Drone Attacks

ON Sunday, explosives-laden drones were used to attack the Air Force Base in Jammu. Mercifully, the attack didn’t cause any big damage or lead to any casualties. The following day the army said it averted a major tragedy when it intercepted two drones flying over the Kaluchak army base. The military said troops spotted the drones separately flying over the base. The first of its kind attacks have created a massive security challenge for the security forces. Just when we thought that the militancy in the former state has been significantly reigned in, these attacks, albeit staying short of inflicting any damage, have broken the calm.

According to J&K police chief  Dilbagh Singh, Lashkar-e-Taiba is likely involved in the drone attack on the Air Force Base. The same group, he added, may also be behind the drones spotted near the Kaluchak military facility the following day. According to the DGP, indications of a LeT link have come from the man arrested on Sunday with an explosive device weighing 4 kg. Nadeem Ul Haq, a 22-year-old suspect from Banihal, was arrested hours after the first attack.

This has forced New Delhi to take pre-emptive measures to foil such attacks in the future.  India is likely to make a decision soon on the deployment of anti-drone technology at military installations across the country.

But the challenge posed by recent drone attacks has a wider dimension. It underlines a sudden re-emergence of the challenge of militancy, which otherwise has been showing signs of being on the wane over the last year. And just when we were rushing to write the epitaph of militancy, the drone attacks have alarmed the security establishment.

But the attacks shouldn’t be such a surprise, after all.  Going by the rise and fall of the militancy over the past thirty years, the militancy in J&K has often risen from the ashes.

The number of militants as per the police estimate continues to hover around 200. This has been more or less the annual number of militants over the past five years. And there’s little hope there will be a marked decline in the near future. The simultaneous recruitment of the local youth in the militant ranks and the infiltration from across the border invariably replenishes the shortfall caused by the killings of the militants. And it will continue to do so unless the dynamic that animates the militancy is addressed.

There’s now hope that the ceasefire agreement along the LoC to be hopefully followed by a resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan could go some way to reduce the violence in Kashmir.  There’s a precedent for this: when the LoC truce was first signed in 2003, it was followed by the promising four years of the engagement between the neighbours. The period had witnessed a drastic reduction of violence in Kashmir. Here’s hoping for a similar turn of events this time too.

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