Homeland Security

Valley Traders on Terror Radar - and what is needed
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 19 Sep , 2019

Baldev Kumar, former Pakistani MLA from Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehree-e-Insaf party seeks asylum in India because of persecution and killings of minorities in Pakistan.

No sooner did NSA Ajit Doval state that not one bullet had been fired in J&K past one month, two Urdu-Punjabi speaking terrorists struck at the house of wholesale fruit trader Abdul Hamid Rather in Sopore, Baramulla district on September 7. Two and half year old baby-girl Asma Arshid Jan was shot in the right leg with her father Arshid Rather pinned down. Terrorists then shot out Arshid Rather’s elbow.

…posters by Pakistan-based terrorist groups have appeared, mostly in Srinagar, Anantnag, Shopian and few districts of North Kashmir, threatening shopkeepers and traders not to operate their establishments…

Muhammad Ramzan Dar and Muhammad Arshad Dar, two family employees, who acted as guides to the terrorists, were also shot in the legs; perhaps in anger because Abdul Hamid Rather, main target of the terrorists, wasn’t home. Earlier on August 29, three motorbike-borne terrorists had killed 65-year old Ghulam Mohammad for keeping his grocery store open at Paimpora on outskirts of Srinagar.

The NSA told reporters in Delhi that security forces intercepted conversations where a Pakistan-based caller rebuked terrorists from not stopping movement of apples out of J&K. Government had been exhorting the Fruit Traders Association to restart normal trading activities concurrent to lifting curfew, and previous day over 750 apple-laden trucks had left the wholesale market. The Centre has announced an apple procurement policy at a substantial premium to market prices, and the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited (NAFED) has earmarked Rs 5,500 cr for this.

But posters by Pakistan-based terrorist groups have appeared, mostly in Srinagar, Anantnag, Shopian and few districts of North Kashmir, threatening shopkeepers and traders not to operate their establishments, schools, colleges and universities to remain shut and office-goers to shun offices. These posters are from terrorist organizations including Al Badr, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), latter signed by HM commander Naveed Babu alias Baba Azam.

It was more than expected Pakistan would go all out to fight Indian efforts to usher normalcy in J&K. In addition to posters, pamphlets with similar content and anti-India propaganda are also being distributed. According to police sources, locals are also being threatened in person by terrorists. Pakistan plans brutal terrorist crackdown on the population to instill fear and invoke dissent against revocation of Article 370. Imran Khan, Pakistan’s Prime Minister has stated that Kashmir is the “jugular” of Pakistan.

As part of his message on Pakistan’s Defence and Martyrs Day in remembrance of the 1965 India-Pakistan war, which Pakistan lost like all other wars (Pakistan army has never won a war), he said in a televised speech, “We are ready to give sacrifice for our Kashmiri brothers, will fulfill our duty till last bullet, last soldiers and last breath. And we are prepared to go till any extent.”

Exposed on all fronts for terror generation and having failed to find international support for intervention or mediation on the Kashmir, Pakistani army is doing its best to heighten proxy war on India.

Pakistan’s pathological hatred against is exemplified by recently denying its airspace to President Ramnath Kovind proceeding on a foreign visit. A new low in its internal situation is indicated from a former Pakistani lawmaker seeking asylum in India; Baldev Kumar, former MLA from Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party has sought asylum in India, saying, “Minorities in Pakistan are not feeling secure and they have been denied rights. There is an increase in atrocities and target killings. I was put behind bars for two years… Many Sikh and Hindu families want to immigrate to India. Gurdwaras are in bad shape. There is no respect for the minorities. There are cases of forcible conversion … a case of forcible conversion of a Sikh girl to Islam came to light recently”.

All this, while India is going ahead with establishment of the Kartarpur Corridor as requested by Pakistani army chief QJ Bajwa through Indian politician Navjot Singh Sidhu when Imran Khan was sworn in Prime Minister.

Exposed on all fronts for terror generation and having failed to find international support for intervention or mediation on the Kashmir, Pakistani army is doing its best to heighten proxy war on India. Masood Azhar, designated global terrorist and complicit in multiple terror attacks in India, has been secretly released from prison. Pakistan’s ISI recently held a high-level meeting with terror groups in Islamabad, including with JeM, LeT, HM and Khalistan Zindabaad Force (KZF). Ceasefire violations to target Indian villages, security posts and to cover infiltration attempts are on the increase.

Special terror training is underway for youth of Pakistan occupied J&K (PoJK) and Afghan nationals. Pakistan army has moved forward some 2000 additional troops to the LoC. There are reports of plans to throng the LoC by unarmed Pakistani civilians on or around September 20. Hundreds of terrorists are in forward launch pads seeking chance to infiltrate into India – by one report some 725 in seven launch pads.

