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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Government to bolster security in Jammu and Kashmir over new threat

The Indian Army said on Saturday it repelled an attempt by a mixed group of Pakistani soldiers and terrorists to attack an army post along the Line of Control (LoC) in Keran sector, killing five to seven intruders.

india Updated: Aug 05, 2019 10:02 IST
Shishir Gupta and Sudhi Ranjan Sen
Shishir Gupta and Sudhi Ranjan Sen
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A woman sits as CRPF personnel stand guard in Srinagar.
A woman sits as CRPF personnel stand guard in Srinagar.(ANI Photo)
         

The Union government has decided to scale up the presence of defence forces in Jammu and Kashmir to prepare for a possible threat arising from increased influence of the Pakistan-backed Taliban once US troops withdraw from Afghanistan, people aware of the developments said on Sunday.

The situation in Kashmir, and the ascendency of the Taliban and fellow jihadists in Kabul as a fallout of the future US withdrawal from Afghanistan, were among the issues discussed between the home minister, national security adviser Ajit Doval, home secretary Rajiv Gauba and additional secretary (Kashmir) Gyanesh Kumar at Parliament House on Sunday, top government officials said on condition of anonymity.

Thousands of tourists and Amarnath pilgrims left Kashmir over the weekend as the state administration cut short the annual pilgrimage by a fortnight and asked vacationers and pilgrims to leave the Valley because of a perceived terror threat. Security was reinforced with additional troops over the past week, leading to tensions in the state over the security build-up.

Watch: Prakash Javadekar exclusive interview on situation in Jammu and Kashmir

The Indian Army said on Saturday it repelled an attempt by a mixed group of Pakistani soldiers and terrorists to attack an army post along the Line of Control (LoC) in Keran sector, killing five to seven intruders.

With India anticipating the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government feels that the biggest impact of the rise of fundamentalist forces in Kabul will be on Kashmir, an official said.

National security planners have reviewed how Harkat-ul-Ansar (parent of the Jaish-e-Mohammed) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) camps had shifted to Khost in eastern Afghanistan under the protection of the then Taliban regime. The Khost camp of the al Qaeda was bombed by US cruise missiles in August 1998 under directions of then President Bill Clinton.

The threat of terrorism in Kashmir could increase just as it did after the Taliban took control of Kabul in 1996, the official added. The rise of the Taliban in the past lead to terror attacks by jihadists in Jammu and Kashmir as well as the IC-814 hijacking by the Harkat-ul-Ansar.

“We expect the US to virtually leave Afghanistan to the Pakistan-supported Taliban through some power-sharing agreement… And this will happen very soon, with talks between the US and Taliban already on in Qatar,” said another senior official. The fallout of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan will be a subject of discussion when Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets US President Donald Trump next month, the officials added.

Around 25,000 -30,000 troops have already been deployed in the state over the last week, according to people aware of the deployment.

While Indian security forces are prepared for the new challenge, the government is also thinking about what political steps can be taken in Jammu and Kashmir, including conducting state elections this winter, the officials said.

Local political parties have accused the administration of creating disquiet in Jammu and Kashmir. An all-party meeting was held on Sunday evening at the residence of National Conference (NC) chief Farooq Abdullah amid tensions over the deployment of additional troops.

The parties, including the National Conference and the Mehbooba Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party, unanimously resolved to fight any attempt to abrogate the constitutional provisions that guarantee Jammu and Kashmir special status. The parties also appealed to India and Pakistan not to take any steps that will escalate tension in the region.

Mufti earlier said the leaders of various political parties decided to meet at a hotel, but the police did not allow any political meeting there.

She said the Centre was not bothered to speak on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

“We had made an effort to tell the people of this country and the government about the consequences if they toy with Articles 35A and 370 (of the Constitution). We made an appeal too, but no assurance has been given yet from the Centre. They are not bothered to say anything, to say that everything will be alright,” Mufti said.

Governor Satya Pal Malik has dismissed reports that preparations are being made for an announcement on Article 35A and Article 370 or on the trifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir by creating three states of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, as has been rumoured in the state.

Article 35A reserves government employment and property ownership to permanent residents of the state. Article 370 confers special status on Kashmir.

Union minister Prakash Javadekar said on Sunday that the Jammu and Kashmir governor had already cleared the air over the current situation in the region. “I think the government has made it very clear that there is a perceptible threat perception and we don’t want terror attack, we want to foil it; therefore, the governor has made it very clear to not only the delegation of political leaders, but to the people by giving interviews and holding press conference that people should not worry, nothing is going to happen dramatically. These are all precautionary measures,” Javadekar told Hindustan Times in an interview.

At the two-hour-long meeting on Sunday, Shah was informed that at least one attempt by terrorists to cross the Line of Control was successful recently.

Security agencies have told the government that they have noticed heightened activity by Pakistan-based terror groups, including JeM and LeT, along the border. “Our assessments indicate that at least one group of terrorists has managed to breach the LoC in the last one week,” a senior security official said, asking not to be named.

“Separately, the Indian Army has told the government that there have been at least four operations carried out by Pakistan’s Border Action Teams in the last one week alone,” another official said.

The home ministry did not officially comment on the meeting.

The state remained on edge on Sunday. Barricades have been erected on many arterial roads in Kashmir, including the entry and exit points to Srinagar. Riot control vehicles have also been kept on standby in some areas where apprehension of law and order disturbances is more, according to security officials. Residents could be seen lining up at markets to stock up on essentials amid fears of a security crisis.

(Inputs from HTCs)

First Published: Aug 05, 2019 05:43 IST