The number of Pakistani terrorists active in Kashmir has been dropping over the years due to several reasons like terror financing watchdog FATF’s pressure on Islamabad and these militants keeping a distance and working only as advisors, a senior Army officer said on Friday. He said the neighbouring country’s attempt to project the situation in the Valley as an “indigenous freedom struggle" has also contributed to the decreased number of active Pakistani terrorists here.
“The Pakistani terrorists have been directed, since the last three to four years, to keep a distance and work as advisors. There are two sides to it. The first is that if a Pakistani terrorist is not killed, the complicity of our neighbouring country is seen less. They have pressure from Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and others," General Officer Commanding of strategic Chinar Corps of the Army, Lt Gen D P Pandey told reporters at a function here.
He said the longer strategy formulated by Pakistan is to use killing of terrorists during encounters to fuel anti-national sentiments. “When you kill a Kashmiri youth who has been a terrorist for five-six months, a family is established against our country, it becomes unhappy. So, then (it involves) his extended family, his friends, the village. This is their (Pakistan) strategy. They coordinate in the background, they motivate a young child, radicalise him, hand him guns without any training, push him forward and when he is killed, things follow.
It is their strategy to show it (militancy) as an indigenous movement where the whole effort is local. When they kill someone, a message comes within half-an-hour that this is local Kashmiri freedom struggle," he added. Giving more details, the Corps Commander said only two foreign militants were killed in Kashmir this year.
“Our counter-infiltration grid has been very strong for the last few years, which means that less number of foreign militants were able to infiltrate, he said. He also said the security situation in the Kashmir Valley of the last few years cannot be compared with that of the last two to three decades.
“It (security) has improved much. There are many things to it - abrogation of (Article) 370, development, having a good control and other things. But, an important aspect is the presence of foreign terrorists - which are all from Pakistan and it is not like a mix from some other countries, he said. Lt Gen Pandey said one should not see everything from the prism of terrorist numbers as terrorism has two factors — ‘terror’ and ‘ism’.
“This ‘ism’, this nexus which lives on the money, is still there and we have to break it, which is not a work of one or two years, but many years. Some people from Kashmiri diaspora, sitting in foreign countries, want the youth here to pick guns. They incite poison and get money. The youth-who have problems in their homes, their education, their debts, are poor and illiterate-are getting killed. Until the civil society in Kashmir understands it, stops it and exposes them, this cycle will continue," he said.
Asked if the improvement in situation warranted a withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the Army officer said the law was needed as terrorists were a floating population, moving from one place to another. “There is a need for the security forces to ensure that the people feel safe and secure, and durable peace is established because the situation in Kashmir, due to various reasons, can very well shift very fast," he added.
Lt General Pandey also dismissed opinions that involvement in counter-insurgency operations was compromising the Army’s operational capabilities in conventional warfare. “The Indian Army’s training and focus is always on the conventional training. CI/CT operations is our number two task. We are here in a supporting role. The J-K police and the civil administration work and when they need us, they call us and we operate there, he stressed.
On heavy artillery being moved to Ladakh, the Corps Commander said these are normal “turnover processes". “Everyone knows China’s activities across the LAC, so a balance of force is maintained and we act on that," he said.
Asked if the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan was a cause of concern in respect of the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Lt Gen Pandey said the situation here has changed from the past 30 years. “I think there are two options, maybe some people will come here, but I assure you that whenever anyone tries to come, the control of J-K Police (over the situation) is very strong, and no wrong act will be allowed in Kashmir, he added.