Fighting Terrorism: India and Central Asia

Poonam Mann, Researcher

 

Abstract

Terrorism has become the most powerful hazard to international security, and terrorism driven by religious extremism, is even doubly so. India and Central Asia share this common threat just by virtue of sharing their borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Having a common threat can also be a positive thing because cooperation by like-minded nations can help in combating the common adversary and strengthening future ties. This paper deals with the areas of commonality between India and Central Asia, the problems they face when it comes to cross-border terrorism and how these problems can be resolved through cooperation.

Of the many other threats to peace, democracy and development, none has become as dangerous as international terrorism, with its links to religious extremism, drug trafficking and the commerce in illicit arms. Plural and open democracies are the target of the scourge of terrorism that strikes at the very root of tolerance, the mainstay of civil society in a free world.

For more than a decade now India has been a victim of cross-border terrorism that has claimed thousands of innocent lives…India calls for united global action against these dangers.…

The world must see the reality as it is. The acid test of sincerity of purpose is not words, but deeds. Terrorism and dialogue do not go together…countries should cooperate and work closely to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons by adopting an International Programme of Action of Agreed Measures…

Atal Bihari Vajpayee

at UN General Assembly Millennium Summit.

Introduction

Terrorism today has emerged as the most potent threat to the international community. It has engulfed the entire world in one way or the other. There can be no two opinions on defining or identifying terrorism and terrorist outfits. The groups and their demands are well known now. But the affected countries have not been able to accomplish much because these terrorists seek refuge elsewhere. Therefore, the focus of attention has now to shift to states and governments which protect, harbour or encourage terrorism. It is the containment of these states which should be the thrust of all countries so as to stop the menace of terrorism. India and Central Asia border on two sides the hotbed of international terrorism i.e. the states of Pakistan and Afghanistan and their cooperation with each other in containing terrorism would make a significant dent in combating it.

India has been battling with the surge in terrorism driven by religious extremism for many years. Now, the Central Asian Republics (CARs) have also began to feel the impact of an overflow of terrorism linked activities into their countries. Militant groups in these republics have been influenced by the religious extremism spreading outward from this region. The growing threat of violence has led the CARs not only to cooperate among thenselves1 but also to seek the help of like-minded countries2 so as to evolve a framework of cooperation to contain the movement of terrorists as well as arms. In this regard convergence between India and the CARs could be arrived at on the issue of terrorism led by religious fundamentalists, which is best exemplified by the Afghanistan-Pakistan complex, exporting men and material not only to India but also to Central Asian Republics. Thus, nations have to look beyond their boundaries with a common vision to stem the growth of this phenomenon.

In this paper, the problem of cross-border terrorism in India and the CARs has been examined and focus made on how India in association with the CARs can work together to meet the challenge of terrorism.

Terrorism in India

India has been a victim of cross-border terrorism. Pakistan's role in spreading terrorist activities in Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir is well known. Proper coordination in interception and the commitment of the state and its police in countering such activity lay at the root of the control of terrorism in Punjab.3 But in the case of Kashmir, terrorism still persists because Pakistan has taken recourse to the concept of jehad to fulfil its long time policy of securing the independence of Kashmir from India. Actually Pakistan's inclination of using force to annex Kashmir has been apparent from the very beginning. The blueprint of aggression against Kashmir which was drawn in Pakistan in 1947-484 continues to be followed as policy even today. Attacks by infiltration in 1965,5 which led to the second Indo-Pakistan war, Pakistan's proxy war since 1988, and the Kargil offensive of 1999,6 confirm that Pakistan prefers to follow a policy of confrontation in Kashmir.

The separatist movement in Kashmir began to metamorphose into militancy in April 1988 due to the resurgence in the activities of the JKLF.7 Gradually, the movement was taken over by Pakistan-sponsored radical Islamist groups, making terrorism, insurgency and ethnic cleansing its main weapons.8 The involvement of Pakistan's intelligence agencies like ISI transformed the movement into a campaign of terror. By 1989, the situation underwent a sea-change with the use of sophisticated firearms and extensive use of explosives, which were smuggled in from Pakistan.9 Infiltration of Pakistan-trained Kashmiri youth also went up. Pakistan's role in sponsoring international terrorism and promoting insurgency in Jammu & Kashmir has been comprehensively unmasked in a report prepared by the Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, a Republican Research Committee of the US House of Representatives. It stated that Pakistan started playing this nefarious game as early as the 1970s, when Islamabad commenced training of Sikh militants and members of other separatist movements in India as part of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's strategy of "forward strategic depth", as also his effort to avenge the loss of Bangladesh. By mid-1980s, as brought out by the Task Force, "Islamabad began to broaden its horizons and set its sights on bigger goals", with growing experience in training, organising and running the mujahideen campaigns in Afghanistan and vast military supplies (through US, Saudi Arabia and other foreign assistance), Pakistan began "expanding its operation to sponsor and promote separatism and terrorism primarily in Kashmir, as a strategic long term programme."10

It was estimated by the task force that a total of about 20,000 Kashmiris were trained and armed by/in Pakistan. "Logistical support, primarily weapons and ammunition, is brought from Pakistan. Training, organization, propaganda and indoctrination are carried out in the safety of Pakistani sanctuaries."11 It further stated that by 1990 there were well over 30 militant groups in Kashmir representing a wide array of ideologies. Of these, as many as 29 groups were receiving assistance and shelter in Pakistan. Yossef Bodansky, analyst with the Freeman Centre for Strategic Studies, aptly said:

