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The attack on Sunday, 31 December 2017, that killed five CRPF personnel in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district marks the failure of the Narendra Modi government’s hard-line policy of finishing off armed militancy in the state. This has involved a tough approach towards Pakistan, as well as a major offensive to kill or capture militants within the Valley.
Last month, the Lok Sabha was told that there had been a 230 percent increase in the number of ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC). This is despite a three-year policy of reining in Pakistan through heavy retaliatory firing along the LoC and the so-called surgical strikes of September 2016.
Indian policy now seems to be resting on the hope that the United States’ tough stand on Pakistan, most recently revealed by President Trump’s New Year tweet, will bring Islamabad to heel.
A Dangerous Trend: Kashmiris Getting Involved in Fidayeen Attacks
The more alarming news, perhaps, is the suicide attack on the CRPF camp. It signals a new and dangerous trend – triggered in part by the government’s policy missteps – of Kashmiris getting involved in Fidayeen attacks. Till now, this was the preserve of hardened Pakistani nationals, but in this particular attack, it was reported that two, or perhaps all three, of the militants who were killed were locals.
Ever since the killing of Burhan Wani in 2016, the security forces have been on the offensive against militancy in the Valley. This has led to the killing of 214 militants in 2017, nearly double the number of those killed in 2013 or 2014. But it has also led to a sharp rise in the fatalities of the security forces, reaching 88 in 2016 and 83 in 2017, as compared to a low of 17 in 2012.
The fact that the militants killed in Pulwama were from Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) indicates that the so-called surgical strikes have failed to deter Pakistani adventurism.
The militants may have been Kashmiri, but there should be no doubt that the task of motivating them would have been carried out by a seasoned handler, almost certainly a Pakistani.
Impact of Surgical Strikes Overstated
Actually, the impact of the so-called surgical strikes has been overstated from the outset.
Indeed, this was evident when a far more serious attack occurred within two months of the strikes on the army’s 166 Field Regiment near Nagrota in November 2016, leading to the death of seven Indian soldiers, including two officers.
Unlike the attack on Uri, which triggered the ‘surgical strikes’ and which lies very close to the LoC, Nagrota is a Corps headquarters and lies at least 60 km from the border.
The logic of the ‘surgical strikes’ would have suggested that every significant Pakistani provocation would be met by a disproportionately tough response. Yet, there was no Indian reaction.
Indian Policy Not Working
In fact, there have been as many as four Fidayeen attacks in 2017 itself.
On 27 April, three jawans were killed in an attack on the Panzgam garrison along the LoC in Kupwara district. On 5 June, an attack on a CRPF camp in Bandipora was foiled and all four Pakistani Fidayeen were killed. On 27 August, eight police personnel were killed in an encounter following a Fidyaeen attack in Pulwama. And on 3 October, a BSF junior officer was killed and three others were injured following an attack on the BSF’s camp at Srinagar airport. All of these attacks have been authored by the JeM, the outfit run by Masood Azhar, which was responsible for the Uri and Pathankot attacks.
The Indian policy has not been working since the Pathankot attack of January 2016. The effort to make a political outreach through interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma is too recent and inchoate to yield results.
Unwise to Expect that Trump’s Tweet Represents a Major Policy Shift
So, it would seem that New Delhi is depending on the United States to pull its chestnuts out of the fire. Perhaps that is what accounts for the joyous response to Trump’s tweet by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s official spokesman, GVL Narasimha Rao, who said that it was the result of Modi’s diplomacy.
It would be unwise to expect that Trump’s tweet represents a major policy shift. That Pakistan has been playing the US on the issue of support to the Taliban is no secret. If anything, Trump’s remarks are a manifestation of American frustration in getting Pakistan to behave.
Trump has publicly attacked Pakistan on the issue of its support to the Taliban.
In August 2017, he announced his policy of ramping up troop levels in Afghanistan beyond the 8,400 number left by the Obama administration. Besides giving them autonomy to fight as they pleased, he called on Pakistan to “immediately” stop supporting “the very terrorists we are fighting.”
Things came to a head after the US discovered that a militant had been captured in the rescue of a Canadian couple in October 2017. But when the US demanded that Pakistan give them access to interrogate him, Islamabad flatly refused. No doubt Pakistan was worried as to what could be revealed by the militant in such an interrogation.
This is what possibly led to Trump’s tweet and the US withholding $255 million in aid to Pakistan.
(The writer is a Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation. 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)
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