Pakistan’s desperation to expand terrorism to Punjab, as was evident in the recent blast in Amritsar, indicates that they are beginning to realise that Kashmir is now a losing battle or at best a stalemate.
The army chief, Gen. Bipin Rawat, during his talk at the Y.B. Chavan memorial lecture, ‘Addressing the challenges of hybrid conflict in the 21st century,’ stated that India should first resolve problems in Jammu and Kashmir through an integrated approach to tackle the ‘hybrid warfare’ unleashed by Pakistan instead of harbouring immediate notions of regaining PoK. He also stated that it should not lose sight of its goal of regaining PoK.
Hybrid warfare is an all-encompassing term which goes beyond destroying an enemy’s military capabilities. It covers a full spectrum combining conventional and irregular warfare alongside cyber and information warfare. It also includes fermenting internal disorder in the target country. Thus, while the term may be all-encompassing, it remains below the threshold of an all-out war and continues during peace and war.
‘Hybrid warfare’ unleashed by Pakistan in Kashmir includes use of irregulars in the 1947-48 and 1965 wars, Kargil adventure, instigation of stone throwers to disrupt security forces operations, bandhs leading to closure of schools, burning of schools and pushing in terrorists to target security forces and locals who do not support their view. Economic warfare, including pushing in counterfeit currency and employing hawala transactions to fund internal unrest, is part and parcel of the hybrid warfare. It also includes using propaganda to turn the population against the State employing social media.
It was Pakistan-based terrorists who were responsible for the massacre and migration of Kashmiri Pundits from the State, changing the demography of the region forever, which has benefitted them in extending the conflict. In the case of Pakistan, the world is aware that in every terrorist action, somewhere the hand of Pakistan emerges. Pakistan-run terrorist factories export their products to every part of the globe.
Over the years, Pakistan infiltrated terrorists were maintained at a level keeping threshold of Indian tolerance in mind. The attacks on Parliament and Mumbai tested Indian patience. Post the surgical strike, which Pakistan continues to deny, Pakistan realised that India can and would hit back. Strong response by India to Pak attempts at infiltrating terrorists, improving its anti-infiltration grid and enhancing its counter-terrorist operations based on firm intelligence has begun changing the scenario in the valley.
Post the elimination of Burhan Wani, the spurt of locals joining militancy was the success of hybrid warfare launched by Pakistan. It was sustained for a period. Presently, inputs indicate that the trend is waning.
With the onset of winter, attempts at infiltration will reduce in the valley, while they may increase in the plains. Relentless operations against terrorists based on flow of intelligence from locals who no longer desire to be associated with terrorism has enhanced their rate of elimination. In the month of November alone, 39 terrorists, of which nine are militant commanders, have been eliminated taking the total to over 225 this year. Only three militant leaders remain. The back of most of the terrorist organisations has been broken.
Inputs from the valley also indicate that lesser numbers are now picking up the gun, compelling terrorist groups seeking to expand their recruitment to scout educational institutes located away from the valley. Violence in support of trapped terrorists has also shown a stark reduction. Violence is now localised and of lesser intensity than earlier. It follows the successful encounters but fades soon after. Calls for bandhs from separatists has dropped because there are hardly any takers as locals have realised the futility of such an exercise.
The brutal killing of locals and off-duty policemen by terrorists claiming them to be informers or anti-state has only alienated them further and reduced their support base. Daily inputs flow of terrorist presence, including local terrorists, who were earlier hidden from security forces. So accurate is the flow that operations are clean without any collateral damage. This is indicative of a changed approach across the valley.
Simultaneous has been the enhanced international pressure on Pakistan to act against terrorists on its soil. The US has been the most relentless in pushing Pakistan to act. Pakistan has slowly begun facing international isolation. A US spokesperson confirmed that apart from nominating Pakistan as a sponsor of international terrorism, every other form of pressure is also being applied on the state.
The recent political action by the Jammu and Kashmir Governor of dissolving the Assembly rather than permitting a government which only seeks political power without a common ideology has won the support of masses and local political leadership. Alongside this has been the increased turnout in the recently held local elections.
Winter has just commenced and as temperature drops, it would compel terrorists presently hiding away from populated regions to move inwards. Encounters would only increase and more would be eliminated. Pakistan’s desperation to expand terrorism to Punjab, as was evident in the recent blast in Amritsar, indicates that they are beginning to realise that Kashmir is now a losing battle or at best a stalemate.
While the Army has been able to bring down the levels of violence and has effectively reduced the number of terrorists present in the State, it is time for the government to act. It must engage with the youth and enhance employment avenues, thus taking them away from the streets and radicalisation. Engaging the youth would withdraw the only support which terrorists bank on in the valley, isolating them even more. This action would assist security forces in turning the tide of hybrid warfare.
Though these are early days, indicators are evident of the State gaining the upper hand. It is this moment which must be exploited to turn tables, failing which it would be one more missed opportunity.
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An alumnus of the National Defence Academy Major General Harsha Kakar is a graduate of the DSSC LDMC and the National Securities Studies Course at ...Read More +