- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2000

On May 14, Ghulam Hassan Bhat, minister of state for power, and four others were killed in a powerful explosion in Srinagar, Kashmir.

The chairman of pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the assassination. The Indian Home Secretary, L.K. Advani, claimed that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was behind the assassination.

It is no secret that Pakistan's intelligence services are actively engaged in terrorizing India in Kashmir and elsewhere. According to Robert Marquand of the Christian Science Monitor, quoted in The Washington Times May 20, there is a new type of jihad warfare in Kashmir. This time, teen-age boys have become new recruits to Islamic militancy. "Moreover, the new militancy is incubating in a valley where regardless of whether individual Kashmiris support violence, and many do not the anti-Indian sentiment is nearly total." In the 10 years since the uprising in Kashmir, close to 60,000 lives have been taken. That, in fact, is more than U.S. troop deaths in Vietnam.

The recent assassination is part of a chain of events that includes the December 1999 hijacking of an Indian Airlines passenger plane flying from Katmandu, Nepal to Delhi. The assassination represents a new development among the different mujahideens. The group calls itself Jais-a-Mohammed (the army of Mohammed), and is led by an old Pakistani revolutionary, Azhar Maulana Mohd Masood. Mr. Masood was a professor at the Islamic University in Karachi, was imprisoned as a result of a 1993 operation in Pakistan, and has now been released in exchange for hostages in the Indian Airline hijacking. Now that he is free, Mr. Masood has combined two radical Islamic groups into a new party called Harkatul-Ansar.

This new type of militancy presents a serious problem for Indian society. The introduction of teen-agers who become suicide bombers is increasing the level of violence in Kashmir. Many of these children are students in Islamic schools whose parents are devout Muslims, which makes the situation more sensitive to deal with for the Indians.

Most of Azar Masood's group are Afghanis who were trained by the CIA to fight against the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a large number of them were trained by Pakistani intelligence, the ISI. We see here a tacit coalition between the Afghan Taleban and the radical Islam of Pakistan. This is a brew that can explode in the Indian Subcontinent and the rest of Central Asia. The State Department publication "Patterns of Global Terrorism 1999," published last month, analyses, among other things, "Areas of Concern." According to the report, Islamic terrorism has moved from the Middle East to South Asia. There, the major terrorist threat comes from Afghanistan, "which continues to be the primary safe haven for terrorists." "While not directly hostile to the United States, the Taleban, which controls the majority of Afghan territory, continues to harbor Osama Bin Laden and a host of other terrorists loosely linked to Bin Laden, who directly threaten the United States and others in the international community.

According to the report, Pakistan continues to send "mixed messages" on terrorism. The report is not clear on what "mixed messages" means, but according to the New York Times on April 30, South Asia has become a major terror hub. Michael A. Sheehan, the State Department coordinator for counterterrorism, argues that, "Pakistan was not added [as a terrorist state]" because although its record badly needs improvement, he said, "it is a friendly state that is trying to tackle the problem ." This is diplomatic gobbledygook. Mr. Sheehan's statement contradicts the facts. What happened during the last year in Kashmir refutes his claim that Pakistan "is trying to tackle the problem."

So long as the U.S. government is hostage to a Cold War mentality that Pakistan is our ally and refuses to include Pakistan in the list of terrorist-sponsoring governments, it is doubtful that the Pakistani government will take American anti-terrorism concerns seriously.

The spread of Islamic militancy to the former Soviet Union states of Central Asia is not referred to in the government report on terrorism. And yet, Kyrgyzstan has been influenced by Taleban and by revolutionary parties from Pakistan. In fact, Kyrgyzstan is well on its way to becoming the next hotbed of Islamic militancy in Central Asia. Next will be Uzbekistan, followed by Kazakhstan.

The rise of Islamic militancy in Central Asia will seriously impact the future of oil and gas business in the littoral states of the Caspian Sea. This should be a major strategic concern for the United States, which is deeply involved in the security and economics of Central Asia and the Caspian Sea states. We cannot dismiss the significance of the spread of Islamic education that is financed by Saudi Arabia and others. Islamic militancy is not a serious military force, but terrorism can discourage business groups and bring down fragile governments. Islamic terrorism is not an international conspiracy, but its rapid growth and development will seriously challenge American, Western, Indian and other states that are friendly to the United States in that area.

We should awaken to the fact that the Cold War is over and that Pakistan no longer behaves as an ally does. We had a common enemy with Pakistan in fighting Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. That is a matter of the past. There is no Soviet Union, India is no longer dominated by Jawaharlal Nehru's bureaucratic socialism, and Pakistan is dominated by a military leader who is not necessarily in control of his senior advisers, especially in the intelligence services. The fight against global terrorism must take into account state-sponsored terrorism, as in Pakistan, and the emergence of Islamic militancy that are of vital strategic and economic concern for the United States, Turkey and other allies.

Amos Perlmutter is a professor of political science and sociology at American University and editor of the journal of Strategic Studies.

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