Bloodied Talks

In last two and half decades almost every highprofile meeting between India and Pakistan is preceded by a daring militant attack. Shah Abbas revisits some of these red letter days in Kashmir’s bloodied history to understand the connection between talks and attacks, if any.   

manmohan_sharif_02072013In the afternoon of September 26, 2013 six bodies were lying in police station Hiranagar and seven in an army camp near Samba situated on Jammu Pathankote highway. Twelve more bodies were lying littered near the Line of Control (LoC) in Kupwara, Keran sector as claimed by GOC 15 Corps Lt Gen Gurmeet Singh while adressing media persons in Srinagar.

Three days ahead of Manmohan, Nawaz meeting in US, a bloody Thursday ended up with the death of twenty five people including 15 militants, 4 police, 4 army men and 2 civilians.

From Kuthua to Samba to Kupwara, Militants attacked a police station and an army camp besides attempted a major infiltration in Keran sector of Kashmir.

Everybody from Srinagar to New Delhi linked the attacks with the high level meeting which is referred as an icebreaking effort between the two nuclear power holding neighbours of South Asia.

After every such attack a number of questions arise and are discussed on different levels. Senior Journalsit, Shujaat Bukhari too raises some issues about the Hiranagar and Samba incidents.

“Twin attacks in Jammu raise more than one question. How the attackers managed to sneak into Hira Nagar Police Station, kill four policemen, forcibly take away the truck, then travel 20 kilometers to Samba to enter the Brigade headquarters, then straightway go to Officers mess. Where from they came, what was Army doing. Was not there any alert in between when they travelled 20 kilometer distance which would ordinarily take not less than 40 minutes…..,”asks Shujaat Bukhari in a Facebook post.

It was after more than ten years when militants struck in Jammu division in a vibrant way.

In 2002 a small town in Jammu division, Kaluchak witnessed a same type of attack by three militants.

The militants reportedly had crossed the Line of Control (LoC) and boarded a bus at Vijaypur. When the bus neared Kaluchak, they shot the driver and the conductor. On hearing the shots in the bus the army men fired in their direction. The militants who were dressed in army fatigues, while returning fire, attempted to escape in the direction of the Army’s family quarters, located on the main road. They also threw grenades on some vehicles parked in the vicinity. Upon entering the family quarters they again fired. The militants were eventually cordoned off and killed.

There were a total of 31 casualties at that time, including 3 Army personnel, 18 Army family members and 10 civilians.  In the ensuing gunbattle, 47 people were reported wounded including 12 Army personnel, 20 Army family members and 15 civilians.

All the three militants killed in that incident were identified by authorities as Pakistani Nationals. Their names were reported as Abu Suhail of Faislabad Pakistan, Abu Murshed ( alias Mohammed Munir) of Salamatpura (Rahwali Cantonment) Gujranwala Pakistan and Abu Javed (Amjad Salam Bin Mohammed Gisha) of Guda Giriya Gujranwala, Pakistan.

And after a gap of more than a decade the incidents of Hiranagar and Samba and an infiltration bid on the LoC in Kupwara on Thursday, September 26, occurred three days ahead of what is called as a big thing happening between New Delhi and Islamabad.

But the question is: were the attacks really carried out to derail the Manmohan, Nawaz meeting as is being projected by Srinagar and New Delhi?

“The militancy is going on in Jammu and Kashmir from last two and a half decades, the people are dying from both the sides, nobody is bothered about the issue which has given rise to such a bloody movement but when any militancy incident occurs at a special time, it is simply linked with that and is used as an escape from a larger issue,” a scholar busy in doing research in political conflict in Kashmir University told Kashmir Life. He, however, added “May be the politicians in Srinagar and New Delhi be right but they must also think about a simple question asked by every common Kashmiri: What has been the outcome of meetings between India and Pakistan through all those years when there was no militancy at all?”

A Srinagar based Journalist looks the whole issue from another angle by asking a question to Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharief. “Despite the militant attacks, the heads of India and Pakistan are meeting in US, are they going to take a step forward to stop such kind of attacks in future by addressing the disputes?” He further said, “Militants strike only to grab attention and I do not see any aspect of sabotaging talks or peace initiatives in such attacks, the Hiranagar and Samba attacks are also such attempts to send a message that New Delhi and Islamabad must discuss them when they meet.”

But the Himalayan fact is that militants have been striking at the time of talks between India and Pakistan or whenever there is some event of international level around.

