India has a unique neighbourhood. Previously on it’s two sides was it’s umbilical twin Pakistan, with whom India always had an extremely critical relationship. And in the north is China, with whom, since 1956, India’s relationship turned sour.
In 1971, one part of Pakistan – it’s eastern flank was dissected and a new country emerged by the name of Bangladesh. But even with Bangladesh, India’s relationship was not always smooth. Especially during the time of HMS Ershad, the military dictator of Bangladesh and in two phases of 1991-1996 & 2001-2008, the relationship between India and Bangladesh was exceptionally acidic.
The article looks into India’s neighbourhood relations, especially the roles played by Pakistani and Chinese security and intelligence agencies in promoting internal disturbances in India. And in the second part we will be discussion the passive roles played by the neighbouring countries like, Myanmar, Nepal & Bangladesh along with highlighting the roles of Non-state actors.
Similarly, with Burma, which renamed itself Myanmar in 1999, Sri Lanka, and Nepal India’s relationship always hanged in a balance. This neighbourhood played an extremely significant role in India’s internal security. If on one hand some of these neighbours actively got involved in deteriorating India’s internal security situation, on the other some played a passive role either by turning a blind eye or by allowing their land to be used in Anti-India activity. By the way, Since 1992, most of these neighbours actively played a role in favour of India in curbing this menace of insurgency. Here in this discussion we are going to focus on these roles played by different countries.
In this first part of the two-part series, we will be talking about the active role played by Pakistani and Chinese establishments in promoting internal crisis in India. And the various instrument created by them to promote terrorism and insurgency to deteriorate internal security situation in India.
Let’s start our discussion with a detailed analysis of the role played by Pakistan.
Since inception India and Pakistan have an acrimonious relationship. This is primarily because, to justify its formation, Pakistan has always tried to portray itself as the messiah of the Muslims in South Asia. But when the founding fathers of India decided to establish it as a secular nation and relatively succeeded in doing so, it raised a question on the being of Pakistan and the validity of so many lives lost in the process of its formation. Given this, Pakistan always looks at India as that rival, whose success is detrimental to the very existence of Pakistan. Resultant, Pakistan has always tried to not only interfere in India’s internal affairs but also tried to create as much problem as possible and has committed huge amount of fund and energy towards it.
The first such effort by Pakistan was in the form of involvement in the Naga Affairs. Since 1954, the East Pakistani administration, operating out of Dhaka, started intermingling in the Naga insurgency. In fact, it was with the help of the Pakistani administration only, that Angami Zapi Phizo and his followers formed the Naga Army. Arms and ammunitions along with funds, came from the East Pakistani administration only. Even in 1956, when Phizo fled from India, he used Dhaka as the transit route to London. By the way, post exit of Phizo from the scene in 1956, the Chinese would take over the role of patron from their Pakistani counter-parts.
After, their initial involvement in the Naga Affairs, for a few years, Pakistani establishment, especially Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), the military intelligence wing of Pakistani Army would keep silent for a few years but it would be only a temporary phase. In 1978, there would be a major political upheaval in Pakistan. The military for third time would assume power under the leadership of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq. Subsequently, we would see, Lt. Gen Hamid Gul, the then chief of ISI & his master Gen Zia to formulate a unique strategy to destabilise the internal security condition in India. They would openly give this plan a catch line of ‘bleeding India through thousand cuts’. While implementing the strategy, they would also exercise due caution and would implement it in a phase wise manner. At first the strategy would be implemented in Indian state of Punjab to prop-up the menace of terrorism there. In Punjab, an opportunist group, under the leadership of a fanatic by the name of Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale would raise a separatist movement for a separate nation by the name Khalistan. ISI would grab this opportunity with both the hands. Simultaneously, ISI would also take advantage of the ongoing Assam Movement in Assam state of India and help in formation of a separatist organisation by the name of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). By the time, Pakistan had established a friendly relation with the administration in Bangladesh, and using Bangladeshi soil would start propping up the terrorist elements in the north-east of India.
