Focus on security shortcomings in Jammu and Kashmir
15 January 2000
The Indian Express
Will the Vajpayee government please tell the country what is going on in Jammu and Kashmir? The Rashtriya Rifles, a specially trained elite counter-insurgency force, deploys about 10,000 personnel in each of three main sectors in J&K. It was the headquarters complex of buildings in one of the sectors, in Anantnag, that five armed militants penetrated at dusk on Thursday. Exactly one week before this incident, the Press Trust of India reported that Indian intelligence agencies had learned during the interrogation of captured militants of small squads of the Harkat-ul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba being sent on suicide missions against the security forces in J&K. Even without the benefit of such specific intelligence findings a pattern was becoming discernible of heavily armed but small groups of militants launching do-or-die attacks not against security outposts or small patrols as in the past but against the command posts of the various security forces and the government of J&K. One month before Anantnag, two militants entered and played havoc at the headquarters of the Special Operations Group, a special anti-terrorist unit of the J&K police. Two months ago, three militants launched a grenade attack on the Badami Bagh headquarters of the Indian army's XVth Corps. Before that there was the assault on the secretariat.
Why was the Rashtriya Rifles caught to entirely off guard that militants were able not only to enter the lion's den but occupy a part of it? Why does it take `5-hour an d12-hour gunfights and heavy bombardment to overcome bands of three and five armed militants? What, in other words, is the state of preparedness and training of anti-terrorist forces in J&K? It is clear what they are up against. The militants are very highly motivate, well-trained, heavily armed and right here in the Valley. Border crossings will be almost impossible during winter and with the new measures taken by the army after Kargil it is hard to believe new squads are being thrown across carrying the heavy weapons of the type used in the recent attacks. How many do-of-die militants are there in the Valley? Some intelligence reports say 1500. The targeting of command posts may be intended to demoralise Indian security forces or to keep Kashmir in the news or both. What seems more likely though is that such daring strikes are essential to maintain the morale of the militants and their loyalty to their patrons. The operations suggest a kind of planning long associated with the ISI or Pakistani army.
This much is known. What is obscure is what the Vajpayee government intends to do about it. The government and security establishment never tire of citing evidence of Pakistani complicity. But going beyond that, how do they plan to thwart the militants? When is J&K going to see sings of the government's own long range counter-insurgency planning? The government would do well to focus less on the perfidy of Pakistan and more on the shortcomings of the security set-up in the state. What is needed in the end is not a propaganda victory against Pakistan but real peace on the ground.