Winter strategy for counter terrorism and counter propaganda in J&K
The state of Jammu and Kashmir has recently culminated its traditional “Durbar Move” from Srinagar to Jammu. This is a unique feature of the state that has two capitals – the summer capital in Srinagar and the winter capital in Jammu. The move of the seat of the government normally also heralds a shift in the policy of terror mongers in the state and their masters across the border.
The pattern of infiltration changes, the modalities governing terrorist-initiated strikes change and the methods adopted to cause disruption and divisiveness also change.
The summer months that have gone by did not bode well for the Pakistan-based terror masters. Concerted infiltration bids in peak season were thwarted by the Indian Army and the infiltration success rate was in decimals, if at all. At the same time security forces achieved major success in counter terrorist operations across the state. More than seventy terrorists have been reportedly killed this year, most of them during the summer.
These include some prominent commanders like Abu Qasim, a so-called Divisional Commander of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). He was a senior and experienced operative whose elimination has caused a severe setback to the terror organisation.
Terrorists operating in the state could not carry out high profile terror strikes during the summer months. The only notable strike was on a Border Security Force convoy at Udhampur in beginning August. One terrorist involved in the strike, Naved alias Usman, was captured alive. He confessed to being a Pakistani national, to the eternal embarrassment of the neighbouring country.
Since fresh infiltration was down to a trickle, the number of terrorists operating in the state could not be reinforced; the numbers, consequently, have fallen down to about 140. Terrorist activity continues to remain restricted to the Kashmir Valley despite many attempts to increase the area of influence.
Those available are involved in an internal struggle for supremacy, A senior terrorist of the Hizbul Mujahedeen (HM), Abdul Quyoom Najar, raised the banner of revolt in August/September 2015 and created his own outfit, the Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI). As many as twenty terrorists of the HM and some foreign terrorists operating in the valley have joined LeI.
With negligible success in infiltration and great loss of operative cadre, the terror establishment is facing a crisis. Desperate attempts towards local recruitment were made through the year. Some success was achieved due to lucrative monetary benefits being offered to jobless youth. Terrorist organisations are using social media to lure the youth.
With winter approaching, the thrust of infiltration will shift from the snow bound areas of the Kashmir Valley to the hilly terrain of Poonch and Rajouri lying south of the Pir Panjal mountain range and also along the International Border (IB) in Jammu. In the coming months, terrorists will attempt to take advantage of the dense fog and forestation along the Line of Control (LOC) and the IB to carry out infiltration.
They, however, cannot afford to stick only to their traditional approach in view of their depleting numbers. Hence, there is likelihood of concerted infiltration bids in the Kashmir Valley also. Terror masters are likely to send large groups through the snow bound areas of Kashmir in the hope that some will be able to pass through.
They will not be inhibited by the knowledge that most will die in this attempt due to hostile weather and the remainder will be killed by the Indian Army’s counter infiltration action. The high probability of many infiltrating terrorists losing their lives in the process will not reduce their intensity. If there is anything in Pakistan that is in ample supply, it is Jihadi mercenaries.
Terror mongers will put tremendous pressure on the operative cadre in Kashmir to strike regardless of the difficulty and the fear of elimination. Terrorists normally leave the forests and come down to the urban areas during winters and this is where they are likely to strike.
As regards disruptive activities in the political domain, the terror master sitting across the border will expect their paid stooges in Kashmir to come up with some innovative propaganda to spread dissension.
Since Hartals and Bandhs (Strikes and Lock outs) do not work well during winters, the next best option for the separatists would be organising anti-India seminars with the likes of Gautam Navlakha and Arundhati Roy attending. Such like activity will gain momentum. Attempts will be made to discredit the security forces and target the government despite its proactive development agenda.
The government and the security forces have to come up with a structured response to the appreciated strategy that the terrorists and disruptive forces will adopt during the crucial winter months.
As a first step, the Indian Army will need to gear up for ceasefire violations along the LOC and IB throughout the winter. These violations will be carried out to facilitate terrorist movement and infiltration.
Secondly, the security forces will need to remain ready for more than normal terrorist initiated activity in Kashmir during the winter. This will also open a window of opportunity to pull the terrorist rats out of their lairs and go for precise elimination.
The government will need to be prepared to challenge the propaganda campaign that the separatists are expected to unleash. They should be met with a vigorous awareness campaign whose main thrust would be to stop youth from being indoctrinated and also to expose the hollowness of the separatist debate.
Finally, it is sincerely hoped that the Indian media will get its perspectives right and respond to the situation in a positive rather than a sensationalist manner. It should try to understand the reason behind the ceasefire violations and it should not look at increased counter terrorist operations as a resurrection of the terror machinery. Above all, it should not give space to intellectual vampires to scuttle the development agenda simply for a sojourn in the beautiful valley.