Cables related to security concerns as viewed by the US embassy in New Delhi reveal that the American concerns matched those India publically harped on. Izhar Ali delves into some Kashmir related Wkileaks.
The United States of America was keenly watching the developments between India and Pakistan-the two estranged neighbours who fought three wars and a limited one in Kargilover Kashmir. This is evident from over 250,000 cables released by Wikileaks last month that mention the correspondence between US officials in India and Pakistan with the US state department over a range of issues, including cross LoC shelling, militant camps in Pakistan and Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK), militant threats in Kashmir and US officials statement that Kashmir solution may end Pak establishment’s support to Taliban.
Perhaps, the first cable of 2005 released by the Wikileaks says that India provided information related to the militant camps in Pakistan and Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) to a US diplomats.
In the diplomatic cable, the US ambassador to India said that the MEA Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) Arun K Singh on January 12 showed two US officials-PolCouns and Poloffs information on the locations and size of eight militant camps located in Pakistan and Pakistani Kashmir.
The cable quotes Singh as having told the US officials that the militant groups- Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LET) .Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), Hizbul-Mujahidin (HM),Hizbi-Islami, Al-Jihad and Muslim Janbaz Force, Al Barq and Tehreek-e-Jehad-e-Islami, Harakat-ul-Mujahidin (HUM) Al-Badr were running camps where hundreds of militants were being trained.
“The MEA obviously hopes we will use this information to further pressure President Musharraf on cross-border infiltration. Mission would appreciate Washington’s perspective on the veracity of this data,” the then US ambassador David Mulford wrote to the US government.
Not just militant activity, but the ceasefire violations along the fragile Line of Control (LoC) that divides the two parts of erstwhile Kashmir also finds mention in the diplomatic cables. Three out of four secret cables sent to Washingtonin January alone discussed cross-LoC shelling and its implications.
A secret cable sent by the former United States Ambassador to India told the US state department on January 19, 2005 that New Delhi publicly downplayed the January 18, 2005 incident of artillery fire at the LOC, the first such case since guns fell silent in November 2003.
“Immediately following the incident, a 16th Corps spokesman in J&K gave Pakistan the benefit of the doubt, telling the press “we will not like to accuse the Pakistan Army, as we have to investigate first whether militants have fired from across the LOC”.
According to one theory, Islamabad was seeking to prevent India from recovering the bodies and finding out more about their origin and activities. While another theory suggested that it was an expression of disapproval by Pakistan over the lack of progress in the Baglihar dispute.
“However, the third and the most interesting theory, the diplomatic cable says came from Srinagar,where some journalists speculated that India might be behind the incident, in order to divert attention from the Baglihar case, after Pakistan on January reportedly formally approached the World Bank for mediation,” the cable reads.
Three days later, Mulfordpressed the panic button urging the US government to step in.
In a secret cable to Washington in 2005 after the cross LoC shelling incidents, the US Ambassador had urged the US government to issue firm statements condemning the shelling along the Line of Control, reaffirming support for the Composite Dialogue process between India and Pakistan.
Mulfordhad expressed concern over the instances of shelling on January 18 and 20 along the LoC saying the instances of shelling, if they do not stop, could spill over into the Composite Dialogue and negatively affect the broad sense of goodwill that exists in India for fixing relations with Pakistan.
“The LOC ceasefire is one of the most important achievements in the slow but steady Indo-Pak rapprochement process that began in mid-2003 with former PM Vajpayee’s ““Hand of Friendship”” speech, but without US engagement that accomplishment could soon founder,” Mulford had said.
However, the government of India had downplayed the isolated incidents giving Islamabad benefit of doubt.In both the incidents, Mulford had said that 82mm shells, an armament not known to be part of the militants’ arsenal was reportedly involvedcreating suspicion over the claims of Pakistan Army that they were not involved.
The cable quoted the MEA Joint Secretary AK Singh (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran) saying US diplomat Polcouns, that he was not yet ready to blame Islamabad for the resumption of shelling.
In another secret cable sent on January 27, Mulford informed the US government about the meeting of between Deputy Chief of US missionin India, Robert O Blake and the India’s Foreign SecretaryShyam Saran. Saran, the cable says had assured the US diplomat that cross-LoC shelling incidents would not impede the on-going Indo-Pak Composite Dialogue.
“He (Saran) reported that the GOI and GOP DGMOs had discussed the matter and agreed that the situation on the LOC needed to be improved. Since then, Saran concluded, things had stabilized and all was “”quiet for now.”” Mulford had said in the cable.
India had agreed to withdraw more troops from Jammu and Kashmir following significant improvement along the Line of Control (LoC), a year after both the countries declared ceasefire.
After his meeting with India’s foreign secretary, Blake had sent a secret cable to the state department informing them about the meeting between MEA Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran) Arun K. Singh and told US diplomats PolCouns and Poloff on November 19. Singh, the cable says, had told the US officials that more Indian troop redeployments and other Indo-Pak progress are “only natural” if cross-border terrorism and infiltration by Pakistan remain low.
