The shift in the approach towards terrorism is mildly indicative of India's assertive and uncompromising stance in dealing with terrorism, writes Jay Maniyar for South Asia Monitor
The recent spate of terrorist attacks from across the Line of Control and in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan-based and Pakistan-sponsored insurgents since and prior to the abrogation of Article 370 - made conspicuous by the frequency of their occurrences during the raging pandemic - have marked a strategic shift in India's approach to cross-border terrorism (CBT). It has been reported that terror attacks in Kashmir since the enforcement of the nationwide lockdown have resulted in the deaths of over 50 insurgents and radicals. Indian forces operating in the recently-constituted union territory have faced minimal losses to troops and property.
No longer is India giving itself away to the hitherto visible (and invisible) enemies in its midst, but is giving back in equal measure if not causing an imbalance in the delivery of blows through calibrated aggression and carefully envisaged responses when provoked, leading to an oft-surprised adversary.
The menace of CBT, especially Pakistan-centered, is a blot in the Indian copybook of having maintained stringent levels of security and a die-hard approach in a vehement and committed pursuit of its national security goals in 'disputed' territory. Terrorists have been known to disrupt peace in Kashmir too often, owing both to their own predicaments and to the many fallacies that have inflicted India's territorial armed forces.
The shift in the approach towards terrorism is mildly indicative of India's assertive and uncompromising stance in dealing with terrorism throughout the country. While the stance has been rigid for decades, India's evolving approach is praiseworthy.
For starters, mainstream terror attacks emanating from Pakistan on India's major cities have declined to zero. Losses of lives of security personnel, too, have witnessed a decline from the heyday of the first decade of the twenty-first century when India witnessed deaths of over 2000 security personnel annually for two consecutive years in 2008 and 2009. In the past few years, incidents of terror as well as deaths of civilians, too, have declined.
Key leaders of outfits such as Ansar Ghazwat-ul Hind, a local offshoot of Al Qaeda and one that is known to be notoriously anti-India, have been eliminated. Others have been jailed, and are serving rigorous imprisonment. In 2012, India hanged Ajmal Kasab, the sole survivor of the ten terrorists who were responsible for the worst terrorist attack in modern Indian history (26/11 Mumbai attacks), while the mastermind of the attack – Zaki ur-Rahman Lakhvi – was shamelessly removed from the terrorism ‘watchlist’ by Pakistan.
However, Kashmir remains a flashpoint at present with the enemy having fixated itself upon what it describes as 'disputed territory' and lays claim to, in entirety. Deaths of security personnel have increased manifold over the past five years, while the brave have also lost their lives during and because of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. Several anti-India terrorist and insurgent groups have professed and committed themselves to jihad - or armed struggle - against the Republic of India. The Islamic State announced its Wilayah of Hind - the global terror group's ‘Indian province’ - in May of last year.
The naming of the 'province' is a strong indicator of the IS' commitment to the Pakistani cause in Kashmir, even though the IS remains critical of Pakistan and does not meet eye to eye with it on several counts. With India having stamped out the prospect of major terrorist attacks on cities such as Mumbai and Delhi admirably, the determination of terrorists operating with impunity in Kashmir has increased considerably.
This is evinced through routine and surprise attacks, as well as deaths of security personnel and many innocent civilians. Indian security forces will also have to maintain their operational and tactical capabilities, awareness, and alertness when dealing with miscreant insurgents. Deaths of security personnel at the hands of terrorists can no longer be afforded.
The Pakistani government has been a state-sponsor of terrorism in the Indian context, with its nefarious Army and intelligence services having crafted innumerable strategies in support of those waging in insurgent activities in Kashmir. The Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 drew global condemnation, while other attacks such as the Mumbai train bombings of 2006, the attack on the Parliament of India in December 2001, and innumerable attacks in major Indian metropolitan cities of Delhi, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, and Bengaluru with meek or no Indian retaliation were a characteristic of the first decade of the 21st century and the late 1990s.
Indian policies against Pakistan has received a considerable impetus under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his re-elected government. Military retaliation with credible results in terms of deaths of terrorists, insurgents, and even their well-wishers, have become the norm, while the abrogation of Article 370 – a proviso that granted special status to the people of Jammu & Kashmir – has gone a long way in integrating the union territory with India.
Pakistan is a country to whom India has unnecessarily offered strategic parity through the short-sighted policies of its leaders and the general inertia in Indian policymaking circles, given the immense gap between the conventional strengths of the two countries as well as India’s potential in the field of the development of modern-day weapons.
As India confronts new enemies, like the notorious The Resistance Front which has dominated the headlines recently for the spate of ghastly attacks, it would behove the country’s leadership to envisage policies on the lines of those that have been pursued in recent years while considerably stepping up on areas where redundancy or hesitancy seems to be seeping in, such as the negligible stockpile of active nuclear weapons (estimated to be between 130-140), the nuclear No-First Use (NFU) policy, the continued modernization of the armed forces, the large-scale development and production of arms and ammunition through the present government’s flagship Make in India campaign and a more proactive and escalatory behaviour against its enemies.
(The writer is a Research Associate, National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi. The views expressed are personal. The writer can be contacted at email@example.com.)