Islamic militants fighting Indian forces in Kashmir will declare war on Pakistan if it weakens its traditional support for their jihad, their senior leader has warned.
By Dean Nelson, New Delhi
Syed Salahuddin, leader of the United Jihad Council, an umbrella group of Kashmiri militant groups which includes the Lashkar e Taiba, said they had been fighting “Pakistan’s war in Kashmir” but Islamabad now cares more about trade than jihad.
“We (militants) are fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir and if it withdraws its support, the war would be fought inside Pakistan,” he said in an interview with the Arab News.
His threat emerged as India and Pakistan’s leaders prepare for talks in Islamabad on Monday on proposals to withdraw their troops from the disputed Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battlefield close to the Line of Control which divides Kashmir.
Salahuddin and other Kashmiri militant leaders fear Pakistan’s leaders will withdraw its long-standing support for the military strikes against Indian forces in Kashmir as part of its diplomatic campaign to reduce trade barriers and ease movement between the old enemies.
Pakistan’s readiness to grant ‘Most-Favoured Nation’ trading status to India and the opening of new ‘cross-border’ trade routes in Kashmir had sent a message to insurgent leaders like his Hizbul Mujahideen that “Pakistan wants business with India.” Pakistan has long used group’s like Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar e Toiba as part of its proxy war with India over control of Kashmir, with military protection for their training camps in ‘Azad’ or ‘Free’ Kashmir.
India accused elements within Pakistan’s security establishment of aiding the Kashmiri terrorist group Lashkar e Taiba when it plotted and launched its 2008 ‘fidayeen’ commando raid on Mumbai in which more than 160 were killed. Salahuddin’s forces played a key role in the 1999 Kargil war when militants and Pakistani forces captures positions inside Indian Kashmir.
Some support for the militants was withdrawn under the former military ruler General Musharraf under international pressure following the 9/11 attacks on the United States, but Salahuddin fears what support remains will now be traded for increased business with India.
“Kashmir has been the key issue but now it has become peripheral as all claims of supporting our struggle politically, diplomatically and morally are nothing but lip service,” he said.
Talks with India, however, were doomed to failure, he said, because New Delhi “is not serious” about peace and only interested in buying “more and more time to implement its own design for the region,” he said.