The cable says that Singh shared with PolCouns a list of 98 suggestions India put forward for Indo-Pak cooperation, which also indicates areas of Pakistani inaction or delay. Singh stated that 13 CBMs were agreed, India has enacted 20 unilaterally, 20 are under discussion, and that Islamabad has not responded to the rest.
“Singh also indicated a more flexible position on an Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline as part of a “wide trade context” for energy relations by declaring that Pakistani MFN status for India would be welcome but not mandatory,” the cable adds.
In another cable released by Wikileaks, it has been said that the former Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister and senior Congress leader, GhulamNabi Azad and his supporters in the party had attempted to place significant pressure on the Prime Minister not to meet Mufti’s demands of troop withdrawal from the state.
“Azad came to New Delhi to meet with the PM on March 21, publicly arguing that withdrawing early would reverse the progress the security services have made in the Valley.
He also adopted the line that demilitarization must be agreed upon by “all political parties” in J&K, and that nobody should “be allowed to hijack the issue.”Mulford had said in a cable titled “People’s Democratic Party wins public battle over Jammu and Kashmir demilitarization,” says the cable.
The cable says that Mufti came to Delhi several times at the end of March 2007–and at Prime Minister Singh’s request–as a last-ditch effort to repair the fragile alliance of convenience between the Congress Party and People’s Democratic Party in J&K.
On March 19 Sonia Gandhi held a Congress Party meeting declaring that Singh must do everything in his power to keep the PDP-Congress coalition in J&K going.
The cable adds that Defense Minister Antony, J&K Chief Minister Azad, and the Indian security services all signalled their concern with any form of troop withdrawal, replacement, or demilitarization in the near term, but Singh nonetheless has reportedly taken up the topic with his innermost circle.
“It appears for the time being that Mufti has won this latest battle over the hearts, minds, and sentiments of those in the Kashmir Valley. Indeed, our interlocutors say PDP manufactured the crisis either to steal the issue and any eventual credit from the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) or to force early elections because of PDP’s fear that moderate separatists may steal its votes if they join the political fray,” former US ambassador had said.
The opposition BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP), the diplomatic cable says had capitalized on the opportunity to cast scorn on Congress’s discussions with the PDP.
“According to the media, the BJP was alarmed by reports of “troop relocation” within J&K, which military sources reportedly said were routine. BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar grumbled, “The question arises where the new relocation and fortification is taking place.” He stressed that political expediency should not “lead to a dilution of critical security considerations” in the troubled state,” reads the cable.
The cable says that VHP leader Ashok Singhalseesthe troops in Kashmir as necessary to secure the “release” of those areas and their integration into J&K–and India.
According to the cable, the PDP leader, Altaf Bukhari told US official Poloff on March 20 that his party was not askingfor India to withdraw its security forces from the Valley. Bukhari, the cable says told the official that PDP’s goal is to reduce the impact that these forces have on the everyday lives of Kashmiri civilians.
“He said while the replacement of Border Security Forces with Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF) began during Mufti Sayeed’s time as Chief Minister, the two forces were very similar because they have the same tactics and weaponry, they are accused of the same human rights abuses, and the CRPF is essentially a paramilitary force,” the cable said.
Former US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson had asked her government in 2008 to send both Islamabad and New Delhi a message recommending they reschedule the CBM talks and tone down unhelpful rhetoric.
According to a leaked cable titled “Kashmir line of control violations”, Patterson had said that Afghan and Indian accusations of Pakistani complicity in the July bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul and continued Pakistani suspicion over Indian activities in Afghanistan threaten to undermine progress in improving Indo-Pak ties.
The secret cable was sent by the US Ambassador to the state department amid reports that the Indians had just cancelled the next round of CBM talks scheduled for July 18 in Islamabad.
“Resolving the Kashmir dispute, which lies at the core of Pakistan’s support for terrorist groups, would dramatically improve the situation. Enhanced United States government (USG) efforts in this regard should be considered,” Former US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson had told the US state department in a secret cable titled “Kashmir solution may end Pak establishment support to Taliban” in 2009.
Patterson had said that US needs to reassess Indian involvement in Afghanistan and the US policies towards India, including the growing military relationship through sizable conventional arms sales, as all of this feeds Pakistani establishment paranoia and pushes them closer to both Afghan and Kashmir-focused militant groups while reinforcing doubts about U.S. intentions.
“Most importantly, it is the perception of India as the primary threat to the Pakistani state that colors its perceptions of the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s security needs. The Pakistani establishment fears a pro-India government in Afghanistan would allow India to operate a proxy war against Pakistan from its territory. Justified or not, increased Indian investment in, trade with, and development support to the Afghan government, which the USG has encouraged, causes Pakistan to embrace Taliban groups all the more closely as anti-India allies,” the former Ambassador had said in the cable.
The US had also expressed concern over the political and stability gains made in the region in view of increased militant activity in the Kashmir.
“On the plus side, the Defense Minister unveiled a few more confidence building measures, and Kashmir policy became consolidated under the more forward leaning Home Minister P.C. Chidambaram after the exit of National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan, who played a dominant, conservative and often obstructive role in GOI policy on Kashmir. Potential setbacks to the prospects for restoring peace and stability in the state, however, were more troubling,” the cable read.