• 18 July, 2024
Foreign Affairs, Geopolitics & National Security
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JAMMU REGION: THE NEW HOTBED OF TERROR

Lt Gen Kamal Davar (Retd) Mon, 24 Jun 2024   |  Reading Time: 5 minutes

Terrorism takes root in or is drawn to regions where religious or political freedom is threatened or afflicted by insensitive governance and a lack of fair play by the local government in power. It can also be craftily fostered by enemy nations inimical to one’s progress and peace. In its offensive avatar, it thrives on the elements of surprise, shifting of strategies and tactics—adoption primarily of all machinations to keep one step ahead of the opposing establishment’s counter-terror machinery. That the terrorist usually has the initiative to strike at a place and time of his own choosing makes the task of the counter terrorist forces all the more difficult.

The grievously violent Partition of India in August 1947 brought forth countless contentious problems for the two newly born nations, India and Pakistan. Among these tribulations which have persisted since the last 75 years and led to four wars has been Jammu and Kashmir which also gravely impacts the relationship existing between both nations. That Pakistan conveniently forgets that the entire state of J&K had legally acceded to the Union of India on 27 Oct 1947— a reality which Pakistan refuses to acknowledge and persists with its myopic anti-India agendas and a fatal obsession for J&K. Pakistan, currently undergoing its worst near- starvation economic state and growing political instability still refuses to change tack to mend its relations with India for its own good. Pakistan’s unabashed support of terror activities in J&K is a universally accepted fact.

In the Indian border state of J&K, Pakistan sponsored terrorism and militancy had raised its ugly head in 1989—90. It spread all over the state albeit primarily in the Kashmir Valley region with its intensity and reach varying in keeping with the ups and downs of the ever-restive political relationship between India and Pakistan. From a raging militancy spearheaded by a well-crafted Pakistan’s Gen Zia-ul-Haq’s strategy of “bleeding India by a thousand cuts” and occasional cries of even “azaadi” (freedom), over the last 20 years, militancy in J&K has rapidly and distinctly declined all over the state. The worst districts during the nineties and this century’s initial years, plagued by the curse of terror in J&K, were in the region North of the Pir Panjal especially in the Srinagar Valley. Barring a few isolated terror incidents, South of the Pir Panjal, namely the Uri-Poonch-Rajouri-Naushera region, the Valley’s demography and religious poison infused in this area by Pakistan infiltrated terrorists from across the border assisted the growth of terror activities in the entire J&K. Overall, employing a mixture of fundamentalism, the political ambitions of certain leaders in J&K, information warfare and Delhi’s reluctance to firmness in its dealings with separatist leadership, Pakistan did manage to give teeth to its false narratives of J&K’s unrest within the Union of India. However, though the bulk of terror Pak engineered terror activities in J&K were predominantly in the North of Pir Panjal region, which is largely Muslim, in the last few months, in particular, terror activities have also erupted in the areas south of Pir Panjal region after a lapse of time. This region is comparatively more forested, hilly and villages located far from each other. The thick forests and the many caves in its mountains makes this region relatively easier for terrorists to select suitable hideouts and equally difficult for security forces to search for them and flush them out.
Pakistani terrorists from across the IB / Line of Control with some limited logistical support from their Overground Workers (OGW) have been busy, especially in the last few months, to commence trouble afresh in J&K but not to much avail. However, there has been much concern within India of these foreign terrorists re-igniting terror in different ways in some parts of India which today are totally terror-incidents free.

Without going too much into infructuous terrorism related data, events of the very recent past, terror related, is a good pointer for ascertaining the actual ground situation especially after the Centre withdrew Article 370 from the state in Aug 2021. It is more than necessary that the terror related factual ground situation in J&K is known to all as wrongly it is being spread that terror activities, in the last three years or so, are on the rise. In actual fact they are on the decline and there is no surge in terror activities in J&K. Four terror incidents did occur between 9 to 12 June 2024 south of the Pir Panjal region with a total of 11 fatalities triggering fresh concerns. Way back in 2001 when terrorism was at its peak in J&K, there were 4021 fatalities whereas in 2024, till a week back, there have been 32 fatalities—in the same period in 2023 there were 39 casualties. Overall, fatalities till 2017 were on an average 1000 per year. The total numbers have come down drastically even though the occurrence of terror related attacks remains high and thus no laxity in vigilance and security preparedness should ever happen.

Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) which is the fulcrum of Pakistan’s terror operations conducted synergistically by its deep state—-the unholy trinity of the Pak Army, intelligence agencies and the many terrors Tanzeem’s it supports and funds—each year gets hyperactive before the commencement of the Amarnath Yatra. The Yatra commences on June 29 and is an important annual feature for the state. The Reasi attack on June 9, 2024, by terrorists on the bus carrying pilgrims from the Shiv Khori temple back to Katra which led to 9 fatalities and 41 injured was indeed a cowardly attack by Pakistani terrorists and a warning from them for pilgrims intending to visit the Amarnath shrine for the annual yatra. Attacking innocent pilgrims by these Pakistani origin terrorists are indeed a most cowardly act and they should be ashamed of themselves and the values they represent.

Indian security forces will have to put their best foot forward collectively to defeat the evil intentions of these terrorists to disrupt the Amarnath Yatra. It is worth noting that in the past too, Indian pilgrims trekking or going up by horses to the shrine have been targeted and fatalities have occurred. Thus, ensuring a peaceful, casualties free Yatra remains a formidable challenge for India’s security forces.
At an appropriate level, Pakistan has to be suitably informed that J&K’s accession to India is irrevocable, Article 370’s removal done and dusted and if they need to mend relations with India there can be no compromise on these basic issues. If Pakistan persists in continuing with terrorism then it better be ready to face India’s wrath as recently PM Narendra Modi has warned regarding unleashing of the “full spectrum of India’s counter terror capability.” Meanwhile, all steps must be taken to emotionally and economically fully integrate all Kashmiris into the national mainstream. In addition, India, without making noises, must discreetly and realistically ponder over steps which can be taken to get Gilgit-BaltistanGB) and Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir areas into India as our parliament had ordained in Feb 1994. Though India does not wish for any kinetic conflicts with Pakistan, the latter’s low intensity conflict has to be dealt with the robustness it demands.

Full Statehood must be restored to J&K as soon as possible and its carving into regional entities was never a desirable step. We have to work towards restoration of the same geographical expanse as we inherited on 27 Oct 1947 from Maharaja Hari Singh—-that also includes GB and POK. Meanwhile India must accord adequate efforts towards perception management for the locals, also those of the populace in POJK and GB to know about the realities in all spheres in our part of J&K. Leading Muslim scholars from other parts of the country must visit Islamic shrines in J&K and educate all concerned as to the closeness of ‘Kashmiriyat’ with the secular and civilized values of the Indian state rather than the self-defeating fundamentalist values of Pakistan. Elections to the State Assembly must be held as directed by the Supreme Court and not postponed for any reason. That some Pak inspired OGWs, and foreign terrorists may try to create hindrances should be factored in by our security establishment.

Notwithstanding any security problems, the Centre must ensure economic resurgence of the state and encourage a maximum number of industrialists to invest/ set up plants in the state—off course their security will have to be ensured by the parent nation. Overall , in its Kashmir policy, India now must redouble its efforts to graduate from conflict management to conflict resolution. A long term strategy encompassing all aspects of human endeavour and criss-crossing various domains must be conceived and implemented without political prejudices. J&K embellishes the core of Indian nationalism, secularism and the inclusive and plural values which symbolize India and thus no effort can ever be spared to ensure India’s crown jewel to glitter to the maximum.


Author
Lt Gen Kamal Davar (Retd) is a former DG, DIA. A noted strategic affairs expert, he raised India’s Defence Intelligence Agency and also has served as Corps Commander in Punjab.

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