Changing Dimensions of Terrorism in J&K

Applying the logic of the two-nations theory, Pakistan attacked the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir to annex it by force. The erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir joined India on 26 Oct 1947, and the Indian Army troops were airlifted from Delhi on 27 Oct 1947. They launched multidirectional operations to push back the tribal raiders, who had reached the outskirt of Srinagar. Not reconciled to the reality and consequences of partition, Pakistan has been aiding and abetting terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir since 1947. Pakistan faced humiliating defeats in wars with India in 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and 1999.

Proxy war of Pakistan. Indo-Pak War of 1971 was decisive when East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh) became an independent country with the help of India. Then Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Mr Bhutto, officially declared a thousand-year war with India while addressing the United Nations General Assembly(UNGA). Gen Zia-ul-Haq gave practical shape to the thousand-year war by launching a military doctrine to bleed India through thousand cuts. This military doctrine further emphasised covert and low-intensity war with militancy and infiltration. This doctrine was first tested in Punjab and then in Jammu and Kashmir. Though in Punjab, Pakistan failed miserably, in J&K, it succeeded initially due to political, social and religious factors.

While denying freedom and democracy to the people of Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK), Pakistan was keen to promote Azadi in J&K.  After returning from the UK, Amanullah Khan established his organisation’s headquarters, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), in Muzaffarabad in 1984 in (PoJK). His return to PoJK could not have been possible without the help of authorities, where even normal political activities were not allowed, and basic fundamental rights were denied to the people.

Pakistan authorities exploited JKLF to initiate terrorism in J&K as the war in Afghanistan against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) had concluded. The aim was to exploit anomalies in the 1987 elections in J&K. Nevertheless, Pakistan efficaciously hijacked Azadi’s narrative, and the ‘Kashmir Valley’ became the epicentre of terrorism.

General Zia promoted Nizam-e-Mustafa in Pakistan and took the country further down the road to a theocratic state. There was a mushrooming of madrasas, which provided cheap cannon fodder for jihad in Afghanistan, J&K and many parts of the world. As per the findings of the International Crisis Group, ‘At independence in 1947, there were only 137 madrasas in Pakistan. Till Ayub Khan’s period, there was moderate growth. The pace picked up under Z A Bhutto, and 852 were added by 1979.’ Zia added only 151 new madrasas till 1982. ‘During the next six years, as the Afghan jihad gained momentum, 1,000 more opened.’ By 2002, when the ICG report was published, ‘Pakistan’s minister for religious affairs, Dr Mahmood Ahmed Ghazi, put the figure at 10,000. Millions of people were educated here.

These madrasas have contributed more to the radicalisation and spread of extremist philosophy. Pakistan’s former Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan writes, ‘The curriculum of most of the madrasas are limited to religious teachings and in some ways are more orthodox and rudimentary than the standard introduced at Deoband more than a century ago.’

Emphasis on religion by Gen Zia left a permanent imprint on Pakistan’s society and affected the people’s psyche. This further shrunk the political aspirations of the people of J&K, who realised this very late. Gen Zia’s legacy is now hunting Pakistan in the form of sectarian violence. Tehreek-e- Taliban Pakistan (TPP) is now seen as a significant threat to the society of Pakistan.

Countering cross-border terrorism. Fighting terrorism is an entirely different form of combat and can’t be compared with conventional warfare. Fighting terrorism would incorporate military operations, police actions, political measures, social-economic and psychological operations well-coordinatedly. These operations are undertaken at strategic and tactical levels and span various countries. Any weakness in any part of the operations would jeopardise the strategy’s overall effectiveness against terrorism.

The Indian Army has done yeoman’s service to the nation through successful Counter-Terrorism Operations and providing much-needed assistance to the civil administration and the ordinary people.

For the last two decades, the total number of terrorists eliminated were 13181; civilian killed were 4904 and Security Forces personnel martyred were 3554. (As per the statistics from 06 Mar 2000 to 03 Sept 2022 of South Asia Terrorism Portal(SATP), New Delhi). Roughly more than forty different terrorist organisations are working in J&K.

