The attack on an army convoy in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyeba was a grim reminder that General Musharraf's `freedom fighters' are far from giving up their ugly campaign of terror in Kashmir. Thirteen army men were killed; three civilians too were said to have lost their lives in the cross-fire which followed the ambush of the army convoy near Ramban on the Jammu-Kashmir highway.
The gun-battle that ensued after the ambush resulted in the death of at least three Lashkar militants. The militants were dressed in Army uniforms to dodge detection before the attack on a bridge on the highway which is exclusively used by the armed forces. Following the crumbling of the Taliban defences in Afghanistan, there are genuine fears that the Pakistan-trained terrorists might re-group and locate themselves in Kashmir.
With Pakistan suffering a shattering blow in Afghanistan and the US-led alliance determined to drive out the last vestiges of the Taliban and their evil protege, Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida group, there is every likelihood of the ISI re-locating its terrorist thugs in Kashmir.
Therefore, India cannot afford to lower its guard in Kashmir. Indeed, the loss of Afghanistan might spur Islamabad to try and step up further its so-called `jehad' in Kashmir. Having suffered a massive blow in Afghanistan, General Musharraf might need to further heat up the Kashmir cauldron if for nothing else than to save his own `kursi' from Islamic fundamentalist groups who have been baying for his blood ever since he endorsed the US-led campaign against terror in Afghanistan.
The reports from the warfront in Afghanistan have laid bare the duplicity of the Pakistani establishment.
Hundreds of Pakistanis were fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Talibans. Of course, there was a small sprinkling of pro-Taliban fighters from other Arab nations as well. But the Pakistanis fighting with the Talibans had gained access to Afghanistan under the very watchful eyes of the ISI.
And , further, if reports in a section of the Pakistani Press were to be believed, arms and ammunition supplies had continued to flow into Afghanistan through the Pak border even after the launch of the US-led campaign against the Taliban and bin Laden. That despite this duplicitous role, the US seems to be going along with General Musaharraf at least for the public consumption underlines the geopolitical importance of Pakistan as a frontline State in the war against terror. But in time it is to be hoped the Americans would call the General's bluff and penalise him for running with the Taliban hares and hunting with the Western hounds.
However after the successful conclusion of the war against the Taliban and bin Laden, the Western alliance might have to do some tough talking with Pakistan which by all accounts was the main prop for both those evil forces.
Otherwise, there is every possibility of the ISI stepping up terror in Kashmir. Members of the Talibans and their Pakistani co-fighters who survive the current US-led campaign may find the going tough in Afghanistan after a new multi-ethnic regime is installed in Kabul.
The ISI will be tempted to press these mercenaries in Kashmir. Unless the West puts some sense in General Musharraf's head and calls a halt to this madness in Kashmir, its fight against terror will remain unfinished.
On its part, India will have to step up vigil on the border in order to prevent the entry in Kashmir of Taliban and Pakistani terrorists fleeing from Afghanistan following the collapse of the terror regime in Kabul. Once the West makes it clear to Islamabad that there can be no solution of the vexed Kashmir problem at the point of a gun, General Musharraf's `freedom fighters' might leave Kashmiris well alone.
Published in Samachar