The Pulwama terrorist attack points to a dangerous new trend of militants jettisoning ambushes for tactics with an aim to wreak maximum destruction on security forces while suffering minimum casualties themselves. The suicide bomber, Adil Ahmad Dar, a 20-year-old school dropout from Pulwama, who joined Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) last year was specifically trained for the suicide attack. He said in a video released by the outfit that he was eagerly waiting for this day. What followed was a year of reconnaissance and detailed planning, which culminated in Dar ramming a car packed with around 300 kg explosives into a CRPF bus carrying 51 soldiers as part of a large convoy. The JeM claimed responsibility for the attack.
It is quite apparent that JeM has been drawing inspiration from Taliban and Al-Qaeda, which have been conducting large scale IED (improvised explosive device) blasts and suicide attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The attack also has a signature of the Islamic State (IS) modus operandi which rests on mobility and volume for the success of suicide bombings.
The conventional modus operandi for Fidayeen (suicide) attack in Jammu and Kashmir involved constituting a small group of militants who broke into the target area (normally military installations) causing heavy casualties in the initial breakthrough followed by engagement with the forces for as long as possible. But, with a shift in tactic of the militants to Vehicle Bound Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) suicide attacks, the security forces are bound to devise plans to deal with them.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to ensure the nation that the “sacrifice of martyred soldiers will not go in vain” and the perpetrators of the attack (Pakistan) will be made to pay a heavy price. The government then convened a meeting of the Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS) and also an all party meeting where it was assured of unmitigated support by all political parties in opposition.
In the initial reaction, the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status given to Pakistan by India was withdrawn which is likely to stall trade between the two countries, a substantial part of which is being carried out from Kashmir. Indian diplomatic outreach to other countries led to a strong international condemnation of the attack. Many big countries stood behind India and expressed their support.
Pakistan believes that its successes in Afghanistan can be replicated against India with particular reference to Kashmir Valley. Pakistan’s ISI has, for decades, attempted to turn Kashmir Valley into India’s Vietnam but could not do so. The simple reason is that the bulk of the people of Kashmir Valley, with the exception of the hard-line fringe elements, root for an existence within the framework of the Indian Union albeit with a certain degree of freedom to maintain their unique identity and culture.
China, for its own national security interests and safeguarding the eastern flank of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passing through Pakistan-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) has deliberately synchronised its aims with those of the Pakistan Army so far as Kashmir is concerned. While it does not openly support the terror machinery operating from Pakistan in Kashmir, it has also never condemned it. It has stalled the declaration of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist and it is Azhar’s organisation that has now carried out this horrific attack.
China has condemned the Pulwama attack but once again declined to back India’s appeal to list its chief architect Masood Azhar as a ‘global terrorist’ by the UN. It can be said with a fair degree of confidence that China’s intentions towards India have never been “benign” and are unlikely to be so in the near future.
While the aftermath of Pulwama attack sucks in many countries across the globe, especially Pakistan and China, the average Kashmir is looking at a long haul of insecurity and economic despondency. Enhanced security measure will make normal life in Kashmir all the more difficult. Kashmiris working in other states of the country are already facing attacks and living in an environment of insecurity. Any escalation of military engagement will impact Jammu and Kashmir, especially Kashmir, the maximum.
While it is necessary to take all steps to rein in Pakistan it also needs to be ensured that the average Kashmiri does not suffer in the process to a degree that further alienates him. Reasonable restrictions on movement are something that can be accommodated even though the present scenario is restrictive enough. However, a massive intelligence crackdown, escalation of foreign sponsored violence, enhanced economic restrictions would be very painful indeed for the Kashmiris. In such a scenario the entire exercise of “teaching Pakistan a lesson” would become counterproductive. All actions taken need to be weighed for their ability to save future generations from decades of animosity. Nothing should be done which causes many more Adil Ahmads to be born leading to Islamic State (IS) and the JeM finding firm roots in Kashmir yet again. The government of India should formulate a policy that looks towards the greater cause of stopping bloodshed in Kashmir. Protagonists needed to compromise for the greater common good. Kashmiri youth at risk of radicalization should be shown alternatives through an exchange of ideas.