According to the collations based on open source information put out by the South Asia Terrorism Portal of New Delhi, 69 civilians and 90 members of the security forces were killed in terrorism-related violence in Jammu & Kashmir in 2008. There were 49 explosions in different parts of the State using improvised explosive devices or landmines or hand-grenades in which 29 persons were killed. The remaining 40 civilians were killed in other incidents, not involving explosions. There were no incidents of suicide or suicidal (fedayeen) terrorism.
2.During 2009, 55 civilians and 78 members of the security forces were killed. There were only seven explosions in which 11 were killed. The remaining 44 civilians died in other incidents not involving explosions. There were no incidents of suicide or suicidal terrorism during 2009 either.
3. The Portal has not put out collated statistics regarding the annual infiltrations of Pakistan-trained terrorists into J&K , However, other reports indicate that the infiltrations continued to take place.
4. Thus during the last two years, there was a qualitative change in the ground situation marked by the following features:
The total absence of suicidal or suicide terrorism.
A significant decrease in the indiscriminate killing of civilians using explosive substances.
A decrease in fatalities of civilians as well as members of the security forces due to terrorism-related violence.
But continuing infiltrations of Pakistan-trained terrorists.
5. During this period, the strategy of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was marked by , firstly, keeping the clandestine and operational presence of the terrorists in J&K sustained by continuing the infiltrations so that they can be re-activated, if needed, and, secondly, bringing down the level of their acts of terrorism so that any escalation does not come in the way of the confidence-building process going on between the two countries as a result of initiatives taken by the Government of Dr.Manmohan Singh in India and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Government headed by Asif Ali Zardari, which had come to power in Pakistan after the elections in the beginning of 2008.
6. The confidence-building process was actually initiated by the two countries when Pervez Musharraf was the President, and this continued under the PPP-led Government. In fact, Zardari tried to project a non-confrontational approach by talking, inter alia, of the need to reconsider the Pakistani policy of making the so-called Kashmir dispute come in the way of the normalisation of bilateral relations in other spheres such as trade. However, there were indications that the Army felt concerned over his non-confrontational approach. He did not go back to a confrontational approach, but stopped talking of the need for a non-confrontational approach.
7. The political situation in Pakistan has taken a turn for the worse following the ruling of the Pakistani Supreme Court declaring the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) promulgated by Musharraf in November,2007, null and void. The NRO, inter alia, paved the way for the return of Benazir Bhutto and Zardari from political exile in order to re-join the democratic process by closing the then on-going corruption investigations and prosecutions against them. Corruption cases against many other political leaders of different political parties were also withdrawn or closed.
8. The setting aside of the NRO by the Supreme Court has called into question the legitimacy of the election of Zardari as the President in September 2008. He has been desperately fighting to keep himself in office as the President through various strategems such as encouraging the Legislative Assemblies of the provinces to express their backing for him, by playing up the regional aspirations, by talking of unspecified conspiracies against not only him as an individual, but also against the PPP and by invoking the memory and fighting spirit of Benazir. His references to Kashmir are becoming confrontational. One is reminded of a similar turn in the attitude of Benazir Bhutto as the then Prime Minister in 1989 when she assumed a belligerant attitude towards India during a visit to Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir in order to save her position as the Prime Minister.
9. It should be a matter of concern---but not yet of alarm---- that the fedayeen attack by a group of two terrorists---- apparently from Pakistan --- in the Lal Chowk of Srinagar on January 6,2009, has come at a time when emotions are once again being whipped up in Pakistan over the Kashmir issue. The fedayeen attack resulted in a 22-hour confrontation between the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the terrorists, who managed to entrench themselves in a local hotel before they were killed.
10. The whipping-up of emotions has the following objectives:
To divert attention away from the domestic challenges faced by Zardari and the PPP-led Government.
To placate the Army due to fears that the Army might get involved in any conspiracy to force the exit of Zardari.
To placate the Punjabi jihadi organisations, which have been itching for renewed action in J&K, in order to bring about a divide between them and the anti-Army Pakistani Taliban.
11. As a result of an improvement in the ground situation during the last two years, the Government of India, with the co-operation of the Government in Srinagar, had embarked on a policy with the following components:
A calibrated withdrawal and/or re-deployment of the Army troops in order to give the J&K Police and the CRPF a greater responsibility for maintaining peace and law and order in the State.
Maintaining on the ground the confidence-building measures already agreed upon with Pakistan before the bilateral dialogue came to be suspended following the 26/11 terrorist strikes by the Lashkar-e-Toiba in Mumbai.
Maintaining the momentum of the dialogue between the Government and representatives of different political formations in the State in order to work out a political solution to their demands which are considered legitimate.
12. The first fedayeen attack since 2007 need not call into question the wisdom of continuing this strategy. At the same time, the danger that a besieged Zardari-led Government might try to undermine this strategy by stepping up jihadi terrorism in the State has to be constantly studied, analysed and assessed by our intelligence agencies, the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) and the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )