Counter Terrorism in J and K UPSC NOTE

 Counter-terrorism approach in J and K

  • In J&K, the new year dawned in the backdrop of a terror strike in Rajouri-Poonch districts at Dera ki Gali (DKG).

  •  Four soldiers were killed in an ambush. 

  • In its aftermath, three civilians were alleged to have been killed by security forces. 

  • The Director General of Police, J&K, in his media briefing on the year’s round up, touched upon the encouraging numbers of terrorists killed, and how the things in the Union Territory (UT) were looking up. 

  • At around the same time, there was a media report, giving the nuances related to the number of terrorists killed by a paramilitary force in 2023.

  • Number of terrorist killed was lower than the previous year.

  • The Union Home Minister too, while reviewing the security situation in the UT, exhorted the security forces to destroy the terror infrastructure

  • This, in all probability, implied maximising the neutralisation of terror cadres.

Arguments against focusing solely on kills

  • While it cannot be denied that neutralising terrorists is one of the most crucial objectives of the security operations.

  • It ought not become the overriding factor, especially in the present context of lower terror indices. 

  • In this backdrop, an obsession with the numbers of terrorists killed may be debatable vis-à-vis its effect in the mid and long term.

  • The past and present of insurgency in Rajouri-Poonch districts vindicate the argument related to the futility of an obsession with the number of ‘kills’. 

  • Simply put, the last terrorist can seldom be killed. 

  • Insurgency was at its peak in the late 1990s and early 2000s in this region. 

  • By virtue of the toil and sacrifices of the uniformed services, the situation changed for the better and by 2011-12, the region was on the verge of being declared terror free.

  • It is amply clear that the state machinery was unable to consolidate and build up on the gains made. 

  • The region appears to be going down the abyss, yet again

  • In hindsight, it may be inferred that one of the main attributes leading to the re-emergence of instability is the misplaced focus of the counter terrorism approach

  • In our undue obsession with the numbers of ‘kills’ as parameters of a successful counter-terror campaign, we may have been winning the battle by addressing the symptoms, but it has indeed been at the cost of the campaign.

Criticisms of current system

  • Paradoxically, combating insurgencies is challenging when terror-related incidents are on decline and the need for recognition pushes units to scout for easier ways to gain tangibles

  • It gets down to being a case of the ‘tail wagging the dog’, wherein the ends are chased with a total disregard to the means

  • Chasing numbers was the obvious option in the years when terror-related fatalities in J&K touched a yearly mark of 2,000-plus. 

  • This is in sharp contrast to the declining fatalities post 2007, with the figures at 134 in 2023 (South Asia Terror Portal). 

  • The situational dynamics, unfortunately, never ushered in adjustments in the modus operandi of security forces and assessment methodology of unit performance by the hierarchy

  • Changed dynamics warranted efforts at peace building, consolidation and conflict management. 

  • The system has been reluctant to adapt.

  • Tangibles prove performance continues to be the bottom-line, mainly due to factors such as limited tenures, primacy of short-term gains, competitive career environments, and a false sense of glory.

  • As in the classical teaching of counter insurgency, tactical-level operations, duly backed by psychological operations, have to be people-centric. 

  • Winning the hearts and the minds of the population has been a cliched but most overlooked dictum. 

  • A perseverance to address people’s aspirations is most often sacrificed at the altar of so-called performance imperatives

  • It is noteworthy that although various agencies of the state involved in a conflict zone do formulate and execute people-centric policies, the cultural orientation of the same at execution levels is missing

  • This has often resulted in lapses such as what manifested in the unfortunate death of three civilians in DKG. 

  • Also, in several instances, we have suffered an avoidable loss of officers and jawans in an operational rush to acquire ‘kills’. 

  • The bad name caused casts a sombre shadow on the hard-earned values, ethics and traditions of the security forces.

Alternative approach

  • A security force of the nation must defend its people and their dignity, even at its own cost.

  • Leadership is all about compensating any cost to the soldier, with the leader standing up to bridge the gap between the interests of people and soldiers

  • Ideally, there should be no contradiction between the requirements of people and soldiers, who have to be commanded accordingly. 

  • Clearly, if people’s acceptance is the ‘end’, then an oversight on the ‘means’ provisioned by soldiers is indispensable. 

  • And, lastly, security forces have the task of managing the conflict and handing over a stable situation to the government machinery for due political process, with enhanced participation and stakeholding of the people

  • Many a time, the security forces have been successful in doing that, only to be met with unprepared and reluctant political initiatives.

  • In a report on January 8, this daily reported that “the people of J&K, who have not had any Assembly representation since 2018, will cease to have any electoral representation at the grassroots level as well, from January 9”. 

  • Such developments do not comprise a recipe for resolution of the J&K conundrum through the whole of the government approach. 

  • And, perhaps, the objective of eliminating terrorists rather than terrorism shall continue to be the ground rule.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Counter Terrorism in J and K UPSC NOTE
Counter Terrorism in J and K UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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