The latest incident of militant aggression, terrorism and localized disruption of Jammu & Kashmir`s civic life was at Garol, Kokernag in the Union Territory`s (UT`s) Anantnag district on 13th September. This and the earlier recent incident in Narla village of Rajouri district on 12th September, was obviously intended to show the weakness of the Indian Union of which the UT is a part, while the G20 18th summit meeting under India`s presidency, was on the anvil. The incidents however occurred just after the summit. It goes to the credit of the Indian Army`s Rashtriya Rifles and the UT`s support police force operations, that the Lashkar-e-Toiba associated heavily armed terrorists could not achieve their overall target of totally disrupting civic life and national security in a sensitive part the UT immediately before and during the G20 meeting. A success of terrorists at this juncture, would have showed up that terrorism is still a live phenomenon in the UT. However, the fact remains that Pakistan-instigated and materially supported terrorism, is still a force to reckon with in the UT. Many such incidents bear testimony to this continuous development.
In the above-mentioned backdrop, and viewing the situation in the UT since 2019 when the former state entity of Jammu & Kashmir was administratively broken up, holistically, a reassessment of internal security policy specific to the UT, is required. A re-orientation or substantive review of India`s Pakistan policy is also necessary. During the recent judicial examination by India`s Supreme Court, of the challenge mounted by a substantial portion of the political forces operating in the UT within the ambit of the Indian Constitution, to the re-organisation of 2019, the Union Government through its Solicitor General had expressed a view that restoration of the full-fledged status of a state to the UT, was only a matter of time. In the current scenario, with no let-up by the elements of the Pakistani state who are continuously orchestrating and launching the rogue elements and terrorists against India, and China-Pakistan multifaceted collusion against India continuing, and terrorists` striking within the UT at different locations in its hinterland, restoration of the UT`s status to a full-fledged state may not be achievable in the near future.
The concern is that the focus of terrorist strikes have shifted to interior areas far from the India-Pakistan border Line of Control. Hitting of soft targets are on the increase, and drug trafficking of a huge order is taking place. The UT`s youth are being targeted in a big way by the terrorists through their contraband network for peddling and transportation of drugs. This obviously indicates that opportunities for development and employment are inadequate, and the UT`s youth do not seek an identification with the political and administrative entity of Jammu & Kashmir in its present configuration. Lack of self-Government and political leadership having its roots in the local socio-cultural milieu, seems to be another impediment in countering the terrorists operated by Pakistan and its ISI based terror-sustaining network. Government of India also does not seem to have succeeded in influencing the present Afghan – Taliban regime to pressurize Pakistan and its terror base to control the deployment of battle-hardened foreign terrorists in the UT and drug trafficking, while extending economic aid to Afghanistan.
It will be unrealistic to expect the UT administration of Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha, to deal with the evolving situation in Jammu & Kashmir with internal resources of the UT exclusively. It is basically for Union Ministries of Home Affairs (MHA) and External Affairs (MEA), to work out an effective strategy to counter the insertion of battle-hardened terrorists into the UT and drug trafficking. Despite the overhang of the Russia-Ukraine war, India has sufficient politico-economic levers on Moscow – which has good workable relations with Kabul, to induce the Taliban regime through Moscow, to control the drug flow from Afghanistan eastwards to Pakistan and India. Action through the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) (an institution set up at the G7 summit in 1989) against Pakistan to control terror funding and financing of contraband flows, is of essence.
Despite all the noise in the international milieu, India has not been able to achieve the desired outcome through the FATF mechanism. In fact, Pakistan has been taken off the grey list of the FATF – a list of countries with inadequate institutional measures to control illicit fund flows, money laundering, etc, in October 2022. India has thus failed to garner international support and present convincing data and details to the FATF, to pin down Pakistan in the matter. The impact of this failure will be consequential on the financing of drug flows to the UT in the negative sense, as well as on terrorism on the overall. There is also scope to pursue this matter within the umbrella of the G20 (now G21), and MEA should pursue this specific issue in the interest the country`s stability and integrity.
Another issue which requires attention is the manner of conducting the counter-insurgency operations. While bravery and spirit of India`s Army and police officer corps are laudable, it needs to be appraised whether the operations are being conducted in the most optimum manner and with least loss as well as jointness among all elements of the security apparatus as required. India has lost three spirited officers in the latest Kokernag operations apart from a few combatants. The terrorists` loss seem apparently less. Though numbers are not solely of essence, it is the overall impact of the terrorists` strikes which have to be mitigated. A revamp of political and security strategy specific to Jammu & Kashmir is required. The strategy has to be necessarily led from New Delhi.
(The author is a retired Civil Service Officer)