[Yojana Archive] Counter-Terrorism Scenario in J&K

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Context

Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) region has been afflicted by the problem of cross-border terrorism, separatist violence and armed militancy for more than 30 years.

Militancy in J&K: A Backgrounder

  • Since the early 1990s, this militancy has transformed radically as various internal and external dynamics have impacted it, such as the driving role of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), evolution of Kashmir’s separatist politics, influence of terrorist groups and the emergence of social media.
  • This makes the militancy in J&K today a qualitatively different challenge to the security establishment than it was in 1989 when scores of Kashmiri youths crossed the Line of Control (LoC) to train in Pakistan-occupied J&K (PoK) and joined the ranks of terrorist outfits.

J&K since the revocation of Art. 370

  • The 5th of August 2022, marked three years since the Union Government revoked the special status of J&K and created two new Union Territories (UTs) of J&K and Ladakh.
  • This change is said to be a landmark moment for the region, marking a break from the past to herald a new administrative and security approach to this strategically-important region.
  • Several initiatives implemented by the J&K UT administration and security establishment since then demonstrate that there is hope for a better future.
  • At present, the Indian security establishments extend their firm control of the situation in J&K. Security agencies have kept up the pressure on militants through dynamic operations and have cut off the support from terror ecosystems.
  • Despite there being some evolving and emerging challenges from the Counter-Terrorism (CT) perspective, security forces are confident of tackling them effectively.

Success of counter-terrorism operations

Ans. Decline in militancy

  • The current residual strength of the terrorists operating in the region is a key indicator of the improved security situation in the region.
  • The numbers during the early 1990s were in the thousands. However, the situation has changed significantly. Current terrorist strength in Kashmir stands at about 163.
  • It is also seen that the role of Pakistani terrorists has now been reduced to guiding and motivating the local terrorists.
  • South Kashmir remains the main hub of militancy while North Kashmir has been a key entry point for Pakistani Militants through the LoC.

Major challenges

(1) Tackling cross-border infiltration

  • Pakistan-based terrorist organizations have used the mountainous terrain in north Kashmir to sneak into the Kashmir Valley.
  • Militants enter through the south of Pir Panjal range, Jammu-Samba-Kathua plains and the hilly Rajouri-Poonch areas.
  • To counter this infiltration, security forces have set up a highly-effective three-tiered counter-infiltration grid.
  • Further, the forces have deployed Anti Infiltration Obstacle System (AIOS) fencing and have enhanced surveillance through the use of drones, night-vision equipment, and hand-held thermal imaging devices.
  • The security agencies have increased the pressure on the terrorist groups in the region through several Counter-Insurgency (CI) operations.
  • The elimination of the top militant leadership and disruption of their subversive plan has yielded great results.

(2) Leftover terrorist groups

  • A crucial part of the security crackdown is the punitive action against the subversive elements of the ecosystem that support the terrorists that include the network of Over Ground Workers (OGWs) and terrorist sympathisers.
  • Security agencies have targeted the OGWs who help the militants by providing multiple services such as recharging mobile phones, providing shelter and informing the terrorists about the security forces movements.
  • Since 2019, J&K Police have arrested more than 900 OGWs under the Public Safety Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
  • Countering terrorist finances has been another key area of focus. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has launched several investigations into the cases of terrorist financing.
  • The MHA has set up a Terror Monitoring Group, comprising representatives of security agencies like NIA, Central Bureau of Investigation, Intelligence Bureau and JKP and financial agencies like Central Board of Direct Taxes, and Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs to closely monitor terrorist financing cases.
  • Several soft measures such as exercising maximum restraint, avoiding pellet guns and minimizing collateral damage during the CI operations and protest demonstrations have also helped the cause by gaining the trust and respect of the civilians in the region.

Emerging challenges

  • Radicalization and Terrorist Recruitment: Increase in the local terrorist recruitment in areas such as Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Awantipora have been a key cause of concern.
  • Hybrid terrorists and virtual terrorist outfits: With increased Counter-Insurgency ops and neutralization of many active militants, terrorist masterminds have changed their strategies.
  • Technological advances: With the advent of modern technologies in cyberspace such as the dark web, the militants are using technological advancements to achieve their agenda.
  • Pakistan’s information warfare:  The ISI is working hard to spread disinformation on social media platforms as Pakistan’s material and financial support to terrorist groups such as LeT and JeM have attracted global scanners.

Way forward

  • Comprehensive national efforts: Countering terrorism will require a comprehensive national effort anchored in India’s democratic credentials.
  • Sahi Raasta Initiative: by Indian Army aims to tackle the issue of radicalization by bringing the youth on the right track through national integration tours, sports training programs and festivals, and skill development workshops.

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