For Islamabad, the liberation of Kashmir is a sacred mission, the only task unfulfilled since Muhammad Ali Jinnah's days. Moreover, a crisis in Kashmir constitutes an excellent outlet for the frustration at home, an instrument for the mobilization of the masses, as well as gaining the support of the Islamist parties and primarily their loyalties in the military and the ISI.11

These militant groups were used for terrorising the people of Kashmir, forcing them to accept rigid Wahabi codes of conduct, whip up anti-India feelings among them and to undertake various subversive missions to destabilise the state. They also acted as Pakistan's recruiting and motivating agents, whose job included sending disgruntled Kashmiri youth to Pakistan for undergoing arms training. During the most violent phase of terrorism in 1990-91, terrorist groups virtually ruled the congested urban areas of the major towns of the Valley. They ordered bandhs which brought life to a standstill and created fear. The police and other key elements of the government had now been penetrated by ISI agents, and a widening spiral of violence had engulfed the Valley. The Pakistani aim of isolating the people morally and physically from the state was largely achieved. This phase took a tremendous toll of Kashmiri lives and many popular Kashmiri leaders were gunned down for not cooperating with the terrorist groups.

Over the years, there was a considerable increase in Pakistani backed military organisations in the Valley. At one time there were about 120 militant groups in the Valley.12 With the passage of time some of the militant groups disintegrated due to security forces operations, while others merged with some of the major militant outfits. By September 30, 1999, there were about nine major militant outfits operating in the Valley.13 These are:

l Hizbul Mujahideen (HM)

l Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF)

l Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT)

l Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA)

l Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM)

l Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami (HUJI)

l Al Badar

l Tehriq-ul-Mujahideen (TUM)

l Dukh-Teran-e-Millat (DTM)

These militant outfits are carrying out their subversive activities in the Valley in pursuance of their jehad against India. And ISI of Pakistan is the main body facilitating movement of weapons across the borders to Kashmiri militants.14 It has set up training camps in Pak-occupied Kashmir and plays a crucial role in sustaining these camps. Everyone agrees that jehad cannot be carried on without the support of the ISI.15 Inded, the ISI's stranglehold over these groups is such that even an irresponsible press statement by a jehadi leader can put him in trouble. "Sometimes you find a junior level ISI clerk knocking at your door, carrying a clipping of your press statements asking for an explanation,16 recalls the once powerful chief of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Adds another militant, "The moment the ISI feels that Jehad body is becoming powerful, it incites trouble in that party or tries to split it. Breaching the bigger groups by throwing money, arms and vehicles and putting new leaders in the driving seat is their style."17 Not only ISI, but the Pakistani Army and Pakistani terrorist groups also work in close coordination in their operations in the Indian State. There is hardly any difference between the attitude of the army and the militants towards the Kashmir issue and towards Pakistan's relations with India. This fact was highlighted in the recent past by the Kargil crisis which took the form of a major diplomatic brouhaha at regional level. The Kargil crisis reached a disturbing stage for India largely because of the inroads made by Pakistan-supported militants and soldiers into the Indian territory.18

In the past few years, the form of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir has changed, showing greater evidence of the involvement of Afghan mercenaries in terrorist incidents in the Valley and the militants (who call themselves jehadis) have become more vocal in their militant calls against India. Maulana Masood Azhar, one of the three notorious militants released in exchange for the hostages on the Indian Airlines flight in December 1999, threatened to organise a 500,000 strong mujahideen force to wage jehad against India and declared that he would not rest until Kashmir is liberated.19 The casualties in encounters with security forces and identifying militants from Afghanistan and Pakistan has raised India's concern over the developments in Afghanistan too. As the Taliban captured nearly 90 per cent of Afghanistan by September-October 1998, the Afghan militants started pouring into the Valley.20 There are linkages between the Taliban and religious seminaries in Pakistan because the former claim to have been trained in these seminaries. It is a well known fact that the Pakistani Army has been actively involved in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. It has fought along with the Taliban against the Rabbani regime in Kabul. Whenever the Taliban need reinforcement – many madrassas – the training centres for the Islamic militants and terrorists in Pakistan immediately send their students to Afghanistan.21 thus, the emergence of the Taliban on the political scene of Afghanistan in 1999 was the handiwork of Pakistan22 and the Taliban has become the main laboratory to prepare future Islamic mujahideen of Taliban variety. Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has been claiming close cooperation with the Taliban in Jammu and Kashmir, is one of the branches of this laboratory. In the three day conclave of Markaz-Dawa-Ul-Irshad.23 held in Muridke in Pakistan, it was claimed by the organisation that its militant wing Lakshkar-e-Taiba, is carrying out successful operations in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan has also released the list of persons belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba from Pakistan and Afghanistan who were killed in encounters in Kashmir. Besides, the facts support the contention that these institutions work and thrive under the government patronage in Pakistan. The media has repeatedly highlighted the visits of the ministers in Pakistan to Markaz-Dawa-Ul-Irshad.24 Thus, India has equally large stakes in Afghanistan developments. The Taliban continues to threaten security in India; particularly after the Indian Airlines hijack and the drama in Kandahar, India has taken the Afghan problem quite seriously.25 As stated by Brahma Chellaney, "whatever the apparent and hidden costs of the Kandahar deal, the main lesson of the hijack crisis is obvious: India is under siege from fundamentalist terrorist forces fattened by the thriving heroin trade, plentiful supply of modern weapons, and aid from regimes lacking legitimacy".26 A leading national daily also deplored that, "the Indian Republic has been outmanoeuvered by terrorists and by a neighbour which supports them and unleashes them on this country" and that "the decision to free three notorious terrorists will be hailed as a great victory by Islamabad in its proxy war".27

