border conflict. In 1965 and 1971 wars when five times superior Indian forces invaded Pakistan, instead of helping Pakistan, the US indirectly benefited India. Whenever Pakistan’s interests clashed with India, the US shied away from annoying India but never hesitated to hurt Pakistan. Ignoring India’s strategic alliance with USSR and its vociferous opposition to US policies, the US diligently kept wooing India to bring it in its loop. The US avoided censuring India even when it welcomed Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in December 1979 and later condemned US sponsored proxy war against Soviet forces.

The US dream to win over India came to fruition in 1989 when India’s chief patron suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Afghan Mujahideen duly assisted by Pakistan and decided to withdraw from Afghanistan under Geneva Accord. Fragmentation of USSR and end of cold war left India out in the cold. It however hastened to snuggle into the waiting embrace of USA and declared itself America’s natural ally so that it could become its strategic partner and also breakup Pak-US relationship. India didn’t waste any time in forging intimate relations with Israel since it knew that route to winning the heart of Washington was through Tel Aviv. By mid nineties the three countries formed a well-knit nexus to pursue common agenda against the Muslim world. Nuclear capability of Pakistan became a common worrying factor and hence the trio vowed to disable it either physically or covertly.

Armed uprising in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) since 1988 has locked up over 700,000 Indian troops, which has reduced Indian military’s offensive options against Pakistan and impacted its economy. Massive human rights violations against Kashmiris have given a bad name to the democratic credentials of secular India. Pakistan’s tit for tat response to Indian nuclear tests in May 1998 and its impressive developments in delivery means extinguished the fire of jingoism of BJP leaders and roaring lions turned into mewing cats. Pakistan’s Kargil venture in summer of 1999 humbled Indian military might. USA and G-8 countries came to the rescue of India and bailed it out of an embarrassing position by pressuring Pakistan to withdraw its irregular troops from the heights occupied deep inside Dras-Kargil-Leh sectors in IHK. Indian media converted India’s humiliating defeat into victory on the media plane and censured Pakistan for aiding and abetting terrorists.

In the face of series of setbacks, India was desperate to settle scores with Pakistan. Terrorist attacks in New York and Pentagon on 9/11 impelled USA to invade Afghanistan so as to punish the perpetrators of the unforgivable crime which had embarrassed the sole super power and deeply anguished the Americans. New rules were framed by USA to combat global terrorism which envisaged elimination of terrorist networks and punishment to those who harbored or aided the networks. The US offensive plans suited India the most since it opened a godsend opportunity to India to not only regain its influence in Afghanistan but also to encircle and trap Pakistan.

India offered its services to tackle both Afghanistan and Pakistan simultaneously, but when it failed to convince the US leadership, both decided to first weaken Pakistan from within through a well coordinated covert war, disable its nuclear capability and then go for the kill by end 2008 if not earlier. In accordance with the chalked out plan, Pakistan was pushed into the inferno of war on terror so as to gradually enfeeble its political, economic and military strengths and to rip apart its social fabric. India in the meanwhile embarked upon another round of force modernization program with the generous assistance of USA, Israel, western world and Russia. India kept increasing its defence budget every year to be able to procure latest state-of-art weaponry and technology.

Unearthing of Dr AQ Khan nuclear network enabled USA to launch a vicious propaganda campaign against Pakistan’s nuclear program so as to undermine it. At the same time, the US in complete violation of NPT and CTBT, signed a civil nuclear deal with India to bolster its nuclear capability. In order to prevent Pakistan from exercising nuclear option, Indian military formulated Cold Start doctrine, which entailed use of 7-8 pre-positioned mechanized battle groups close to the border, jumping across and confining limited war to border belt only. Later on, the numbers of self-contained battle groups were increased to 15 and targets marked.

Pakistan lowered its guard after declaring ceasefire along Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir, signing of peace treaty with India in January 2004 and accepting false promises of Indian leaders that all chronic issues including Kashmir would be resolved through composite dialogue. Once India completed fencing of LoC and controlled the highly explosive situation in IHK with the assistance extended by Pakistan, it concentrated all its efforts towards Pakistan’s western border.

