In the early hours of August 6, 2013, personnel of Pakistan Army's Border Action Team (BAT) along with a group of 20 heavily armed terrorists entered 450-metres deep into the Indian Territory along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Poonch sector (Poonch District) of Jammu and Kashmir (J and K).
The intruders ambushed an Indian Army patrol consisting of six soldiers, killing five of them and injuring another. Confirming the Pakistan Army's role in the August 6, 2013, incident, the Army said, "The ambush was carried out by approximately 20 heavily armed terrorists along with soldiers of the Pak Army".
Prior to this incident, on January 8, 2013, Pakistani troopers and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)-backed terrorists breached the LoC in the Mankot sector of Mendhar tehsil (revenue unit) in Poonch District, ambushed an Indian Army patrol, and killed and mutilated two Indian troopers, identified as Lance Naik Hem Raj and Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh. Lance Naik Hem Raj was decapitated and his head was carried away by the attackers, while fleeing back into Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) territory.
Giving details of the January 8, 2013, incident, India's Military Intelligence disclosed that the beheading was done by one Anwar Khan, a local guide who runs a shop in Barmoch Gali in PoK. Anwar was rewarded with PKR 500,000 by ISI Colonel Siddiqui, and was part of a group of 15 terrorists, 10 from Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and five from Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). Though investigations into the August 6 incident have just begun, some reports suggest that the same Anwar Khan may have been involved in this attack as well. Reports also indicate that, on both occasions, the LeT founder and Jama'at-ud-Da'wah (JUD) chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, who is very close to the ISI and Pakistani civilian Government, had visited the territory on the Pakistani side.
There appears to be a clear intention on the Pakistani side to disrupt the deepening peace in J and K, with continuous violations of the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) along the LoC and the International Border. According to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), while Pakistani Forces violated the CFA with India on 44 occasions in 2010, 51 such incidents were recorded in 2011 and 93 in 2012. The current year (till August 12, 2013) has already witnessed 65 CFA violations. More worryingly, while three Army personnel were killed during these violations between 2010 and 12 (two were killed in 2010 and another in 2012), the current year has already recorded nine fatalities. Apart from January 8 and August 6 incidents, Pakistani troops on resorted to ceasefire violation at Sabjian along the LoC in the Mandi sub sector of Poonch District June 7, 2013, resulting in the death of a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) of the Indian Army. A Border Security Force Head Constable, who was injured in firing by Pakistani Army in the Ramgarh Sector of Samba District on August 5, 2013, succumbed to his injuries on August 11, 2013.
Infiltration bids by ISI-backed terrorists have also been increasing. According to Army sources, while there were 49 infiltration attempts, including 13 successful ones, until the end of June 2012, the number increased to 69, including 30 successful, in 2013 (till June). The South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) has recorded at least 15 infiltration attempts resulting in 19 fatalities (18 terrorists and one SF trooper) since July 1, 2013. The database shows that a total of 21 infiltration bids have been made through 2013, resulting in 25 fatalities (23 terrorists and two SF personnel).
The calibrated Pakistani Army actions at the border have helped Pakistan-based terrorists infiltrate into J and K. According to Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) data, while 52 terrorists entered Indian territory in 2011, the number increased considerably in 2012, with 121 terrorists entering J and K. The number of terrorists confirmed to have entered the State in current year is not currently available. However, given the broad trend in supportive Pakistan Army action across the border and LoC, it is likely that a larger number of terrorists would have successfully infiltrated in the current year. Significantly, the Intelligence Bureau, in a comprehensive report, noted that at least six terrorists managed to successfully sneak into Indian territory under cover of the August 6, 2013, attack.
Unsurprisingly, escalating efforts by the Pakistani Army and its terrorist proxies have resulted in a rise in the level of terrorist violence in J and K. The State had witnessed 57 terrorism-related fatalities, including nine civilians, eight SF personnel and 40 terrorists, in 2012; till August 11, fatalities recorded in the current year have already risen to 108 (including 14 civilians, 42 SF personnel and 52 terrorists). More worryingly, during the current year, the State witnessed the deadliest attack [on June 24, 2013, when militants killed eight Army personnel] as well as a suicide attack [on March 13, 2013, which killed five Central Reserve Police Force troopers] in a long time.