The US has also taken cognisance of these developments. US Under Secretary of State, Thomas Pickering, told the Voice of America, "Information about the military involvement of Pakistan with Afghanistan has come to our attention. We have talked to Pakistan about it. Pakistan is swift in its denial of that involvement, but we believe it continues to be true."28 Earlier, Clinton administration's top counter-terrorism official Michael A. Sheehan, while testifying before a Senate Sub-committee, accused Pakistan of becoming a base for terrorist attacks in India. "Within Pakistan, there are numerous Kashmiri separatist groups and sectarian groups involved in terrorism, which use Pakistan as a base … We have continued reports of Pakistani material support for some of these militants."29

On the other hand, explaining the Pakistani stand, General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's military leader has asserted at various forums that the uprising in Kashmir is in no way terrorism, but jehad. He has drawn a clear distinction between acts of terrorism and the Islamic "freedom-struggle" in Kashmir. He argued that to call jehad in Kashmir as terrorism is not correct. According to him, "Islam does not preach terrorism – Islam believes in Jehad, a fight in the path of God. Wherever Muslims are being victimised or killed, Islam asks all Muslims to come to their aid."30

It is expected that General Musharraf will speak in this manner to hide his support to the armed groups operating in Kashmir, who receive training, arms and financial aid on a permanent basis from Pakistan. Jehad, of course is not terrorism but what the so called jehadis are doing is terror in its most brutal form.

Terrorism in Central Asia

Like it is doing in India, Pakistan is playing its game in the Central Asian region also. It is trying to involve these states in South Asian politics to bolster its own geo-strategic advantage. The fact that the newly accessible Central Asian region is experiencing an Islamic revival as a rallying point for cultural identity makes the region even more attractive for Pakistan. Pakistan wants to increase its political and economic role in Central Asia for three reasons:

l It views Central Asia as a territorial enticement to realise its quest for "strategic depth"

l It wants to encompass the 55 million Mulsim population of these states into a stream of "Islamisation"

l It has been taking economic steps to integrate them into one market in the form of ECO.

For attaining these three goals Pakistan is using the Islamic card and through strong support to the Taliban it is focussing on securing strategic and economic backing in Central Asia vis-a-vis India, winning friends in a region which had been totally shut away from Pakistani influence in the past. Central Asian Republics are more vulnerable to the Islamic card due to seventy years of religious oppression. Now there is a sudden resurgence of Islam in these republics. Islam as a religious tradition and as a form of cultural and national identity has acquired new meaning. In recent years, there has been a greater observance of Islamic rites, adoption of "Asslamwalaikum" as a form of greeting, religious marriages, performance of daily prayers and attendence at mosques. There has also been a phenomenal increase in the construction of religious places. The number of unaccredited mullahs has increased and there is proliferation of mosques particularly in rural areas. According to Soviet estimates the number of mosques has gone up to 5,000 from 160 during the past few years.31 A number of theological schools have been established in Azerbaijan and Tajikistan. Huge donations are voluntarily collected to be used for the construction of mosques and madrassas. Wherever there are no mosques, chaikhanas (teahouses) are used as prayer houses.32 Surveys conducted in Central Asia have shown that the level of religiosity among Muslims is higher than ten or twenty years ago, especially among the younger generation and intellectuals.33

In fact, revival of Islam in the Central Asian Republics was a cultural, social and religious phenomenon as people publicly wanted to demonstrate their separateness from the communist system. Yet, popular knowledge of the religion of Islam was minimal and information on political activism, ideas and debates in the Islamic world beyond Central Asia was almost non existent. But the arrival of funds, Korans, literature and mullahs from Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan spread their particular version of Islam in these countries. The vacuum created by the lack of leadership from the official Islamic hierarchy allowed fundamentalist groups to proliferate. The growing involvement of outside powers increased as Wahabi groups from Saudi Arabia, Iranian Revolutionary guards and some Sunni fundamentalist parties in Pakistan took advantage of the unprecedented political opportunities. The refusal of Central Asian Governments to allow Islamic education in government schools resulted in the spread of unofficial Islamic schools. People learned to bypass official Islam as they set up their own mosques and other structures.34

At the beginning of 1992, M. Abdulla Islamailov (incharge of international relations at the Spiritual Administration of Religious Affairs of Central Asia) enthusiastically declared, "Three years ago Uzbekistan had eighty mosques. Today there are 1000 in the Namagan region alone (Namagan is one of the most religious regions). We had only two madrassas in the whole of the Soviet Union for the instruction of religious leaders. Today, there are twelve".35

In March 1993, the Foreign Ministers of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan directly accused the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, that wanted an Islamic revolution in Central Asia, of arming and training Muslim radicals from their republics. During the Afghan war, the Jamaat had trained Muslim fundamentalists from Central Asia and encouraged them to fight alongside the mujahideen. By 1992 the Jamaat was helping these radicals in their own countries together with its main Afghan ally, Gulbuddin Hikmetyar. The Jamaat also helped Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) leaders in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to establish links with Arab Islamic groups.36

