Uncertain Situation

ONE more drone was spotted along the international border in Jammu’s Arnia sector on Tuesday night. It returned after the BSF personnel opened fire at it Later, the security personnel launched the search of the area but found nothing. Ever since the explosives-laden drone was used to attack the Air Force Base in Jammu in June and which mercifully didn’t cause any big damage, more such unmanned aerial vehicles have been spotted near the security installations. The objects haven’t hit their targets because the alert security personnel have been able to pre-empt the attack. But the regular sighting of these objects has not only become a headache for the security forces but has also contributed to further deterioration of the security situation in Jammu province. The situation in the Kashmir Valley is already uneasy, although there has so far been no incident of drone spotting.

What is particularly of concern is that the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir is taking shape amid the shifting geopolitics of the region following the exit of the US from Afghanistan. Over the last two weeks, Afghanistan has plunged into a civil war. Taliban is marching from one district to another, almost unresisted by the Afghan forces. In the process, not only the ground situation is shifting in the war-scarred country but also in South Asia. It seems but a matter of time before the Taliban could be ruling the entire Afghanistan. This has huge security implications for the region including Kashmir. Many experts in India see a potential for replication of the situation of the mid-nineties when there was some spillover of the battle-hardened mujaihideen into Kashmir. Could this history replicate? As the situation is unfolding, it is difficult to rule this out.

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 show that a new phase may be about to start – and this time in a new form.

Could this be pre-empted? Unlikely, if the two countries take no steps to address the issues and factors that underpin the long troubled situation. The hope that the ceasefire agreement along the LoC would be followed by a resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan has not materialised. But one expects that India and Pakistan do return to a serious and meaningful dialogue. This alone has the potential to avert what look like to be very uncertain times ahead.

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