How the world, especially India, should read JeM’s celebration of US-Taliban peace deal

An article in Jaish-e-Mohammed journal ‘Medina Medina’ gives a sense of how the organisation is trying to survive. But its two crucial takeaways are in Indian context.

The US-Taliban peace deal has begun to generate much excitement in the larger circles of South Asian militants. This was visible from a recent Jaish-e-Mohammed publication ‘Medina Medina’. A long article revelled in the victory of theTaliban and jihad over the US, just like jihadis were victorious over the former superpower, the Soviet Union.

“…the US and its allies have run away from Afghanistan….is this a small victory? The American, who were once baying for Taliban’s blood now shake hands with them and seek their support to withdraw from Afghanistan. Now what happens is not our worry. Even if the world breaks the agreement the benefit will be Islam’s….the benefit will be jihad’s. No one [jihadis] has sold their weapons as yet…the more that injustice grows the more will power of jihad increase.”

This thinking, read in combination with continued violence in Kabul after the signing of the peace agreement, indicates the kind of world that is likely to emerge in north-western part of South Asia.

India and its Muslims

The JeM journal gives a sense of the conditions under which the organisation is trying to survive. But its two most crucial takeaways are in Indian context. First, Kashmir and the state of Muslims in India is not out of the JeM’s mind. In fact, one of the articles talks about the condition of Muslims in India and the violence against them without making claims of JeM launching jihad against India.

Second, the entire discourse, including the one related to Deobandi-Taliban, has been couched in a very Barelvi tone. There is a constant reference to the Prophet and his struggle in order to make the message less susceptible to censorship. Clearly, the message is couched in layers of references that could only be understood by the JeM cadres. More importantly, it carries a message to fellow jihadis that the holy war has not come to an end and that the Taliban involvement in Kabul’s politics is the beginning of another phase of jihad, and not its end.

Although jihadi groups in Pakistan have continued to exist, they have faced constraints in the past one year or more. One can hear whispers in London and Washington, the former in particular, about the Pakistan Army’s current leadership cooperating but also tightening the leash around jihadi organisations. This assessment makes greater sense because in spite of India’s move to change the status of Kashmir, there is relatively little militant or military activity to indicate that Pakistan intends to challenge the development. Official circles in Pakistan also talk about a strategic shift in policy. However, Pakistan government sources also state that for India, the Kashmir problem would never really get resolved because the resistance will come from the Kashmiris and there likely won’t be any compromise on the demand for Kashmir’s independence.

Taliban’s adjustments

Notwithstanding the Taliban commitment to the US regarding keeping Afghanistan safe from other militant organisations like al-Qaeda and Daesh, the process of filtering jihadis will prove to be a complicated process. Groups like JeM are connected with both al-Qaeda and the Taliban, which will benefit the jihadis tremendously. The probability of Afghanistan becoming a haven for South Asian regional jihad,if not for the rest of the world, is very likely. Many of the Pakistan-based jihadi groups are already feeling pressure from their cadres for their inability to respond to the situation in Kashmir or India at large. According to Karachi-based journalist Zia-ur-Rehman, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT)/Jammat-ud-Daawa (JuD) network has been publishing material against Daesh. This indicates the larger pressure on these militant groups whose cadres are fishing for a fight but are unable to do so.

Despite their promises to the Americans, the Taliban would have to make adjustments with jihadis in Pakistan that have helped and been part of the Taliban struggle all these years. Ideologically, there are connections that the Taliban will not be able to break. But then, the Taliban are also connected with Pakistan’s establishment, whose interest it is to secure the country’s territory and not have a replay of violence of the 1990s and the 2000s. Indeed, the Taliban will have to look in two directions.

One pertains to Pakistan without which the US-Taliban peace deal could not have happened. The second is the further consolidation of the Taliban’s power in Kabul’s politics, which the coming months will demonstrate. Sources from the larger strategic community in the country and abroad have already begun to talk about the inclusion of Sirajuddin Haqqani in the Afghan government in the next six months or a year. Haqqani’s article published in The New York Times may just be paving the way for the American audience to digest such a development.

Ties with Pakistan 

As far as Pakistan is concerned, with which the Taliban seemed to have been on the same page, the latter will either adjust the pro-Pakistan jihadis or eliminate those that threaten Pakistan. The death of Qari Abdul Jabbar, who was once part of the JeM but later joined al-Qaeda, is a case in point. But this cooperative relationship will have to be balanced with the direct operational and ideological links that the Taliban have with the jihadis. There are indeed many conversations taking place in Afghanistan that will have consequences for peace and stability in South Asia.

One is reminded of a paper produced by an Islamabad-based think-tank, the Jinnah Institute, in 2011. Based on the views of the pro-establishment policy elite in Pakistan, the paper had recommended a Kabul government in Afghanistan with the Haqqani network on board. While this wish could come true, the prognosis for regional stability seems dim. The institutionalising of jihad in Afghanistan and a Hindutva regime in India doesn’t make for a combination in the South Asia region that the world would want to look forward to. The course of geo-politics is certainly on a path that is more likely to bring destruction for humanity rather than victory for anyone. The presence of nuclear weapons and the brinkmanship instinct of policymakers add to the darker strategic shades.

Note: This article originally published here