By Zahid Iqbal Shah
Al Qaida is a Salafist, militant Sunni Islamist multi-national organization. During the Afghan war against the Soviet invasion, foreign Muslims came to help the Afghan Mujahideen. Many international Muslim organizations facilitated these foreigners in training, travel and other things, Maktab-al-Khidmat (MAK) was among the prominent ones. This organization or the “Services Office” was established in Peshawar 1984 and was led by leaders like bin Osama Bin Laden and Abdullah Yousuf Azzam. According to Wright, Al Qaida was formed in 11 August 1988 by Arab billionaire Osama bin Laden but it only gained power and popularity after the death of Azzam and fragmentation of MAK in 1989. The main motive of Al Qaida was to organize funds for the Jihadist movement in Afghanistan. Towards the end of the Soviet-Afghan war, after failing to make any notable difference in the war, the foreign recruits of Al Qaida wanted to expand their actions throughout the globe. It was decided to help all the Islamic militants’ movements going around the world with arms, money and men. Coincidently in the same period, militant movement began to crop up. If conspiracy theorists are to be believed, Al Qaida leaders having full faith in Pakistan, which recently had helped to defeat Soviet Union, decided not to indulge in Kashmir issue.
Recently, the local as well as the Indian media has been abuzz with the news of Al Qaida setting up its network in Kashmir. Historically, many foreigners have fought alongside the Kashmiri militants but only at individual levels. No militant organization which isn’t either local or Pakistan based has ever been traced in Kashmir. There are political, geographical, strategic and social reasons which won’t ever allow any foreign militant organization to thrive in Kashmir. If at all Al Qaida decides to fight the Indian army in Kashmir, the first thing that must bother Al-Qaida is that since it is foreign organization, how would it bring its men to Kashmir? The religious ideology of Al Qaida is salafiyat and salafis are in minority in Kashmir. Moreover the salafis of Kashmir are strong Saudi supporters and Al Qaida considers Saudi government as illegitimate and a puppet of the United States ,even advocating jihad against it.
Although Kashmir has a good foreign tourist flow but when it comes to tourists of Muslim nations, India has a very restrictive visa policy, making it almost impossible to bring foreign fighters this way. The other and only option is to cross the border . Indian administered Kashmir shares border with Indian main land, Pakistan and China. There has never been any presence of Al Qaida in India and China and both the government are very hostile towards any such militant group. The only possible route is from Afghanistan to Kashmir via Pakistan. Under the current tense situation at the LoC, it’s not possible for anyone to dodge both Indian and Pakistani army and cross this fenced line. Even, if they manage to gather fighters, local or foreign, they will have to arm themselves satisfactorily. For any militant organization to thrive at any place there must be either a supportive neighboring nation (e.g. Pakistan in case of Kashmir) or the government of the country must be so loose that private arms dealers can trade freely (like Syria and Iraq). The Pakistan government has a policy of supporting only those militant outfits in valley, supports its stand on Kashmir. Supporting an international militant organization (declared terrorist organization even by Muslim countries) will only weaken the Kashmir issue and bring the diplomatic trouble for Pakistan. India has a very firm grip on both administration as well as security in Kashmir and sneaking in weapons on large scale would not be an easy job.
Given the scenario the only way for Al-Qaida to flourish in Kashmir is to obtain the help and goodwill of Indian state or vice-versa. India will be the only beneficiary if Al Qaida starts operations in Kashmir. It will divide Kashmiris internally and also help India at international level. . It can also give foreigners the safe passage and weapons too, like it did in case of Ikhwan. To give it a special color India can bring men from Afghanistan as it’s in good relations with Afghan agencies. It can also use local moulvis and employ them to create a public consent. Social media can also be used to manufacture the consent. India has enough reasons to wish and support an outfit like Al-Qaida in Kashmir. In the final analysis, logically there is only one possibility for Al Qaida to flourish in Kashmir and that’s with India’s help and blessings..
—The author is a student at the Department of Political Science, University of Kashmir. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org