Sandeep Jain Writes: Indian army as also other security forces have been involved in operations against militancy for a long time in J&K. There have been numerous times when militarily the situation has been brought under control but for lack of political resolution the militancy gets revived. However, there is another factor for revival of militancy. It is the constant assessment and reinvention of tactics by external support factors. It is therefore important to understand the various cycles of militancy in J&K and how the external support has morphed itself in each cycle, to keep the pot boiling.
The happenings in the Af-Pak region have always impacted the internal security of our country. In the early eighties funds and weaponry started flowing to Af-Pak region to prop up the mujahedeen against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Parts of these funds and weapons found their way into Punjab and led to rise of militancy in Punjab. The Punjab problem was brought under control by late eighties due to lack of local support and proactive action by the security forces.
As the Punjab problem abated, the external support flowing from the Af-Pak region got diverted to J&K by late eighties and early nineties. This was also co-terminus with the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. A call for Azadi was raised under the banner of JKLF and the organisation was provided both financial and military support from the Af-Pak region. However, JKLF soon found resonance even across the line of control in Pak occupied Kashmir. This was definitely not fitting into the larger game plan of those responsible for the external support. Accordingly, backing to JKLF was reduced and the Hijbul Mujahedeen (HM) was bolstered. Large training camps were established across the line of control to provide a steady stream of cadres. Many families in J&K were coerced into providing male members for HM. By 1995-96, however, the back of militancy was broken by the security forces and the local population was also seeking peace. This led to successful national and state elections. But by 1996 Taliban came to power in Afghanistan. A large number of foreign fighters which were thus far fighting with the Afghan Mujahedeen became surplus and were diverted to J&K giving rise to groups like Harkat-ul- Ansar. Foreign fighters from places as far as Sudan and Nigeria descended into J&K along with some afghan fighters thereby giving a boost to local militancy.
The US intervention in Afghanistan initially raised this figure of foreign fighters as they relocated to J&K after being pushed out from the Af-Pak region. Subsequently with the erection of the fence on the line of control in 2003-04, infiltration was substantially brought down. By 2008-09 again militancy was almost getting over. This led to agitational dynamics being brought into the valley. Money was paid for recruiting stone pelters and resultant mass agitations. These brought immense international and local media attention onto J&K precisely as was planned. The mass agitations also somewhat petered out and got reduced to stray incidents by 2013-14. An effort was then made to increase the local contribution in militancy by sending large number of old militants into J&K through the Nepal route. The recruitment of local militants like Burhan Wani was the result. Killing of local militants therefore aroused that much more local passion. We witnessed the aftermath in 2016.
For any long term solution we must understand and manage this external support factor to the militancy in J&K. Pure military solutions will not succeed. Political solutions also must plan to counter this external support.