Two militants and eight CRPF personnel were killed after a militant attack on a CRPF convoy at Pampore. The attacks came in the back drop of Mehbooba Muftis electoral victory in Anantnag bye elections and are in the nature of a sequel to attacks that have preceded it. What is pertinent to mention here is that the state recently asserted that there were a 100 or so militants operating in Kashmir amid a heightened militant activity at the Line of Control leading to a series of encounters there. An encounter was going on near the Line of Control (LoC) in Uri sector of north Kashmirs Baramulla district while this analysis was being written.
What is to be made of the spate of attacks in the Kashmir division of the state? Is militancy on the rise? Is it waning? What explains the apparent conundrum between what has been touted as a stupendous victory for Mehbooba and the spate of militant attacks?
What is pertinent to mention here is that the state recently asserted that there were a 100 or so militants operating in Kashmir. What is to be made of the spate of attacks in the Kashmir division of the state? Is militancy on the rise? Is it waning? What explains the apparent conundrum between what has been touted as a stupendous victory for Mehbooba and the spate of militant attacks?
Let us first examine the states assertions and the smugness implicit in these remarks. From an insurgency point of view , even a 100 boys (younger cohort of militants) operating in Kashmir, given the population ratio and the news value that attacks carry and their amplification by various media are enough to throw the state into a tizzy. 100 boys spread across Kashmir despite the network of informants the states security apparatii have under their command and despite the difficult operating context can throw a spanner in to the works and even create conditions of anarchy or near anarchy in the state. Urban guerrilla warfare ( which has greater news value and the spread of the fear factor plus the anarchy that follows)complemented by assassinations of high or even low value political targets, can lead to conditions that the state will find it hard to deal with. And all the boys need to do is engage the security forces. The media and the fear factor will do the rest. The question that could be posed is why there are merely sporadic attacks in Kashmir than more intense and frequent ones?
The answer may lie in the contextual conditions obtaining in the region. Pakistan and the various militant outfits operating in the state may be merely wanting to keep the pot boiling and sporadic attacks may be in the nature of reminders that all is not well in Kashmir.
While Pakistan has to some extent consolidated and checked its internal security issues but Afghanistan remains unsettled and the name of the game for Pakistan might be Afghanistan- some sort of influence in the country after the United States disengages from the region. United States disengagement from Afghanistan will be a critical component in Pakistans strategic calculus. The questions that the Pakistani strategic community might be asking are: what will the United States orientation towards the region and Pakistan be? Would be déjà vu as in the United States losing interest in the country and dumping it after the United States disengages from Afghanistan? These questions have regional and global security as well as political economy implications.
But, in terms of Kashmir and as far as the eye can see, Pakistan has not given up on Kashmir. The question here is what claim does the country have over Kashmir given the superficial and illusory patina of peace that obtains in Kashmir? The answer is obvious: maintain a degree of tension in Kashmir by controlled violence. By controlled violence is meant violence that is not allowed to escalate beyond a point. This axiomatically means sporadic attacks. All is not to state that Pakistan is behind these attacks. These are speculations which may or may not hold water.
Reluctance of powers that be within and without t Kashmir to escalate violence beyond a point also may explain why more young Kashmiris are not becoming active militants. Our definition of active militants is militants who are trained and equipped to carry attacks. If our assessment holds, then thousands of young Kashmiris can he held to be ready to become militants or join militant ranks.
It is structural obstacles- lack of access to training, arms and other military materiel- that precludes them from becoming active. This again throws sand into the states narrative of curbing or checking militancy in Kashmir. Yes: the state has, by playing the numbers game and by neutralizing militants, curbed numbers but the sentiment that undergirds militancy in Kashmir remains or may even have grown stronger and passed onto Gen Next of Kashmir.
All this means that Kashmir or the apparent conditions that obtain in Kashmir- a degree and sense of normalcy and peace- is illusory. Given and under conditions of a change in structural and regional conditions within and without, Kashmir can explode again.
From a policy perspective, this means that powers that be have not gone on a learning curve in and about Kashmir and their operating premise is containment of the conflict. How long this containment works remains an open question? The June 25 militant attacks serve to underscore this point.
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