It is worth mentioning that in the Ferghana Valley, which has always been the country's most religious region, radical Islamic elements are on the increase, and have transformed radical Islam into a stronghold for IRP. Today, it is the "educational centre" for Central Asia's fundamentalists. Most of Central Asia's religious figures are still in the 'proselytizing phase', more interested in training new clerics and increasing the level of religious learning among the population than in getting the laws of society to conform to those of Islam.37 A passive propaganda operation in underway in outlying villages in order to reconvert the population. "First Fergana, then Uzbekistan and then the whole Central Asia will become an Islamic state," said Imam Abdul Ahmad in Namagan. Imams said their aim is to overthrow the 'communist government of Karimov' and spearhead an Islamic revolution throughout Central Asia.38

All this shows that Islam has regained its importance in Central Asia and provides a fertile ground to the Islamic fundamentalists for expansion. Pakistan's track record of support for religious fundamentalism, political extremism, international terrorism and armed subversion have become an important component of its regional strategy. Earlier it has used these tactics against India in Kashmir. The latest manifestation of this phenomenon is the Taliban, who were previously sent to fight in Afghanistan and presently in the Central Asian region. Apart from their destructive activities, Muslim extremists are carrying out a silent war of subversion and infiltration in the republics of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The long term aim is to arouse the religious and nationalist passions of the 30 million Muslims north of the Afghanistan border.39

In fact, Tajikistan provides a special case since Islamic forces have played a very destructive role in that country's civil war.40 Fanatic Muslims of this republic were very actively supported by their mentors from Jamaat-i-Islami of Pakistan. In fact Pakistan had begun spreading the communal and ethnic virus much before the erstwhile Soviet state began showing cracks under the Gorbachev regime. Brutal violence against ethnic Russians of Dushanbe and other parts of the Tajik Republic had its roots in rapid Islamic fundamentalist orientation. After the declaration of independence by Tajikistan in September 1991, pro-fundamentalist elements hoped and tried to seize power. For the attainment of this objective, the Tajiks wedded to Islamic extremism crossed the Tajik border into Afghan territory. There Afghan mujahideen undertook to impart training in sophisticated weapons to these Tajik migrants and they conducted armed incursions into Tajik territory with the tacit support and connivance of Afghan warriors with the clear objective of bringing down the Tajik government and replacing it by a fundamentalist regime.41

Now, despite a 1997 Peace Agreement42 that formally ended the civil war, the former Soviet Republic i.e. Tajikistan continues to be plagued by outbursts of violence involving groups that do not recognise the deal.43 On September 9, 2000, celebrating his country's Independence Day, Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmanov, expressed concern about the threat from across the border as represented by his opponents, called the United Tajik Opposition (UTO). Elements of the UTO have continued to battle his beleaguered regime despite the May 1997 agreement with this group and a sweeping parliamentary poll victory in early 2000. Rakhmanov appealed that the resolution of the long standing civil war across the border lay not in the use of force, but in the conducting of political negotiations by all concerned.44 But the fact remains that the Islamic rebels living in Tajikistan are keeping the security forces engaged in the region and there is a considerable increase in the number of rebel forces in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.45 When the snow melts on the mountain passes between Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the rebels typically migrate from Tajikistan to other countries, killing or taking hostage anyone who gets in their way.46 On August 9, 2000, about 100 armed men crossed into southern Kyrgyzstan from Tajikistan and clashed with Kyrgyz soldiers. Another group moved into Uzbekistan. The guards and invaders were reported to have suffered casualties.47

The Taliban have stepped up help to disparate anti-government forces in Central Asian Republics that have all along been taking advantage of the volatile situation in the Pamirs and on both sides of the Hindu Kush mountains and the Karakorum range. The hilly terrain is difficult to guard. The border forces are ill-organised and ill paid. Besides, not used to border management some of the Central Asian Republics are still in the process of setting up check-posts and raising border-guards. While Russian forces guard the Tajik-Afghan border, the Uzbeks have sought American help. The US, besides training and kitting the border-guards while not supplying any lethal weapons—also provides transports like pick-ups, sniffer dogs and even handcuffs. The borders with CIS and alongwith Afghanistan, thanks to bad management and difficult terrain, remain highly porous. It is through this border, that anti-government forces, drug-traffickers and arms-peddlers operate.48

Armed Islamist militants, using the Afghan sanctuaries, have been traversing the Tajik territory to join hands with United Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which wants to set up an Islamic state in the Ferghana Valley. Actually, after giving support to Tajik rebels, Pakistan's target has been Uzbekistan. The leadership of IMU—an extremist paramilitary group that the US Department of State ranks fourth in its list of international terrorist organisations—makes the backbone of bandit organisations.49 Judging by identity papers found on dead para-militaries, numerous Chechen, Arab, Afghan and European mercenaries are fighting side by side with Uzbeks under the command of warlord Jumabai Namangani – a Wahabi trained in Afghanistan and prominent among IMU chieftains.50 The IMU has its headquarters in Afghanistan. Several thousand Uzbek and Tajik religious extremists undergo training in Afghan-based camps for fighting and acts of terror and sabotage.51 It has announced that its primary aim was to focus world attention on the persecution of thousands of Muslims in Uzbekistan, and ultimately to overthrow the current Uzbek leadership and establish an Islamic state.52 Following this declaration, the IMU planned and conducted a series of terrorist attacks. Among attacks attributed to the IMU is an attack on an Uzbek policeman in Namagan in late 1997 and a series of bomb attacks in Tashkent in February 1997.53 The February bomb attacks were targeted against Uzbek President Islam Karimov. Though the President had a narrow escape, but in this attack 16 people were killed and 128 injured.54 The leader of the IMU, Tahir Yaldossev, then fled to Taliban controlled Afghanistan. In May 1999, the Taliban allowed Yaldossev to set up military camps in northern Afghanistan just a few miles from the Afghan-Uzbek border. Unconfirmed media reports say that he is training several hundred Islamic militants from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as Uighurs from Xinjiang Autonomous Region in China.55

