Sources say that Pakistan-based terror outfits like Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba — clearly buoyed by the “victory” of Taliban in Afghanistan — have boosted infiltration efforts to push their cadres into the Valley.
The security threat comes amid al-Qaida calling upon the global Muslim community to “free” other Muslim lands. The group, responsible for the 9/11 attacks in US, has effectively put Kashmir on the list of next targets of global jihad.
All these are bad signs for India which has been trying hard to keep the Valley free of terror following the abrogation of Article 370. There are valid fears that Pakistan-based terror groups, emboldened by the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, would step up efforts to ignite violence in J&K.
A quick look at history shows how militancy in Kashmir grew as Taliban rose to power in Afghanistan.
A large number of Mujahedeen fighters infiltrated into the Valley in the late 1980s following the end of the Soviet-Afghan war. The influx of these foreign fighters had a direct impact on the security situation in Kashmir, with incidents of terror rising manifold in the early 1990s.
The insurgency led to a flurry of political assassinations and crippled the government machinery, forcing India to send armed forces to control the situation.
Terror activities rose further after the Taliban first captured Kabul in 1996 and peaked in 2001, the year that marked the biggest-ever terror attack on US soil.
India suffered first-hand due to Taliban rule when Pakistani terrorists hijacked an Indian Airlines flight and took it to Kandahar in Afghanistan.
Taliban fighters aided the terrorists by preventing Indian military intervention and encircling the airport. The hijacking led to the release of three dreaded Pakistani terrorists, including JeM founder and 26/11 mastermind Masood Azhar.
According to data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the number of casualties in Kashmir dipped by almost 75% in the five years following the US invasion and increased scrutiny on terror groups.
Similarly, the data shows that after the fall of the Soviet in 1989 and the insurgency in Kashmir, the number of fatalities grew drastically from 92 in 1989 to 1,177 in 1990.
9/11, ceasefire pact and fragile peace
Following the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and crack down on terror groups, the incidents of violence in Kashmir saw a sharp decline.
The situation improved further after the 2003 ceasefire pact between India and Pakistan, when both sides agreed to avoid violence along the LoC. This restored a fragile peace in the Valley, even though some incidents of violence and infiltration continued.
But with Taliban now back in the saddle, experts say that Pakistan may again try to exploit the situation there to drive violence in Kashmir, just like it did in the 1990s.
An article on the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) said that Pakistan, which is struggling to come clean of the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list, could try to use the situation in Afghanistan to spread terror in Jammu and Kashmir to avoid international scrutiny.
Reports claim that thousands of LeT and JeM terrorists are currently fighting alongside Taliban and will be ready and willing to infiltrate into the Kashmir Valley.
The assessment of security agencies is that while there is no immediate threat to J&K, Jaish and LeT are going back to their old ways.
TOI had recently reported that terror launchpads close to the border are active again and infiltration has picked up recently.
Moreover, according to a recent UN monitoring report, a significant part of the leadership of al-Qaida resides in the Afghanistan and Pakistan border region, alongside al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent.
A large number of al-Qaida fighters and other foreign extremist elements aligned with the Taliban are located in various parts of Afghanistan.
But things are a little different this time.
India has significantly boosted its security presence in Kashmir since the late 1990s and has managed to reduce the number of casualties on its side. With decades of counter-insurgency experience, it’s better prepared to handle terror in the Valley than it was in the early 1990s.
Moreover, seeking to rectify its international image, Taliban have vowed to keep terror groups at bay — although much of the world is wary of this promise.
While it’s too early to tell how the power shift in Kabul impacts terror activities in the region, India will keep a close eye on the situation unfolding in Afghanistan.