Curbing Militancy and Terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir
Militancy is generally associated with politico-socio-economic problems but in the case of J&K, the Pakistan factor (now fully backed by China) outweighs all other factors
Militancy is generally associated with politico-socio-economic problems but in the case of J&K, the Pakistan factor (now fully backed by China) outweighs all other factors.
Lt General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
AFTER OVER 100 DAYS of violence post the killing of Burhan Wani, Jammu & Kashmir, particularly South Kashmir, is somewhat limping back towards normalcy. Pakistan was waiting to stoke the fires and used the trigger of Wani’s death. Ironically, by default or design, the Mehbooba Mufti-led J&K Government played into the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI’s) hands; just four days earlier, some 634 stone-pelters were granted amnesty and released from jail. This, despite the fact that when jailing them there was clear evidence they had been indulging in stone-throwing on behest of the ISI. Significantly, Israel has passed legislation that caters for minimum three-year jail term for stone-pelting and cessation of state benefits for such individuals. Then came the phase of stone-pelting mobs attacking security forces, attacking and ransacking police stations and looting weapons with police deserting at many places and eventually, the army deployed in South Kashmir to establish the rule of law in the face of unprecedented and complete loss of administration and state control. These stone-pelters comprise unemployed youth who are reportedly being paid ₹ 500 daily for violent acts. Pakistan had a field day launching a disinformation campaign to incite the youth, even distorting the effective surgical strikes inside the Pakistanoccupied Kashmir (PoK) undertaken by India in response to Pakistan-sponsored attack on the army base at Uri. The Hurriyat separatists were fully exploited by the ISI to create instability, and this continues to date. As the last count, the number of schools burnt or ransacked in J&K has reached 34 under the ISI diktat, even as ceasefire violations by Pakistan continue unabated. The fact that a very high number of children appeared in the recent exams defying Hurriyat’s boycott call was perhaps one of the best things that has happened in recent times.
The Pakistan Factor
Militancy is generally associated with politico-socio-economic problems but in the case of J&K, the Pakistan factor (now fully backed by China) outweighs all other factors. Adoption of the wahabi-salafi culture in Pakistan has been institutionalised in Pakistan past several years. Pervez Hoodbhoy, nuclear physicist at Qaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, wrote in 2008, “The promotion of militarism in Pakistan’s schools, colleges and universities has had a profound effect on young people. Militant jihad has become a part of the culture in college and university campuses, with armed groups inviting students for jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan”. It is this same wahabi-salafi culture that Pakistan has been able to induce in the Kashmir Valley, gradually but consistently, using clerics and Huriiyat separatist leaders — infiltrating trained terrorists, arms, narcotics and money. Insistence of our intelligence agencies over the years that Hurriyat separatists are “irrelevant” has helped Pakistan’s ISI. ISIS and Pakistan flags were being waived and hoisted periodically during Friday prayers and during anti-India rallies without any action against any individuals and Hurriyat separatists were visiting and getting briefed by Abdul Basit at the Pakistani High Commission. Pakistan therefore practically had a free hand to wage psychological war to inflame the youth of J&K.
It is an open secret that militants in J&K are being financed by China and Chinese have established huge control over Kashmiri separatist leaders. The recent discovery of Chinese flags from terrorist hideouts in Baramulla and appearance of the People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA) soldiers on Pakistani posts on the line of control (LoC) provides further evidence of China’s nefarious designs. China supports Pakistan’s anti-India jihad and the fact that Pakistan continues to link the situation in Afghanistan with Kashmir without any basis whatsoever, indicates Pakistan will continue to stoke the fires in J&K to the best of her ability. This also helps divert attention from the instability within Pakistan.
Terror Funding and Demonetisation
India’s permanent representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin recently told the UN General Assembly that Pakistan has pumped in some ₹ 60 crore into J&K for terrorism. But then look at the way India has been pampering the Hurriyat separatists, which any self-respecting country would never do. Earlier, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) reports of 2013 revealed that Kashmiri terrorist groups had received $100 million for terror operations in past two years, over the past 10 years some ₹ 600 crore were diverted to J&K terrorism from within India, some ₹ 98 crore were diverted in one single year from the J&K Affectees Fund, and that the J&K Affectees Relief Trust (JKART) has been facilitating Pakistani infiltration into J&K. Besides, goods sent through trucks to PoK were intentionally overpriced two to three times in the vouchers and additional money received was diverted for terrorist operations. It is unthinkable that J&K politicians did not get share of this..
Under the NIA Act, the NIA can take over any case related to terror suo motu except in J&K where it needs the state government’s permission before it can start any investigation. Last year, J&K Governor N.N. Vohra had suggested that the Ranbir Penal Code be brought under the NIA Act, but whether this has been affected is not known. So, terrorist funding in J&K apparently is easier than the rest of India, even though transactions of some ₹ 38 crore from 17 accounts in four banks of South Kashmir were under the NIA scanner in August last year for suspected terror links. Why we continue to pamper the separatists is also a mystery. According to 2015 media reports, the J&K Government spent over ₹ 506 crore on Hurriyat separatist in last five years including travel, hotel stay and meetings with Abdul Basit and his cohorts at Delhi. In addition, the Centre reportedly spent around ₹ 7,207 crore on security related issues — and Hillary Clinton once accused Pakistan of breeding snakes in the backyard!
