Why Terrorist Activity Has Shifted from Kashmir to Poonch-Rajouri

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Why Terrorist Activity Has Shifted from Kashmir to Poonch-Rajouri Blog Image

Why in News?

  • While the Kashmir zone, the traditionally more volatile area, is relatively quiet, in recent months, it is the Pir Panjal (South) in the Jammu sector which has witnessed more operational activity and presence of terrorists.
  • The recent encounters in the depth areas of the Poonch-Rajouri sector have resulted in more losses for the Army than the terrorists.

Possible Reasons Behind the Terrorist Presence and Activity in the Poonch-Rajouri Sector

  • Terrorists Find it a Path of Least Resistance
    • Terrorism is like water and it takes the path of least resistance. Kashmir has become a challenging environment for terrorist activities due to a robust counter-infiltration and counter-terrorism grid.
    • Moreover, this grid makes it difficult for Pakistan to execute proxy operations, a strategy integral to its doctrine of proxy hybrid war.
  • Issues in Kashmir
    • The challenges in Kashmir include its contested status and the strength of its counter-terrorism measures.
    • These factors hinder Pakistan from making a strong statement about its relevance and capability to calibrate in the region.
    • Because of this reason terrorists have shifted their focus to Poonch-Rajouri Sector.
  • Poonch-Rajouri Sector's History of Support of Proxy Operations
    • The focus has shifted to the Poonch-Rajouri sector, which has a history of local support for proxy operations.
    • Although, there has been a decline in support over time, there has been effort to re-cultivate support, particularly among the Gujjar community.
    • The terrain which is mostly forested and rocky tracts of the Pir Panjal (South), is seen as conducive to proxy activities.
  • Article 370 Abrogation Impact
    • The abrogation of Article 370 is another factor making Kashmir less conducive to separatist trends.
    • Since terrorists are finding it difficult to operate in Kashmir zone, they have moved towards Poonch-Rajouri sector to keep the proxy war alive.
  • Troop Redeployment
    • There is a potential impact of troop redeployment on the dilution of optimum deployment in the Poonch-Rajouri sector.
    • Some troops were shifted to the Ladakh sector since May 2020 but the Rashtriya Rifles troops from the Poonch-Rajouri sector were not disturbed.
    • But HQ Northern Command has been watchful of these developments and the basic principle of re-deploying and creating other reserves.

Similar Past Experiences of Indian Army and How it’s Been Handled

  • Background on Past Experience (1999-2001)
    • The move of the Army’s 8 Mountain Division from North Kashmir to Kargil in June 1999 opened wide spaces for the entry of terrorists from across an unfenced Line of Control.
    • This shift created vulnerabilities along the Line of Control (LoC), allowing terrorists to enter from across the unfenced LoC.
  • Tactics Adopted by Terrorists: Terrorists adopted suicide attacks on Army and police camps during this period and there were rumours of involvement by elements from the Pakistan Army in providing field leadership to these attacks.
  • Military Response and Redeployment
    • The Indian Army engaged in significant contacts and battles with terrorists for about 18 months.
    • In response, the Army redeployed and created the Kilo Force to address the situation.
    • This highlights a flexible and adaptive approach by the Indian Army to counter-terrorism operation.

Assessment of the Current Situation (Poonch-Rajouri)

  • No Significant Loss of Operational Space
    • There is no significant loss of tactical or operational space in the Poonch-Rajouri sector.
    • Moreover, the overall capability of Pakistan to sustain any success is considered limited.
  • Government's Demonstrated Capability for Retaliation: The Indian government's demonstrated capability for retaliation, especially when an undetermined threshold is crossed, serves as a deterrent, and keeps Pakistan cautious.

Way Forward

  • Focus on Drills, SOPs, and Tactics
    • Questions arise whether the current situation necessitates a focus on drills, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and minor tactics.
    • This indicates a consideration for fine-tuning the military response to the evolving security scenario.
  • Acknowledgment of Weaknesses
    • The Army needs to accept the need for a review of identified weaknesses, including convoy security, operational vehicle hardening, and the size of movement for reinforcements.
    • This will further improve the willingness to reassess and improve upon existing strategies.
  • Historical Learning and Adaptability
    • During 2007-08 period, ambushes in the Valley prompted a comprehensive review of movements, SOPs, and response drills.
    • This highlights the Army's capacity for self-learning and adaptability based on past experiences.
    • It needs to be done again in as far as Poonch-Rajouri sector is concerned.
  • Recommendation for Brigade-Sized Operations
    • Conducting brigade-sized operations in the lower reaches of the Pir Panjalwith drone support will be a proactive approach to security.
    • The foliage cover being lowest at that time can be a strategic consideration of terrain.
  • Public Outreach
    • There is a need for strong public outreach, like that done in the Kashmir Valley.
    • This reflects an understanding of the importance of building trust and cooperation with local communities as part of the broader security strategy.
  • Uncompromised Post-Event Investigations
    • Thorough investigations into post-event happenings should be timely and in an uncompromised manner.
    • The unfortunate deaths of three local civilians under questionable circumstances should be investigated thoroughly.
    • Transparency in inquiry and appropriate disciplinary actions are essential.
  • Caution in Utterances and Media Speculation from Senior Army Personnel
    • Senior commanders, political figures, and civil society leaders should be cautious in their statements, and be mindful of the potential impact of their words on the situation.
    • The media should refrain from speculation and focus on accurate reporting.
  • Address Emotional Impact on Local Communities: Because of the possible emotional impact on local populations in Pir Panjal South, there is an urgent need for a drive to address these feelings through direct contact and interaction.
  • Continuous Anticipation of Future Challenges
    • The recent incident of the gunning down of a former SSP at Baramulla suggests that there may be more challenges to come.
    • There is a need for all time preparedness to counter potential exploitation by adversaries.


  • In the past 33 years, there have been several moments of significance that have arisen and passed.
  • It is essential for the nation to consistently find reassurance in the government and the Army's capability to navigate through these moments.

Q1) What is Article 370?

Article 370 in the Indian constitution gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, a region disputed by India, Pakistan and China. It was drafted by N Gopalaswami Ayyangar, a member of the Constituent Assembly of India, and was added to the constitution as a 'temporary provision' in 1949.

Q2) What is Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act?

The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, was passed by Parliament on 5th August 2019. This act bifurcated the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories: Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Source: The Indian Express