Reasi and the Years-Old Issue of Cross-Border Terror


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Reasi and the Years-Old Issue of Cross-Border Terror Blog Image

Why in News?

  • The Reasi terrorist attack on June 9, coinciding with Prime Minister Modi's third term oath-taking ceremony, brings back memories of a similar attack on the Consulate General of India in Herat, Afghanistan, on May 23, 2014.
  • Both incidents aimed to disrupt significant political events, revealing the ongoing and pervasive threat of terrorism that India faces, particularly from groups based in Pakistan.
  • Therefore, it is important to explore the historical context, strategic responses, and diplomatic challenges India encounters in addressing terrorism, especially in the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)

Historical Context of Pakistan Sponsored Terrorism in India

  • The Origins of Terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir
    • The roots of terrorism in J&K can be traced back to the partition of India in 1947, which led to the creation of Pakistan.
    • The princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, with its strategic location and diverse demographic composition, became a contentious issue between the two newly formed nations.
    • The first Indo-Pak war in 1947-48 resulted in the establishment of the Line of Control (LoC), leaving J&K divided between India and Pakistan.
  • The Afghan Jihad and Its Impact
    • The success of the Afghan Jihad in the 1980s, where Afghan mujahideen, supported by the United States and Pakistan, successfully resisted the Soviet invasion, had significant repercussions for India.
    • Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies, emboldened by this success, believed that similar tactics could be employed to challenge Indian control in J&K.
    • This led to the inception of a proxy war strategy, wherein Pakistan began supporting and training Islamist militants to infiltrate J&K and carry out terrorist activities.
  • The Insurgency of the Late 1980s and 1990s
    • The insurgency in J&K gained momentum in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
    • This period saw a significant rise in violence, with separatist groups like the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and later, Islamist militant organisations like Hizbul Mujahideen, receiving substantial support from Pakistan.
    • The Pakistani military and intelligence agencies provided training, arms, and logistical support to these groups, facilitating cross-border infiltration.
    • During this time, the region witnessed mass uprisings, targeted killings, and ethnic cleansing, particularly against the Kashmiri Pandit community, which led to their mass exodus from the valley.
    • The Indian state's initial response was marred by a lack of preparedness and coordination, resulting in significant casualties among civilians and security forces.
  • Continued Terrorist Threats and Pakistan's Role
    • The Pakistan Army and its political leadership, committed to the Kashmir cause, continued to sponsor and support terrorist activities in the region.
    • High-profile attacks, such as the 1999 Kargil intrusion and the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament, underscored the persistent and evolving nature of the threat.
    • The Kargil conflict, in particular, highlighted the extent to which Pakistan was willing to escalate tensions.
    • Regular Pakistani troops, disguised as militants, infiltrated Indian positions in Kargil, leading to a full-scale conflict.
    • India's decisive military response, reclaiming the occupied territories, demonstrated its resolve to protect its sovereignty.

