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Surge in Infiltration Attempts Across the Line of Control in J&K

B.S. Sachar was Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
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  • June 07, 2007

    A surge in infiltration attempts by heavily armed terrorists across the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K has been reported in the last two months. With the snow receding on the Pir Panjal range of mountains along the LoC and the passes opening up, terrorists waiting in training camps in Pakistan/PoK are attempting to sneak into the State. The period April to July is generally a peak period of infiltration. However, the number of infiltration attempts that have been made by terrorist groups in the last two months has been unprecedented, and it sends an alarming signal of Pakistan's intentions. According to recent reports, there has been a two-fold jump in infiltration in April and May this year as compared to the last two years. The Army has successfully intercepted a number of these groups though some seem to have inevitably succeeded in getting through undetected. It has been estimated that 79 terrorists managed to infiltrate in April 2007, compared to 27 in April 2006. A majority of the terrorists killed by the Army while attempting infiltration have been identified as foreign terrorists (FTs). The ISI, which is behind all this, is presumably aiming to push in heavily armed and better-trained Pakistan-based terrorists in order to regain leverage over militancy in the State.

    In 2007 so far, infiltration is also being attempted through routes that have traditionally not been used like the Sunderbani Sector of Jammu region. This has been a consequence of the Army's success in plugging the traditional routes used by terrorists, which has forced them to take less frequented routes to avoid detection and reduce casualties. The likelihood of infiltration through the IB Sector of Jammu region also appears strong. One such attempt has already been foiled by the Border Security Force on May 15, 2007. Pakistan, taking advantage of the ceasefire, has constructed defence works right up to the International Border, which provides the additional advantage of aiding the infiltration of terrorists into India.

    The modus operandi generally followed for infiltration is that ISI monitors the setting up of launch pads close to the LoC, in co-ordination with local army formations, based on weather conditions and assessed infiltration routes. Terrorists are brought a day or two prior to the launch to the designated launch pad and reconnaissance is carried out to ascertain areas where there are gaps in the fence or where it is damaged or not illuminated. The infiltrators are thereafter led by guides or alternately they use GPS and maps to move to the selected crossing site. In the training camps they are taught techniques for breaching the fence using insulated ladders, blankets and wire cutters, besides other means. After successful infiltration, they move to the chosen rendezvous before daybreak and lie low during daylight hours. After establishing contact with their mentors, they move to the rugged hinterland or to towns either with the help of local guides or by using GPS and maps, to join other members of their Tanzeem.

    A number of reasons can be attributed to the increase in infiltration levels this year over corresponding figures of the last two years. First, terrorists especially FTs, have suffered heavy attrition at the hands of the security forces (SF) in the last few years and early replacements are crucial to continue the so-called jihad. Second, local militants are increasingly shunning the path of militancy and surrendering in large numbers to the SF, both at the LoC and in the hinterland, revealing networks, modus operandi and arms caches. Trend analysis of surrenders at the LoC has revealed that militants languishing in training camps in Pakistan/PoK wish to return back and join the mainstream. Their family members contact the Army who facilitate the surrenders at designated points at the LoC. Compared to about 200 militants who surrendered in 2006, 72 have been reported to have already surrendered this year, including 10 who surrendered to the Chief Minister on June 05, 2007 at Doda. This has dealt a heavy blow to militancy and it is likely that more FTs are being inducted to take over leadership, boost morale and enforce discipline in the ranks of the local terrorists.

    The hike in infiltration without a corresponding spike in violence levels in the State reveals a deeper game plan. Though it is true that newly infiltrating terrorists take time to settle down and become active, there are enough resident terrorists to launch attacks and ensure that the conditions in the state remain disturbed. In April and May last year, the level of violence was much higher and even tourists were targeted. One reason for the reduced scale of violence this year could be that terrorists have been instructed by their masters to maintain a low profile in the hope that this would further encourage the Indian government to reduce the number of troops in J&K.

    Pakistan will continue its policy of supporting cross border terrorism to keep the pot of militancy boiling in J&K. It would also aim to intensify the scale of violence in the run-up to next year's elections in the State. The coming few months are critical and the gains of the last few years must not be lost. The SF will need to deploy maximum strength backed by good intelligence to prevent infiltration across the LoC/IB and track and neutralise terrorists who have managed to get across. Lines of communication have to be properly sanitised to allow unhindered flow of military and civilian traffic. A strong message needs to be sent to Pakistan to wind down the infrastructure of support to terrorism on its soil and to stop abetting cross border terrorism.