The Indian Army is steadfast in bringing violence down to controllable levels to regain the people’s confidence and provide a protected environment to enable smooth governance and socio-economic development. In addition to military operations, IA conducts various civic action programmes such as Operation Maitreyi, Operation Sadhbhavana, assistance in natural calamities, organising group tours outside  Kashmir for students, Islamic teachers (Maulvis), elderly citizens, ordinary people, etc.

The unique initiatives are a vivid example of the commitment and dedication of the uniformed community towards the people of J& K. They have successfully blunted Pakistan-sponsored anti-India propaganda. It has complemented the government’s efforts to ameliorate conditions to provide much needed succor to the population severely affected by the prolonged Proxy War. Initiatives like these are reassuring not only because of the positive numbers and results but also because in these initiatives exists a possibility of social upliftment of a section of the society which not only suffers socio-economically but also lives under a constant threat of geopolitical instability.

Emerging Challenges. Since Pakistan wants to keep the pot boiling in J&K, it directs its actors to find ways and means to make terrorism a relevant tool in the ongoing Proxy War. The emerging and evolving challenges faced in J&K are:

  1. Radicalisation: Over the past few years, the general trend among Counter-Terrorism experts is that radicalisation ultimately leads to involvement in terrorism. It is a process of developing beliefs, feelings, and actions supporting any terrorist organisation. Kashmir, in many ways, is a unique case of radicalisation because, traditionally, it had been a liberal society. Over a period of time, society in Kashmir has witnessed a gradual process of Islamic radicalisation. It has entered society, politics and culture, leading to the emergence of the Islamic concept of jihad. The factors responsible for radicalisation could be wide-ranging such as economic, psychological, religious narratives, politics, etc. The most significant factor responsible for alienation and radicalisation was Article 370, which has now been removed.
  2. Recruitment: Though Security Forces have generally controlled the situation in J&K, their primary concern is the slight increase in the local terrorist recruitment process. Mainly this recruitment has been carried out from south Kashmir—Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Awantipora. This is definitely a cause of concern.
  3. Hybrid terrorism: With increased CI ops and the neutralisation of many active militants, terrorist masterminds have now changed their strategy to obfuscate their activities. To commit violence, they are now using terrorist sympathisers. Most of them have no criminal records and are likely to escape police scrutiny. These ‘hybrid terrorists’ are the ones who are primarily responsible for the recent acts of targeted killings in and around Srinagar.
  4. Pakistan information warfare: In J&K, veracity takes a back seat, and virality is the order of the day. Pakistan has weaponised social media to spread rumours against India. Coordination of the whole information campaign should be done with professional advice, and strategic communication should be created in conjunction with actions on the ground.

Conclusion: India’s territorial and sovereign integrity have been challenged by Pakistan since 1947, when it first attacked Jammu & Kashmir, which is an integral part of India. Though India has defeated Pakistan in all wars fought between the two, Pakistan has not lost any opportunity to raise the Kashmir issue at the international level. After a prolonged Proxy War against India, Pakistan is now talking about peace. India’s stand is very clear. It has always maintained that it stands for peace and reconciliation, but that should not be considered its weakness.

If Pakistan is really serious about re-establishing permanent peace, then it should give up its obsession with Kashmir and stop exporting terrorism. Then only it can build a healthy relationship with India. Just talking about peace is not enough.

Pakistan is going through a particularly challenging time. Politically it is polarised; economically, it is shattered, and homegrown terrorism is a big issue.

Despite instability in the regional security environment and Pakistan’s attempts to stimulate trouble, the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir has remained remarkably peaceful, calm and stable. The Security Forces have successfully countered cross-border terrorism. Now, the government agencies must carry the baton forward to deliver good governance and create sovereign writ to maintain this advantage.

About the Author
Colonel Balwan Nagial retired from the Indian Army in 2019 after serving for thirty years. Managed administration, security, project mgt throughout his service. He loves writing and contributing in newspapers and magazines in India. He loves Israeli culture.
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