India’s war against terror: Challenges and opportunities

Published: June 1, 2020 12:13 PM

In a democracy, the security forces work within the framework laid down by the government. One such measure of support is the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, this must not be diluted.

India, terrorism in India, insurgency in India, India-Pakistan relations, Khalistan movement, exodus of Kashmiri Pundits, terror in Jammu and Kashmir, Jammu and Kashmir, Kashmir terror issue, insurgency in Kashmir, insurgency in nagaland, article 370, article 35, expert opinion on Jammu and KashmirThe term ‘Terrorism’ does not seem to hold good any more.

By Brig Pradeep Sharma

India has faced insurgencies and terrorism since independence with the ingress of ‘Razakars’ from Pakistan with the intermix of regulars, reportedly even led by British Officers! The 80s saw a growth of such acts and post-1984 began the Khalistan Movement, 1990 marked the exodus of Kashmiri Pundits and Pakistan’s ‘OP Topac’ which intensified acts of terror in J& K.

We are perhaps the only country to have successfully brought insurgencies under control in numerous states, Mizoram, Punjab, to an extent in Assam and even Nagaland. Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Kashmir remain active. Pakistan’s continued support to the Terrorist Organisations operating in Kashmir keeps the pot boiling. Constantly changing names to avoid flak from the International forums including FATF they have managed to save their skins this far, however, their voices have of late been rather feeble.

Political Initiatives: Article 370, 35 A & Beyond

The removal of Article 370 and 35, bringing the valley directly under the Centre easing its administration while opening opportunities for Kashmiris to benefit from Central Policies. Further, it puts beyond doubt being part of India, precluding meddling by a third party or any other nation. Meaningful implementation of policy change, bridging ‘The Trust Gap’ and getting the Stakeholders to participate actively for peace & harmony is required. Only ‘peace, harmony and a sense of security’ can be expected to change lives for the Kashmiris.

Recent developments indicate that Pakistan has formed two terrorist groups with LeT, the ‘The Resistance Front’ (TRF) and ‘Tehreek-i-Milat-i-Islami’ (TMI), both have been covertly formed by the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence).These groups are actually eyeing to recruit locals so that no one can point fingers at Pakistan after the terrorist attack. Of a total of 400 to 500 terrorists, it is believed that 350 are Pakistan Nationals.

Politically vocal and quick to claim credit for Balakot and Surgical Strikes, the Modi Government’s efforts have not exactly had the desired impact in controlling Pakistan, as demonstrated by recent events and the increase in border violations/terrorist attacks.

The term ‘Terrorism’ does not seem to hold good any more, a look at the attacks both in Chhattisgarh as well as J& K reflects that civilians are no longer the targets, therefore not ‘terrorised’ any more like in the past by 26/11 for example. An indication of emboldened strikes against security forces (SFs) rather than civilian targets is a compulsion, perhaps to garner local support against a ‘Common Enemy’. India’s demand for Pakistan to vacate all illegally occupied territory gets louder each day as Political Leadership make public their statements which are also echoed by the Military Leadership. How the population in these regions responds, remains to be seen.

Advantage for Government

Such problems are essentially ‘Political’ and require initiatives from the Government for final resolution. Powerful factors in favour of the Government include :

Resources; which include the security forces and funds, both of which favour the Government and outmatch those at the disposal of Terrorist Organisations.

Time — which can be exploited in combination with other resources to bring the situation to a level of normalisation.

Number of effective terrorists is limited, by eliminating the most skilled and dangerous terrorists through arrests or targeted killings a state can greatly disrupt the operations of a terrorist organization.

The rapid pace of arrests and killings, resulting in the terrorist organization losing the critical mass of skills and capabilities required to function. The wherewithal available to the Government is capable of maintaining momentum.

International support from countries which share a common interest (USA & Israel) enables the provision of technology, data, intelligence sharing and sanctions adding teeth to the government’s efforts. On the other hand, foreigners as terrorists are likely to alienate the local population and also expose the country which supports them.

Terrorists maybe highly skilled, they make mistakes, their biggest weakness is the desire to project themselves as ‘Super Humans & Heroes’, this ‘Macho’ attitude invariably leads to death.

Other influencing factors are Religious Polarisation, International Relations, Human Rights Organisations, Propaganda machinery and Media.

The government considered weak, will almost always prove stronger than the terrorists in the event of an open confrontation. Therefore, the argument that some government want to crack down on terrorists but cannot, is an argument that cannot be accepted. Engaging military forces can at best be a means of managing conflict, not of solving it. A lasting settlement to the problem in Kashmir conflict requires a political solution, but such a settlement is only possible once security forces can reduce the problem of terrorism to manageable levels and here is where the government must not be seen to vacillate in their support.

Role of Security Forces

In a democracy, the security forces work within the framework laid down by the government. One such measure of support is the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, this must not be diluted. The Security Forces are mandated to bring the situation to a level which permits the Civil Administration to function. Going beyond this, they would be called upon to bring the Anti National Elements to the table for dialogue. This aspect is once again related to the policies aimed at resolution of the problem.

Where the situation gets blurred between a hostile neighbouring country and terrorism, resulting in the engagement of the Military on both sides, Government support in terms of funds and equipment as well as protection from prosecution gain much more importance. This tends to become what one might call a ‘No War No Peace’ situation and an Asymmetrical War.

We must remember that under such circumstances the Armed forces are deployed in National Interest in a mix of their ‘primary & secondary’ responsibility.

The Security Scenario & Intelligence

Interacting with some residents of Kashmir, in an effort to motivate them to provide information about Anti National Elements (ANEs), deny administrative support and discourage the youth from joining, the response was honest and spontaneous; ‘We have to live in this environment Sir, your men or the police can come only on patrols, but these boys live amongst us, they will kill us once you leave, you cannot protect us at all times’! A recent elimination of a terrorist threw up a voice recorded message calling for residents from the locality to ‘commence throwing stones’ at the armed forces. Large crowds can still be seen gathering at burials of killed terrorists. Both these indicators are worrisome.

Monitoring of Social Media such as Emails, Facebook and others to check on backgrounds of various contacts, who, unknown to the user may have links to Terrorist organisations is another measure which has been proved useful in preventing acts of terror. A price the residents of the UT have to pay for their safety. Many such solutions, using ‘Deep Analysis”, are available, off the shelf, even for trials if required. Efforts must combine Technology and Humint.

(The author is an Indian Army veteran. Views expressed are personal.)

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