“A host of wandering Talib-ul-ilums, who correspond with the theological students in Turkey and live free at the expense of the people…….” – Winston Churchill, 1898 1. The present ongoing conflict in Pakistan’s tribal belt and in Afghanistan has serious security implications for India. The Mehsuds, Wazirs and Afridis were the tribals used by the Pakistan Army in 1947-48 to attack the state of Jammu and Kashmir, leading to occupation of what is now called the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). The Pakistan Army again used them before and during the war of 1965. Zia-ul-Haq used them for suppressing a Shia revolt in Gilgit in 1988. The same elements were again used to infiltrate into Kargil, leading to Kargil War. 2. If the US and other NATO forces fail to prevail over these Terrorist Tribesmen in the Pakistan-Afghanistan tribal belt, these tribesmen, fresh from their victories in that region, would move over to Kashmir to resume their aggression against India. What we are now seeing in Kashmir is the beginning of the end of one phase of the aggression involving Terrorists of the 1980s vintage. We might see the beginning of a new phase involving better-trained and better-motivated Terrorists of the latest stock. 3. The tribal belt of Pakistan and Afghanistan was the chess board of the ‘Big Game’ played between colonial powers. The British established ‘Durand Line” demarcating the tribal areas which could not be governed. The British encouraged raising and maintenance of militia in FATA and NWFP, so as to thwart the Russian designs in South Asia, especially India. The area was kept as a buffer to the Russian empire which had reached up to modern Uzbekistan. 4. The militia tribesmen of FATA and NWFP, after the departure of British from the subcontinent, were utilised operationally for the first time by Pakistan in 1947 against India. This strategy highlighted the advantage of utilising non state actors as means of aggression. The tribal invasion of 1947 resulted in occupation of approximately 35% of J & K by Pakistan. 5. Approximately 70,000 tribesmen attacked India in 1947 and were driven back up to LOC till ceasefire agreement in 1948. These tribesmen after the attack dispersed back into tribal areas of FATA and NWFP. The tribal populace thereafter supported and participated in the resistance movement confronting the Soviets in Afghanistan. The Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1988, and full attention of these insurgent tribes was shifted to India. The existence of these elements in the FATA and NWFP was not given due consideration by India till late 1980’s when insurgency erupted in J & K. In past, the tribal militia had no name, but now to keep pace with the media and generate support, the tribesmen have assigned names/nomenclature to their organisations; the most prominent nomenclature amongst all of them being the Taliban. 6. The Taliban is an ideology which majority of insurgent groups find easy to imbibe. The various warring tribes in FATA and NWFP have come under a common umbrella of Taliban ideology in recent years.
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