Engage Kashmir to pre-empt dangerous turn in situation

Hours before they ambushed an Army vehicle at Shopian last week, the militants lit a bonfire at an orchard to warm themselves. And soon after the encounter was over  in which they killed three security personnel, the video hit the social media and went viral, demonstrating yet again the formidable challenge, the new militancy in Valley poses with every passing day.  

In the first few hours of the video going online, more than 10,000 people had viewed it. On social media, there were long comment threads which praised the militants.  One of the three soldiers killed in the ambush was Lance Naik Ghulam Mohiuddin Rather,  a local Kashmiri jawan. Hizbul was quick to own the attack. 

The ambush came after the three recent encounters left six jawans, eight militants and two civilians dead. In recent years, as a result of their fast dwindling numbers, the ambushes have rarely been carried out by the militants. But the past two years, particularly the last year, have witnessed a conspicuous growth in militant ranks. Soon after the five month long unrest triggered by the killing of Burhan Wani was over, the J&K Police revised the number of militants in Valley to more than 300, up from a modest 150 or thereabouts. What is more, the ratio between local and foreign militants has now turned decisively in favour  of the former.  

Though security forces have achieved remarkable successes in  the fight against militancy, killing around 22 militants in various encounters since January this year, this has hardly lowered the level of violence. But as the Shopian encounter shows, this has hardly dented the morale of militants. They have only tried to up their game further, choosing to  pro-actively attack the security forces than be tracked down and killed in an encounter. And as the online video makes it clear, there is an attempt to get these attacks to boost further recruitment. 

The local recruitment has been supplemented by some infiltration from across the border.  The foreign militants, who are generally more battle-hardened than their local counterparts, mostly carry out the fidayeen attacks like Uri and Nagrota which between them killed 26 soldiers. 

This  has created a fraught state of affairs and bodes ill for the peace in the subcontinent. The situation has every chance of escalating into a big confrontation.  More so, when as a result of the lack of a bilateral engagement, India and Pakistan lack the crisis tools to address the deteriorating situation. This calls for urgent measures by both the countries to pull the situation back from the brink.  With return of the militancy  with a vengeance, the situation is threatening to go back to square one. And if left unattended, the situation is likely to worsen in the days to come. Hence the need for the two countries to reach out to each other and calm the situation. With dialogue already suspended and tensions rising high,  India and Pakistan can ill-afford to let the situation get out of hand and escalate into a major conflict.

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