Pak army bid to keep hold on Kashmir policy

THE Pakistan army has suddenly resorted to ceasefire violations along the LoC and shelling across the International Boundary (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir at a time when it is itself struggling to cope with the tough internal security challenge posed by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the TNSM and their affiliates in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa and FATA. For several years it suited the Pakistan army and the ISI to keep the Indian border quiet so that they could concentrate their energies on fighting terrorism, which Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has himself called the number-one national security threat.
Indian troops on the LoC.
The genesis of the current tension with Pakistan lies in the Indian Army’s relentless counter-infiltration campaign along the LoC and extremely successful intelligence-backed counter-insurgency operations with a human touch in the hinterland of J&K, which saw two summers of relative peace (2011-12). A sense of normalcy had returned; schools, colleges and hospitals were open; commerce was flourishing; political meetings were being regularly held; and, tourists were thronging the scenic spots. Over 3 lakh pilgrims completed the Amarnath Yatra, and Janmashtami and Dasehra were again being celebrated in Kashmir. Sporadic attacks against the security forces and their convoys continued, but these were few and far between. In fact, the civilian political leadership had begun to call for the re-deployment of the army and the revocation of provisions of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from certain districts. Now that tension has been ratcheted up, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has called for the use of ‘other options’ as diplomacy has not worked.
There were over 200 violations of the mutually observed ceasefire by the Pakistan army up to mid-October 2013. Of these, 125 have occurred since August 1. In comparison, there were 117 ceasefire violations in 2012 and only 61 in 2011. Similarly, the number of infiltration attempts has gone up considerably. Several hardcore LeT terrorists have been eliminated by the Army this year. Eight terrorists were killed and a large number of arms were recovered in counter-infiltration operations at several places in the Keran sector in September-October. The Pakistan army then decided to enlarge the area of its infiltration-cum-strike operations to the IB segment south of Jammu by sending in highly trained terrorists to attack the Hiranagar police station and the Officers Mess of a cavalry regiment near Samba on September 26. Subsequently, the Pakistan Rangers have been shelling BSF posts and several personnel as well as civilians have been injured in villages along the IB.
Though the Pakistan army denies its involvement, without its active support and that of the ISI no serious attempt can be made by terrorists to infiltrate. The Pakistan army is deployed on mountains and ridgelines and rivulets and nullahs are heavily mined. Infiltrating groups need to be guided through Pakistani posts, with adjacent posts providing cover fire for support. These posts also act as a firm base on which the terrorists can fall back if their infiltration bid is foiled. General Bikram Singh, Chief of the Army Staff, recently stated, “There is no way terrorists can operate in that area without the knowledge of the Pakistani army.”
There could be several reasons for the Pakistan army and the ISI to have stepped up ceasefire violations and infiltration attempts in the summer of 2013. With all the talk of return of peace, the Pakistan army was worried that the so-called Jihad in Kashmir was dying out and that the terrorist groups were getting demoralised. It was no longer satisfied with merely keeping the pot simmering and the machinery well-oiled and took steps to raise the temperature to boiling point again. Also, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had begun to talk of improving relations with India and the army wanted to send a clear message to him that it is the army that guides Pakistan’s Kashmir policy. The army was also dissatisfied with the PM’s peace overtures to the TTP and other terrorist organisations inimical to national security interests.
On another plane, the Pakistan army would like to limit India’s influence in Afghanistan and is perhaps sending a message to India to reduce its involvement, particularly its military aid and training support to the Afghan National Army. Some analysts have speculated that the heightened tensions with India in Kashmir could be due to the internal power struggle within the Pakistan army as General Kayani is due to retire. He may also be seeking the post of National Security Adviser.
The present phase of militancy and terrorism in Kashmir is now in its third decade. The Indian Army has stood firm in guarding the LoC and fighting well-trained and well-equipped state-sponsored terrorists within Kashmir. It has operated with immense professional success in rough terrain and difficult weather conditions.The Army deserves the support of the political leadership and the people of India to continue to maintain an effective vigil so that all efforts made by the Pakistan army and ISI to seize Kashmir through a proxy war are successfully foiled. Also, it is now time for India to consider other options.
The author is a Delhi-based strategic analyst.