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Series of Attacks Post Uri, Is It Resurgence of Militancy in J&K?

Strengthening counter-infiltration grid will avert cross-LoC infiltration bids, writes Lt Gen (Retd) Ata Hasnain.

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Security-related events in Kashmir over the last two weeks after the surgical strikes across the Line of Control, seem to be worrying many observers.

The apprehensions are understandable if one is unfamiliar with the dynamics of Kashmir’s security landscape. The questions being asked by TV anchors and some academics allude to the dilution of the hold of the security forces, alleged large-scale infiltration in the last few months, loss of police effectiveness and the general rule of law under threat.

These are valid questions which need to be answered with the knowledge of the past and then join the dots with other events along the LoC and in Pakistan.

Also Read: For Surgical Strike in PoK, Commandos Took Mine-Free Routes

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Usual Ploy of Fidayeens

First, Uri should be put behind us. It was a bad day for the Indian army. We have had losses before; it should not happen again but there can be no guarantee that it won’t. There’s no doubt that there will be greater vigil along the LoC in the shallow areas with higher precedence of infiltration but the concept being re-adopted by Pakistan’s deep state is that of the so-called fidayeen (actually disgraceful sneaking attempts and not attacks).

It was adopted by the terrorists immediately after Kargil too in 1999. These are suicide attacks (not bombings), executed primarily by small teams of Pakistani terrorists with the purpose of causing casualties, resulting in greater caution by the security forces and forcing out-of-proportion deployment of resources on defensive intelligence and protection of assets. It hopes to reduce the security forces’ offensive actions towards hunting of terrorists.

Also Read: 3 Months After Burhan, Hundreds Have Gone Underground in Kashmir

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Frequent Attacks, Desperate Move

There is no clear demarcating line related to the commencement and end of such a concept. What commenced in 1999 succeeded immediately, taking the army, BSF and J&K police by surprise. Then, as the forces improved their capability to respond, the terrorist efforts started to peter out and by 2004 became infrequent. There is no apparent link of the concept with the strength of terrorists in the hinterland as the same (infiltration efforts) in 1999-2003 was at its height and in 2016 is assessed to be a little over 200 hardcore. Does this indicate a desperation of sorts?

Also Read: Warlike Situation Could Prevail in Kashmir for Several Months

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Limited Options Before Pakistan's Deep State

The surgical strikes were launched by India in a little over 10 days after Uri, which was against the run of expectations by Pakistan’s deep state. Its response was denial and its statements were made to seek time for an appropriate retribution. There was a bit of a dilemma there. A big strike within 1-15 days cannot be executed in the rest of India outside J&K on the lines of the 26/11 terror attack. Such attacks take time although the festive season could well be the period for retribution.

A second option for Pakistan is to launch a series of BAT (Border Action Team) actions at the LoC but the Indian vigil is higher than ever and an assured success is unlikely. Even as all this is being planned, the necessity to do something has caused worry in the deep state’s ranks.

Also Read: Army Foils Infiltration Bid Along the LoC in Tanghdar, Kashmir

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Strengthening  counter-infiltration grid will avert cross-LoC infiltration bids, writes Lt Gen (Retd) Ata Hasnain.
A big strike within 1-15 days cannot be executed in the rest of India outside J&K on the lines of the 26/11 terror attack. (Photo: PTI)
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Bolster Counter-Infiltration Grid

The terrorist strength is less and sleeper cells have eroded over time. The terrorists who have surrendered are local and do not usually take part in suicide attacks. The deep state has probably taken a decision to go for the only option it had, much to the glee of the LeT and JeM.

Some degree of infiltration was obviously achieved which could have helped in this decision. Although the army will contest it (they must), the quality of the LoC fence is suspect. The same is the status of the capacity of the counter-infiltration grid to deliver further without quantitative and qualitative enhancement in the available surveillance technology.

Also Read: Live: Second Terrorist Killed as EDI Encounter Enters Third Day

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Snapshot

Terror Attacks On a Rise

  • Recent militant attacks in Kashmir aimed at reducing the security forces’ offensive actions towards hunting of terrorists.
  • The attacks follow a similar pattern, as was evident after Kargil in 1999, though infiltration attempts had reduced drastically by 2004.
  • Terror groups aim to keep the agitation on the streets alive that has lost its momentum in last few days.
  • Terror attacks highlight the need to revamp the security along the LoC and upgrade the surveillance technology.
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Strengthening  counter-infiltration grid will avert cross-LoC infiltration bids, writes Lt Gen (Retd) Ata Hasnain.
Pakistan army chief General Raheel Sharif. (Photo: Reuters)
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Motive Behind Attacks

The decision to go in for so-called fidayeen attacks and the attempts at Baramulla, Langate and Pampore are undoubtedly indicative of desperation. However, the possible increase in infiltration in the last three months remains a grim reality, although the quantum is only marginal. For the ‘tanzeems’ the idea is to remain relevant and give support to the street agitation where the energy is now definitely dwindling.

It needs to be remembered that success in terrorist actions will remain elusive although an odd incident may cause more than expected casualties. Success in such missions is a comparative term. Effective penetration of a camp or an establishment is good enough to make a statement, imposing some casualties is a bonus and being killed in the course of it is supposed to be legitimate. This is how the low-level, small terrorist actions are likely to pan out in next few days.

Also Read: BSF Decries Army Taking All Credit for Kashmir Counter-Terror Ops

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Strengthening  counter-infiltration grid will avert cross-LoC infiltration bids, writes Lt Gen (Retd) Ata Hasnain.
It needs to be remembered that success in terrorist actions will remain elusive although an odd incident may cause more than expected casualties. (Photo: PTI)
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Revamping Security Set-Up

The Pakistani handlers are taking a fair risk in all this. They could well cross India’s realigned limit of tolerance once again, if a terror strike manages to achieve more than the desired objective. More importantly, it is eroding the limited terrorist strength in the Valley, with no assurance of building up more.

The daromadar (acme), as it is called in the army, ultimately lies with the counter-infiltration grid and the revamping of intelligence to defeat infiltration. The LoC fence and surveillance technology needs an upgrade to ensure this. Hopefully, that will happen this winter.

Lastly, the J&K police is not limping but sprinting back to effectiveness. Its hierarchy needs to be complimented. The marginal slip-off in intelligence was due to it being under pressure. It’s the streets which need attention, the rest will be taken care of. That is a political call demanding a joint Centre-state effort and needs a separate piece to examine.

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(The writer is a retired Lieutenant General in the Indian Army. He is now associated with the Vivekanand International Foundation and Delhi Policy Group. He can be reached at @atahasnain53. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

Also Read: Some Evident Lapses in Uri Call for Immediate Remedial Action

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