Demonetisation has brought relative peace to J&K, for whatever period of time, because the separatists are unable to pay daily stone-pelting wages to their ‘street gangs’. But significantly the police have recovered not only fake ₹ 100 notes but also machines owned by local criminal gangs for printing fake currency. So if ₹ 100 notes too are being faked, then these could be used for stone-pelting, even if the number of ‘employees’ reduces. Besides, payments received via hawala are generally never traced, as per police officials. Additionally, production of fake Indian currency in Pakistan is in government mints. No matter which paper and ink used in the new
₹ 2,000 and ₹ 500 notes, these being faked by Pakistan at a future date can hardly be ruled out. Chinese assistance to Pakistan in faking our new currency notes can also be taken for granted, being within ambit of the Chinese concept of ‘Unrestricted Warfare’.
George Fernandes as Defence Minister once arriving at Srinagar was informed that a large crowd had gathered at Baramula and was chanting “Azadi, Azadi”. In his charac- teristic style, he decided to drive down with minimum security to meet the crowd. The crowd grew restive on sighting him and the shouts got louder. He listened to them for sometime before raising his hand to indicate he wanted to speak. He then told them, “Hamen bhi azadi chahiye” (we also want freedom). There was stunned silence hearing the Defence Minister say so. Fernandes then amplified “Hamen bhi azadi chahiye corruption aur berozgari se” (we also want freedom from corruption and unemployment). Now the question is which government in J&K has addressed unemployment, made efforts to industrialise the state; defined a roll on plan to create jobs, explained to youth stable environment essential for industrialisation in order to create jobs and articulated conditions and unemployment in PoK and rest of India versus conditions in J&K. Sure Valley youth want employment but then Maoists too pasted posters (on July 20, 2016) demanding employment for local masses, simultaneous to triggering bomb blasts at the under-construction Constable Training Centre in the Jadugora police station area in Jharkhand. The J&K state government needs giant steps to improve administration, connect with the population and counter ISI plans. Lack of governance and lack of contact with the grassroots certainly would not help improve the situation.
Cognisance must be taken of the anti-India venom being broadcast from loudspeakers atop mosques. Is it the voice of some rabid mullahs or is it others who hold the clerics hostage? What about the daily separatist diktat in the vernacular dailies? What exactly is the J&K state government doing to stem the replacement of the sufi culture by hardliner wahabi-salafi preaching? Has direct and periodic dialogue opened with the clerics? Operations are essential against the hardcore but military solution is not the key, population being the centre of gravity. True blending of development with education, protecting population from violence, counter narrative to external information war and taking proxy war into sponsor’s territory are essential.
De-radicalisation must be well thought out strategy that should be employed on continuous basis at personal level, aided by modern technology. De-radicalisation programmes must have separate focus for select communities/regions, teachers/religious teachers, youth, girl child/mothers, apprehended terrorists plus population at large liable to support terrorism. Discourse of Muslim leaders should be part of the deradicalisation programmes. The education system must be integrated into the national mainstream. Ethics and true nationalism should form part of the education system. Introduction of NCC in most schools and colleges would be fruitful. Communities must be kept informed and empowered to challenge radical ideology. Psychological operations should include exposing terrorist abuses, conditions in PoK vis-à-vis J&K, and that Pakistan as the epicentre of terrorism
has brought ridicule to Muslims and Islam globally. Alternatives to expend youth energies and employment opportunities must be part of the programme. Finally, the de-radicalisation programmes must be periodically reviewed in relation to the ongoing radicalization, to ensure it is effective and course corrections made where required.
At the Herat Security Dialogue held in October 2015 in Afghanistan, Salman Khurshid (former External Affairs Minister) giving keynote address spoke of inter-regional civilisation influences and explained that Hinduism is a way of life that embraces all and that “India has Muslim Hindus, Christian Hindus, Buddhist Hindus, Jain Hindus etc, which is common phenomenon.” Dr Ali Akbar Shah (Delhi University), said, “Islamic countries should learn from India where mysticism of all religions including of Islam have been amalgamated and absorbed. As for Islam, India has absorbed both the Islam brought by invaders as well as by sages like Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti,” adding “there is need to revive the true spirit of Islam and while everyone knows what has gone wrong, we need to act to set it right.” Such exposures to the J&K youth would be useful.
Civil society can contribute greatly in preventing and countering terrorism rather than encourage terrorism especially since it gives voice to the marginalised and vulnerable people and victims of terrorism, generating awareness and providing constructive outlet for redress of grievances. Non-traditional actors like NGOs, foundations, charities, public-private partnerships and private businesses are capable and credible partners in local communities. Despite Pakistani sponsored propaganda, public needs to be sensitised that our Army respects human rights far more than Pakistan where aerial bombings and artillery barrages are used periodically with scant regard to collateral damage.
