New Delhi: Two days after security forces gunned down 13 militants, intelligence officials on Tuesday warned of a major realignment within militant groups in Jammu and Kashmir, with the upcoming summer months likely to witness a spike in attempted attacks by the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM).
The alert came on a day when Pakistani troops violated the ceasefire at the Krishna Ghati sector in the Mendhar area of Poonch, prompting an Indian retaliation, the Indian Army said. One jawan was killed and three others injured in the ceasefire violation, the Army confirmed.
Intelligence officials stated that with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed joining mainstream politics in Pakistan, despite the US labelling Saeed’s Milli Muslim League (MML) party a terrorist organization, a major movement of cadres from the LeT to the JeM is likely in the coming weeks.
This, intelligence officials added, was further affirmed by the fact that the Syed Salahuddin-led Hizbul Mujahideen was struggling to hold ground in Kashmir, with the group losing six terrorists in Sunday’s encounter in Kashmir’s Shopian district.
Despite a robust anti-infiltration and anti-militancy network set up by the Indian Army, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Jammu and Kashmir police, radicalization and militancy among Kashmiri youth is on the rise, they said.
“Not only is there increased radicalization, but LeT cadres are moving towards JeM, which is backed by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). This year we are likely to see several joint operations between the JeM and the Hizbul because on its own the Hizbul is struggling and JeM is very strong and the youth continue to actively take up militancy in J&K," said an intelligence official, asking not to be identified.
Defence experts argued that while the coming summer would see an upward spiral in infiltration and ceasefire violations by Pakistan, it was imperative for the centre’s special representative to Kashmir—Dineshwar Sharma—to conduct talks with the Hurriyat Conference to take the first step to prevent Kashmiri youth from joining militancy.
“Pakistan senses resentment in the Kashmir Valley against India and it is using it to its advantage. We can be sure that in the coming summer, there will be a step-up in infiltration from across the border. The government needs to first hold talks with the Hurriyat, which has a huge sway in the Kashmir Valley," said Gurmeet Kanwal, defence expert at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, a Delhi-based think tank.
The home ministry recorded 60 terror attacks in Kashmir from January up to 4 March, in which 17 terrorists and 15 security personnel have been killed.
The ministry added that till February, a total of 633 ceasefire violations and cross-border firing incidents have been recorded.