In a recent interview to Swarajya Magazine, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, referring to the internal security situation of India, asserted that the recurrent terrorist attacks common during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) are now history.
Well, the prime minister is partially correct. Yes, in absolute numbers, terrorist attacks have declined, coming to almost nil. As this data from the South Asia Terrorism Portal shows, post the 2008 Mumbai attack, such incidents in India’s hinterland have progressively declined: From 11 in 2008 to nine in 2016, two in 2017 and nil in 2018 (thus far).
Statistics aside, in terms of scale, India has not seen a large-scale, mass-casualty terror attack such as the one in 2008 or the serial bomb blasts which shook the country prior to 2008 (barring the two blasts in 2011 in Mumbai and Delhi).
What’s more, India’s response to terror has improved with significant upgrades in technical intelligence capability of our security agencies, improved (if not perfect) border management, evolved inter-agency coordination and much strengthened counter-terrorism partnerships with key West Asian countries and Bangladesh.
Modi especially deserves credit for building on partnerships with the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh, which helped Indian security agencies nab some important mid-level terrorist commanders, critically weakening the ability of the Pakistan-based terrorist groups to mobilise resources and launch attacks on Indian soil.
In fact, rather than boasting about the surgical strikes’ success — which still remains doubtful despite the video evidence — the Modi government should have talked up the above-mentioned successes, as these gains, though less glamourous, are far more effective and therefore real. This success of our security agencies is even more noteworthy in the face of increasing focus of the global terrorist groups Islamic State and Al-Qaeda and their persistent attempts to target India and Indian interests. So far, they have drawn a blank, which itself is a testament to the efforts of our security establishment.
The reason why Modi’s claim on declining terrorist incidents is only partially true is because it overlooks the deteriorated security situation in the Valley. This was referred to by his party colleague, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, who while announcing the party's separation from its erstwhile ally the People's Democratic Party (PDP) two weeks ago, said: “Terrorism, violence and radicalisation have risen and fundamental rights of the citizens and free speech are in danger in the Valley”.
There is data to support Madhav's assertion. As per the Ministry of Home Affairs’ 2017-18 annual report, terrorist incidents in the Valley went up in the past few years: From 170 in 2013 to 208 in 2015 (the year of the BJP-PDP coalition) to 342 in 2017. As is well known by now, this has also been a result of surging number of local recruits to terrorist groups, giving the latter an undeniable advantage in carrying out terrorist attacks on security forces and civilians in various parts of Kashmir.
One can counter this argument by stating that comparing the hinterland to Jammu and Kashmir is like comparing apples and oranges. Yet, it is true that the groups which perpetuated the terrorist violence in hinterland and continue to do so in Kashmir are same: Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Hizbul Mujahideen (which actually reached near extinction in the years leading up to National Democratic Alliance rule, but has since then revived its position due to local recruits).
Further, the elements across the border in Pakistan, which support these groups remain. The religious charity networks which prop up these groups are also common, and the extremist propaganda too exploits common themes. Modi may have cleverly skirted the issue of Kashmir’s security situation in his Swarajya interview, but the fact remains that if his government is claiming the credit for decline in terrorist incidents in the hinterland, then it also has to take the responsibility for the rising terrorist incidents in the Valley.
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Updated Date: Jul 04, 2018 21:58:53 IST