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Renewed Infiltration in Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian Response

B.S. Sachar was Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
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  • May 16, 2008

    In a turnaround of events, the recent encounter with terrorists in Samba area and the reported infiltration of a large group of terrorists through the international border (IB) of Jammu region is a clear indication that levels of infiltration in Jammu & Kashmir are likely to see an increase this summer. The situation in the State was fast moving towards normalcy and hectic political activities were on with more political parties and other groups joining the mainstream, in a run up to elections later this year. India had hoped that the new democratic government in Pakistan will rein in the Army and the ISI in a bid to improve relations between the two countries. This perception, however, appears flawed as reports indicate that the restrictions placed on anti-India jihadi groups in Pakistan have been relaxed to restore the Army’s legitimacy among the fundamentalists. The Pakistani establishment appears committed to keep the violent pot boiling in Jammu & Kashmir to give them increased bargaining capacity with India in peace talks.

    According to media reports, there are approximately 40 terrorist training camps that are functioning in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and in Pakistan. The Pakistani Army is reported to have activated the launch pads last month for infiltrating terrorists from these camps, to boost the strength and morale of the cadres already active in the State. Indian troops deployed along the Line of Control (LoC) have detected increased infiltration attempts particularly in the Rajouri-Poonch sector of Jammu and Tangdhar-Gurez sector of Kashmir this year. It is assessed that due to active domination of the LoC by the Army, the IB sector has also been activated by the ISI for infiltration. It is feared that last week 10 to 15 terrorists may have been able to infiltrate across the IB in Jammu Sector, out of which only three have been killed in the encounters in Samba. The remainder have probably been able to move unchecked towards the hinterland and head towards Doda/ Udhmapur districts. It is, therefore, vital that co-ordinated joint search operations are launched to track and neutralise these terrorists before they are able to join their tanzeems and succeed in their mission of spreading terror in the State.

    To counter the anti-infiltration measures put in place by the security forces guarding the Line of Control and International Border, terrorists have gone hi-tech and are being given special training to negotiate the electrified border fence as well as in modern means of navigation and communication. Infiltrators sneaking into the Indian side are increasingly using global positioning system (GPS) and maps. Earlier, they used to rely on human guides (Gujars), who used to take hefty sums for guiding them across the LoC and were not always trustworthy. The recovery of a sophisticated GPS device from a slain Pakistani terrorist planning to attack the Army garrison in Samba has made this very clear. Terrorists are also being equipped with handy satellite phones for communicating with their mentors across the border. New shockproof fence cutters have been provided by the ISI to the infiltrators to enable them to get across the barbed wire fencing with ease. The neatly cut border fence in one of the areas of the IB sector of Jammu region this week revealed the use of new wire cutting equipment. Old wire cutters took a lot of time to cut the fence and there was the constant fear of the intrusion bid being observed by troops on the Indian side.

    The 190 km long IB in Jammu Sector is manned by the Border Security Force (BSF) and was traditionally not used for infiltration as the terrain does not offer any cover and the inhabitants on the Indian side are predominantly Hindus. Terrorists generally resorted to move over difficult mountainous terrain further north (along the LoC), to reach their bases in the hinterland after the snow had started melting to make movement possible. The latest infiltration attempts in the IB sector necessitate additional forces and state-of-the-art surveillance equipment to be deployed to ensure a foolproof counter-infiltration posture. The BSF will need to reinforce its strength in the first tier and the Army can bring in troops in the second tier, as was done during the period 2002-05. A dusk-to-dawn curfew will also need to be imposed on all villages along the IB in the Jammu region for the next few months. In the LoC sector, the fence damaged due to heavy winter snowfall will need to be repaired on a war footing. Given the overall decline of violence level in the State, readjustments can be carried out to pull out troops from dormant areas and deploy them in the counter infiltration mode in the second tier, till the LoC fence is fully repaired.

    Terrorist outfits, particularly the Lashkar-e-Taiba, will try their best to revive the waning Jihad in the State and sabotage the upcoming elections. The security forces, along with the intelligence agencies, will therefore, need to be pro-active to counter their design. The forthcoming elections this year have evoked a very enthusiastic response in the State and a safe environment will need to be ensured so that people can exercise their franchise without any fear. India should use the visit of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to Islamabad later this month to reinforce its stand that ending terrorism is a necessary pre-condition for peace and security. The new government in Pakistan would need to co-operate with India in checking infiltration and dismantling the jihadi infrastructure on its soil, so that the composite dialogue process could be carried forward to find a lasting peace.