Defeating Pakistan’s Proxy War In J&K – OpEd


One had expected with onset of winters infiltration of terrorists across the Line of Control [LoC] in J&K would see a temporary pause. 

However, with the Indian security forces and J&K police thwarting five infiltration attempts in the last three weeks alone reveals the heightened level of desperation within Pakistan army’s spy agency Inter Services Intelligence [ISI], which is responsible for overseeing the ongoing proxy war in J&K, and there are good reasons for Rawalpindi’s discomfiture. 

During a 2010 interview given to Der Spiegel, Pakistan’s ex President and former army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf admitted that militant groups “were indeed formed” by the Pakistan army. He also revealed that the Government of Pakistan [GoP] had “turned a blind eye because they wanted India to discuss Kashmir.” 

So, it’s apparent that Rawalpindi was sanguine that terrorists trained and armed by it would, by creating mayhem in J&K, act as the proverbial ‘gun’ that Islamabad could hold to New Delhi’s head forcing it to negotiate the Kashmir issue on Pakistan’s terms. However, despite investing heavily in creating an elaborate terrorist infrastructure as well as spending millions in arming, equipping and sustaining terrorist groups doing its dirty work, the Pakistan army’s stratagem hasn’t fructified.

In fact, Rawalpindi’s perverse over-obsession with its self-debilitating strategy of using terrorists as ‘strategic assets’ to wage proxy war with India in J&K has created a vicious environment which promoted growth of religious fundamentalism. This in turn facilitated the emergence of several anti-Pakistan terrorist groups that are today giving the Pakistan army a run for their money!

Whether Rawalpindi likes it or not, the fact of the matter is that despite trying every trick in the book for nearly three and a half decades, Pakistan army sponsored terrorism in J&K hasn’t been able to get India on its knees and beg for a dialogue on the Kashmir issue, as it had visualised. Au contraire, by making it clear that “terror and talks don’t go together,” New Delhi has effectively  destroyed Pakistan army’s grand plans of leveraging terrorism to help Islamabad in negotiating the Kashmir issue on its terms. 

Pakistan army sponsored proxy war in J&K has today degenerated into wanton acts of violence like targeted killings of innocent people belonging to the minority community and migrant workers. This is because being forced on the back-foot by New Delhi’s deft diplomacy and proactive military response, ISI is left with no other option but to fuel communal animosity in a desperate attempt to revive terrorism and also to serve as a face saving measure by creating an illusion that the so-called ‘freedom struggle’ in J&K is ongoing! 

So, while Rawalpindi will leave no stone unturned to fuel unrest in J&K by continuing to orchestrate random acts of terrorism in J&K, it’s evident that its proxy war in J&K has been defeated, thanks to the determined and synergised efforts of all stakeholders. 

By abrogating Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution, New Delhi unambiguously reaffirmed the well-established and internationally accepted fact that J&K is an integral part of India, and its no-nonsense response policy to acts of terrorism through trans-Line of Control surgical strikes have definitely acted as a viable deterrent for the Pakistan army and its ‘strategic assets’. New Delhi has also disrupted ISI’s illegal funding operations for financing its proxies like All Parties Hurriyat Conference for financing anti-India protests and promoting secessionist ideology in Kashmir Valley. 

The resultant extinction of protests endorses Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front [JKLF] chairman and senior separatist leader Yasin Malik’s  confidential admission that “Kashmir politics is no longer about ideology; it’s all a money game” ]Emphasis added], which the then US ambassador to India David Mulford had mentioned in a classified cable to Washington  made public by Wikileaks in 2006.

Furthermore, by conducting the G20 Tourism Working Group meeting in Srinagar New Delhi gave foreign delegates an opportunity to physically assess the prevailing situation on ground and with this three day event remaining incident-free and passing off peacefully, Pakistani propaganda claiming that things aren’t normal in Kashmir was fully exposed.

Security forces as well as law enforcement and intelligence agencies too have rendered yeoman service in thwarting ISI’s plan of creating unrest in Kashmir. Besides conducting relentless anti-terrorist operations, security forces alongwith J&K police have also undertaken a concerted drive to identify and apprehend terrorist facilitators. This two-pronged comprehensive approach has derailed ISI’s well established terror ecosystem.

While the extraordinary professional acumen and consummate dedication of the security forces has ensured that terrorists can’t have their way in J&K, their people-friendly actions have won over the hearts of the people. Consequently, locals are now more forthcoming, and fed up with the menace of terrorism are voluntarily providing  the security forces and police accurate information regarding specific locations where terrorists are hiding.

The Indian army’s excellent performance and humane conduct during anti-terrorist operations in J&K is winning accolades from locals belonging to all sections of society. Even a well known Kashmiri activist like Shehla Rashid who was once a staunch army baiter has recently stated on social media that “Looking at the events in the Middle East, today I realise how lucky we are as Indians. The Indian Army and security forces have sacrificed their everything for our safety [sic].” [Emphasis added].

Ms Rashid has also admitted that her 2019 accusation of human rights abuse by army men [which was extensively reported in Pakistani media]  was based on a false input which she had unfortunately failed to verify. However, she’s not the only detractor to praise the Indian army’s implicit observance of an exemplary code of conduct. In a video message to his colleagues, Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist Aijaz Ahmad Gojri who was apprehended in May 2018 said, “That day I fled and hid in the bushes, the army could have killed me. But they arrested me and gave me a new life…Our masters sitting in Pakistan would say bad things about the Indian Army, but it isn’t like that. You should see for yourselves. There’s a conspiracy going on, and they are playing with our lives.” [Emphasis added]

Some may claim that Gojri could have been coerced into making this statement, but he too isn’t the only terrorist who has praised the professional demeanour of the Indian army. On September 27, 2022, a joint team of the army and J&K police surrounded a house in Kulgam district’s Ahwatoo village where two local terrorists with weapons were holed up. Following its standard operating procedure aimed at preventing bloodshed, a video call was made to one of the trapped terrorists named Shafi Ganai to convey the assurance that no harm would come to him should he surrender.

Ganai did engage in a conversation with the military and even addressed him as “Sir,” but refused to surrender saying he was “already close to death.” However, before hanging up and resuming firing on the security forces, Ganai confessed that “I swear, the way the army supports [people of] Kashmir, [the people of] Kashmir also supports the army [in the same way].”  

For reasons best known to him, Ganai had decided not to surrender. So, when in his own words he was “already close to death,” there was no reason for him to tell lies merely to humour those whom he was fighting against and through whose hands he would soon meet his end. Yet he voluntarily acknowledged the India army’s vibrant relationship with the Kashmiri people. A video of an unidentified army man and Gania engaged in a video chat is available on YouTube [], and this is definitely an indisputable proof of the close and strong bond that exists between the people of Kashmir and the Indian army.   

Lastly, Rawalpindi needs to accept the fact that the ‘shelf life’ of its proxy war in J&K has long since expired and is beyond resuscitation. It also needs to realise that making laughable promises to secessionists in J&K like assuring them that the Pakistan army will go “to any extent” in fulfilling its “obligations,” doesn’t  fool anyone anymore.

So, rather than seeking perverse voyeuristic pleasure in trying to set the neighbour’s house on fire, the Pakistan army would be doing a lot of good to its own people if it starts looking inwards and sincerely concentrates on fulfilling its constitutional responsibility to the beleaguered people of Pakistan by liberating them from the scourge of home-grown terrorism.

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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