RAW transferred bulk of its assets to Afghanistan and with close cooperation of CIA, MI-6, Mossad, BMD and RAAM, it managed to create TTP in FATA, and BLA, BRA, BLF in Balochistan. Later it developed links with TNSM in Swat. RAW had already established its network in rural and urban Sindh with the help of 5th columnists and regional political parties and was also associated with a political party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It made contacts within Afghan refugee camps and managed to recruit sizeable numbers of agents to undertake clandestine operations. With consistent efforts of six intelligence agencies based in Kabul, Pakistan got engulfed in flames of terrorism. Foreign funded, trained and equipped militants in Balochistan and in FATA played havoc and jolted the foundations of the country. With aggressive India in the east and militarized environment on its northwestern and southwestern borders together with growing militarization of Indian Ocean to its south, it made the geo-political situation of Pakistan extremely dangerous.

From 2009 onwards the six hissing rattlesnakes in Kabul started stinging Pakistan more frequently. Suicide and bomb attacks, group attacks and drone attacks were stepped up and vilification campaign against its premier institutions intensified. The gang of six employed multiple means to systematically chip the foundations of Pakistan. It included sabotage and subversion, supporting insurgency in FATA and in Balochistan, drone war, violation of airspace, economic and diplomatic coercion as well as enticement, and threats of physical attack. 2009 and 2010 proved to be worst years for Pakistan. It suffered heavy casualties on account of suicide and drone attacks and military operations in Swat, Bajaur and South Waziristan. These strongholds of the militants duly funded, equipped and trained by RAW-RAAM-CIA were cleared at a heavy cost.

Although Pakistan found out the involvement of foreign powers, yet it remained closely aligned with them and continued to do more as demanded by USA because of the docility of ruling regime. The first strains in Pak-US relations appeared after the arrest of CIA agent Raymond Davis in January 2011. Relations became rocky after the 2 May stealth assault by the US Special Forces in Abbottabad and dropped to lowest ebb after the unprovoked brutal NATO attack on Pakistani border posts in Mohmand Agency on 24 November causing death to 24 soldiers and injury to 16. For the first time the political and military leaders have jointly taken purposeful steps to express their displeasure to Washington and so far are standing firm on their decisions taken in the Defence Cabinet Committee meeting on 27 November duly approved by the Parliament. Gen Kayani has taken the right decision to authorize commanders in the field to instantaneously shoot intruders without waiting for clearance from higher HQs. Our troops deployed along the western border should kill any rattlesnake trying to slither into our territory.

The US could not have taken Pakistan for granted and treated it like a vassal had our political leadership behaved honorably. Its loathsome policy of appeasement emboldened USA to behave like a master. It is to be seen how long the NRO cleaned rulers will be able to withstand the US pressure. They have passed the first test by not attending the Bonn conference on 5-6 December and may also pass the second test of getting Shamsi airbase vacated by 11 December. The real test will be how long the supply routes for NATO containers will remain blocked.

Till such time the US renders an official apology and give a firm commitment that no such violation will ever take place in future, it punishes the culprits and adequately compensates the families of the victims, agrees to reduce terms of engagement in war on terror in black and white, stops its vilification campaign against Army and ISI, ceases its demand for an operation in North Waziristan, prevents India from supporting insurgency in Balochistan, and agrees to provide civilian nuclear technology as given to India, Pakistan should shun its friendly overtures. If the US refuses to fulfill the above noted requests, Pakistan should disassociate itself from war on terror as well as from stranglehold of the US aid. Historically, Pakistan has made greater progress when under the US sanctions.


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Brig Asif Haroon Raja an Member Board of Advisors Opinion Maker is Staff College and Armed Forces WarCoursequalified, holds MSc war studies degree; a second generation officer, he fought epic battle of Hilli in northwest East Bengal during 1971 war, in which Maj M. Akram received Nishan-e-Haider posthumously. He served as Directing Staff Command & Staff College, Defence Attaché Egypt and Sudan and Dean of Corps of Military Attaches in Cairo. He commanded the heaviest brigade in Kashmir. He is lingual and speaks English, Pashto and Punjabi fluently. He is author of books titled ‘Battle of Hilli’, ‘1948, 1965 & 1971 Kashmir Battles and Freedom Struggle’, ‘Muhammad bin Qasim to Gen Musharraf’, Roots of 1971 Tragedy’; has written number of motivational pamphlets. Draft of his next book ‘Tangled Knot of Kashmir’ is ready. He is a defence analyst and columnist and writes articles on security, defence and political matters for numerous international/national publications.