Decrease Or Increase In Infiltration?
17 July 2004
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: Is infiltration of ultras into Jammu and Kashmir up or down? A precise answer cannot be expected at this stage. Reason : A good deal of confusion has been triggered by the ones who, while in the power corridors in New Delhi, seem to have taken lightly the crucial issue of infiltration in the crucial region of Jammu and Kashmir. The two vital departments of Government of India, namely, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) do not hold identical views on infiltration of militants and terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir from across the border. Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, and External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, belong to the same party, which heads the present coalition Government at the Centre, but they do not share the same information on the infiltration issue. Doubts, if any in this regard, have been set at rest by E Ahamed, Minister of State for External Affairs, and Shriprakash Jaiswal, Minister of State for Home Affairs. On July 7, Ahamed informed the Lok Sabha : 'Since the November 25, 2003 ceasefire along the International Border, LoC (Line of Control) and the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) in Jammu and Kashmir, there has been decline in infiltration'. He gave this information through the written reply to a question by Chengara Surendran and Gurudas Kamat. A day earlier, on July 6, Shriprakash Jaiswal stated in reply to a question by Ratilal Kalidas Varma and Kailash Meghwal in the Lok Sabha : 'As per the assessment made by various agencies and security forces, there has been an increase in the infiltration of terrorists from across the Line of Control and International Border in J&K during April-June 2004 compared to January-March 2004 apparently with the opening of the passes'. Jaiswal informed the House that from January to the end of June this year the number of infiltration incidents in J&K was 30. The number of such incidents stood at 164 in 2002 and 138 in 2003. While 20 infiltration bids were foiled during the January-June period, security forces rendered ineffective as many as 137 infiltration bids. According to Jaiswal, as many as 480 terrorists were killed in the wake of anti- infiltration operations in 2002, 2003 and the first six months of the current year. In his written reply to a question by Lok Sabha members, SD Mandlik and Dalpat Singh Paraste, the Minister of State for Home admitted that during the first five months of the current year, the incidents of terrorist violence had gone down by 12 per cent in comparison to the same period in 2003. According to Jaiswal, the J&K Government had informed the Union Home Ministry that as many as 1224 incidents of terrorist violence occurred during the January- June period as against a total of such incidents (3401) in 2003. Even as the Manmohan Singh Government wants to pursue a dialogue with all groups and with different shades of opinion in Jammu and Kashmir on what is officially described as 'a sustained basis' in consultation with the democratically elected Government in the State, the Centre has no plans, at least for the present, to lift the ban on 35 organisations. Shriprakash Jaiswal's reply to a question by the Lok Sabha member, Yogi Aditya Nath, confirmed that militant and terrorist outfits 'also receive funds' from other countries including through clandestine channels. Be that as it may, significance is attached to the Government's move to engage in talks even those secessionist leaders of Kashmir, who have, in recent years, allegedly managed to build enormous movable and immovable assets disproportionate to their known sources of income. The Minister of State for Home, Jaiswal, made it clear in the Lok Sabha that the Government continued to remain open to pursue a dialogue with all groups and different shades of opinion in J&K on a sustained basis. Will the secessionist groups eventually oblige New Delhi? Will these groups continue to be loyal to and influenced by Islamabad? Since Kashmir has already become an international issue, and since Islamabad has not abandoned its policy and plans on Jammu and Kashmir, New Delhi will have to look at carefully, if it is serious about reaching an acceptable settlement on J&K without compromising Indian national interests. The Manmohan Singh Government will have to convince all and sundry that it is pursuing the path of peace on the basis of its own thinking and assessment of the dialogue process. It seems that not much thought has gone into the process. An indication of this was the silence with which New Delhi greeted the meetings between Pakistan foreign secretary, Riaz Khokhar and the Kashmiri separatists in the Indian capital last month. In fact, almost as if he was sending out a signal of disdain for his hosts. Khokhar began his schedule with a meeting with hardliner, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who has been openly hostile to the Indian Government. The Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman, Masood Khan, at a briefing in New Delhi dismissed a question as to whether his Government would allow an Indian official with the same access to Kashmiri leaders on his side of the border with 'you ask them to ask us'. Nonetheless, it is anybody's guess that Islamabad will not allow any such interaction. One hopes that Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and his Foreign Minister, Natwar Singh, are conscious of the fact that many of the Kashmiri separatist leaders who queued up to meet Riaz Khokhar, have refused to meet even secretaries from the Government of India, insisting only on meeting at the level of Prime Minister or as the case earlier was, with the Deputy Prime Minister. Yet another fact : Khokhar's meetings with the separatists did not work to India's advantage as they brought home the grim reality that Pakistan has more access to Jammu and Kashmir than New Delhi, a point that Islamabad has been trying to make again and again. Some political analysts are of the view that India would not have jeopardised the talks if it had refused to allow Riaz Khokhar to meet the Kashmiri separatists, or to meet only those who had participated in the dialogue with New Delhi. Fact number three : Each time terrorists strike it is stated that the peace process in Jammu and Kashmir is in peril. A series of incidents recently have led to warnings about threats to the ongoing India-Pakistan talks and the dialogue between secessionists and the Union Government. Fact number four : Depressing levels of violence persists, and death continues to stalk Jammu and Kashmir with metronomic regularity. Fact number five : There are plenty of people within J&K who share Islamist opposition to the peace process, and are praying the peace castle turns out to have been built on quicksand. Politicians now have a choice- that is, to place principles over opportunism or instead to answer those prayers. If the Minister of State for External Affairs, E. Ahamed's written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on July 7 was any guide, Pakistan has not taken any credible steps to dismantle the infrastructure of support to terrorism in that country. Ahamed's yet another point : Recent reports suggest efforts in the context of reviving some training camps and launching pads in Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).