Initially, the Taliban denied having extended any help to the IMU. But in June 1999, when the Uzbek Government requested for the extradition of Tahir to Tashkent, it was rejected by the Taliban.56

Besides Uzbekistan, IMU, led by Namangani, has recurited heavily in the Batken region of Kyrgystan, a swath of land on the border between southern Uzbekistan and northern Tajikistan. Batken has high unemployment and poverty, and the IMU has attempted to use this discontent for a political programme. Youth in Batken are quicker to join radicals than older traditional Muslims. According to social workers in southern Kyrgyzstan, the majority of homes have IMU leaflets advocating an Islamic state.57 High mercenary traffic in the region accounts for an increase of militants subordinate to IMU. Kyrgyz Security Council Chairman, Bolot Dzanuzakov reported in April, 2000 that Islamic militants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asian Republics collaborate in terrorist training and narco-trafficking.58 Kyrgyz officials are also wary that between 2,000 to 5,000 militants have received training in camps at Tavildara in Tajikistan.59

IMU gets its funds by ransoming hostages, narco-trafficking and pooling resources from contacts at Kandahar, the headquarters of the Afghan-Taliban leadership. Ransoms have been lucrative over the year, specifically from the Kyrgyz government, which tendered $50,000 for the safe return of three district officials, and then $3 million for four Japanese geologists.60

Thus, the Islamists are threatening the political leadership in all the three republics – Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Although located at a distance from the Afghan border, Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan is also threatened by the influx of these elements, which along with armed insurrection, also upset the social order with their fundamentalist Islam.61

The Central Asian fears were heightened when the Taliban captured Taloqan, the key town that is also located on the main supply line of the Northern Alliance. The Taliban forces were within a few kilometers of the Tajik border. This prompted Tajikistan to put its forces on high alert. According to Voice of Russia, Nazarbayev demanded an emergency session of the UN Security Council to consider ways and means to combat the Taliban menace.62 Also, four of the CARs presidents made a joint appeal to various international organisations, pointing out that the Taliban were behind the extremist and terrorist outfits. A joint document was signed by the presidents of the four republics, after a two-day deliberation held recently under the aegis of the Council of Heads of States of Central Asian States. Urging the world bodies to intervene and resolve the Afghan conflict, the four Presidents accused the Taliban of diverting funds from narcotic deals for purchase of weaponry to continue its "fratricidal-war". Also, during the two day meet, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan signed a treaty of external friendship, which is expected to deepen relations between the two states.63

However, there is little doubt that the Central Asian neighbours of Afghanistan are the worst sufferers. Free from the erstwhile Soviet Union, they are struggling to acquire their independent identities and walk the path of development. But the export of militancy that feeds off religion and earnings from drugs has bedeviled their political lives. Desperate armed groups have been operating from the sanctuaries in an unsettled Afghanistan. A UNI report from Moscow (April 3, 2000) said, "after burning their fingers in the Chechnya conflict, Afghanistan and Pakistan trained mercenaries are seeking fresh pastures to exploit their brand of fundamentalism, with Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan emerging as their new hot-spots."64

While the Taliban officially deny that they have any intentions of crossing the borders into Central Asia, their activities on the ground have caused massive, justifiable concern for the neighbours.

Possibilities of Cooperation Between India and Central Asian Republics in Combating Terrorism

From the above discussion it is quite clear that the situation created by the Pakistan-Afghanistan combine has disturbed peace in India as well as in the Central Asian region. Both are victims of cross-border terrorism and consider it as a threat to regional peace and stability. The Central Asian Republics have been trying to combat terrorism by expanding cooperation among themselves and among like-minded countries. On the other hand, India has been seeking the help of the international community to contain terrorism from the very beginning. In this respect, convergence of their interests in combating terrorism is the next logical step.

In fact, India and the Central Asian Republics have had close historical, cultural and political ties since antiquity. In contemporary times, these have got further strengthened due to continued friendly and warm relations between India and the erstwhile Soviet Union. But with the demise of the Soviet Union, India faces the task of constructing a vibrant relationship under entirely new and challenging circumstances. Common perspective/approach on the issue of cross-border terrorism can provide a firm foundation for mutual cooperation between the two. A beginning has been made during the Uzbek President Islam Karimov's visit to India in May 2000.65 Most of the agreements signed during the visit were concerned with combating terrorism—common threat to security.66 In fact, this trip was aimed to underpin a common political understanding to counter common threats to their security.

India and Uzbekistan are aware that the spill-over of terrorism from the Afghan hub has larger geo-political ramifications. The spread of religious extremism towards Uzbekistan, for instance can destabilise resource rich Central Asia. For India, the security implications are also negative as the consolidation of radicalism in Afghanistan will harden extremist pressures on Kashmir.