Post these two successes, the duo of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq and Lt. Gen Hamid Gul would concretise the policy of ‘Proxy War’. Subsequently we would see the implementation of this policy in the State of Jammu & Kashmir from 1987/88. After the fiasco of 1987 election in Jammu & Kashmir, when elements like Syed Sallauddin & Yasin Malik etc. crossed the border and went to the Pakistani side of Kashmir valley, ISI not only established contact with them but also provided them weapons and funds to promote terrorism in India.
As for the weapons and funds which the ISI was distributing like anything, the initial source was the weapons and funds channelised by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and it’s alleys, which were given to ISI to be handed over to the Afghan Mujaheeds fighting with Soviet Union in Afghanistan. ISI syphoned off a part of those weapons and funds and started sponsoring their own war. Later on with Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, when supply of weapons and funds by the west stopped, Pakistani establishment converted the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, towns like Darra Adam Khel, in to weapons production hubs. Additionally, with the help of Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulubuddin Hekmatiar, ISI converted the South and South-eastern Afghanistan in to opium production heaven. Today, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan jointly, comprises the Golden Crescent, the largest, opium and hashish production heaven on the earth.
ISI would also use India’s organised crime syndicates to smuggle these drugs and create nuisance from inside. They would establish proper relationship with the likes of Dawood Ibrahim, Abu Salem, Bablu Srivastava etc. With the help of these they would try to deteriorate the internal security condition as much as they can. It is this linkage which would help ISI to bring together Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon and orchestrate the 1993 Bombay Bomb blast.
Later on we would also see ISI to prop-up elements like Syed Sallauddin, Yasin Malik, Hafiz Sayeed, Zakiur Rehman Laqvi and Maulana Masood Azhar etc. and form with their help, terror organisations like Hizbul Mujaheedin, Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) etc. The result of these policies of ISI would be in the form of
- Khalistan Movement
- Insurgent organisations in North-East like:
- National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB)
- All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF)
- Karbi Guerrillas
- Mizo National Front (MNF) etc.
- Terrorist Organisations in Jammu & Kashmir like:
- Hizbul Mujahideen
- 1993 Bombay Bomb Blast
- 1999 Kandahar Plane hijack
- 2006 Mumbai Train Blasts
- 26th November 2008 Mumbai attack
- Formation of Indian Mujahideen and Hyderabad blast
- Uri Attack
- Pathankot Airbase Attack
- Pulwama Attack etc.
In fact, if we try to enlist all the incidences given effect by Pakistani state establishment, especially ISI, the list would be never ending.
Near similar are the activities of the Chinese 2nd Bureau (external intelligence agency of China). It is since 1956, that we have seen the 2nd Bureau to interfere in India’s internal security issues. The 2nd bureau played on two fronts. Firstly, in promoting secessionist tendencies and organisations operating out of northeast of India. Secondly, in promoting Left Wing Extremism in the remaining India.
2nd Bureau has been instrumental in promoting so many insurgent groups operating out of northeast of India. The whole 2nd & 3rd generation leaders of Naga insurgency (starting from Isaac Chisi Swu & Thuengaleng Muivah to Songbijit) have been trained and supported by China. Additionally, both the Kuki & Meitei rebels operating out of Manipur and those of Arunachal Pradesh are mainly China trained. And for this purpose, the Chinese establishment used the hilly-jungle terrain of West & South-Western Myanmar, which is ordinarily beyond the control Myanmarese state forces.
Simultaneously, since the very inception of Naxalbari Movement in India in 1967, the Chinese agencies have been partners in arms for the Left Wing Extremists (LWE) operating in India. In fact, on number of occasions we have seen the Chinese establishment to use the Nepalese territory in this respect, using the forested terrain of Tarai, like Raxaul and other areas for this purpose. Say for example, in September/October 2016, Indian security forces seized consignments of AK22 rifle in Bihar-Nepal border, which were being smuggled into India for the LWE cadre.
This way both China & Pakistan simultaneously played significant roles in promoting insurgency and terrorism inside India.