Attempts were made by the ISI to widen the arc of militancy to areas in the States bordering J&K, such as in the Dalhousie-Chamba area of Himachal Pradesh. When finally implemented, these measures will help to prevent forced migration of members of the minority community and enable the JKP and the people of the affected areas to play a more effective part in eliminating militancy in J&K. If the situation in Kashmir Valley has been brought under control despite the viciousness and ruthlessness of the ISI-sponsored campaign to wrest Kashmir from India, the credit must go to the Indian Army and the other central security forces such as the BSF and the CRPF. The Army's relentless effort in conducting counterinsurgency operations Under the most trying circumstances, while resolutely adhering to the application of the principle of "Minimum force," is indeed commendable and possibly unparalleled in the world.
The year 2000 is the eleventh year of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Despite vociferous denials to the contrary, Pakistan’s military regime continues to finance, train, equip and sponsor mercenaries and actively abet their attempts to infiltrate the Line of Control (LoC) and to spread terror in J&K. Ever since the Pakistan Army’s well-armed regular soldiers intruded into the Kargil district of J&K in mid1999 and were thrown out at great cost to the nation, the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence Directorate of Pakistan) has further stepped up terrorist activities, particularly in the Kashmir Valley.
Clearly, the situation has worsened over the past one year. With the Indian forces in almost complete control of the security situation in the Kashmir Valley in 1997-98, the centre of gravity of Pakistan’s ISI-controlled and directed mercenary activities had gradually shifted to new areas south of the Pir Panjal Range, which separates the Jammu region from the Valley. These include Doda (Kishtwar and Bhadarwah), Poonch and Rajouri. Sporadic acts of wanton terrorism had also been perpetrated in and around Jammu city and Udhampur. Attempts were made by the ISI to widen the arc of militancy to areas in the States bordering J&K, such as in the Dalhousie-Chamba area of Himachal Pradesh.
Most of the areas south of the Pir Panjal Range in Jammu region are predominantly Hindu majority areas, unlike the Valley, which is a Muslim majority area. The ISI’s long-term aim is to create a communal and sectarian divide. Acts of terrorism targeted primarily against Hindus are designed to provoke mass migrations by whipping up a fear psychosis on the pattern of the exodus of Hindus from the Kashmir Valley in 1990-93, with a view to gradually change the demographic pattern in the Jammu region and adjacent areas.
As the initial recruitment base in the Kashmir Valley has very nearly dried up, Pakistan is increasingly resorting to sponsoring a motley array of Islamist mercenary terrorists to let loose a reign of terror in J&K. In Doda, the entire operational command is now under other countries. The few remaining Kashmiri militants have been completely sidelined. Doda district comprises rugged mountainous terrain which affords ample opportunity to the militants to operate from well-concealed hideouts.
The countryside is ideal for mercenaries to establish operating bases and radio communication centres and to stockpile arms, ammunition and explosives. Due to lack of adequate surface communication, it is difficult for the security forces to respond timely to prevent incidents of terrorism, or to pursue and eliminate militants after they strike.
It is even more difficult to establish a viable intelligence network. In particular, the gaining of ‘actionable’ intelligence for launching surgical strikes against the militants is extremely problematic. As such, in 1998-99, the ISI achieved major successes in killing members of the minority community through massacres of innocent civilians in order to create a communal divide and force migrations from the area. It also achieved success in blowing up bridges and culverts (to further Slow down the security forces) and in targeting schools, government buildings and property and places of worship.
Since then, the concerted action of the Central and State governments and their respective security forces have succeeded in arresting the rise of militancy in J&K. In the areas of Jammu division, the Measures instituted recently are gradually showing results. Since the setting-up of the unified command in J&K in December 1996 (after elections to the State Assembly in September 1996), with the Chief Minister of the State as the chairman and the general officers commanding 15 and 16 Corps as security advisers, there has the much greater coordination among the State government, the Army and the Central police organizations (CPOs) in the fight against militancy.
