ISSN 2330-717X

Defeating Pakistan Army’s Proxy War In Kashmir – OpEd

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Pakistan army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’s post-Article 370 abrogation rant that “Pakistan Army firmly stands by the Kashmiris in their just struggle to the very end,” and that “We are prepared and shall go to any extent to fulfil our obligations in this regard” was undoubtedly the public formalisation of Rawalpindi’s proxy war in Kashmir. While armies of democratic nations never make any menacing remarks on issues which fall in the diplomatic arena, the Pakistan army has always been an exception.

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Once Islamabad failed to garner any worthwhile international support for its incredulous narrative on Kashmir after New Delhi abrogated Article 370 of the Indian constitution, Rawalpindi, [which dictates Pakistan’s Kashmir policy], decided to take things into its own hands. Following the ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’ philosophy, Pakistan army tasked its notorious spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] to orchestrate a no-holds-barred terrorist onslaught in Kashmir.

What followed was a chain of senseless killings of innocent people like migrant workers and minority community members like teachers and office employees, who had nothing to do with the ongoing crisis. In a development reminiscent of Kashmir Valley in the early nineties, new terrorist groups sprung up overnight and they took responsibility for the most cowardly and despicable acts of violence, like entering a school and shooting dead a lady principal and male teacher, or shooting a bank manager at work in his office.

The ISI’s plan was simple-create a state of anarchy by terrorising Kashmiris through well-planned and sustained killing of innocents purportedly by armed groups opposing Article 370 abrogation, with the aim of misleading the international community into believing that there was no normalcy in Kashmir. Even though this macabre stratagem entailed killing of innocent locals, ISI apparently had no qualms in going ahead with this plan as those being killed were Kashmiris, and so it made no difference!

However, knowing that such senseless killings by Pakistan based terrorist groups could well incur wrath of the international community, ISI created a host of non-existent groups like The Resistance Front [TRF], United Liberation Front of Kashmir [ULFK], Kashmir Tigers [KT], and People’s Anti-Fascist Force [PAFF]. However, the inordinately erratic pattern of targeted killings in Kashmir and the missionary zeal with which these groups are accepting responsibility for the same is a clear giveaway that this whole narrative is just a grand coverup.

However, if Gen Bajwa had thought that his decision to “go to any extent to fulfil our obligations in this regard” by creating mayhem in Kashmir Valley would succeed, he is sadly mistaken. Indian security forces along with law enforcement and intelligence agencies have risen to occasion by taking-on this daunting challenge headlong, and the results achieved are indeed commendable. Resultantly, Islamabad’s tall claims of trying to peddle a narrative of there being no normalcy in the Kashmir Valley post- Article 370 abrogation, has fallen flat on its face!

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In the last two and a half years, security forces and the J&K police have neutralised more than 500 terrorists in fierce encounters. In the first six months of this year itself, more than 100 terrorists have been killed, and the fact that one third of those neutralised were Pakistani nationals gives a clear indication of ISI’s heightened attempts to foment trouble in Kashmir. What makes task of security forces even more difficult is that ISI’s proxies in Kashmir are using ‘hybrid’ terrorists to target unsuspecting and soft targets.

Since ‘hybrid’ terrorists have no previous record of involvement in terrorist activities, it’s virtually impossible to identify such individuals. Moreover, since they use pistols, which can be easily concealed and have the liberty of targeting anyone belonging to the minority Hindu and Sikh community or migrant workers, they can conveniently select and kill their victims at a time and place of their own choosing.

While the cowardly act of murdering innocent, unsuspecting and unarmed men and women doesn’t pose any major risk, previous non-involvement in terrorism related activities provides these cold-blooded murders the requisite anonymity to evade arrest. That’s why identifying ‘hybrid’ terrorists is actually akin to looking for a needle in a haystack and this is something that these gutless killers are taking full advantage of.

Nevertheless, security forces and law enforcement agencies in Kashmir have been able to track down perpetrators of such cowardly killings and also nab their facilitators. This spectacular achievement is the result of excellent synergy between the army, central and local police forces and intelligence agencies. Another aspect that speaks volumes about the professionalism and dedication of those involved in anti-terrorist operations and thus merits appreciation is the fact that almost all encounters during the last two and a half years were based on specific information about the whereabouts of terrorists.

Being able to successfully locate ‘hybrid’ terrorists and their facilitators is the result of public confidence security forces as well as the central and local police forces enjoy. It would not be out of place to mention that this has been achieved through a people-friendly and humane approach, as well as conducting anti-terrorism operations with due concern for safety of civilians.

After terrorists started targeting minority community members, even many of those with pro-Pakistan leanings have now started realising how in its efforts to create anarchy in Kashmir, ISI is trying stoke a communal animosity here. Accordingly, the public is now more forthcoming in providing information regarding ‘hybrid’ terrorists and their handlers.

Though isolated instances of civilian killings do occur now and then, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to conclude that terrorists today are definitely on the backfoot, thanks to the synergised anti-terrorism efforts complimented by public support. Even though the number of those espousing Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan has drastically reduced today, ISI will never accept this reality.

So, instead of ‘azadi’ [freedom], ISI is now using a heady combination of money-power and religious indoctrination to keep terrorism in Kashmir alive. That’s why the people of Kashmir need to step-in and decide whether they wish to continue living under the fear of the gun or reject Pakistan’s devious gameplan of bleeding India through a ‘thousand cuts’ by targeting the people of Kashmir.

Nilesh Kunwar

Nilesh Kunwar is a retired Indian Army Officer who has served in Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. He is a ‘Kashmir-Watcher,’ and now after retirement is pursuing his favorite hobby of writing for newspapers, journals and think tanks.

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