Former army chief General Shankar Roychowdhury said the government should step up aid efforts in Kashmir and reassure people there that India will remain a secular democracy as the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan is likely to trigger a renewed offensive by Pakistan-based terrorists.
The retired general, who commanded 16 corps in Kashmir in the early 1990s at the height of the state’s militancy, and later in the same decade became army chief when the Taliban last ruled Kabul, believes Pakistan, strengthened due to the Taliban’s recent victory, “will make a new bid for Kashmir” with the help of groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed.
He also said India should reach out to both former Afghan government forces gathering around Ahmad Massoud, the son of the late anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, in Panjshir Valley, and to factions within the Taliban that are kinder to India.
“We need to step up our outreach to Kashmiris, we also need to reassure them that India will remain a secular democracy,” General Roychowdhury, who currently heads a strategic think tank Research Center for Eastern and Northeastern Studies, told PTI. in an interview.
The central government had revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and split the former state into two separate areas of the Union, while most of the Kashmiri leaders were detained. Since then, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attempted to contact and hold talks with Kashmir’s political leaders earlier this year.
“We need to understand that the victory in Afghanistan (by terror groups) is seen as a Pakistani victory and an Indian defeat… We need to organize for a renewed offensive by elements like the JeM,” said General Roychowdhury, a veteran of the wars. of 1965 and 1971 in addition to operations against the insurgency in the country.
“We must be prepared for Pakistani intentions (covert operations), supported by radical elements here,” he added.
During the period when the Taliban came to power in the mid-1990s, India steadfastly refused to do business with the regime that saw it as a brutal proxy for the Pakistani military. It continued to support the remnants of the Afghan government and later the Northern Alliance, helping them with training and supplies.
The hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Kabul by four Pakistani terrorists was made possible with the cooperation of the Taliban regime. India traded three top terrorists, including Maulana Masood Azhar, founder of JeM, for passengers and crew members of that plane.
A study published last week by the French think tank Center d’analyse du terrorism (Centre for Analysis of Terrorism) warned of the renewed possibility of “more operational coordination between Pakistan-backed groups such as the Lashkar e Toiba and JeM (on the one hand).” and the Taliban”.
The former army chief said: “We should try to help the son of Ahmad Shah Masood (guerrilla leader nicknamed Lion of Panjshir). The non-Pashtun minorities such as Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras have had good relations with us….Taliban also has many factions and it shouldn’t be difficult to contact them.”
General Roychowdhury also said India’s role in Afghanistan should be to provide training, relief supplies and most importantly, refuge to those who need it. “The people of Afghanistan remain our friends and we must be willing to accommodate them,” he said.
At the same time, however, it is necessary to strengthen security and create a “fortress India” as a protection against operations against India.
The former army chief said it was unwise to send Indian troops to bolster U.S. and allied forces in holding Afghanistan, which had emerged over the past two decades “because we (the Indian military) had no resources to bolster or except by air, and that route was fraught with great danger”.
He also warned that while Prime Minister Modi and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina were on good terms, opposition forces in Bangladesh, including “the whole radical set-up”, would be revived by the Taliban victory and “this opportunity don’t let it pass.”
There has been concern in India’s security community over the possibility that Jamaat-Ul-Mujahideen, Bangladesh will call on released Bengali Taliban fighters and expand their activities in that country and neighboring Indian states.
He also said: “We must reach out to like-minded people in this subcontinent to counter the spread of the ideology associated with the Taliban.”