Complacence Can Kill

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BASHIR ASSAD

JUST a day after top Army and Jammu and Kashmir officials held a meeting at the headquarters of the 15 Corps in Srinagar to discuss the security situation, five dreaded Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists were killed on Thursday October 26 along the Line of Control in Kupwara district’s Machil sector.  In the last couple of months, there has been an abrupt spurt in infiltration attempts from across the Line of Control. There seems to be a concerted attempt to push as many terrorists as Pakistan could before the onset of winters. It merits a mention here that as per the home ministry data, more than 100 terrorists are currently active in Jammu and Kashmir, out of which 60 percent are from Pakistan and around 40 percent are locals. Some agencies put the figures of active terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir around 130 out of which 80 to 85 are considered to be foreigners, mostly Pakistanis.

The October 26 infiltration bid along the Machil sector in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, though promptly thwarted by the security forces, indicates that more such attempts could be anticipated before the onset of winters and heavy snowfall thereof. It was immediately not known whether the security review meeting anticipated infiltration attempts by the terrorists from across the border; however, the spurt in such attempts during the last couple of months is clear indication that terrorists are desperately trying to increase their footprints before the breaching points are covered by the snow.

Infiltration attempts could be anticipated along Machil, Keran, Gurez, Tanghdar and Uri sectors in North Kashmir and along Rajouri and Poonch sectors in the next couple of months. On the other hand, infiltration attempts by terrorists and smugglers are very common during winter months along the international border in Samba, Kathua and Jammu belts.

Infiltration without weapons, using non-traditional routes like Nepal and Punjab have also surged during the recent past. The Ministry of Home Affairs is fully aware of the developments. According to sources, the Home Ministry is concerned about the growing incidents of infiltration by terrorists that could pose a challenge to the security arrangements ahead of the Lok Sabha elections due early next year. Infiltration has continued even through non-traditional routes like Nepal and Punjab when the borders in Jammu and Kashmir were supposedly calm. According to Home Ministry reports, terrorists without weapons made several attempts to travel to Kashmir via Nepal. On the other hand, the presence of a large number of foreign terrorists is a clear indication that un-noticed infiltration has taken place during 2023.

Under such a scenario, the recent statements by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and Jammu and Kashmir Police Chief Dilbagh Singh that terrorism is on the last leg in Jammu and Kashmir are inconsequential. LG Sinha, on October 23, had said that the security situation in the union territory had improved significantly and that terrorism was taking its last breath here. He had said that in the past, terrorists had targeted soft spots to instill fear within the community. “The neighbouring country is deliberately attempting to keep the pot of terrorism boiling in J & K. We are making every effort to ensure the security of vulnerable groups, including Kashmiri Pandits and minorities. The police and the security forces are working tirelessly towards this goal,” he had said.

However, the tendency to become complacent plays a pivotal role in allowing the situation to dither. Scaling down of violence should be seen as an opportunity to alter the security dynamics in Jammu and Kashmir. Realistic assessment of the security situation and an appropriate response could certainly help in capitalising on the current relative peaceful environment.

Terrorism emanates from foreign soil, and the local or for that matter, New Delhi, has very limited control over it. What really goes to the credit of the law enforcing agencies is containing the violence in various other forms and manifestations. On that account, the police and security forces have marked 100% success. However, terrorism continues to pose a challenge to the security of the state.

As reported in a September 2023 edition of Kashmir Central, terrorists active in Jammu and Kashmir are pursuing a strategy of consolidation. It is more than obvious that for the first time in the last ten years or so, the number of active terrorists is below 200. Recruitment of local boys into terrorist camps has gone down; however, isolated reports of the local youth going missing has seen a slow but gradual spurt in the last two or three months. A local youth was reported to have gone missing from his residence in a Sopore village in North Kashmir the time this story was filed.

The number of infiltration attempts that have been made by terrorist groups in the last three months has been unprecedented, and it sends an alarming signal of Pakistan’s intentions. Though the Army has successfully intercepted a number of these groups, some seem to have inevitably succeeded in getting through undetected. It has been estimated that 40 to 45 terrorists managed to infiltrate during the year 2023. A majority of the terrorists killed by the Army while attempting infiltration have been identified as foreign terrorists (FTs). Pakistan is desperately trying to push in heavily armed and better-trained Pakistan-based terrorists presumably to create a law-and-order situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

The surge in the infiltration from across the LoC gained momentum after the month of May, 2023. As per defence experts, the surge of infiltration is also attributed to the narrative of peace and development post successful culmination of 3rd G-20 Working Group Meeting on tourism in May this year. A senior police officer, on condition of anonymity, tells Kashmir Central that Pakistan has renewed its efforts to increase terrorism in the Union territory soon after the culmination of G-20 event in Srinagar.

The surge in terrorist activities in the Jammu region, particularly in Rajouri and Poonch districts that witnessed some of the worst terrorist attacks during the year 2023, is, however, attributed to the lowering of guard in the region for the fact that for the past ten years, the scale of terrorism has gone down considerably, prompting authorities to reduce the security grid. Taking benefit of the same, terrorists have tried to infiltrate through Rajouri and Poonch regions.

Undoubtedly, the situation in Kashmir is arguably better than it has been in years. But let’s never forget, there would be desperate attempts to create disturbances and distractions as much.

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