For India, the problem of terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir has to be dealt with at the local, regional and international levels. By teaming up with like-minded countries, it may be easier to expose the elements behind the terrorist menace and evolve a framework of cooperation to contain the movement of terrorists as well as arms. This view was also expressed by the visiting Uzbek President Islam Karimov who stressed that there was need for both the countries to act together to counter the threats emanating from Afghanistan before it was too late. He gave a call for putting an end to external "interference" in Afghanistan and emphasised that New Delhi and Tashkent should coordinate efforts to control "threats". In this regard, India and Uzbekistan signed several key agreements to fine tune their political relationship to face the onslaught of cross – border terrorism from the Pakistan – Afghanistan mujahideen hub. Concerned about the serious challenge posed to regional and national security both the countries signed a joint declaration on principles, which will anchor their future relationship. The declaration has been signed against the backdrop of the urgency felt by both New Delhi and Tashkent for a joint front to counter the threat to Central and South Asia's security from Talibanised Afghanistan.67 In addition to other agreements, an extradition treaty and a legal assistance pact on criminal matters was also signed between the two countries. A 'mutual assistance' agreement between the two customs authorities was also finalised.68

The visit of President Karimov has been seen as part of a new diplomatic effort in Central Asia to build a broad international coalition, including India, to isolate the radical forces being nurtured by Afghanistan and Pakistan. Led by Uzbekistan, Central Asian Republics are increasing security cooperation among themselves and reaching out to Russia, China, India and the US to combat the new threats of terrorism, emanating from their southern border with Afghanistan. Top specialists of the Institute of Strategic and Regional Studies of Uzbekistan, which functions directly under President Islam Karimov, said, "India is quite experienced in handling fundamentalism and religious extremism, and since we are faced with almost identical problems, we will be glad to have the benefit of this knowledge." Further, Muhammed M. Yukbov, head of the department of regional studies and his two colleagues, Abdullazia Abdullau, strategic expert and Isadjanov, secretary, scientific board, suggested that India, Uzbekistan and other countries of the region should cooperate and evolve a mechanism to fight fundamentalism and religious extremism.69

India has so much more at stake and so much more in common with the region, since they were once part of the grand Indo-Soviet strategic alliance. Thus, it is in the strategic interest of India to cooperate and improve relations with the Central Asian Republics. The spate of bilateral agreements signed between India and Uzbekistan signify the growing importance of Central Asia on New Delhi's radar. For the new millennium, New Delhi is making a serious bid to forge new equations with chosen countries in Central Asia and the Islamic world. Uzbekistan fits ideally into both these realms and emerges as a key potential ally in that region, and she too looks upon India as a natural partner in combating terrorism, religious extremism and drug-trafficking. India cannot ignore the importance of Uzbekistan because the country shares a common boundary with the other Central Asian republics – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan – therefore it is Uzbekistan which is the fulcrum around which the security of resource rich Central Asia revolves. For India, the relationship with Uzbekistan is a matter of historical continuity, therefore, taking advantage of this fact India needs to further strengthen its ties with it. Now is the right time for India to further consolidate its bond of friendship. In this context, the visit of External Affairs Minister of India, Jaswant Singh, to Tashkent in May 200070 was a welcome development. It underscores the importance India attaches to its contacts with the Uzbeks. This visit laid a clear road map for future interactions between the two. Talks with his Uzbek counterpart, Abdulaziz Kamilov, covered the entire gamut of bilateral relations, regional security, environment and the general global scene. Both shared their concern over Islamic fundamentalism and over what was happening in Afghanistan i.e., adventurism of the Taliban, gun running and drug trafficking.71 Kamilov set the ball rolling by saying that Tashkent wanted to institutionalise a mechanism for "regular and substantive political contact," on the lines of the economic joint commission. Jaswant Singh welcomed the suggestion and assured that New Delhi would be "flexible about the level," at which these talks could take place.72 He also offered more training facilities under the ongoing technical exchange programme and also invited their military personnel to participate in the Indian Defence Colleges for advanced courses.73 These are right moves on the part of India which Jaswant Singh's interlocutors also welcomed without any reservation and these will bring the two countries closer, apart from giving them a strategic significance.

Earlier, similar views on terrorism were shared by Kyrgyzstan with India during Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev's visit to India in April 1999.74 Kyrgyzstan is threatened by Islamic fundamentalism, especially in its Osh region, which opens into Central Asia's famous Ferghana Valley. Kyrgyzstan which has a cross border connection across Afghanistan and Tajikistan, wants to avoid being used as a bridge for the export of religious extremism in the region. India, on its part, fears that the spread of fundamentalism across the Afghan-Tajik bridgehead into Central Asia can be destabilising.75

New Delhi and Bishkek are also engaged in limited defence cooperation, but which is mainly confined to the training of senior level Kyrgyz personnel in some of India's top military establishments.76

Further, while meeting new Indian envoy Y. Kumar in Dushanbe, Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmanov also called on India, "taking into account its prestige in the region, to intensify efforts for the early possible peaceful settlement of the Afghanistan conflict". "Regional security depends in many things on the peaceful settlement of the Afghan crisis", he said.77-

Thus, as borne out by these agreements and statements issued and signed by the visiting officials of CARS and India, it is clear that now CARS are looking towards India to help them combat this menace of terrorism. Therefore, India has to move fast and take the lead as cooperation in the field of containing cross border terrorism can provide a new direction in cementing a new partnership between the two. So far very little concrete initiative has been taken by India to build on their former relationship and to build a new and lasting relationship with CARs. The initiative should be more from the Indian side as the CARs are already facing economic problems since their independence and terrorism has added to their woes. The initiatives that can be taken up with respect to combating terrorism are:

l India can establish Joint Working Groups on Counter-Terrorism with CARs on the lines it has done with US and Russia. Regular meetings of the group can become an effective mechanism for the two to share information and intensify cooperation in combating terrorism.

l The experience of Indian para-military forces with counter-terrorist activities in Punjab and Kashmir can specially help the CARs. Raising/training a para – military force and providing it with arms and equipment would help the CARS have a first line of defence against infiltrators and terrorists.

l Intelligence regarding terrorist groups, their camps, their personnel; and their activities on a regular basis can forewarn and forearm the CARs and would greatly enhance their capability in this common fight against terrorism.

l India can provide training to their military personnel with the additional advantage of nearly the same equipment being used by both.

l By helping CARs develop their economy, India would help them strike at the root cause of terrorism i.e. poverty and unemployment.

l Like India, CARs are also plural societies surrounded by fundamentalist/authoritarian regimes. The best course for such societies is an open and liberal, secular and democratic political system. The Central Asian leadership, at present seems to be committed to establish such a political system. India can play a positive role in helping the CARs by offering training facilities to acquaint themselves with a functioning democracy in a developing society.

