New Delhi: National Security Adviser Ajit Doval said Saturday that Pakistan used Article 370 to catalyse terrorism in Kashmir. He also acknowledged—in a first for a government functionary of his seniority—that Islamabad launched ‘Operation Topac’ in Kashmir in 1988 to exploit the political space in the Valley.
“Pakistan used article 370 to catalyze terrorism in Kashmir, they launched operation Topaz (sic) in 1988 through which they wanted to exploit the political space,” he said at a media interaction. “The modus operandi of Operation Topaz (sic) was to use the same tactics which Pakistani non-state actors used in Afghanistan.”
What was ‘Operation Topac’ or ‘Tupac’?
‘Operation Topac’ entailed employing in India the strategy the Zia-ul-Haq establishment (1978-1988) used to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan.
The operation was named after Topac Amin, an Inca prince who fought a non-conventional war against Spanish rule in 18-century Uruguay.
In 1988, as a response to the Indian Army’s ‘Operation Brasstacks’, a military exercise in Rajasthan, Pakistan planned the operation of continued indigenous insurgency in the Kashmir Valley. This strategy was codenamed ‘Operation Topac’ by the then Pakistani President General Zia-ul-Haq.
Topac means ‘gun’ in Pashto. However, it was implemented after his death in an effort by Pakistan to carry out a proxy war with India in order to break the period of peace that had set in after the Simla Agreement of 1972.
“The plan was essentially meant to take revenge against India for its role in ‘dismembering’ Pakistan’s eastern wing (now Bangladesh) in 1971, following the genocide of Pakistan’s Bengali people at the hands of the Pakistani army during that year,” stated former vice-chief of Army staff Lt Gen Philip Campose in a May 2017 article.
Campose said Operation Topac, undertaken by the Pakistan army and its intelligence agency ISI, involved diverting Afghanistan’s “global mujahedeen” to J&K, training disaffected Kashmiri youth in ISI training camps close to the LoC, raising and running a number of India-centric militant organisations like Hizbul Mujahideen, Hizbul Islam, Allah Tigers, Al-Umar Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Ansar and Jamaat Hurriyat Conference, instigating and directing an insurgency in J&K, and undertaking terrorist acts in the state and the rest of India.
“Not surprisingly, ‘Operation Tupac’ is an ongoing operation, and continues to this day. Thus, it gives the lie to the Pakistani army’s denials of involvement in instigating militancy in J&K and terror acts all over India,” Campose stated.
“Subsequently, since the first decade of this century, the Pakistani army has used its ill-gained expertise to extend these attacks into Afghanistan by directing and supporting the Taliban, ever since the latter was ousted from power in Afghanistan in 2001,” he added.
The clandestine operation was also known as the ‘Kashmir Plan’, the ‘Zia Plan’ or the ‘Liberation Plan’. Pakistan resorted to this plan after it faced a series of failures with ‘Operation Gulmarg’ in 1947-48 and ‘Operation Gibraltar’ in 1965.
According to Pyarelal Kaul’s book Crisis in Kashmir, terror outfit Jamait-i-Islami of Kashmir published a confidential booklet in Urdu called “Hizbe Islam”, which was secretly circulated among militants and their sympathisers in the Valley in the 1990s and contained guidelines of Pakistan’s action plan on Kashmir, a rough translation of Operation Topac.
However, details on the operation first came to light in an article that was published in India Defence Review in their July-December 1989 edition.
“The aim of ‘OP TOPAC’ is to draw attention of the free-thinker, policy-maker and the defence planner to the dangerous potential of the current developments in Jammu & Kashmir. Part fact, part fiction, the scenarios visualised have been based on the trends, which have become manifest in the subcontinent in the last few years,” the article had stated then.
Not everyone, however, buys the theory of Pakistan’s involvement.
“Though Op Topac is often credited as the brainchild of Zia, the doyen of the Indian strategic thought, the late Mr K. Subramanian has clarified that Topac was, in fact, an Indian ‘Intelligence Assessment’ carried out by retired Indian Army officers with the aim to evaluate the capabilities and predict the trajectory of the enemy plans,” according to Brigadier Amar Cheema’s book The Crimson Chinar.
Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam or K. Subrahmanyam was a veteran civil servant. He also chaired the Kargil Review Committee in 1999.
The fact that it could be an operation hatched by Indian intelligence was also mentioned by ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta in a book review done by him.
“Actually, Op Topac was the name of a fictitious scenario visualised and then analysed by a talented team of retired soldiers in New Delhi as a likely Pakistani strategy to grab Kashmir,” Gupta had written.
“Topac was denied by Pakistani authorities,” wrote British military historian Victoria Schofield in her book Kashmir in Conflict: India, Pakistan and the Unending War.
“They countered that it was invented by the RAW of the Government of India, as a hypothetical exercise, a fact which Subramanyam later acknowledged,” Schofield added.
Former US Ambassador to Pakistan Robert Oakley had also hinted at the operation in an interview to Gupta in 1994.
Talking about the shadow of the then Afghan war on Kashmir, Oakley said, it was Pakistan army chief General Aslam Beg, who in 1990 thought they could replicate the Afghan strategy in Kashmir.