India’s politicians would do well to note that insurgency in Kashmir is the outcome of a well planned strategy of the Pakistan army, for the past three decades. In April 1988 – just before his death in a plane crash – General Zia ul Haq, outlined a strategy for his military and intelligence agencies, that would help Pakistan wrest Kashmir from India in a phased manner. This was code named ‘Op-Topac’ (inspired by perhaps a 16th Century Peruvian, Tupac Amaru, who fought against Spanish conquerors). This was first articulated in a study by Maj. Gen. Afsir Karim, but found few takers in Delhi. Zia’s plan was to improve upon Pakistan’s botched attempt of 1965 to capture Kashmir, under Op-Gibraltar.
For Pakistan, obtaining Kashmir — essentially the Valley — has always been a central unifying force (more than even Islam, the basis of its foundation). Also, it provides a purpose to its military and intelligence agencies, and various proxy groups that they nurture. And so ‘Op-Topac’ (not Topaz as some call it) has become the longest running military operation of the Pak army.
Gen. Zia’s aim was to run a quasi-military operation, in three phases as follows. In phase 1, to have a low-level insurgency in Kashmir, while still allowing the local government to function, so that central rule is not imposed by New Delhi. It would also see Pakistani sympathisers subvert the police forces, financial institutions and other government organisations along with regular anti-India student and youth-led rioting to prepare Kashmir for secession and a Pakistani led takeover of the Valley.
In Phase 2, as Kashmir remained on the boil, Pakistan would exert military pressure on the Indian army on the LoC, leading the Indian army to deploy the bulk of its troops along the line of control and into Siachen glacier. This was to be followed with attacks on key military cantonments and posts along the LoC so that Indian army begins to ignore the turmoil in the Valley. Pakistan would then cut off the Kashmir Valley and it’s airfields, tunnels and highways to prevent an Indian response.And finally, in Phase 3, Pakistan will target the liberation of the Kashmir Valley, by having created a mini-Islamic state in the Valley. This has been an ongoing process. Pakistan’s drive to turn Kashmiris away from their centuries old culture of syncretic Sufism by replacing it with hardline Wahhabi Islam has had considerable success,and though noticeable, it was passively allowed by political parties in Kashmir.
Gen. Zia was hopeful that Pakistan’s long standing aim of liberating Kashmir would be achieved in a few years and in double quick time, when he articulated this strategic game plan in 1988, because a large number of Indian army’s fighting units were battling the Tamil insurgents in Sri Lanka in 1988-89.He expected Indian troops to stay there much longer, but they returned in March 1990, about the time the insurgency in Kashmir finally took off and hit Delhi in its face.
Being conversant with the contours of ‘Op-Topac’ the security forces have been responding effectively to Pakistan’s game plan. No wonder therefore, the insurgency has been brought under control at least thrice since it’s beginnings in early 1990’s. Unfortunately, those military gains have been frittered away by our politicians, both in Delhi and Srinagar, who have either been scrambling for solutions or are disinterested in stabilising the situation. It appears obvious that there are too many vested interests of people in power and those who have ambitions of playing the ‘Great Game that is Kashmir,’ and it is they who do not want this issue resolved, because it would stop the endless flow of funds not just from Delhi, but also from Islamabad, to those who claim to champion the Kashmir cause. Moreover, once the issue is resolved, it would make them politically irrelevant.
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