India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad. The Covert War in Kashmir, 1947-2004

Ashish Saxena

This is a book on Asian security studies with the scholarship on the security issues affecting the region. The work is a collection of marvelous piece of non-accessible information about the troubling state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), especially the security aspect. Eight chapters of the book chronologically explore the history of jihadist groups in Jammu and Kashmir, documenting the course of their activities and their changing character from 1947 to 2004. Through explorations of the jihadis activities in the region, Swami investigates how the circumstances and outside world contributes towards the aggravation of the security problem in the state of J&K. His main research questions are: How jihadist violence was not, as is widely assumed, a phenomenon that manifested itself in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir only after 1988? It further investigates how a welter of jihadist groups waged a sustained campaign against Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir from the outset, after the partition of India? Finally, the core of the work is a history of the use of terrorism by the forces of the jihad in Jammu and Kashmir, and the relationship of these forces with the two nation-state, India and Pakistan.

Drawing on new material, including classified Indian intelligence dossiers and records, Praveen Swami thus shows history of the secret storm that swirled around the state, the long jihad that has been fought in Jammu and Kashmir from 1947 till date. In this connection, this book first analyses the ideology and practices of Islamist terrorism as it changed and evolved from 1947-1948 onwards. Regarding this it is specified that this jihad did not arise as a consequence of the dramatic events, which transfigured what, is sometimes called the Muslim World in the third quarter of the twentieth century. It commenced, instead, in 1947, within weeks of the birth of India and Pakistan and decades before the Iranian revolution. Most of the protagonists of the long jihad were deeply entwined with the state structure of both India and Pakistan: the military and covert apparatus of the two states, their geo-strategic fortunes, their ideological concerns and their existential anxieties. Author is here of the opinion that very few people have actually touched the origin and structures of the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan. Further Swami pointed the paucity of literature on the intellectual development of the Islamist far Right in India and also on the development of the jihad as a modern way and its evolution across space and time (except Y.Sikand) and which this work attempts to supplements.

The beauty of the book lies in presenting a new map of Jammu and Kashmir, a re-drawing of events with the jihad. It traces the long jihad through several distinct phases. The first phase began with the war of 1947-48 and continued until the early 1960s, waged by small group of Pakistan backed covert operatives, whose principal objective was to bring pressure to bear on political processes in Indian-administered Kashmir. Nehru, appropriately, described this as "an informal war". From the early 1960's to the mid-1960s, the informal war acquired greater momentum and structure with the emergence of the second phase of the jihad. Led by what came to be known as the Master Cell and its subsidiary covert organizations, this second phase of the activity was intended to create the conditions for a mass rebellion in Jammu and Kashmir, and was informed by both expressly Islamist notions of jihad and emerging Pakistani military doctrines on sub-conventional warfare. After Indian counter-intelligence eliminated the master cell, the lessons learned from its failure were applied to a third phase of the jihad and manifested in Al-Fatah, a group that thrived from the late 1960s until the war of 1971.

National Liberation Front ran the fourth phase of the long jihad. And the fifth phase of the jihad was fought outside of Jammu and Kashmir itself. It was this phase of the jihad that led to the events witnesses after 1989-1990: a sub-conventional war fought under the cover of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. In brief, this books thus speaks about the four India-Pakistan wars - of 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and 1999, that constituted a defining historical moment that both shaped the course of the long jihad and was in turn influenced by its unfolding. It is also affirmed that the social, economic, political and ideological forces far larger than the jihad itself indisputably contributed to that cataclysmic event. It is also reflected in the subsequent chapters that how the lack of confidence and coordination between state rulers and the center leads to complexities and miseries in the Jammu and Kashmir state. In order to supplement the debate, author even tried to highlight an ignored narrative thread in the history of those events. It would not be wrong to remark that author's profession, as a journalist, gave him considerable access to documents and participants in conflict.

At the end, Swami has raised a very pertaining question regarding the India's position and strategy to end terrorism and maintain peace. The book ends up with an optimistic viewpoint that a resolution of the multiple crisis and conflicts which together constitute what we call the Kashmir conflict may be years or even decades in future. Bringing an end to the long jihad offers the best prospect of ensuring that there at least remains a place where a conflict may one day be solved (p217-18).

The main merit of this book is the classified Indian intelligence dossiers and records, which give authenticity to the generalizations. The author has done the work systematically but the chapter titles are more journalistic and the content is more esoteric. It will appeal to specific readers having knowledge about the state. In sum, this volume is appealing and apposite for the reader on security issues especially on Asian security studies. Nonetheless, the book is an achievement of sort for academicians and policy makers interested in the field of security and peace, India-Pakistan conflict and South-Asian politics.


Ashish Saxena is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Jammu. His research interest includes Community & Identity studies, rural studies and subaltern studies, in India, especially Jammu and Kashmir.


Mailing Address: Department of Sociology, University of Jammu, Jammu-180006, J&K (India). [email:]


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