Terror in J&K: What explains the sharp uptick

Reasi: A crane being used to pull out the bus which plunged into a gorge following a terrorist attack on pilgrims, in Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir, Tuesday, June 11, 2024. At least 9 people were killed and 33 others suffered injuries in the terror attack on the bus, according to officials.  (PTI)
Reasi: A crane being used to pull out the bus which plunged into a gorge following a terrorist attack on pilgrims, in Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir, Tuesday, June 11, 2024. At least 9 people were killed and 33 others suffered injuries in the terror attack on the bus, according to officials. (PTI)

Summary

  • Last week alone saw four incidents in Jammu and Kashmir

Centrally administered Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has seen a sharp uptick in terrorist attacks with four incidents last week. The strikes have prompted New Delhi to take a second look at its security strategy. Mint looks at the possible reasons for the spike in terrorist activity.

What’s behind the sudden spike?

The first attack in the series came on 9 June 2024 just an hour before Prime Minister Narendra Modi took oath for a third consecutive term. It happened in Jammu’s Reasi region where terrorists fired at a bus carrying pilgrims to the Vaishno Devi shrine. The bus fell into a gorge, killing 10 and injuring many more. The timing has led to speculation that the attack is a message to New Delhi and aimed at conveying that its strategy of projecting calm in J&K and effectively taking it off the international radar is misplaced. In May, Pakistan Army chief Syed Asim Munir said the global silence on Kashmir was “deafening".

Did the recent national election play a part?

According to chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar, the turnout in entire J& K was 58.58% and in the Kashmir valley, the hotbed of terrorism, 51.5%. These numbers are the highest in decades. Earlier polls in the Kashmir valley brought out fewer people as elections would coincide with boycott calls by separatists; there would also be intimidation by terrorist groups. Since J&K was converted into a Union territory after the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, a large number of terrorists have been killed and separatists imprisoned. This has blunted separatism, with many coming out to participate in polls.

Could the Pakistan Army be calling the shots?

The terrorism uptick may be the Pakistan Army’s way of keeping politicians on a tight leash—warning against offering any olive branches to India. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif last month said Pakistan had violated the 1999 Lahore peace pact with India. He was on good terms with Modi, with several exchanges in 2015 before terrorist attacks derailed the process.

Could there be a China element?

India freed some 10,000 soldiers deployed along the border with Pakistan earlier this year. The idea was to strengthen the deployment along India’s China border. This happened ahead of a tense standoff between India and China in the Galwan region of eastern Ladakh entering its fifth year without any signs of easing. The repositioning by New Delhi was to strengthen its troop presence along a strategically important 532km stretch of the Indo-China border in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

Are we talking China-Pakistan collusion?

Keeping India tied down on two fronts serves Pakistan and China. During Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s 7 June visit to China, the two sides said they had “underscored the importance of maintaining peace and stability in South Asia, the need for resolution of all outstanding disputes." Pakistan had briefed China “on the latest developments" in Kashmir, a joint statement added.

Elizabeth Roche is an associate professor at O.P. Jindal Global University. The views expressed are her own.

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