After a semblance of tranquility along India-Pakistan border in Jammu and Kashmir, militancy-related violence has witnessed a spike in the Valley over the last six weeks, along with an increase in the participation of foreign terrorists in attacks on security forces.
In 2021, 86 militants were killed across J&K. In June and July alone, 36 militants or 45 per cent were killed in 16 encounters. July has been particularly active, witnessing 10 encounters in 20 days, in which 20 militants were killed, of which four are suspected to be from Pakistan.
In all this year, the security forces were engaged in 36 operations, and of the 86 killed, 80 were killed in Kashmir and six in Jammu. Also half the militants killed were from LeT.
In these operations, 15 security personnel and 19 civilians lost their lives this year in militancy-related incidents.
Notably, the data obtained from government sources shows foreign terrorists (from Pakistan) were not involved in any encounter with security forces until April. Between April and June, four foreign terrorists were killed in encounters with terrorists. In July, another four FTs were killed, taking their count to eight.
The changing dynamics of militancy in Kashmir coincides with shifting sands in the region's geopolitics, particularly Pakistan's own importance and developments in Afghanistan. It is assumed that uncertainties in Afghanistan early this year and pressure from FATF had forced Pakistan to come to the negotiating table. Those pressures have eased now.
India and Pakistan had decided to honour the ceasefire after the DGMOs of the two countries met and issued a joint statement on February 25. This was seen as a significant thaw in the relations between the two countries and was expected to translate into a drop in infiltration and terrorist activities in Kashmir.
The peace within the Valley could, however, sustain for just a couple of months. Sources said four infiltration attempts were made in the last week; while one was foiled, three succeeded and as many as 20 terrorists are learnt to have entered Kashmir.
In terms of recruitment, till July 15 this year, 69 individuals joined the militant ranks compared with 85 in the corresponding period last year. Much of the recruitment has been from the three South Kashmir districts of Kulgam, Shopian, and Pulwama. Overall, in 2020, 174 individuals turned militants compared with 143 in 2019.
When contacted, Director General of Police, Jammu and Kashmir, Dilbag Singh said technological interventions have helped curb recruitment in the Valley besides intensification on counter-terrorism operations despite Covid-19 pandemic. “We intercepted several people before they could join any terror outfits… In many cases, parents have come to seek help in finding boys that have gone missing. So public trust has increased,” he said.
The J&K Police data also shows that militancy-related incidents – direct or grenade attacks – are down from 120 in the first six months of 2020 to 84 this year. Further, while J&K had recorded 937 incidents of ceasefire violation in 2020, this year only 95 incidents were recorded, almost all from before the February 25 agreement.
According to intelligence reports, there are over 200 terrorists active in the Valley with 40 per cent of them having infiltrated from Pakistan. “We are expecting an increase in direct involvement of FTs in attacks in the near future,” the officer said.
A senior security establishment officer said much of this had to do with Pakistan’s changing importance in the region’s geopolitics. “Earlier, Pakistan’s hands were forced in part due to the pressure from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which has continued to keep it in the Grey List. However, with developments in Afghanistan where Taliban is set to take control of the country, Pakistan is being seen as a necessary ally to have for both the Western and regional powers. The FATF pressure too has reduced considerably,” the officer said.
In 2020, a total of 225 militants were killed by security forces operating in J&K. In the course of 103 operations – 90 in Kashmir and 13 in Jammu – 207 militants were killed in the Valley while 18 in the Jammu region. However, the number of J&K police officials killed this year is up. Compared with 15 in 2020, ten policemen have been killed this year including a sub-inspector, a constable and SPOs.