Abu Dujana killing, bickering militant groups, uncertainty in Pakistan spell political opportunity in Kashmir

With the killing of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) divisional commander Abu Dujana in south Kashmir's Pulwama district on Tuesday, the Jammu and Kashmir terror infrastructure will further dwindle as over 100 militants, from different outfits, have already been neutralised in the state till July this year. LeT will find a replacement soon, possibly Abu Ismail — the 'mastermind' of the attack on Amarnath pilgrims. The Pakistani outfit may consider attacking a high-profile target to vitiate the atmosphere on ground to avenge Dujana's killing and to boost the morale of its operatives in the Valley.

That may have security implications in Kashmir which has witnessed a violent unrest after the killing of Hizbul Mujhaideen commander Buran Wani in July 2016.


Yet, some other important political and security developments have taken place in last one month which may impact the overall situation in the state.

First of all, the 10 July attack on Amarnath pilgrims, which proved to be a turning point in the state as people from different sections of society — civil, political and armed forces — condemned the dastardly attack on the innocent devotees. While denouncing the incident, Union home minister Rajnath Singh defended "Kashmiriyat (syncretic culture of Kashmir)" and tweeted that not "all Kashmiris are terrorists".

Similarly, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti unequivocally censured the killings and suggested that the attack was aimed at "disturbing communal harmony" in the state. Even the separatist Hurriyat Conference leaders disapproved of the violent act against the pilgrims. Reasons aside, the incident united leaders from across the divergent political spectrum, who considered it an attack on Kashmir's syncretic and pluralistic society.

The tragedy improved coordination between the alliance partners — Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and People's Democratic Party (PDP). Post the attack on Amarnath pilgrims, Mufti proactively engaged with the Centre and the state BJP leaders to avoid any communal flare up in the state, whereas New Delhi refuted all speculations of Governor's rule in Jammu and Kashmir. As the incident took place in Mufti's political constituency (Anantnag), the PDP found a narrow window of opportunity to rebuild its lost support base in south Kashmir. Various confidence-building measures (CBMs) such as renewed inter-regional dialogue, socio-cultural events, and regular interactions with the student community, among others have started to take place which may provide a chance to the coalition government for a political outreach in the state.

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

Second of all, al Qaeda's propaganda channel the Global Islamic Media Front announced on 24 July that Zakir Musa, a former Hizbul Mujahideen commander, will head the outfit's new cell 'Ansar Ghawzat-ul-Hind' in Kashmir. The announcement came after Musa released a series of audio messages conflating the "Kashmiri struggle" with the "Islamic cause" that has nothing to do with "nationalism". Furthermore, he threatened to behead separatist leaders, especially those "who describe Kashmir as a mere political issue" and not a religious war for an Islamic state.

His statements highlighted an apparent shift (or cracks) within the local militant outfits, which was confirmed after the al Qaeda's latest announcement. LeT alleged that India was trying to label the local militancy as "terrorism" by implying the entry of al Qaeda and Islamic State into Kashmir. Similarly, Pakistan based United Jihad Council (UJC) chief, Syed Salahuddin released a video in which he discredited the internationalisation of the "Kashmiri freedom struggle" and indirectly labelled Dujana as an Indian agent.


More recently, Hizbul commander Riyaz Naikoo was spotted at a militant's funeral, where he addressed the crowd and cautioned the locals that the Kashmiri separatist movement has nothing to do with global terrorist groups. All these highlight desperation among various militant groups that are worried of Musa sabotaging their "legitimate" violent struggle against the Indian State. There is a silver lining for the Indian forces which may exploit the apparent divide and consolidate their presence across the Valley.

Third of all, the recent disqualification of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif may spur a slight change in Pakistan's Kashmir policy.There is a growing concern in New Delhi over the military's renewed role amid the ongoing political uncertainty in Pakistan. Understandably, the military will ensure that Sharif's successor complies with its strategic objectives when dealing with India on the Kashmir issue. As Pakistan is going through a period of political instability, Kashmir may see an uptick in cross-border terror activities and increasing incidents of ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC). In absence of any visible diplomatic engagement, the current situation in Pakistan will only slightly impact the overall relations between both countries.

However, India may consider the current developments in Pakistan as an opportunity to increase its political engagement in Kashmir. As the Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz (PML-N) government is occupied with the ongoing political transition, it may not be able to focus on its propaganda of internationalising the Kashmir issue. Apart from releasing official government statements on the situation in the Valley, the civilian dispensation, with a new interim leader, may not make extra efforts to propagandise its Kashmir-centric agenda. Therefore, with growing political uncertainty and the PML-N government's lack thereof to pursue the agenda, the local separatists may feel demoralised in accentuating Pakistani propaganda in the Valley. Eventually, the PDP-BJP coalition government and the Centre may fill that void by holding dialogue with local groups and improve inter-regional relations in J&K.

Lastly, the ongoing National Investigative Agency (NIA) crackdown on the Kashmiri separatist leaders funding trail has reportedly impacted violent protests across the Valley. The agency has raided over 30 places during its investigation across Kashmir, and other cities, allegedly recovering letterheads of terror groups, electronic devices, jewellery and cash. It is likely the government agencies will continue to tighten the noose around the separatists despite their calls for protests or 'bandhs' to take the case of the terror funding in Kashmir to a logical conclusion.

Taking these developments into account, the PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir and the Centre should see the current political flux in the neighbourhood as an opportunity to back the Indian security forces' recent successes with active political engagement in the state.


Published Date: Aug 02, 2017 08:24 am | Updated Date: Aug 02, 2017 08:24 am


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