By Brig Anil Gupta (Retd)*
The recent twin terror attacks at Kathua and Samba have evoked strong public outrage against Pakistan — both its army and civilian establishment. The legislative assembly of Jammu and Kashmir currently in session has also passed a unanimous resolution condemning the unfriendly neighbouring country. Unhappy with the formation of an alliance government in partnership with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Pakistan is hell bent upon fomenting trouble in the state.
Apart from spreading terror, the aim of these twin attacks appears to be to foment communal tension and hit Jammu’s economy. Hence, the time chosen for the terror attacks coincided with the Navratra festival that is not only celebrated with great devotion by the locals but also attract large number of pilgrims from the rest of the country to the holy shrine of Vaishno Devi. It is to the credit of the people of Jammu that they have not fallen prey to the nefarious designs of the enemy. Pakistan must realise that Indians are resilient and won’t be provoked by such cowardly acts which in fact make their resolve to fight terror even stronger.
Pakistan continues to use terror as an instrument of state policy to further its so called “national interests”. Despite having been militarily defeated and diplomatically snubbed it continues to be obsessed with the idea of Kashmir being its “umbilical cord”. Having realised that it cannot defeat India militarily it has adopted the policy of “thousand cuts” to keep India bleeding. It continues to classify the terrorists in Pakistan as “good” and “bad” terrorists. All those terrorist organisations that carry out terror attacks against India are termed “good” and their leaders enjoy the patronage of the government despite being declared as proclaimed international terrorists by the United Nations, USA and many Western countries.
The likes of Hafiz Sayeed, Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi, Dawood Ibrahim etc. are termed as “strategic assets” by the Pakistan Army, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the establishment. No international rules, restrictions or bans apply to them because they are key players in the plan to bleed India. Thus, Pakistan’s double talk on terror continues unabated. The recent twin terror attacks thus need to be viewed in this light.
Of late, Pakistan has preferred the International Border (IB) sector over the Line of Control (LoC) sector for carrying out infiltration for terror attacks. There are many reasons for this, of which weather is one such reason but very minor. The major reason is the proximity of NH 1 to the IB which runs at a distance of 5-15 km from the border. NH 1 provides a target of strategic importance within striking distance that can draw immediate media attention. ‘Striking Distance’ being the distance within which they have the capability to carry out a one-night operation ,i.e. infiltrate and strike on the same night thus reducing the chances of being intercepted after crossing the border. The terrain in this sector in the form of broken ground and numerous nullahs (running east-west) also assists infiltration. A number of brick kilns and mobile towers along the NH 1 provide good navigational land marks at night. There are many lucrative targets both military and civilian available within the striking distance as compared to the LoC sector.
Another important factor is the density of troop deployment. The density is much less as compared to the LoC sector, which apart from having a strong anti-infiltration deployment also has a very effective counter-terrorist grid in the hinterland. The Pakistani authorities also hope that a strike in this sector may rouse communal passions leading to communal riots thus damaging the harmonious social fabric of the state to further its failed agenda of “Two Nation Theory”. Pakistan’s insistence on terming the IB as “Working Boundary” and thus refusing to accept it as an accepted International Border is also a reason for preferring this sector so that it can claim the entire Jammu & Kashmir as disputed territory. Such terror attacks can also be used as a diversionary tactics to aid infiltration of bigger groups to the Bhaderwah-Doda belt via Basholi-Banni. In the past this route has been used by the terrorists both for infiltration/exfiltration as well as for rest and recoup. Thus the area of Banni-Macheddi in the depth also assumes importance.
It is worth examining as to how the terrorists manage to cross the border despite the claim of the Border Security Force (BSF) that it is well guarded. The aim is not to point finger at any particular force. All security forces are carrying out their assigned roles to the best of their abilities within the given resources. Is it then the question of resources? I have already highlighted the aspect of terrain. Another important point to note is that the border fence has been erected against the lie of the ground and hence easily gets damaged during the monsoons or periods of heavy rain, thus creating gaps. Naturally, to cover these gaps greater strength of manpower for deployment is needed affecting deployment elsewhere. Moreover, it is not difficult to breach a linear deployment like the current pattern on the border.
For the counter infiltration deployment to be effective it needs to be an all-weather multi-layered deployment in tiers. A counter-smuggling and a counter-infiltration deployment cannot follow the same pattern. It has to be dynamic rather than static. The first tier of deployment should be based on all-weather, 24×7 surveillance radars, sensors, hand-held thermal imagers, night vision binoculars and alarm systems. It must be complemented with physical deployment based on threat assessment and terrain. The night ambushes should be laid on a dynamic grid pattern rather than static linear deployment. The vulnerable areas like nullahs and gaps need to be covered with adequate deployment. Each border out post (BOP) must have an operational command post manned by a team led by an officer who should monitor the data being received from the surveillance grid with authority to redeploy ambushes under its operational control. The entire deployment needs to be backed by a reliable and secure communication system.
The second tier needs to be deployed between the IB and NH based on high grounds or dominating ground. A similar dynamic grid of ambushes equipped with night vision devices and night sights need to be established in the second tier also. This tier also needs to be complemented with police nakkas (outposts). However, the aspect of communication needs to be coordinated and rehearsed. The third tier needs to be based on the NH and areas immediately in depth. Village Defence Committees (VDCs) should be incorporated in this tier. VDCs need to be properly armed, well trained and highly motivated. Long range Surveillance Radars (LSRs) along with surveillance command posts could also form part of the third tier. The readers would agree that the ultimate question is of availability of resources. But then no price is heavy for a nation when it comes to ensuring peace for her citizens. There is a saying “If you want peace be prepared for war.” The unified command must put its heads together to make the IB sector impregnable in order to beat the nefarious designs of the troika that rules Pakistan and is determined to keep the pot boiling in J&K to ensure that the citizens of this state are denied the dividends of peace.
Looking inwards, those advocating revocation of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) must rethink whether the time is ripe for it or by insisting for its removal they may be helping the troika in Pakistan. To sum up, a pro-active approach towards border management, surveillance and infiltration is the need of the hour. To achieve this, an integrated, professional and well trained intelligence network is a pre-requisite. This network should not rely only on electronic intelligence (ELINT) but should also be backed up by human intelligence (HUMINT). The training camps and launch pads need to be under constant surveillance. Since a large number of army camps are also located in the area, there should be a seamless integration between BSF, police, intelligence agencies and the army.
The issue of command and control should be unambiguous. There should be no duplicity at all. The coordination between neighbouring units deployed on the border should be flawless since inter-unit and inter-formation boundaries are always vulnerable. It needs to be understood that till such time we make our borders impregnable we will continue to be the victims of cross-border terror because Pakistan is not going to relent from bleeding India.
(Brig Anil Gupta is a Jammu-based security and strategic analyst. The views expressed in the article are entirely personal. He can be contacted at [email protected])