In fact, the deadliest attack this year, on June 24, 2013, took place well after Nawaz Sharif had been sworn in as the Prime Minister of Pakistan for his third tenure on June 5, 2013. Since Sharif assumed power, J and K has recorded at least 64 fatalities (including four civilians, 23 SF personnel and 37 terrorists. Similarly, the number of CFA violations and infiltration bids has increased considerably since Sharif's ascent to power. Pakistani Forces have violated the CFA on at least 19 occasions since Sharif was sworn in, killing seven Indian soldiers. Moreover, ISI-backed terrorists have made at least 16 infiltration bids, in which 22 terrorists and a soldier have been killed. Indian intelligence assessments suggest that the ISI is 'increasing pressure' on the Nawaz Sharif Government to act on Kashmir. The Pakistani PM has reportedly cleared a new 'Kashmir strategy' and has set up a Kashmir Cell in his office, to 'keep track' of developments on Kashmir.
The escalation in J and K appears connected to the Pakistani objective of forcing India out of Afghanistan as well. Significantly, nine Afghans, including at least eight children, were killed, and another 24 were wounded on August 3, 2013, in a suicide attack intended to target the Indian Consulate at Jalalabad, the capital of the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan. The three attackers were also killed. However, all Indian officials in the Consulate remained unharmed. Nangarhar Province Police Chief General Sharifullah Amin confirmed that the Consulate was the intended target of the blast. Reports now confirm that the attackers were residents of Punjab Province in Pakistan, from where LeT recruits most of its cadres.
Sharif's rhetoric on improving relations with India clearly fails to match up with developments on the ground. In this context, it is useful to re-examine his past misadventures as well as present overtures towards terrorist formations. Advocates of an intensifying 'peace process' between New Delhi and Islamabad have wilfully ignored the subterfuge of Pakistan's assertion that it is not the Government, but the 'non state actors', who are behind various 'adverse developments'.
Despite mounting evidence of intentional Pakistani malfeasance, however, the Indian Government appears to be in an unseemly hurry to engage with Pakistan. This, perhaps, was the reason behind Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony's failure to confirm the role of the Pakistani Army in the August 6 attack in his first address to the Indian Parliament on the same date. Better sense was, however, forced on the Government, both by the growing ire within the Indian Army and families of the personnel killed, as well as by strident criticism in the media, with Antony conceding in Parliament on August 8, 2013,
It is now clear that the specialist troops of Pakistan Army were involved in this attack when a group from the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) side crossed the LC and killed our brave jawans. We all know that nothing happens from Pakistan side of the Line of Control without support, assistance, facilitation and often, direct involvement of the Pakistan Army. Those in Pakistan who are responsible for this tragedy and the brutal killing of two soldiers earlier this year should not go unpunished. Pakistan should also show determined action to dismantle the terrorist networks, organizations and infrastructure and show tangible movement on bringing those responsible for the Mumbai terrorist attack in November 2008 to justice quickly. Naturally, this incident will have consequences on our behaviour on the Line of Control and for our relations with Pakistan. Our restraint should not be taken for granted; nor should the capacity of our Armed Forces and resolve of the Government to uphold the sanctity of the LoC ever be doubted.
The desperate farce of India's talks with Pakistan has been entirely exposed by the Pakistani military and terrorist misadventures of the recent past, demonstrating, once again, that a criminalized state in Islamabad cannot be relied upon to act within established norms of a civilized relationship, and that terrorism and brinkmanship remain the principal instrumentalities of Pakistan's foreign policy.
(The writer Ajit Kumar Singh is Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management)
(The view expressed in the article is of the author and not India Blooms News Service)
(Posted on 13-08-2013)