Politicians from India’s Hindu nationalist opposition party BJP immediately after the Jammu attacks called for the cancellation of the talks.

“When our people are killed, disappeared and raped in Kashmir, the Indian ‘opinion makers’ promote dialogue between India and our leadership, instead of justice… but when Indian soldiers are killed, they oppose dialogue, suggest war and hostility against Pakistan as the policy for revenge………..,” Khurram Parvez, a vocal human rights activist and coordinator Coalition of Civil Society (CCS) posted on his Facebook page just after Pakistan bashing started in New Delhi.

However, Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh said the attacks would not derail efforts to pursue peace through dialogue.

Strongly dismissing the demand of Hindu nationalists, Manmohan Singh said, “This is one more in a series of provocations and barbaric actions by the enemies of peace”. He further said, “Such attacks will not deter us and will not succeed in derailing our efforts to find a resolution to all problems through a process of dialogue.”

The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister too appealed that the Manmohan, Nawaz meeting must not get derailed. In a hurriedly called press conference he said, “The Jammu attacks are an attempt to derail the Indo-Pak dialogue process but both Manmohan and Nawaz must go ahead and defeat the elements who are enemies to peace.”

Even the largest opposition party of Jammu and Kashmir, PDP also issued a statement in the same tune. Party’s patron and former Indian Home Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed stated that the Hiranagar and Samba attacks were the handiwork of those who do not want peace process to go forward.

The composite dialogue process between New Delhi and Islamabad was initiated in 1997 in Male, a city of Maldives, when the then Prime Ministers of the neighbouring countries IK Gujral and Nawaz Sharif met on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit and agreed on the framework of a composite dialogue process (CDP). Agreeing to a simultaneous and composite approach, both sides identified eight areas for talks (a) Peace and security, including confidence-building measures (CBMs) (b) Jammu and Kashmir (c) Siachen (d) Wullar Barridge/Tulbul navigation project (e) Sir Creek (f) economic and commercial cooperation (g) terrorism and drug trafficking, and (h) promotion of people-to-people contact.

The process was, subverted with the Kargil war in 1999. Yet the two sides kept their back-channels alive.

Then came the parliament attack of December 13, 2001 which brought the Indian armed forces into a virtual eyeball-to-eyeball face off with the Pakistani armed forces. Later the 9/11 attacks on the US changed the strategic environment in the region and both Pakistan and India joined the UN-backed and US-led ‘war against terror’ with a focus on the Afghan-Pakistan region.

It was on the occasion of the South Asian Free Media Association’s (SAFMA) second Indo-Pak Parliamentarian conference in August 2003 that General Musharraf responded positively to a joint parliamentarians’ appeal for the withdrawal of forces and ceasefire on LoC. He accordingly called for a ceasefire and troop withdrawal.

The 2008 elections in Pakistan brought into power President Asif Ali Zardari. But the Mumbai attacks then derailed the process for years and it got revived after a long time.

Earlier on 13 July, 1999 a DIG level officer and four personnel were killed in a militant attack on Border Security Force’s sector headquarters in Bandipora.

On November 3, 1999 ten army personnel got killed in a fidayeen attack on 15 Corps Headquarters at Srinagar’s Badami Bagh and on July 22, 2003, a three-member fidayeen squad stormed an army camp killing eight personnel, including a Brigadier, and injuring 12 others, including four top Generals, a Brigadier and two Colonels at village Bangti on the Tanda road in Akhnoor.

On April 6 , 2005, a day before the bus from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad was to be flagged off, two suicide squad militants attacked the Tourist Reception Centre Srinagar.

October 5, 2006 witnessed 10 fatalities – five JKP personnel, two CRPF men, two militants and one civilian – in an attack at Budshah Chowk, in the heart of Srinagar.

More recently on March 13, 2013, an attack on CRPF camp in Srinagar resulted in the killing of five personnel. On  June 24, 2013, Eight army men were killed in a deadly attack of militants at Hyderpora, Srinagar.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is not by definition, a tough talker. But he will probably deploy his legendary silence as an effective weapon of toughness when he will be meeting his Pakistani counterpart on September 30 in US. Because it has been a long practice on the part of India that it always alleges Pakistan of managing such militant attacks.

Yet, two more daring militant attacks in Hiranagar and Samba by militants have left 13 dead and several injured, is a reason enough for even a soft spoken Manmohan to show some aggression.

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