Sealing the Border
The army has erected 407-km border fencing in J&K in high threat areas but gaps between posts can only be covered through patrolling or ambushes which spreads the security forces thin on the ground and is not 100 per cent foolproof despite best efforts especially in hours of darkness, fog and adverse weather. Pakistan has been employing heavy cross-border firing to assist infiltration and terrorists have also been using explosives to make gaps in the fencing or dig holes under the fence. In addition, heavy snow buried the fence especially in north Kashmir and large portions are also destroyed annually because of avalanches. We need to optimise the best technology. Modern electronic surveillance involves detection of movement, and is largely based on seismic, acoustic, inductive sensors, and infrared sensors. Seismic sensors can distinguish between people and vehicles. Inductive sensors detect metal in an object that is moving, while an infrared sensors can detect human body heat from a distance of up to 100 metres. The unattended ground sensors (UGS) in use by army are mostly imported and primarily meant for guarding houses/premises. These are ineffective with snowfall and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has not been able to come up with one suitable for snow conditions.
However, despite smart fence fitted with cameras and consoles with commanders, limitations of adverse weather and visibility conditions will continue. This needs to be beefed up with night-vision devices (NVDs), night-vision goggles (NVGs) and hand-held thermal imagers (HHTIs) which are in very limited numbers. The army post at Uri, which recently suffered ghastly terrorist attack, did not have a single thermal imager despite being under enemy observation from three directions. Use of radars, as done abroad to detect smugglers along the US-Mexico border, has the danger of giving away the electronic signatures of the equipment to the enemy. Besides, radars also have a dead zone. Mix of electronic surveillance and dogs are very successful. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are being used for surveillance but in limited numbers due to paucity and restrictions on flying multiple UAVs simultaneously in the same zone. Induction of the Battlefield Surveillance System (BSS), Battlefield Management System (BMS) in the army, and equipping Infantry with hand-held mini aerial vehicles (MAVs) must be speeded up. With excellent achievements of the indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), we must also go for 24 x 7 satellite surveillance along our borders with Pakistan and China.
Government must also seriously consider reraising Army’s Technical Support Division (TSD) that the UPA Government disbanded to great advantage of Pakistan’s ISI; few border villages in J&K have house very close to the LoC that are used by infiltrators for night halt. Then Chief Minister of J&K Farooq Abdullah addressing the National Defence College course in 2000 was asked by a foreign student why the few border villages very close to the LoC could not be relocated in hinterland J&K. He replied he had thought about it and had already asked the Centre for
₹ 120 crore to shift the first village. Government needs to examine this issue. Creating a vacant belt would deter infiltration since any movement can be engaged by fire; we may not mine the LoC but certainly patrols can keep adding IEDs, and; the principle of ‘One Border, One Force’ must be strictly followed.
Adoption of proactive approach in countering proxy wars is imperative for establishing effective deterrence, and for controlling enemy fault lines instead of enemy control- ling ours. This should include a dynamic information warfare strategy. The situation in J&K sure needs a national response but the J&K state government has a major role to play in this and can’t simply depend on security forces for return of normalcy. Strict action is also required against those funding terror, spreading radicalism and assisting terrorism within the country.
Militancy and terrorism in J&K has been raging for past 27 years, having commenced in 1989 follwing the rigged up state elections. Unfortunately, lackadaisical approach at the state and to some extent at the Centre level has let the situation deteriorate despite consistent Pakistani efforts to destabilise the region. Consistently sincere efforts are needed to normalise the situation.
Modern MAVs with forward looking infrared sensors can identify objects at extremely long distances. America’s MQ-9 Reaper UAV used for homeland security has cameras capable of identifying an object the size of a milk carton from altitudes of 60,000 feet, forward looking IR detecting humans at distance of 60 km. MAVs are also being weaponised. US military is developing swarms of tiny unarmed drones that can hover, crawl and even kill targets. These micro UAVs will work in swarms to provide complex surveillance of borders and battlefields. Aside from a laser weapon they can also be armed with incapacitating chemicals, combustible payloads or even explosives for precision targeting.
China already has 24 x 7 satellite surveillance along the line of actual control (LAC) with India. Recent media report of a 45-km deep Chinese incursion in Arunachal points to this critical void. Iran is building a 700-km, 10 feet high, three-feet thick wall along its border with Pakistan, which is still not complete. If we are going for a similar 3,323-km-long Indo-Pak border wall with Israeli assistance, it is unlikely to be completed by December 2018. Nevertheless, it would be a good beginning and we must ‘not’ neglect other borders especially border infrastructure in the North East, which remains pathetic because of gross neglect over a decade by the previous government.
China supports Pakistan’s anti-India jihad and the fact that Pakistan continues to link the situation in Afghanistan with Kashmir without any basis whatsoever indicates Pakistan will continue to stoke the fires in J&K to the best of her ability
A BSF jawan on vigil in the Kashmir Valley