“They chose the Valentine’s Day to seal their love for their country.… They lived for the country and they died fighting for her”, said an army statement a day after four soldiers (Major SatishDahiya, Rifleman Ravi Kumar, Paratrooper Dharmender Kumar and Gunner Astosh Kumar) were martyred in two separate encounters in the Valley in Bandipore and Handwara.The two encounters took place two days after four militants and two soldiers were killed in a gunbattle in South Kashmir's Kulgam district. Eighteen people, including seven soldiers and eight militants, were killed recently in different anti-militancy operations across the Kashmir valley. Major Dahiya led the operation launched by Army in Handwara on Tuesday in which three militants were killed. A veteran of several counter militancy operations he had been awarded for gallantry earlier.
The Army is under pressure to reduce its casualty figures. The average kill ratio of 5:1 in its favour has now gone down to 2:1 due to numerous factors. First, is the stone pelting flash mobs, of local youths and women, which impose severe restrictions due to fear of collateral damage and civilian casualties. Second, is the tactical aspect of ‘initial rush’ by the security forces on gaining contact with the terrorists. Most security forces’ casualties take place during time when the militants are firing from covered positions and the security force personnel are rushing in the open to cordon and neutralise the terrorists.
Consequentially, the COAS, General BipinRawat, issued a warning to these misguided Kashmiri youth that Army will treat them as over ground workers and sympathisers of the militants and will deem their acts as abetment of terrorism. Much hullaballoo was raised in the media about his statement, with the opposition leaders getting on the band wagon as well, butit was a pragmatic, balanced statement which reflects the need of the hour.
On the other side of the border, Pakistan went through a particularly macabre week. Since 13 Feb, more than 100 people have been killed in at least five attacks across Pakistan, highlighting the threat of violent extremism that afflicts the country.The recent suicide blast terrorist attack on Sufi shrine of LalShahbazQalandar in Sehwan city of Sindh provinceshook up Pakistan and forced their government to act by putting Hafeez Saeed, the LeT founder and mastermind of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, under house arrest. In a revenge drive, their military eliminated over 130 terrorists, closed the Torkham crossing on the Afghanistan border, accusing their Western neighbour of harbouring terrorists.Although this will punish the Afghan regime economically,it may not punish the terrorists or their sponsors directlynor curtail their cross-border movement. It is indicative of the worsening Pak-Afghan relations which works indirectly in our favour.
Viewed holistically the situation in the Valley is under reasonable control. Since 1990, the highest total casualty figures of civilians, military and terrorists were 4507 in the year 2001, which declined to its lowest 117 in the year 2012 (2.5% of peak levels) but have again gone up to only 267 (6% of peak level) in the year 2016. Accompanying graph, prepared from data available on South Asia Terrorism Portal, gives the year wise breakdown of these casualties.
However, the situation across the border has a few considerable features. Internationally, Pakistan government was under constant pressure to act against Hafeez Saeed and Masood Azhar. The suicide bombings gave Nawaz Sharif the opportunity to do so and project himself as being genuinely engaged in the fight against terrorism. There is a Chinese angle to the recent crackdown on the terrorists by the Pak military. Threatened by support from Af-Pak side of the border, especially Wakhan Corridor, to rebel Uyghurs in its Autonomous Xinjiang Region, China sealed its border with Pakistan in this region to send a strong signal to Pakistan that it was not doing enough to combat terrorism and religious extremism. Though Pakistan is China’s all-weather friend and has been assisted in twice vetoing the designation of Hafeez Saeed and Masood Azhar as terrorists in the UN. Yet, China too perceives that Pakistani home-grown terrorism will cross borders and also threaten its high stake China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). In Paksitan – in spite of its capacity to create mischief across its borders – its chickens come home to roost. It is time for its government and army to realise that “Terrorism is a weapon of a war that knows no borders or seldom has a face”.