India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), has long faced allegations of meddling in its neighbors’ affairs.
“India has always used Afghanistan as a second front against Pakistan. India has over the years been financing problems in Pakistan”, said Chuck Hage, the defense secretary (2013-2015), in a written speech at Oklahoma’s Cameron University in 2011. Chuck Hagel had served on the US Senate Intelligence Committee before becoming the Pentagon chief.
Since, Narendra Modi took over as the prime minister, RAW has stepped up its covert war against Pakistan. Prime Minister Modi appointed Ajit Doval, a well-known hawk, as his National Security Advisor. In the 1990s, Mr. Doval served as an undercover RAW agent in Pakistan for seven years. He had previously served as the director of the Intelligence Bureau in 2004-05. He is known for his anti-Pakistan approach.
Taking advantage of the critical situation at the Pak-Afghan border, India, in the garb reconstruction and rehabilitation projects in Afghanistan, has been using the Afghan soil for fuelling militancy in Pakistan’s Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) and the province of Baluchistan. RAW, through its agents in border areas got active in across Pakistan.
The interference is so blatant that the military leadership of Pakistan felt obliged to publically blame India for supporting terrorism in Pakistan. Following an important meeting of corps commanders held on May 5, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) issued a statement saying, “The conference took serious notice of RAW’s involvement in whipping up terrorism in Pakistan.”
The political government in Pakistan endorsed military commanders’ statement. Defense Minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif in a television interview termed RAW ‘an enemy organization’, saying it has been formed to undo Pakistan and to wipe Pakistan off the map of the world. Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry on May 14 claimed that RAW was involved in creating unrest in Pakistan. He further said that two culprits arrested in Karachi had been trained by RAW. He further said Pakistan would raise the issue on all international forums.
On their recent visit to Afghanistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and General Raheel Sharif asked the Afghan authorities to prevent RAW from creating unrest in Pakistan, said Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalil in his weekly press briefing on May 15.
In a background interview, an intelligence officer told Economic Affairs, that RAW had hired Afghanistan’s defunct intelligence agency KHAD’s agents to establish a bridge between the Tahreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and itself. RAW, via TTP, has hired the services of criminal elements/groups to gather information and conduct surveillance of potential targets. The agents, mostly Pakistani nationals, then coordinate the efforts of different groups and communicate their plans to the TTP based in the FATA. The Afghan agents and the TTP leadership supply finances and logistical support to implement acts of terrorism in Pakistan.
At the behest of its Afghan handlers, the TTP also franchised its brand name to a number of criminal gangs. These gangs are involved in smuggling, target killings, armed robberies and kidnappings for ransom. These groups terrorize the masses with the brand name of TTP and mint money day in day out. These groups are the real assets for the TTP, said an intelligence official and added that whenever RAW requires personnel for its operations, it seeks the help of these groups through the TTP. Most of the times, these gangs are even not aware of the links that their handlers have with RAW.
There are reports that the current TTP chief Mullah Fazlullah is being protected by Afghan intelligence agents in Afghanistan. Last year, US troops snatched former TTP chief Hakimullah Mehusd’s deputy, Latifullah Mehsud, from Afghan intelligence agents. Apparently, Latifullah had been traveling back and forth to coordinate attacks in Pakistan with Afghan agents.
On December 16, 2014, terrorists attacked the Army Public School in Peshawar, killing 145 people, including 132 schoolchildren. According to an interior ministry official, military intelligence agencies of Pakistan traced a telephone conversation between terrorists and Indian embassy in Kabul. That’s why, General Raheel Sharif went to Kabul on December 17, 2014, a day after the Peshawar school tragedy, to see the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani. General Raheel presented evidence about involvement of RAW and Afghan intelligence in Peshawar school massacre. The TTP’s Khurasani group was involved in the attack and it was in contact with Indian consulates.
The probe team has found clear evidence of RAW’s involvement in the Safoora Chowrangi massacre, in which 45 members of the Ismaili (Aga Khani) community were killed. During initial investigation, three phones calls were traced. The traced calls led to the arrest of two suspects. The evidence showed that RAW was involved in the act of terrorism.
Besides, in Baluchistan, RAW, in collaboration with Afghan intelligence agency, ‘National Directorate of Security’ (NDS), has been encouraging separatists. It provides funding and weapons to Baloch militant groups such as Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), Baloch Republican Army (BRA) and Baluchistan Liberation Front (BLF) for terrorist activities in the province. Intelligence reports suggest that Baloch militants are being harbored at various places and training camps located in Kabul, Nimroz and Kandahar in Afghanistan. RAW is involved in providing fake identity and travel documents to Baloch militants for moving out of Afghanistan to India, the UAE and Western countries.
In order to break the RAW-NDS nexus, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief, Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar, met his Afghan counterpart on May 17 in Kabul. General Rizwan proposed signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two agencies to share information on terrorism. A number of media reports suggested that the MoU has also been signed during the ISI chief visit. However, on May 24, the NDS, in a press statement said that the MoU with Pakistan had not yet been finalized. NDS says that it is required to hold consultative meeting with political and jihadi leaders as well as the elected representatives to build a national consensus.
A former US intelligence official who has served in both Afghanistan and Pakistan said, “The Indians are up to their necks in supporting the Taliban against the Pakistani government in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The same anti-Pakistani forces in Afghanistan also shooting at American soldiers are getting support from India. India should close its diplomatic establishments in Afghanistan and get the Christ out of there.”
Afghan Government’s Advisor, Ehsanullah Aryanzai in his statement said, “India is using Afghan soil to destabilize Pakistan and Afghan security agencies are unable to stop Indian intervention due to absence of centralized government mechanism”.
The emergence of the ISIS in Afghanistan (to counter Taliban) has also connections with Indian security agencies, as majority of the groups, announcing their allegiance to it, enjoyed good contacts with RAW and were exploited as proxies against Pakistan. Recently, the ISIS claimed incident in Jalalabad (suicide attack) has also traces of Indian linkage. In fact, India through ISIS in Afghanistan is trying to counter the Taliban.
Interestingly, in response to Pakistan’s accusations, Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, in a TV interview on May 23, said that India had to “neutralize” terrorists through terrorists only. “There are certain things that I obviously cannot discuss here. But if there is any country, why only Pakistan, planning something against my country, we will definitely take some proactive steps.”
Given all the circumstantial evidence of Indian support for Baloch insurgents and TTP’s war against Pakistan, the Pakistani security and intelligence establishment cannot rely on counterinsurgency operations like Zarbe-e-Azb alone to stop the carnage on Pakistani streets and schools. The overall counterinsurgency strategy must include serious efforts to cut off support and funding for the TTP and the Baloch insurgents from both domestic and external sources, and disruption of the Indian intelligence network operating against Pakistan from Afghanistan. It will require superior intelligence and significant counter-intelligence operations, as well as an effective narrative and a powerful diplomatic offensive to put pressure on India to stop its covert war against Pakistan.
By Sajid Gondal