Not taking on the “face value” Pakistan’s new Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa’s statement that he will try to restore normalcy on the Line of Control (LoC), the Indian security establishment is going ahead with strengthening the counter insurgency and counter-terrorist grid apprehending a fresh cycle of terrorist violence. There are apprehensions that Pakistan-backed militants might try to carry out a major operation in the run up to Republic Day.
The threat perception, officials said, is based on several factors: Pakistan doing nothing to close down militant training camps along the LoC in the Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir (POK) or in its hinterland. The halt of cross-border firing on the LoC by Pakistan Army and a dip in infiltration bids from across the border, leading to “restlessness” among the militant outfits, could create problems for their Pakistani masters.
Fear also exists that Overground Workers (OGW) in Jammu & Kashmir are sheltering some infiltrators and helping them in carrying out reconnaissance of their targets.
Operational commanders of the Army and paramilitary forces are redrawing their strategies to thwart any attempt by terrorists to step up the level of violence by resorting to ‘fidayeen (suicide)’ attacks or “hit and run” incidents.
The Indian security establishment has taken Bajwa’s statement with a “pinch of salt” saying the ongoing spell of “uneasy calm cannot be read or interpreted as enduring peace”.
The LoC, which witnessed the highest number of ceasefire violations last year in the wake of the Uri Army camp attack and subsequent surgical strikes by the Indian Army, became somewhat calm after Bajwa said in November end last year that he will try to restore normalcy. The Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) of the two countries also held talks to cool down the “hot” LoC, witness to more than 225 ceasefire violations by Pakistan last year, double than 2015 and 2014.
Officials said the Pakistan Army and the ISI will step up violence in the coming weeks in view of mounting pressure from the militants’ outfits. Rather than face a challenge on its own soil, Pakistan Army will direct these highly trained militants to Kashmir, they said.
Infiltration bids in South Kashmir generally dip during winter as snow has blocked all major ingress routes. Sources said militants will try to sneak from the lower heights in the same region despite snow posing a major challenge to the security forces.
Keeping all these factors in mind, the Army has started working on a three-pronged strategy in sensitive areas of Kashmir. The strategy includes shoring up perimeter security of all its camps and installations to avoid attacks such as Uri and Nagrota and ensure that road opening parties supposed to detect improvised explosive devices (IED) avoid an ambush.
The security forces are also increasing vigil to deter possible spike in incidents of ‘hit and run’ on vital military installations and convoys moving up and down the vulnerable stretch of Jammu-Srinagar National Highway.
The security situation along the International Border is also worrisome as the entire focus of the militant handlers has shifted to the launching pads spread across the plain areas in Sialkot sector facing Jammu frontier.
Due to closure of mountain passes in North Kashmir district of Kupwara and other higher reaches south of Pir Panjal range, the militants prefer to infiltrate via International border in Jammu region during winter.
The security forces also fear that members of suicide squad may attempt to breach the air space using paragliding equipment. Intelligence agencies in the past have picked up militant chatter referring to air dropping of infiltrators inside the Indian Territory.
To prevent fresh infiltration bids from across the International Border with Pakistan, Border Security Force (BSF) has already activated its Border Winter Management strategy to plug the loop holes in the multi tier security grid.
The frequency of regular foot patrolling and number of jawans guarding the International Border has been increased to ensure cent percent area domination and ensuring militant handlers were not able to push infiltrators taking advantage of the foggy weather conditions.
The water bodies dotting the International Border also pose a challenge to the BSF jawans due to hostile terrain in the vicinity. According to a senior BSF officer of Jammu frontier, “Border areas prone to dense fog have been lit up using fog lights to fight poor visibility”. The BSF officer said our jawans are on high alert and covering the entire length of 194 km long International border between Pahadpur and Akhnoor on foot.