By Atul Aneja March 1: The revival of the 2003 ceasefire accord on February 25 along the Line of Control has driven a deeper wedge between Pakistan and the Kashmir militant groups affiliated with Al Qaeda.
Barely had the ink dried on the revival of the accord following a conversation and a joint statement to top military officials of the two countries to stop firing along the LoC, an Al Qaeda-affiliated group was off the blocks to condemn the move, and reaffirm its commitment to Kashmiri Jihad sans Islamabad.
In fact, it accused Pakistan of “backstabbing” the cause of Kashmiri independence.
“Whether we like it or not, both Pakistan and Indian states have mutually degraded the resistance movement in Kashmir and Pakistan has been long trying to settle for the status quo, hence backstabbing the Kashmir’s cause of independence,” a statement by an individual called Khalid, Commander Khalid, Islamic Emirate of Kashmir Mujahideen Ghazwat Ul Hind, read.
The Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind is an Islamic terrorist jihadi organisation and Al Qaeda cell that is active in Kashmir. It was formerly led by Zakir Rashid Bhat also called Zakir Musa, who saw himself as part of a global jihad, which include Kashmir. Given its international outlook, the group on December 7, 2017 the group released a statement that condemned then US President Donald Trump‘s declaration of moving the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
In the same month, a video was released where a Kashmiri militant declared allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and declared a new ISIL Province in Kashmir.
Zakir Musa is said to have joined the Sayeed Salahudin’s’s group Hizbul Mujahideen in 2013. He has been described as “part of a new generation of tech-savvy, well-educated militants” who became involved in the conflict after the 2010 Kashmir unrest, on the footsteps of Burhan Muzaffar Wani who was killed in 2016.
The statement said that since the tenure of former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, the gradual consolidation of man-made Line of Control has not only divided the people but also severely denting the armed movement inside Kashmir valley.
“The Pakistani/Afghanistani Muslim brothers have been unable to help their brothers inside the valley because of LoC. Therefore, we strongly condemn the recent meetings between the Indian and Pakistani army and castigate their resolve of ceasefire and unholy agreements.”
The group reaffirmed its “resolve of Jihad in Kashmir Valley” and pointed out that “by the grace Allah no LoC, no agreements, no ceasefire will stop us from waging a war against occupying Indian army in Kashmir”.
The consternation of hard-line terror groups such as, Islamic Emirate of Kashmir Mujahideen Ghazwat Ul Hind is not hard to explain.
The deal is likely to provide a major boost to the peace and development in Kashmir, as cross-border infiltration of terror groups was usually conducted under the cover of artillery barrages along the LoC by Pakistan. An end to violence in Kashmir in a post Article 370 scenario, and the elimination of the threat of two-front war is further expected to have positive impact on the badly strained Indo-Pakistan ties.
Unsurprisingly, the Hindustan Times is reporting that the February 25 joint statement could be the first of the many steps that New Delhi and Islamabad may take over the next few months to normalise relations, one step at a time.
The daily explains that the revival of the ceasefire agreement followed extensive back-channel diplomacy involving India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Moeed W. Yusuf, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan‘s special assistant on National Security Division and Strategic Policy Planning.
The two had been in direct touch and via interlocutors from the intelligence community. The joint statement is the first outcome of these conversations that included at least one face-to-face meeting between the two principals in a third country.
Apart from the terror groups, the agreement is also likely to disappoint China, Pakistan’s so-called “iron brother”, which has been benefiting from India-Pakistan rivalry to bond with Islamabad. The asymmetry and hostile relations with India has been a major factor, leading Pakistan to welcome the establishment of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which passes through the disputed Gilgit-Baltistan.
From an Indian perspective, the deal has largely averted the likelihood of a two-front war with China and its Pakistan. The danger of a two front war had arisen after India abrogated Article 370, eliminating the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019.
While a two-front war scenario did not materialise, China moved its forces en masse in eastern Ladakh since April 2020. The resulting standoff is now unravelling in patches, with the disengagement completed along the Pangong Tso lake.
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