NOTES

1. During the meeting of the Presidents of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbaev, the Kyrgyz Republic Askar Akaev, the Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rakhmonov and the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov in Tashkent on April 21, 2000 special attention was dedicated to security. An agreement was signed by the heads of the four states, on joint actions against terrorism, political and religious extremism, transnational organised crime and other threats to stability. The documents also provide for a United Front of protection from any external threats. The four party agreement is an important document directed towards strengthening independence of the countries of the region, maintenance of inviolability of borders, and the tranquil life of the peoples of Central Asia. The document serves as an important legal basis for joint actions of the four states of the region. This is cited from Central Asian News, April-May, 2000.

2. As these have done by making a forum called "Shanghai Five" in which Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are collaborating to fight terrorism, extremism and separatism. For example, during the Bishkek meeting of the Heads of Law Enforcement Bodies and Special Services of the member states in December 1999, the Bishkek memorandum as signed on interaction and cooperation in the struggle against international terrorism and religious extremism, as cited in Central Asian News, November-December, 1999. Also, in early August 2000, the Taliban Central "Islamist" insurgency controlling Afghanistan, escalated dramatically, targeting Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Emergency meetings of state leaders took place in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in Sochi, with Russian President Putin; and in a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States, to tackle the situation, see, Muriel Mirak-Weissbach, "Whose Policy Mistakes Really Underlie the Central Asian Crisis", EIR, vol. 27, no. 35, September 2000. Also on August 29, 2000, the Uzbek President announced both a strategic cooperation agreement with China, and a formal request by his government to Russia for military help against the "Islamist" rebel armies, see "Dramatic Shift Underway Towards Russia and China", EIR, vol. 27, no. 35, September 2000, p. 70. Apart from this, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during her country tour of Central Asia on April 15-19, 2000 announced the commitment of the US government to provide help to these republics in their fight against terrorism, see, Bruce Pannier, "Central Asia: Albright Discusses Security and Other Issue", <http://www.referi.org>. Also during Uzbek President Islam Karimov's visit to India in May 2000, emphasis was on cooperation in eradication of terrorism, see The Hindu, May 2, 3, 4 and 5, 2000.

3. Bhashyan Kasturi, "Transnational Terrorism in South Asia", Aakrosh, vol. 3, no. 8, July 2000, p. 64.

4. See, Sisir Gupta, Kashmir: A Study in India-Pakistan Relations, (Bombay: Asia Publishers, 1996).

5. For details see, S.S. Bindra, Indo-Pakistan Relations: Tashkent to Shimla Agreement, (New Delhi: Deep and Deep Publications, 1981); H.R. Gupta, India-Pakistan War – 1965, vols. I and II, (Delhi: Hariyana Prakashan, 1968).

6. For details see, Jatin Desai, Kargil and Pakistan Politics, (New Delhi: Commonwealth Publishers, 2000).

7. First established in 1965 as Azad Kashmir, then called the Jammu & Kashmir National Liberation Front. In 1976, the name was changed to the Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front, and most of its activities shifted to the United Kingdom as Amanullah Khan set himself up in exile. It initiated much of the violence in 1988-89 in Jammu & Kashmir for Kashmiri self-determination.

8. Afsir Karim, "A Profile of Islamic Resurgence in South Asia", Aakrosh, vol. 2, no. 3, April 1999, p.7.

9. As quoted from, Prakash Singh, "Low Intensity Conflicts and High Intensity Crime", Faultlines, vol. 5, May 2000, p.137.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. As per researcher's talk with some senior BSF officials.

13. Ibid.

14. Information emanating from the arrested terrorists shows that the ISI of Pakistan is involved in the activities in Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir as cited in Document on "Involvement of Pakistan as revealed in the interrogation of important extremists of Punjab and J&K", Strategic Digest, IDSA, 1990, pp. 2222-2228. Also a report in The Times of India said that the nabbed terrorists show that ISI has intensified its activities in the Jammu & Kashmir region. The Pakistani agency runs camps for training in high altitude warfare tactics and handling of sophisticated weapons, The Times of India, April 14, 1993.

15. Ghulam Hasnain, "Ready for Jehad", Outlook, vol. XL, no. 37, September 25, 2000, p.34.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. Bidanda M. Chengappa, "Pakistan's Compulsions for the Kargil Misadventure", Strategic Analysis, vol. XXIII, no. 7, October 1999, pp. 1072, 1079.

19. The Times of India, January 11, 2000, also see, B. Muralidhar Reddy, "Masood Renews Tirade against India", The Hindu, July 23, 2000.

20. Satish Kumar, "Regional Security Environment: Central and South Asia", in Jasjit Singh, Peace and Security in Central Asia, IDSA occasional paper series, IDSA, New Delhi, 2000.

21. O.N. Mehrotra, "Madarsa in Pakistan: the Chief Promoter of Islamic Militancy and Terrorism", Strategic Analysis, vol. XXIII, no. 11, February 2000, p. 1888.

