Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Go to jail or join jihad against India: ISI tells surrendered Taliban

NEW DELHI: In a new shift in tactics, Pakistan is planning to push as many as 60 "surrendered" Taliban into Jammu and Kashmir to become part of the "jihad" against India.

The ISI is said to have offered the extremists the option of either going to jail or crossing the Line of Control.

The "jail or jihad" option offered to the Taliban seems a useful diversion for ISI. The Pakistan military establishment has had to fight the Taliban, once its close allies in Afghanistan, but is looking to turn the situation to its advantage.

Apprehensions in Indian security circles that the crackdown by the Pakistan army on Taliban — seen as a last resort after the jihadis turned their guns on the Pakistani state — could mean trouble in Kashmir are being proved correct. Not only have infiltration attempts by regular jihadi outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba gone up, the presence of Taliban poses a new threat.

Highly placed sources said BSF and the Army had been alerted about the developments after intelligence intercepted talk about infiltration bids in the next 15 to 20 days.

"Although the Taliban is yet to successfully infiltrate into India, the coming days will pose a challenge as their attempts to sneak in are expected before the onset of winter," said a senior official. The infiltration is closely controlled and monitored by the ISI and Pakistan army which is often involved in the crossings.

The issue cropped up as a major security concern during the two-day visit to Srinagar by a high-powered central team led by cabinet secretary K M Chandrashekhar and comprising home secretary G K Pillai, defence secretary Pradeep Kumar and other senior officials.

Top security and intelligence officials deliberated over the move by state actors in Pakistan to utilize the Taliban for their objectives in Kashmir. Taking note of the assessment, officials are learnt to have unequivocally noted during the reviews in Srinagar that there was no change in Pakistan's support to terror groups post 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

The Taliban, who recently fought against Pakistan army in Swat Valley and other areas along the Pak-Afghan border, were well trained and battle-hardened. They could put their experience of fighting US troops to use in Kashmir.

Apart from the group of 60, there are nearly 250 to 300 jihadis — armed with sophisticated weapons, Thuraya satellite phones and Indian mobile SIM cards — poised at launch pads along LoC. This feeds into the view that violence could escalate in J&K in the winter months.

The meeting in Srinagar, attended by senior Army and paramilitary personnel, also took note of repeated use of Pakistani Air Force helicopters to evacuate injured infiltrators along the LoC and as many as 42 terror camps in PoK and Pakistan.

"Such incidents (like use of choppers) clearly show the involvement of Pakistani authorities in facilitating infiltration. Though our forces are fully alert to thwart Pakistani designs, the next 15-20 days are quite crucial as this is the period when they will do everything to infiltrate as many terrorists as possible," said a senior official. That is when winter will begin to set in.


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