India’s Counter Terrorism and Political Strategies

  • Early Responses and Challenges
    • In the late 1980s and early 1990s, India was ill-prepared to handle the sudden surge in terrorist activities in J&K.
    • The initial response was largely reactive, with conventional police forces and under-prepared military units bearing the brunt of the attacks.
    • The complexity of the insurgency, characterised by guerrilla warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and widespread local support for militants, posed severe challenges.
    • During this period, India faced significant casualties among civilians and security forces, and there were instances of human rights violations, which further complicated the situation.
  • Development of Counter-Insurgency Strategies
    • By the early 1990s, India began to develop more sophisticated counter-insurgency strategies.
    • This included the creation of specialised units like the Rashtriya Rifles and the strengthening of paramilitary forces such as the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Border Security Force (BSF).
    • These forces received specialised training in counter-terrorism operations, intelligence gathering, and urban warfare.
    • The Indian Army also played a crucial role in these efforts, conducting operations to flush out militants from their strongholds and secure key regions.
    • The establishment of the Unified Headquarters in Srinagar helped coordinate efforts between the Army, paramilitary forces, and the J&K police, leading to more effective operations.
  • Intelligence and Surveillance Enhancements
    • Improving intelligence capabilities became a priority for India and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) were tasked with gathering actionable intelligence on militant activities, both domestically and internationally.
    • Enhanced surveillance technologies, including the use of drones, satellite imagery, and electronic surveillance, were deployed to monitor infiltration attempts along the Line of Control (LoC) and track militant movements within J&K.
  • Socio-Political Engagement and Development Initiatives
    • Recognising that a purely military approach would not suffice, the Indian government also focused on political engagement and socio-economic development in J&K.
    • The decision to hold Assembly elections in 1996 marked the beginning of efforts to restore democratic governance and political normalcy in the region.
    • These elections were a significant step towards involving local populations in the political process and reducing the appeal of militant ideologies.

Diplomatic Engagements and Their Challenges

  • India and Pakistan's bilateral composite dialogue in 1998 included terrorism as a key issue.
  • However, Pakistan's unwillingness to address India's concerns became apparent early on, reflecting its security doctrine of using terrorist groups against India.
  • Despite this, successive Indian Prime Ministers pursued diplomacy.
  • Manmohan Singh's attempt to insulate bilateral relations through a joint anti-terrorism mechanism ultimately failed, as public opinion often demanded military action after severe terrorist attacks, such as the 2008 Mumbai attack and the 2001 Parliament attack.

The Change in India’s Stance on Pakistan Sponsored Terrorism

  • Shift Towards Military Pre-emption
    • India's departure from diplomatic restraint occurred after the 2019 Pulwama attack, leading to the Balakot airstrike and the doctrine of preemption.
    • Earlier, limited force was used in surgical strikes post-Uri attack in 2016. These actions marked a shift towards pre-emptive strikes against imminent terrorist threats.
    • However, defining what constitutes an "unacceptable" attack remains ambiguous.
  • Global Recognition of Pak Sponsored Terror and India's Diplomatic Efforts
    • Pakistan’s use of terrorism against its neighbours is generally recognised by the major powers.
    • Its reliance on plausible deniability has not been sustainable for years.
    • India too has given material linking Pakistani terrorist groups to terrorist incidents but Pakistan has not taken action against them.
    • This was clear after the Mumbai terrorist attack. After the Pathankot airbase attack in January 2016, India allowed a Pakistani team which included an Inter-Services Intelligence officer to visit the airbase.
    • However, Pakistan again did not take the investigation forward.
    • Despite these cases, it is important to pursue the practice of sharing information and evidence in terrorist cases to ensure the credibility of Indian assertions with the international community.


  • The persistent threat of terrorism from Pakistan requires India to balance military responses and diplomatic efforts.
  • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar's ambition to address cross-border terrorism highlights the need for global recognition of the terror threat as a precursor to escalatory conflicts between nuclear-armed nations.

India's strategy must continue to evolve, combining force with diplomacy to mitigate terrorism and promote regional stability.

Q) What are some significant terrorist attacks in India linked to Pakistan-sponsored groups?

Significant terrorist attacks in India linked to Pakistan-sponsored groups include the 2008 Mumbai attacks, also known as 26/11, where ten members of the Pakistan-based terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out a series of coordinated attacks, killing 166 people. Another major attack was the 2016 Pathankot Air Force Station attack, which was also attributed to Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed militants.

Q) How does Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism affect India-Pakistan relations?

Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism severely strains India-Pakistan relations, leading to diplomatic tensions, military standoffs, and a lack of trust between the two nations. India has consistently demanded that Pakistan take concrete action against terrorist groups operating from its soil, which Pakistan denies supporting. These issues have led to a significant deterioration in bilateral relations, impacting peace and stability in the South Asian region.

Source:The Hindu