Jihadi infiltration in North Kashmir

By K.N. Pandita

Reports about infiltration by a sizeable group of Pakistani terrorist outfit supported by her regulars in Keran sector are coming in. While the media has reported occupation of Shala Bhatu village, 1.3 kilometers away from the line of fence on Indian side on the LoC by the infiltrators three weeks ago, army brass has denied the story of occupation but confirmed infiltration. For quite some time, intelligence sources have been speaking about jihadi concentration along LoC on PoK side. Along with that, the number of infiltration bids and the covering fire provided by Pakistani troops in various sectors have shown an increase in comparison to the previous year.  

This attempt of infiltration made at a time when the two prime ministers expressed their resolve to fight terrorism during their NY meet is disappointing. It raises many questions about the ability of Pakistani Prime Minister to rein in the terrorist elements within the country and the support they are receiving from the army. We cannot call it a positive step towards building peace between the two countries. Our doubt that Pakistani Prime Minister’s writ does not run in that country becomes eloquent when we find that after he assumed the reins of the government, terrorist activities and infiltration bids at the LoC have substantially increased. Terrorist attacks in Kathua, Srinagar and now in Keran sector are substantiating our point. Another problem closely associated with the situation on the LoC is that jihadis have been given the status of “frontline security bastion” of Pakistan army.  It means that Pakistan army and ISI have reached a vast segment of Pakistani civilian society with hate-India blitzkrieg to register support for the clear motive of creating serious impediments in the path of Nawaz Sharif if he chooses to cozy up to the Indians

Apart from this, the nation would want to know how this massive infiltration could take place when we are assured that our security forces are maintaining strict vigil on the border. We know that it is a long and porous border and foolproof prevention of infiltration is not possible. Trusting the army top brass that the jihadis have not been allowed to occupy the village of Shala Bhatu, the fact remains that infiltration has taken place and at a time when the 22 Kumaon was being replaced by 3/3 Gurkha Regiment. Why should have the replacement taken place in a situation that allowed the infiltrators to successfully sneak in and occupy the vacated bunkers or deserted huts. Obviously there has been a snag somewhere in overall strategy of securing this sector and the enemy has exploited it. It is unacceptable that our troops on forward posts remained uninformed about the infiltration reported to have taken place three weeks ago.

For quite some time, intelligence sources have been speaking of strong concentration of jihadis close to the LoC on Pakistani side all along vulnerable points in Poonch-Mendhar-Rajouri and Tithwal-Keran sectors. It has also been reported that these jihadis are equipped with much more sophisticated weaponry and communication apparatus. The LeT handlers in Pakistan have made no secret of the terrorist organization upgrading their musclemen in all respects, training, tactics, arms, map reading, surveillance and suicide tactics. Their local agents have been carrying on surveillance of our army and police camps, their location, strength, connectivity and state of preparedness. We cannot rule out the possibility of a network of spies and insiders providing much useful date to the enemy. These challenges have to be met and defeated.

We owe much to our army and paramilitary forces who have been meeting this challenge with exceptional bravery and determination. It is because of their supreme sacrifices and services that a semblance of normalcy has been restored in the State. The lapse in Karen is being rectified and the army top brass has assured the nation that the challenge will be met.

In the context of this situation, we find that Pakistan has renewed its efforts to destabilize the troubled State once again.  As regards relations between Pakistani civilian government and the army, we need not read much between the lines. We have to accept that the enemy is unrelenting and, therefore, we have to be prepared to give it befitting reply. This vindicates army’s stand that it cannot allow complacency overtake its preparedness. The situation is not that normal as we might imagine. In these circumstances withdrawal of armed forces from any part of the State or withdrawal of powers given to it to combat the terrorist menace will be a risky decision fraught with most serious consequences.

One more point that we would like to touch upon is the regional strategy and its impact on Kashmir. We mean the prospect of US-led NATO forces preparing to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.  A large number of battle hardened jihadis from Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province are closely linked to ISI either directly or through conduits like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Haqqani and others. They would lend their tactical and logistical support to Kashmir jihad that has already made some space for itself in the strategic map of the region likely to emerge after the US forces leave. LeT, a Kashmir centered jihadi organization based in Pakistan heartland, is crucially aligned to all the three primary actors on the stage, namely the TTP, Al Qaeda and ISI/Pak Army with the ultimate agenda of establishing the Islamic Caliphate from the Dardanelles to the Straits of Malacca in which Kashmir holds central position for their scheme of things.

We believe that this aspect of Kashmir insurgency is not hidden from the eyes of policy planners in New Delhi and Srinagar. As such, our defence planning in Kashmir has to be re-oriented and superscripted against the magnitude of threat posed by the ground situation. It is very unlikely that Mian Nawaz Sharif will be allowed time and space he needs to undermine or neutralize the grandiose plan of the jihadis. Unless he is able to sensitize broad masses of his people to the dangerous abyss to which the jihadis are pushing his country, and unless he succeeds in rebuilding the peaceful image of his country in the eyes of world community, it may not be possible to expect rectification of grave aberrations viciously dogging Pakistan.

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