Funding violence in India and Pakistan

Wednesday 19 February 2003, by DAILY TIMES

According to reports from India, the jihad in Indian-held Kashmir is being internationally funded by expatriate Kashmiris, and Muslims in general who sympathise with the Kashmiri people and are offended by the atrocities committed by the Indian army in the region over the last 12 years.

According to Indian intelligence sources, the Pakistani share in this funding is minuscule, only 10 to 25 per cent. The total amount that comes in from international charities and support groups annually is estimated to be around four to five billion Indian rupees. To counter the Kashmiri movement and try to win hearts and minds as well, India ends up spending nearly Rs 450 billion annually on its troops, security agencies, relief, rehabilitation, compensation and infra-structural repair and development. This is about 100 times as much money as that spent by the insurgents.

This cost-benefit ratio is ominous. It reveals the real odds that would continue to confront India even if Pakistan were to stop abetting cross-border infiltration. The Punjab insurrection in India in the 1980s, on the contrary, was poor in funding sources. Sikh militant organisations were perennially strapped for cash and had to plunder the population in the state to keep themselves going, which resulted in their losing credibility and standing among a community otherwise alienated from New Delhi. The Sikh diaspora was in fact not able to contribute funds to their "Khalistan" movement back home as effectively as the Kashmiri-Muslim diaspora has done for the freedom movement in Kashmir. According to Indian reports, the jihadi organisations are so well-heeled that they don’t have to lean on the local Kashmiri population for their sustenance. While ideologically demanding in certain cases, they normally pay for any boarding and lodging facilities they seek. What is bad news for India is that an economically dysfunctional region is being provided with a crucial injection of "international" funds while India is having to offset the disadvantage by spending as much money as Pakistan’s yearly budget.

On the Pakistani side, things are no better. In Azad Kashmir regular bombing from the Indian side of the border has destroyed the subsistence agriculture that existed in the border regions in the past. But despite efforts from Pakistan - under international pressure - militant infiltration across the Line of Control (LoC) cannot be altogether stopped because sections of the local population now rely on "fees" for working as "guides", "porters", "procurers", etc for the jihad being waged in Kashmir. In Pakistan too money is being received from abroad by organisations banned by Islamabad. How this money is spent is anybody’s guess. Nor is all this money going into Kashmir. According to an estimate that appeared in the British press, one "banned" organisation in Pakistan received two million pounds from the UK in one year alone, and much of it came from Muslims living on social security. The leader of the said organisation is known to have acquired expensive properties all over Pakistan ostensibly for the purpose of extending his "educational" facilities across the country.

Pakistan seems to be fighting a losing battle against militancy, somewhat like India. It all started back in the 1990s when sectarianism was backed by competitive funding from abroad. The militants were better armed than the local police and had money enough to create vested interests in the population. The linkages developed by the now-banned jihadi organisations in Afghanistan were also anointed with copious Arab funds. Benazir Bhutto has claimed that her political opponent Nawaz Sharif actually received funds from Osama bin Laden to help get rid of her and defeat her party at the polls. Also, the operations of Al Qaeda in Pakistan are so well funded that the localities harbouring such terrorists are loath to report them for fear of losing the money they receive from them. That is how the supra-nation-state doctrine of jihad actually persuades the population to go against the law of the land without any compunction. Because of this generous external funding in an otherwise recessive economy, the seminaries in Pakistan are doing roaring business. This year the Deobandi "madrassas" headquartered in Karachi have inducted a record number of pupils and turned back thousands because of lack of space. This growth industry has now spread to Barelvi and Shia seminaries too where inductions have broken all old records.

Both India and Pakistan are in trouble. India accuses Pakistan of stoking the trouble in Kashmir, but the pattern of funding going into the region is increasingly beyond the control of either India or Pakistan. In fact, a part of this money has weakened the hold of the state of Pakistan over its own population. Looking at the continuing wave of terrorism in Pakistan, it is difficult to say which out of the two countries is suffering more. What India and Pakistan need is not mutually damaging policies that benefit the militants and the terrorists, but sufficient bilateral normalisation to discuss the problem seriously. For that to happen, they have to engage in talks without preconditions, which means that India must understand the problem of "cross-border" infiltration also in light of the funding that Kashmiri militants receive from all over the world. India needs to realise that what they have in Kashmir is a dangerous global investment in militancy that cannot be ended by merely killing the Kashmiris; and that, like the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka, it can spread to the rest of India.

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