Indian security forces are live to the threat and doing their best. One of the terrorists, who shot and injured baby-girl Asma in Sopore, has been gunned down. There are reports that the terrorist launch pads are being subjected to artillery fire. However, this would be anticipated by Pakistan, causing them to be shifted periodically – akin to mobile launch pads.

Planting fresh mines is not desirable but patrols must be used to plug likely infiltration routes using IEDs…

Therefore, precise location and quantum of terrorists are needed in real time to cause maximum punishment. This is where technology (satellite and electronic intelligence) and cross-border sources become vital. ISRO in conjunction Israel and the US can contribute precise intelligence in this regard.

India voted in favour of the UNGA Resolution on Mine Ban Treaty in 1996 and does not use mines in internal conflict. Landmines planted by Pakistan and India during wars have drifted due vagaries of weather and are largely ineffective, which facilitates terrorist infiltration. Planting fresh mines is not desirable but patrols must be used to plug likely infiltration routes using IEDs, which should be constantly refreshed and beefed up, leaving required crossing points open covered by observation and fire. Couple of infiltrators blowing up their legs would prove effective deterrent.

Next is the ‘Narrative Warfare’ (NW) or psychological slugfest, dispassionate analysis of which indicates India is more in the ‘rebuttal’ mode and a coordinated pro-active approach is missing. Army’s role in NW is largely confined to statements by the Army Chief/Northern Army Commander/ Corps Commanders, aside from ADGPI posts on social media and briefing journalists.

Compare this to Pakistan’s DG ISPR who owns two FM channels, two newspapers and influences diplomats periodically. India must integrate Armed Forces into combating NW. Given his background, PMO would do well to seek the advice of veteran Lieutenant General Rajesh Pant, in-charge of National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC), in this regard.

The Pakistani army and ISI, who are the bane of Pakistan’s plight, must be exposed, including: accumulated power and money at cost of national development; genocide in Balochistan, Waziristan, and against Pashtuns; mortgaging Pakistan’s economy and honour to China – China’s cultural invasion; dissent in Sindh and Gilgit Baltistan (GB), curbing of rights and anti-Pak army demonstrations; terrorist industry, doomed International stature, and; atrocities and killings of minorities.

It is important to institute a dynamic de-radicalization program, integrating clerics and teachers, to target different sections of the society.

The important issue is that the above must also go down to the radicals in J&K and in states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu being manipulated by Pakistan and terrorist organization, in the language locals understand – including TV, radiao, newspapers, posters, pamphlets and word of mouth. When ‘Akhand Bharat’ posters can pop up all over Islamabad, why not posters and pamphlets to counter those by terrorist organizations in J&K?

Similar exposure at the ground level in the language the common man understand must be coordinated in exposing why J&K has remained underdeveloped, the role of politicians and separatists wallowing in wealth, benefits of revoking Article 370 and future government plans for development of individuals and the region.

Home Minister Amit Shah would have explained all this when he met the Sarpanches, but it must also be fed directly to the common man. There is also the need to go after the money and supply chain of who is organizing the poster war, as also stone-pelting.

It is important to institute a dynamic de-radicalization program, integrating clerics and teachers, to target different sections of the society. The role of women and the girl child (future mothers) in influencing families and the society must be kept in mind, no matter conservatism in certain sections. Where radicals have used clerics and teachers to infuse hate, they should be ‘persuaded’ to do the reverse in denouncing violence and terrorism. The de-radicalization program should similarly target various organizations, media, groups, NGOs and the like.

Government has empowered the Panchayats. Rs 366 cr have been transferred directly to panchayats. Sarpanchs and panchs are given monthly honorariums of Rs 2,500 and Rs 1,000 respectively. 2,000 plus have been hired to maintain panchayat accounts. The pension scheme for farmers just announced by the PM will benefit thousands of Kashmiris.

In combating the proxy war, the importance of narrative warfare and de-radicalization hardly needs re-emphasis.

50,000 government jobs are being filled up in Union Territory of J&K. Over 4,000 teachers have been recruited in schools, and 30,000 rehbar-e-talim (learning guides) have been regularized. Hikes in salary and stipends include: 25% hike for Anganwadi workers and assistants; 66% hike for court assistants; 500% hike in allowances of village level workers, and; honorarium of 30,000 special police officers has been increased, as also hardship allowance for police personnel raised – police is now better paid than the Army. An additional 40,000 have been enrolled for old-age pensions. The next step is to empower the Block Development Offices.

But despite all the government efforts including the money being infused, years of radicalization and redoubled Pakistani efforts to foment trouble indicate that violence will happen in spurts in J&K while Pakistan may go for high-profile terror attacks pan-India, as is the threat appreciation in South India; ambiguous of the source that look indigenous.

In combating the proxy war, the importance of narrative warfare and de-radicalization hardly needs re-emphasis. A vital issue also is to transport the sub-conventional conflict into Pakistan, which despite being sandwiched between India and Afghanistan is terrorizing both countries. In the overall context, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah must take the lead in all this.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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