How India tackles Pakistan’s proxy war in J&K

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INDIAN ARMY AND KASHMIR
The Indian Army has regularly been involved in welfare programs for the people in the Union Territory (Photo: PTI)

There’s a general misapprehension amongst many that terrorism can be effectively eradicated solely by using the ‘fighting fire with fire’ strategy and killing or apprehending terrorists through application of military force. However, while military action is undoubtedly essential to curb terrorist activities, it can by no means eliminate this scourge by itself because terrorism has its own flourishing ecosystem.

Tackling terrorism becomes all the more challenging when it is being sponsored by a country as is the case in J&K where Pakistan Army’s spy agency Inter Services Intelligence [ISI] is complicit in training, arming, sustaining and providing safe sanctuaries to terrorist groups fighting in Kashmir. In fact, what one is witnessing in J&K isn’t terrorism in the true sense; it’s indisputably a full blown proxy war!

Pakistan has been hauled up several times in the past by both international organisations and the global community for supporting cross border terrorism in J&K. However, Islamabad’s refusal to mend its ways and the international community’s indifference has made it absolutely clear that New Delhi needs to fight this proxy war on its own, and it’s really heartening to note that India is doing so across the spectrum with full resolve.

Concerted military actions by the army as well as central and local armed police forces have succeeded in putting Pakistan sponsored terrorists on the back foot. Resultantly, while the number of terrorist initiated incidents in J&K which stood at 228 in 2018, fell to just 43 in 2023 [up to November 30], and the number of encounters between security forces and terrorists reduced from 189 to 48 during the same period.

Those engaged in anti-terrorism operations deserve full credit for displaying indomitable grit, extraordinary determination and raw courage that has defeated ISI’s designs to create mayhem in J&K. At the same time, the institution of bold measures by other government agencies against the entire terrorism ecosystem has also contributed a great deal in reducing the intensity of terrorism in this region. 

In addition to anti-terrorism operations, the security forces simultaneously also undertook a series of people oriented welfare initiatives. Project Sadbhavana is one such multifaceted programme that has not only brought about a significant improvement in quality of life of locals but also empowered them. Under this programme, Army Goodwill Schools provide quality education to children of financially weaker sections of society across J&K while skill development courses in various disciplines enhance employability of local youth.

The humane approach of security forces has also dispelled the anti-security force propaganda being spread by Pakistan and its Kashmir Valley based proxies. Conversely, thanks to the internet and social media, locals have become more aware of adverse developments in IoJK, especially denial of rights, lack of basic amenities and the Pakistan Army’s highhandedness.

Frequent anti-Pakistan protests in IoJK and the discernable apathy of Islamabad in addressing the genuine grievances of IoJK residents have exposed the reality that Pakistan has desperately been trying to conceal. On the other hand New Delhi is investing heavily in developmental activity in J&K to further tourism and adventure activities and locals have already started reaping benefits from the same. Infrastructure development and a concerted drive to attract investments will create additional employment and further improve the quality of life of Kashmiris.

The old saying about money making the mare go holds true for terrorism too. In fact, as early as 1993, ISI realised that money and not ideology would propel its so called ‘jihad’ in Kashmir. So, it  cunningly roped in the then Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robin Raphel to create All Parties Hurriyat Conference [APHC]. This amalgam of separatist groups served as Rawalpindi’s proxy in Kashmir and besides furthering Pakistan’s Kashmir agenda, APHC became a handy ISI conduit for funneling illicit funds to sustain terrorism in J&K.

The Enforcement Directorate [ED] crackdown on APHC and other ‘hawala’ operators [people involved in illegal money transfer] paid rich dividends as it crippled the illicit money supply chain that ISI had so painstakingly evolved. Starved of cash, those organising anti government protests could no longer use money power to entice people to come out on the roads and due to this, public demonstrations and incidents of stone pelting soon became a thing of the past.

ED investigation against prominent separatist leaders also made the ordinary people realise that while they were suffering due to loss of income on account of frequent shutdowns, the separatist leaders giving these calls were themselves living a luxurious life with the money coming from across the Line of Control [LoC]. ED investigations also exposed how many APHC leaders were making huge profits through illegal means like selling seats to rich Kashmiris to study medicine in medical colleges of illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir [IoJK].  

In a ‘sting operation’ conducted by a private TV channel in 2017, some senior APHC leaders were caught admitting on camera that money the separatist conglomerate was receiving money from Pakistan based terrorist groups and torching of educational institutions in Kashmir Valley during the 2016 summer protests was in accordance with directions received from across the LoC. A senior APHC functionary even had the gall to say that if paid, public protests could be orchestrated in Kashmir Valley.

While the ED has effectively blocked illegal money supply to the pro-Pakistan lobby, the National Investigation Agency [NIA] has done a fantastic job by cracking down on ‘middlemen’ who provide intelligence and logistics to terrorists. NIA’s concerted efforts have busted several such cells and this has severely curtailed the ability of terrorists to act with impunity as well as put the fear of God in the minds of middlemen by shredding the myth of their relative immunity against persecution.

With the locals refusing to act as Pakistan’s pawns, all that the ISI can do is to try and create mayhem in Kashmir Valley through targeted killing of innocent migrant workers and members of minority communities. However, with the security forces and law enforcement agencies maintaining a constant vigil, Pakistan sponsored terrorists are unable to achieve ISI’s objective of creating a state of anarchy in Kashmir Valley. In addition to the commendable efforts of security forces and law enforcement agencies, voluntary public assistance in exposing those involved in targeted killings is paying rich dividends.

On February 7, two migrant workers belonging to Punjab were shot dead by a terrorist in the Habba Kadal area of Srinagar. Due to the absence of witnesses and lack of any other evidence, this was a classic ‘blind’ murder, but yet J&K police was able to apprehend the assailant and recover the weapon used in this crime within a week. While J&K police definitely deserves due appreciation for cracking this extremely difficult case, it’s obvious that clues provided by the public played a major role in helping the police in homing in on the murderer. 

And with public support forthcoming, it’s abundantly clear that ISI’s nefarious designs in J&K will never succeed!

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