Many in the government believe that an unstable Afghanistan might have a direct impact on Jammu and Kashmir like that in the 1990s when militants trained in Taliban and Al-Qaeda camps entered the Valley and carried out multiple attacks.
By- Aalok Sensharma
It was on August 5, 2019, when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, rewrote history by abrogating Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcating the erstwhile state into two union territories (UTs) — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
By ending the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the Modi government fulfilled the long-standing demand of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), but created a massive uproar in the country with political parties, mainly from Jammu and Kashmir, demanding the restoration of Article 370, which allowed the region to have its own Constitution.
However, the Modi government justified its move and claimed that Article 370 was the “root cause” of terror in Jammu and Kashmir. The Modi government also claimed that there has been a 60 percent drop in terror incidents after the abrogation of Article 370.
As per the Union Home Ministry, only 15 terror incidents were reported in Jammu and Kashmir until February 28 this year while eight militants were killed. It also said that 614 terror incidents were reported in 2018 with the number decreasing to 594 in 2019. In 2020, this dropped to just 244.
“The Government has adopted a policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism and has taken various measures, such as strengthening of security apparatus, strict enforcement of the law against anti-national elements, intensified cordon and search operations to effectively deal with the challenges posed by the terrorist organisations. Security forces also keep a close watch on persons who attempt to provide support to terrorists and initiate action against them,” the Union Home Ministry data says.
While the government believes that ending the special status of Jammu and Kashmir is the first step towards reducing militancy in the Valley, it seems to be worried about the volatile situation in Afghanistan as the United States (US) and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) withdraw their troops.
Recently, India also evacuated its diplomats and security personnel from its Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif consulates after the Taliban seized several key areas around the two cities. Though the Centre has maintained that it would not shut down the Indian Consulate in Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif, it remains interesting to see if diplomats would be sent back as the Taliban continues to seize key cities and provinces in Afghanistan.
Many in the government believe that an unstable Afghanistan might have a direct impact on Jammu and Kashmir like that in the 1990s when militants trained in Taliban and Al-Qaeda camps entered the Valley and carried out multiple attacks. However, defense experts believe that the Taliban is “unlikely to immediately intervene” in Jammu and Kashmir and would focus on gaining more control in Afghanistan.
Brigadier Arun Sahgal (Retd), Executive Director of the Forum for Strategic Initiative, believes that the Taliban will currently focus solely on Afghanistan and has “strongly hinted” that it “will not play Pakistan’s surrogate role in Jammu and Kashmir”. He also believes that the West, Russia, and Iran are currently more concerned about the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Haqqani group.
When asked about the recent increase in drone activities in Jammu and Kashmir and whether the rise of Taliban in Afghanistan can lead to an increase in such attacks, Brigadier Sahgal said that the situation in Kabul has “no concern with these drone activities precipitated by Pakistan”.
“Drone activities are on the rise and that is a reality, which we will have to deal at two levels, taking measures to neutralise hostile drones including shooting them down. Second, offensive measures by sending our own drones to undertake similar missions, to make Pakistan realise the costs of such actions,” he told Jagran English.
However, the ongoing unpredictability of the situation in Afghanistan has led experts to argue that India must intervene through diplomatic channels and create pressure on the Taliban to come to the table for talks.
Shabeer Ahmadi, deputy head of news and head of foreign desk at TOLOnews, believes that India being the president of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) must use diplomacy to pressure the Taliban and its supporters to come to peace and end violence. However, he argues that sending Indian or any other foreign troops to Afghanistan won’t solve the emerging situation in the region.
“I don’t think that deploying troops can solve the problem of Afghanistan. Also, these countries (Russia and other southeast Asian nations) including India would not like to send troops to Afghanistan,” he told Jagran English, “but they can use their diplomacy as leverage. Russia now has good contacts with the Taliban, some other countries in the region too. They must use their leverage with the Taliban and their supporters and try to convince the US and EU to bring more pressure on the Talibs”.
While the situation in Jammu and Kashmir has vastly improved, things are not looking good in Afghanistan and it remains interesting to see what steps India might take in the near future to ensure peace and tranquility in the region, especially at a time when it is facing tough questions at its western and north-eastern borders from Pakistan and China.