India watches fearfully as jihadist insurgency spreads to Pakistani Punjab: Stratfor (Lead)

April 17th, 2009 - 2:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 17 (IANS) As India goes to the polls, it is “watching fearfully as the jihadist insurgency in neighbouring Pakistan has spread to India’s doorstep in Pakistan’s Punjab province,” says a leading intelligence group that warns of another terror attack in India soon.

“These attacks have revealed a trend in which the Kashmiri Islamist militant proxies formerly controlled by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency are now moving into the jihadist orbit under Al Qaeda and the Taliban to carry out more complex and deadly attacks,” US-based Stratfor said.

“Since these are the same militants who traditionally have had their sights on India, it is very likely that India will witness another large-scale attack,” the global intelligence company warned in its second quarter forecast.

American attempts to elicit cooperation from Pakistan through aid packages is unlikely to affect Islamabad’s behaviour significantly, it added.

Under Congress rule, India restrained itself from attacking Pakistan following the November 2008 Mumbai attack, it said, noting: “New Delhi’s restraint arose from fears of destabilising Pakistan further and granting the militants’ wish for a cross-border conflict to divert the Pakistani military’s attention from the Afghan-Pakistani border region toward India.”

“As the link between Islamabad and its militant proxies grows more nebulous, India will continue to struggle to hold the Pakistani government accountable for such attacks,” it said.

“Yet the gradual unravelling of command and control within the Pakistani military establishment has enabled many more of Islamabad’s Islamist militant proxies operating in Pakistan and India to team up with transnational jihadists to carry out deadlier and more strategically targeted attacks.”

Noting that opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) “is more hard-line on national security issues, and never misses an opportunity to accuse Congress of being soft on terrorism”, Stratfor said: “India is more likely to deliver a forceful response to future attacks should the BJP emerge victorious in these elections.

“That said, the BJP’s Hindu nationalist mantra has turned off many Indian voters, who see the party’s anti-Muslim rhetoric as fuel for the sectarian fire, and as a good recruiting tool for the indigenous Islamist militant movement in India.”

As to foreign relations, the subtleties between Congress and BJP are barely visible, Stratfor said, noting: “Both want to pursue a deeper, strategic partnership with the United States”.

The BJP made noises against the India-US civil nuclear deal simply because it was in the opposition at the time and needed an issue to hammer Congress.

Regardless of the party in power, India will maintain its traditional balancing act among its allies, including the United States, Russia and more controversial friends like Iran, the group said.

Meanwhile, the left-wing parties will use their political clout to try and sway the ruling party away from the United States, though they are unlikely to have much success in determining how New Delhi conducts its foreign relations.

Numerous issues presumably would inform the Indian vote, from the pains of the global economic crisis to the Islamist militant threat emanating from Pakistan, Stratfor said, but “populist politics and coalition scrambling will be the strongest influences on the final results”.

It also predicted that the “gap between US and Pakistani policy in managing the insurgency will become more evident in the coming weeks and months as Pakistan fends off US attempts to overhaul the Pakistani intelligence apparatus and makes agreements that undermine the writ of the Pakistani state in its northwest periphery”

Pakistan’s preference to avoid combat will allow Taliban forces to concentrate their attacks on the US and NATO supply routes that originate in the port of Karachi, Stratfor said.

The New York Times wrote Friday that the Taliban have advanced deeper into Pakistan by “engineering a class revolt that exploits profound fissures between a small group of wealthy landlords and their landless tenants”.

The success of this strategy in the Swat valley is raising alarm about the risks to Pakistan, which remains largely feudal, the daily said. The NYT cited analysts and other government officials as warning that the strategy executed in Swat is easily transferable to Punjab.

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