Sitrep: How military intelligence fights terrorists in Kashmir | columns | Hindustan Times
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Sitrep: How military intelligence fights terrorists in Kashmir

The test of an intelligence officer’s acumen and analytical ability is to be able to gauge which groups are high-value and which are being served up as decoys.

columns Updated: Aug 13, 2017 16:37 IST
Colonel Bipin Pathak waiting to meet his intelligence source at a meeting point by the roadside.
Colonel Bipin Pathak waiting to meet his intelligence source at a meeting point by the roadside.(Courtesy Colonel Bipin Pathak)

Transborder intelligence sources are usually double agents. When acting as guides for infiltrating terrorists they tend to give up those deemed as cannon fodder by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) – the old, infirm and sick and those categorised as unreliable. The aim is to focus the Indian security forces’ gaze on the designated group in order to protect the actual, high-value terrorists. The test of an intelligence officer’s acumen and analytical ability is to be able to gauge which groups are high-value and which are being served up as decoys. Guides do a detailed reconnaissance of likely routes of ingress/egress on the LOC. Factors to be considered include the degree of observation from Indian posts and where bends of nullahs (watercourses) are situated. Security forces personnel are always on the lookout for people wandering about what seems to be aimless in forward areas.

According to Colonel Bipin Pathak, a veteran military intelligence officer, Kashmiri recruits to insurgency are generally sent to the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen by the ISI. Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish -e-Mohammed are usually manned by Pakistanis and other ‘guest militants’. Kashmiris are usually sent back to their home areas after training and infiltration because of terrain familiarity and having an over ground base of family, friends and associates.

After training at camps in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and ISI assessment, would-be insurgents are moved to launching pads (like the ones struck by Indian special forces during cross Line of Control (LoC) raids in September 2016) where they typically stay for 2-3 days and are introduced to their guides. Extensive reconnaissance is done to assess likely routes of ingress.

After infiltration into India, the recruits are received in designated reception areas and handed over to their local counterparts by the PoK guides. Terrorists get new clothes and shoes upon reaching launch areas. The security forces and intelligence agencies look out for such persons. During their move to launch/deployment areas (usually by public transport or car) foreign terrorists can be identified by security forces by their differing dialects or lack of a local language at checkpoints or by undercover intelligence operatives. Here the men of Home and Hearth battalions of the Territorial Army (all locals) come in handy. Apart from the traditional method of concealing them in Phirans, weapons are transported within the inside panels of car/truck doors.

Doklam standoff

33 Corps’ divisions (17, 20 and 27) tasked for the defence of Sikkim-Bhutan area usually move up to their defensive positions in summer on what is known as operational alert deployment. This involves cleaning and maintaining fixed defences, carrying out reconnaissance and generally familiarising themselves with their areas of responsibility. Current Chinese belligerence has meant an earlier deployment. The other two corps in the North-East (3 and 4) are also on heightened alert as are the IAF’s SU-30MKI and Mig-27 squadrons at Chabua, Tezpur and Hashimara. Political considerations mean that the standoff is likely to continue till the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in October.

Officers’ rations

Replacing officers’ entitled rations with a monetary allowance in peace stations is a very impractical idea. Where do officers procure their rations from and get them cooked when moving on peacetime deployments like training, internal security duties or other temporary dislocations? Why haven’t such intricacies of the nitty-gritty of service life been taken into account? I’d say this amounts to a deliberate slight to the whole officer corps.

(Please write in with your narratives of war and military life to msbajwa@gmail.com or call/WhatsApp on 093161-35343)