It was months after an escalated Kargil battle borne out as a grand finale of proxy wars was won. However a piece out of the same was still simmering as a standoff adjoining snow clad mountains encircling Kandhar airport.
Indian officials were about to release three men in exchange for hostages. Out of them one went on to wire finances to the ringleader of 9/11 (Omar Shiekh) and the other went on to establish a nerve center of non state actors spewing venomous jabs.
With the advent of time over a decade, Jaish E Mohammed has always struck at the raw nerve beginning with an ambushing skirmish at the Indian Parliament to masterminding the recent deadly attack on the armed forces at Uri.
As I chronicle perhaps the deadliest of all terror enterprises, its birth and rise is an admixture of the blunder emanating out the perils of coalition politics then here, that overwhelmingly oozing oodles of state sponsorship from the Pakistani establishment as always and the fanning of the Kashmir issue which continues to be the flash point of sorts to stage atrocities here in India.
A reason why it’s difficult to find a vaccine for an HIV virus is because of its acclimatizing ability to adhere to their host and change forms or mutate to incur damage via stealth mode.
JEM designated and banned as a terror group by the American State department is able to use neighboring land as a base, metamorphosing under different names or aliases to evade the ban and nurture men for more operations inflicting damages effectively.
Most of the terror groups subscribe to this policy but in lieu with JEM its foremost. A dropout from the school of Harkat E Mujahedeen, Masood Azhar founded his own start up in the realms of terrorism to fight the so called Indian occupation of Kashmir and has prized itself to attack places of strategic importance.
The bombing of Jammu and Kashmir assembly which massacred double dozens in 2001 was their first major strike in the valley.
With parliament attack blamed on combination of terror groups, JEM was considered to be the brains and their tentacles reached the doors of the nations capital bringing both the nuclear armed neighborhoods on the brink of war.
With so called crack down by govt agencies in Pakistan, the organization made it a point to splinter purposely into more groups and names. Previously renamed as Tehrik Ul Fuhran after its assets were frozen, Azhar divided it into two offshoots which furthered their agenda and mobilized finances to low key members.
Its money has been routed to legal businesses such as real estate and production of commodity goods and in this smokescreen of legality they continue to be funded by the ISI and various arms of other sister terrorist organizations.
Although its activities continued, its attention was also drawn towards a war torn Afghanistan occupied by United States and Israel. The premise of it being more dangerous has been attributed to its planting of seeds of hatred amongst youths, attained by process of systematic radicalization.
This modus operandi of non state actors has been nothing new and has been their primary weaponry since militancy mushroomed in the valley in the late 1980s.
However Masood Azhar injected in more potency of a freshness to the whole process, combining his prowess with other players displaying more vigor and brutality.
His appearance stylized with provocative speeches and oratory has somewhere romanticized a struggle in the eyes of misguided youths.
Sheikh Yassin who conceptualized Hamas to contravene Israel gave it more sort of a sugar coated spiritual look with his heavenly god akin attire and calmly perpetuated suicide bombings for a cause which he effectively mastered and emasculated the minds of young disgruntled. The same aspect is subtly resonated with Masood in his quest for expansionism of JEM.
As the proxy war waged and terrorism like globalization became more sort of a mixture of several interest terror cocktail groups, JEM remained a force to reckon with however its univalent prominence seemed to have waned in the mid 2000s.
Its affiliates seemed to act and attacks unleashed were outsourced to other lesser known connected terror groups. However even as Laskhar stunned the world with 26/11, JEM has re stamped itself into the spotlight after it being touted to stage manage both the recent Pathankot and URI may hems.
Did India’s soft approach to terrorism during the handling of the entire hijacking episode added this explosive element in its already burdened strife against the ever rising tide of cross border insurgency?
When Indian Airlines plane was hijacked from Kathmandu to be flown to Kandhahar for a media circus of negotiations and diplomacy, a seemingly good opportunity to storm the plane when it landed at Amritsar for refueling was missed out of bureaucratic carcasses and lack of logistical resources. (Govt was waiting for NSG commandos even as some claim the Congress ruled Punjab was responsible for the spoilsport).
As the game of cat and mouse ended in its embarrassing climax of releasing those dreaded monsters, little did we realize a future Frankenstein was just created at that fateful moment.
However, the want of a political muscle power in form of parliamentary numbers was evident with then PM Vajpayee finding it immensely difficult to assuage the crisis.
A grand coalition govt of a dozen unworthy regional players cemented by power than national interest distorts unilateralism and consensus when decisions are to be made in tune of a crisis.
Lack of a complete mandate juxtaposed NDA govt between confrontation (to show toughness) and compromise (owing to pressure groups)with eventually the latter superseded into a policy embarrassment.
People leveled criticism over this soft pedaling with some even wanting it to be our own Entebbe.
The question is with a fragmented mandate it was precariously daunting notwithstanding lack of sensible support from our main stream media which has succumbed to sensationalism over national interest. (When Israel stormed its hijacked plane in Uganda, its media had ensured operation is covert unlike here where on 26/11 it was helping terrorists by giving away pictures and strategies).
So how would have things been different if the current Modi Government with a simple majority was in power then?
Ajit Doval and his team who are at the helm of national security now, had handled negotiations with the hijackers seeming helpless over political compulsions.
Now with the likes of Swaraj or Parrikar perhaps his role may have obtained that desired muscular posturing to deal with the crisis better. The probability that those three men may not have escaped clutches of Indian prison at least is more than certain and the emergence of JEM may never have sufficed with certainty.
So how can this growing threat of JEM dealt with by the current dispensation?
As India tightens its noose over Pakistan, cross border infiltration coupled with recent tensions in Kashmir are sure to give more foothold for JEM to spread its wings and influence.
Just as I mentioned about the founder of Hamas as an example, I can reiterate the fact that the backbone of that group was broken after Shiekh Yassin was assassinated.
The next who took over the reins followed suit as he too was subsequently neutralized.
This sort of shock and awe may work better. More than a surgical air strike over POK camps, a more robust option would be to covertly assassinate the minds and the god fathers of their respective terror franchise.
That idea that ferments this actualization of dirt needs to be nipped in the bud. Spiritual hot spots who like a magnet usher in more fountains of youth in the abyss of terrorism have to be eliminated.
In an intertwined entanglement of head raising serpents , JEM supposedly has the most pernicious fangs. And as a state, the Indian response has to be watershed,picking aim at it like a seasoned warring Mangoose.