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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Women & children used to smuggle RDX for Pulwama terror attack – time to shut down cross LoC linkages?

In a stunning disclosure, top intelligence sources have said that Kashmiri women & children were used to smuggle the 300 kg RDX explosive used in the Pulwama terror attack, Zee News reports. It is likely that the RDX was smuggled using the LoC (Line of Control) crossing points which were opened in 2005 as part of ‘confidence building measures’ with Pakistan.

According to the sources, the military grade A-5 RDX used in the attack was supplied by Pakistan Army to JeM operatives, who then started smuggling in small quantities from March 2018 onwards using primarily women & children as mules, who carried it in backpacks, cylinders and coal bags to Tral village of Pulwama.

The smuggled explosive was stored in three drums and mixed with shrapnel (nails, iron pieces) and Ammonium Nitrate, and the drums were fitted in the vehicle used by the suicide bomber. The actuating mechanism to trigger the explosives were created locally. Both the components were fitted in the bomb just days before the attack.

The Pulwama terror attack resulted in the death of 42 CRPF personnel and critically injured many others. Pakistan based terror outfit JeM claimed responsibility for the attack and also released a video of the suicide bomber, Kashmiri local Adil Ahmad Dar, recorded before the attack.

Cross LoC ‘Confidence Building Measures’

Following immense international pressure against Islamic terror in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on USA, and after Indian Army was mobilized following the Dec 2001 attack on Bharat’s Parliament by Pak-based terror groups, Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff made a televised address to his people in which he vowed “Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used for any terrorist activity anywhere in the world.” He also spoke against religious extremism, and made a call to his people “To banish intolerance and hatred from ourselves and establish a climate of equality and brotherhood.”

In 2003, a ceasefire was announced between Bharat and Pakistan. After the ceasefire, the government prioritized the long-pending task of fencing the 734 km long LoC, and by Dec 2004 this fencing was declared complete.

In 2004 Pakistan reiterated its assurance of not allowing any terror against Bharat from its territory, following a meeting between PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit in Islamabad.

Soon after, the UPA Government started implementing ‘Confidence-Building Measures’ in Kashmir. Cross-LoC people-to-people contact in the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad sector started in 2005 and was extended to the Poonch-Rawalakote sector in 2006. Cross-LoC trade in both the sectors commenced on October 21, 2008, after more than 61 years. 

LoC movement/trade misused by separatists & Pakistan to fuel terror

A field study on these cross LoC confidence building measures was carried out by New Delhi based Government-funded think tank ‘Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses’ (IDSA) in Sept/Oct 2009. In their report titled ‘Cross-LoC Confidence Building Measures between India and Pakistan: A Giant Leap or a Small Step towards Peace?’, the IDSA research fellows gave a thumbs up to these measures –

“Cross-LoC people-to-people contact is an important step in bringing the divided families closer and generates tremendous goodwill towards the state and central governments. Cross-LoC contacts will go a long way in improving IndiaPakistan relations. The peace dividend accruing from these initiatives is enormous….It is likely that people benefiting from this process would not support violence as it would disrupt the entire process.”

Interestingly, the deadly separatist-led protests in May-Aug 2008 over transfer of 0.4 sq km of forest land to Amarnath shrine board which claimed 42 lives across J&K, or the horrific 26/11/08 Mumbai attacks on Mumbai carried out by Pak-sponsored LeT, do not find a mention in the above IDSA assessment of ‘Confidence Building Measures’.

The LoC barter trade has been booming – goods worth Rs 3432 crore were traded via cross-LoC trade in Jammu and Kashmir in 3 years, the J&K Government said in January last year. They also requested the Union Govt. to consider opening of 7 additional trade routes and 2 additional contact/meeting points.

However, in sharp contrast to the euphoric assessment of cross LoC trade by the Mehbooba Mufti led J&K Government, just 9 days later the NIA (National Investigative Agency) filed a chargesheet against the separatist Hurriyat leaders charging them with using the the cross-border trade route and linkages with Pakistan to smuggle weapons and generate money to fuel their anti-Bharat agenda in Jammu and Kashmir. 

The chargesheet exposed a 3-way nexus between Pakistan-based terrorists, unnamed Pakistani officials and separatist leaders to foment terrorism and stone-pelting protests in J&K.

“…a significant number of traders engaged in cross-LoC trade have relatives across the border who are closely associated with banned terrorist organisations, especially Hizbul Mujahideen,” the charge sheet said. During the course of investigation, the agency said, it found that some traders have been smuggling contraband and weapons in the garb of the cross-border trade.

Now, in the wake of the Pulwama attack & the revelation of how 300 kg military-grade explosive was smuggled into J&K, it provides yet more proof, if any were needed, that no amount of confidence-building incrementalism will work with Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists until their jihadi infrastructure  is destroyed.

For decades now, we have tied ourselves in knots and failed to understand the true nature of the Kashmir riddle. The steps taken in the last few days – removal of security cover for separatists, removal of Pakistan’s MFN status (yes, it has been in place since 1996 despite Pakistan not reciprocating!), hike of customs duty – are welcome, but the fact that cross LoC trade is still continuing shows we are still far away from developing the sustained national will required to defeat the religiously-motivated terror threat Pakistan poses to not just J&K, but to the whole of Bharat.

It is easy to blame politicians alone, but our security analysts, think thanks, bureaucrats, policy experts, and of course media, are equally to blame for the perennial muddle-headedness which defines our Pakistan policy.

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