| (From left) Union ministers of state for home and defence Swami Chimayanand and Chaman Lal Gupta enquire about a child injured in the Vaishno Devi blast, at a Jammu hospital on Tuesday. (PTI)
New Delhi, July 22: Opinion is divided on Pakistan’s role in the back-to-back strikes in Jammu but the government has no doubt that militants are bent on wrecking chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s success in bringing Kashmir back on track.
One section in Delhi believes that no terrorist strike is possible in Kashmir without a go-ahead from Islamabad or the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
But another group argues that Pakistan stands to gain little by scuttling Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s peace initiative, and will not do anything at this point to derail India’s step-by-step formula. President Pervez Musharraf knows that the US and the rest of the world are watching the subcontinent. Vajpayee had stressed that his peace overture came with a rider: terrorism would have to stop.
These officials say that rogue elements within the ISI, who are opposed to any peace move with India, might have a hand in the twin attacks. The other view is that some separatist groups, armed and trained by Pakistan, are now no longer under the ISI’s direct control and are operating independently.
“Pakistan is quite desperate for talks and knows that a major terrorist attack will disrupt the entire process. Musharraf cannot afford it at this time when he needs to convince the US of his sincerity,” a senior North Block official said. “I’m not saying Pakistan has abandoned its policy of sponsoring terrorism but tactically it suits Musharraf to ask the terrorist groups to lie low for now.”
This section also points out the involvement of Kashmir’s home-grown militant outfit, the Hizb-ul Mujahideen, in the Katra blast last night. The Hizb is supporting sidelined Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Shah Geelani because it feels that the outfit will now take a “soft” stand and could be willing to do business with India.
But the hardliners in the home ministry are convinced Islamabad is behind the attacks. “There is no question that Pakistan is involved in these attacks, peace initiative or not. It is a calibrated response from Islamabad but it has not given up its strategy of trying to bleed India on Kashmir by launching terror attacks here,’’ a senior home ministry official said. “It is only when these covert operations begin hurting Pakistan that they will stop.”
Hardliners say they were expecting militants to step up attacks mainly because neither the separatist outfits nor Pakistan can afford to allow Kashmir to return to normality. With tourists once again heading for the Valley and business taking off, people’s attention is gradually being diverted from militancy.
“This is a dangerous trend so far as the separatists and the ISI are concerned. Militancy cannot survive without a disgruntled population and the Mufti government’s healing touch is taking people’s mind off the violence,” one official said.