Much too often, some of India’s friends have not understood the Kashmir problem—those who have wanted to stay ‘neutral’ dubbing the Indian State as ‘disputed territory’, or those who have analysed it exclusively as Indo-Pakistani struggle to control all of Kashmir. India’s enemies call it an occupation.
But we must be very clear: Kashmir is an integral part of India, as part of its inalienable right to national territorial unity and on the basis of this conviction I write this article.
At the same time, many fail to see the overlaying layers of reality that coexist in Kashmir: Kashmiris who are devoted and patriotic Indians and proud of their Kashmiri identity; the Kashmiris who are clearly separatist, but do not support violence; those who are separatists, but support or condone violence with their silence (in my view accomplices of violence); and the different kind of so-called militant groups which range from street violence to full-fledged bloodthirsty terrorism. While some of these are Pakistani proxies, others take advantage of the constant Pakistani interference in Indian internal affairs. Some of these call themselves Kashmiri nationalists, but many of these are ultra-radical Islamists and not a small number of these are clearly jihadists, the ideology that fuels and inspires terrorism.
For decades, the main source of violence and terrorism was Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). They have constantly claimed that they were Kashmiri nationalists of Islamic inspiration, when in fact they are jihadi terrorists with a radical Islamist ideology and a nationalist excuse. This new breed of terrorists wants to change the traditional terrorist strategy and its narrative. Abu Dujana and Arif Lelhari were trapped in a house by Indian security forces, they allegedly recorded messages pledging allegiance to Al-Qaeda—a turning point that should not be taken lightly. This has prompted stern reactions from the traditional terrorist organisations, the HM and LeT; they issued statements that the involvement of international groups would dilute what they consider a struggle to shake Indian rule over the state.
We have to face it; Kashmir is a very attractive ‘cause’ for global jihadist terrorism. As has happened in so many other terrorist-stricken territories, global jihadists try to take over by taking advantage of the instability and ongoing violence. The atmosphere is already there, they just need to change the perspective of those that are most radical, but a good part of the job is done.
It is wrong to stick to the old analysis, and even worse to say that the origin of terrorism is irrelevant to an effective battle against terror. The operational side is important, but the ideological battle between moderates and jihadists is the most dangerous, as those who are a minority today can grow through this ideological offensive and light a wildfire of unimaginable proportions with grave consequences for India and the entire region. We must bare in mind that jihadist terrorism, not only is a murderous machine, it is one of the daunting factors of economic, political and social destabilisation in the world.
Operational efficiency and intelligence have to be combined with politics. Embrace the Kashmiris—who repudiate terrorism, who feel a part of India—bring them to the fold of peace, and make separatists again a minority among the Muslims of the state. Some serious political mistakes have fuelled the situation, precisely when separatism was at its lowest. There is nothing wrong with the pride of feeling Kashmiri, provided that you respect India’s sacred unity, and oppose violence and terrorism.Reportedly, Indian intelligence sources have acknowledged that Al Qaeda and Daesh could take over terrorist activities in the Valley in the near future. This threat has to be immediately confronted. In the fight against terrorism, prevention is as important as reaction, and yesterday was the time to start.