The revamped Jammu and Kashmir Police (JKP) and the better trained, better equipped and motivated Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police (JKAP) have begun to operate in close coordination with the central security forces and greater synergy has been achieved in counter-insurgency operations. The intelligence network has also been strengthened. The Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) has become more effective in coordinating intelligence acquisition, collation, analysis, synthesis and dissemination, though much more still needs to be done.
The Army has enhanced its vigil at the LoC to further reduce infiltration through a three-tier, static-cum-mobile development plan combined with vigorous patrolling in the rear areas, particularly during the hours of darkness and poor visibility. Equipment and technology deficiencies of the past are now being redressed to improve and further enhance the quality of surveillance.
However, no amount of hi-tech gadgetry can completely eliminate infiltration. The rugged mountainous terrain, covered by dense forests in the Poonch and Rajouri areas comprises innumerable deep ravines, nullahs and re-entrants and is tailor-made for infiltration. This is so because the Numerous choices available in a given area, lies with the mercenaries. Even if the number of infantry battalions of the Army deployed on the LoC is doubled, it would not be possible to stop infiltration altogether.
Hence, the present emphasis is on making the villagers capable of self-defence through the establishment of village defence committees (VDCs). The members of the VDCs are being provided elementary training in light weapons and limited communication equipment. Though some members of the VDCs have been specially targeted by the so-called Mujahideen mercenaries, the concept is taking root.
Simultaneously, the number of police posts is being increased to enhance the presence of the civil administration in the affected areas of Poonch, Rajouri, Udhampur and Doda districts. The aim is to instil confidence in the people, deter terrorist strikes by denying the militants the capability of unfettered movement in the area, gain intelligence, identify harbourers And sympathizers who provide shelter to the militants, exercise command and control over the VDCs for quick reaction against the terrorists when they strike.
This JKP scheme is called “police security grid” and involves the setting up of a large number of border posts on the likely routes of infiltration behind Army posts in Poonch and Rajouri districts, defence posts inside selected villages and a number of operational posts to launch active counter-insurgency operations against the militants in the four districts. When finally implemented, these measures will help to prevent forced migration of members of the minority community and enable the JKP and the people of the affected areas to play a more effective part in eliminating militancy in J&K.
If the situation in Kashmir Valley has been brought under control despite the viciousness and ruthlessness of the ISI-sponsored campaign to wrest Kashmir from India, the credit must go to the Indian Army and the other central security forces such as the BSF and the CRPF. The Army’s relentless effort in conducting counterinsurgency operations Under the most trying circumstances, while resolutely adhering to the application of the principle of “minimum force,” is indeed commendable and possibly unparalleled in the world.
In contrast with similar situations in other parts of the world, where tanks, aircraft, missiles, attack helicopters, artillery and mortars have been freely used with attendant non-combatant casualties, for example in Chechnya and Dagestan, the Indian Army has conducted no more than a police operation in Kashmir. In keeping with its training and ethos, it has carried this out in a methodical fashion, ferreting out and arresting individuals rather than punishing a community, seeking combat with the militants, rather than waiting to be attacked in places where civilians could be hit.
The nation has undoubtedly paid a heavy price in terms of security forces and civilian casualties in fighting Pakistan-sponsored insurgency in J&K. The economic costs of the long-drawn out militancy have also been considerable as the development of J&K has been adversely affected. However, it is now well appreciated that no price Is too heavy for ensuring the security and territorial integrity of the nation. While the country stands firmly united in countering Pakistan-Sponsored Insurgency in J&K, efforts must be stepped up to find a lasting political solution to the problem.
It needs to be understood that the security forces can only bring the military operations of the ISI-sponsored Foreign mercenaries under control; they cannot eliminate the root cause of the Present phase of militancy. For this, a concerted national effort is imperative. The first requirement is to draw up a comprehensive inter-ministerial and inter-ministerial national policy on defeating ‘proxy war’ and nursing the State of J&K back to normalcy.