China-made drones are the new weapon in Pakistan’s jihadi arsenal: Intel

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Dec 01, 2020 02:17 PM IST

Punjab Police has asked the Centre to deploy radars that can detect low-flying objects along the border and and a system to shoot them down.

Pakistan-backed terrorist groups and its Inter Services Intelligence have started using bigger drones to expand its capacity to smuggle arms and ammunition across the border in India’s Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, people familiar with the matter said.

Pakistan military and the terrorist groups have been exploring the option of using explosive-laden drones to carry out bomb attacks across the border(Photo courtesy: ISPR)
Pakistan military and the terrorist groups have been exploring the option of using explosive-laden drones to carry out bomb attacks across the border(Photo courtesy: ISPR)

Counter-terror officials in Delhi said the terrorist groups and the ISI, which had been using drones for arms trafficking at a small scale over the past few years, had procured upgraded versions of the drones that can carry much larger quantities of firearms in every sortie.

The increased capacity, one official said, was crucial since the high mountain passes on the Line of Control (LoC) are all snowed in to make jihadist infiltration difficult in Jammu and Kashmir. There are multiple intelligence reports, he said, that the Pakistani deep state is using weapon drops in Punjab, which are meant for terrorists operating in Jammu and Kashmir.

Latest reports also indicate that Pakistan-based Khalistani groups are also being pushed by their handlers to exploit the farmers’ agitation in Punjab as part of its continuing effort to revive militancy in the border state. These suspicions have been communicated to the Centre and internal security agencies by the State Police time and again.

In Punjab alone, officials said, there have been four Chinese drone recoveries by Punjab Police along with weapons since 12 August 2019 apart from other aerial movements.

But Chinese commercial drones being used to ferry firearms is only one part of the problem. Intelligence agencies have also alerted security forces to stay alert to the threat of the drones capable of carrying loads being used to bomb targets close to the border.

Pakistan’s ISI, inspired by the success of using cheap drones to carry out small bomb attacks, has been exploring this option for terrorist groups. The ISI had laid out its plan first at a meeting with senior Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed commanders in Punjab province’s Taxila in April this year. There was a follow-up meeting the next month at the brigade headquarters in Kotli district of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, according to an intelligence report reviewed by Hindustan Times in October.

Officials said while India is pushing hard to build its anti-drone capacities, the coming two winter months with fog along the border in Punjab and J&K will test the Indian security agencies hard as more drone drops are expected.

Border Security Force director general Rakesh Asthana alluded to the challenge at the raising day event of the force on Tuesday, pointing that the BSF had intercepted a drone with a huge payload of weapons and ammunition in Jammu’s Kathua sector on 20 June this year.

The BSF, he said, is also working to find technical solutions to counter drone infiltrations on the western border.

Punjab Police, on its part, has asked the Centre as well as the Indian Air Force (IAF) to deploy low-level radars along the border to detect the drones and destroy them. Even the BSF, which mans the international borders, is now rushing to procure anti-drone systems as apart from weapons, drugs are also being dropped to raise terror funds within the two Indian territories.

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    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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