22. The various mujahideen parties which returned to Afghanistan in the wake of the collapse of the Nazibullah government in 1992 failed to provide a stable regime. The bloodshed and interparty war continued unabated during the next two years. For sometime it appeared that Pakistan's Afghan Policy—which it had followed meticulously since the April revolution in 1978 – had ended in a disastrous failure. It was against this background that students of the madrassas set up by Pakistan's fundamentalist parties, had been organised, trained and inducted into Afghanistan. They were called the Taliban. They won and fought their way to take control over most of the country within short time, as cited in Kalim Bahadur, "Islamic Fundamentalism and International Terrorism", Aakrosh, vol. 3, no. 7, April 2000, p.34.

23. Markaz-Dawa-Ul-Irshad, a religious organisation based in the town of Muridke, some 30 miles north of Lahore, is Pakistan's largest so called jehadi organisation. Its militant wing, Lashkar-e-Taiba is an organisation of highly trained militants who are willing to go to war whenever and wherever the Amir (commander) orders. Though Markaz-Dawa-Ul-Irshad is involved in various areas, including religious education and social welfare, it is mainly through its militant wing that the organisation is known throughout the country, Mehrotra, n. 21, p. 1885.

24. Riyaz Punjabi, "Conflict in Afghanistan: Implications for Central and South Asia", Journal of Peace Studies, vol. VI, no.2, March-April 1999, p.40.

25. The Hindu, May 5, 2000.

26. The Hindustan Times, January 1, 2000.

27. The Times of India, January 1, 2000.

28. The Times of India, November 8, 2000.

29. The Times of India, November 4, 2000.

30. Asian News Digest, vol. 1, no. 10, March 5-11, 2000, p. 157.

31. K. Warikoo, "Soviet Central Asia in Ferment", in K. Warikoo, Dawa Norbu (ed.), Ethnicity and Politics in Central Asia, (New Delhi: South Asian Publishers, 1992), pp. 62-70.

32. Ibid.

33. Ibid.

34. Ahmed Rashid, The Resurgence of Central Asia-Islam or Nationalism, (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 244-245.

35. Giampaolo R. Capisani, The Handbook of Central Asia – A Comprehensive Survey of the New Republics, (London: I.B. Tauris Publishers, 2000), p. 124.

36. Rashid, n. 34, p.215.

37. Snyder, Jed. C (ed.), After Empire: The Emerging Gev-Politics of Central Asia, (Washington D.C.: National Defence University Press, 1995).

38. Rashid, n.34, p.100.

39. Jagdish P. Sharma, "Afghanistan and Socio-Economic-Political Stability in Asia", Journal of Peace Studies, vol. VII, no. 1, January-February 2000, pp.16-17.

40. For details see, Oliver Ray, The Civil War in Tajikistan: Causes and Implications, (Washington D.C.: United States Institute for Peace, December 1993); B. Rubin, "The Fragmentation of Tajikistan", Survival, vol. 35, no. 4, Winter 1993-94, pp. 71-91/

41. The Pioneer, August 26, 1993.

42. "Central Asia-Developments in 1997", World Focus, vol. 19, no. 3, March 1998, pp. 21-23.

43. Umed Babakhanov, "Attackers Storm Tajikistan City, take 30 Hostages", The Asian Age, November 5, 1998.

44. Quoted from paper presented by Mahendra Ved on "Afghanistan and Cross-border Terrorism in the CIS", during the international seminar on The Afghanistan Crisis: Problems and Prospects of Peace, organised by Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation and Indian Council of Social Science Research, November 19-21, 2000.

45. Quoted from paper presented by Bakaeyev Askar on International Security and Strategic Environment in Context of Problems of Southern and Central Asia, during the second Indo-Central Asian Seminar organised by IDSA on September 11-12, 2000.

46. Ibid.

47. Ved, n.44.

48. Ibid.

49. Valentin Kunin, "Kabul to be Centre for War against all Infidels", National Herald, September 17, 2000.

50. Ibid.

51. Ibid., also see, Tatiana Sinitsyna, "Uzbekistan-Nine Years in Company with Independence", National Herald, September 1, 2000.

52. Tamara Makarenko, "Crime and Terrorism in Central Asia", Jane's Intelligence Review, vol. 12, no. 7, July 2000, p. 17.

53. Ibid.

54. Sreedhar, "Is the Taliban Being Converted into a Jihadi Army", Aakrosh, vol. 3, no. 7, April 2000, p. 19.

55. Ibid.

56. Ibid.

57. Askar, no.45.

58. Ibid.

59. Ibid.

60. Ibid., actually, when IMU took the hostages from Batken district in August 1999, it announced that they would release the hostages in exchange for thousands of unjustly imprisoned Muslim prisoners in Uzbekistan and their safe passage into Uzbekistan. However, despite these demands the IMU released the hostages in two stages in exchange of the said money, see, Makarenko, no. 52, p.17.

61. Ved, no. 44.

62. As quoted from, Ved, n. 44.

63. Ibid.

64. Ibid.

65. The Hindu, May 1, 2000.

66. The Hindu, May 3, 2000.

67. Ibid.

68. The Hindu, May 4, 2000.

69. The Hindu, July 17, 2000.

70. National Herald, May 21, 2000.

71. Indian Express, May 19, 2000.

72. Ibid.

73. National Herald, May 21, 2000.

74. The Hindu, April 14, 1999.

75. Ibid.

76. Ibid.

77. Ved, n.44.