Counter-Terrorism: The Line Of Death

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October 10,2008:  So far this year, Indian troops in Kashmir have detected 30 attempts by Islamic terrorists to sneak across the border from Pakistan. In those 30 encounters, 70 terrorists were killed, and most of the hundred or more survivors returned to Pakistan.

India and Pakistan both claim the province of Kashmir, and the Line of Control (the "border" agreed to by the two armies after war in the late 1940s, when Pakistani troops invaded Kashmir to prevent it from becoming part of India) separates the Indian and Pakistani portions of Kashmir. The two countries have slightly different maps showing exactly where the Line of Control is. India has about 300,000 troops guarding the 440 kilometer long Line of Control. Pakistan has nearly as many troops, backed by the threat of using nuclear weapons.

Over the last five years, India, using Israeli sensor technology, erected a 580 kilometer electrified fence along the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir. In 2004, India bought more radars, and special jamming equipment (to shut down radios used by Islamic radicals trying to cross the border) for use in Kashmir and along the LOC. The use of ground radars, thermal imaging and other electronic gear along the LOC, reduced illegal movements into Indian controlled Kashmir.

But the Islamic radicals keep coming, although in much reduced numbers. In 2001, it was estimated that 2,417 Islamic terrorists got across from Pakistan (where the government tolerates the terrorist training camps) to Indian Kashmir (where the terrorists are trying to drive the Indians, and all non-Moslems, out of the region). In 2002, that went down to 1,504, in 2003 it was 1,373 and in 2004 if was 537. The earthquake in late October, 2005, wrecked portions of the fence system, so 597 terrorists got across in that year. But in the last two years, fewer and fewer terrorists are able to make it across the LOC.

The infiltrators don't come empty handed, but haul large quantities of weapons, and cash. Hand grenades are the favorite terrorist weapon these days, and local Moslems are hired to toss them. It's relatively easy money ($10-20), because if you know your way around an area, you can toss the grenade and get away unseen.

The Kashmir terrorists spend most of their time terrorizing local Moslems (to cooperate, and not work with the police) and non-Moslems (to get them to leave). The terrorists operate in camps way up in the forested hills. While some generals have urged that a division size (10,000 or so troops) operation be launched to clear out these terrorist camps, such an undertaking is expensive in terms of money and casualties. Besides, there are only 50-80 terrorists up in those camps at any one time, and that small a number of people could, for the most part, escape an army sweep operation. There are plenty of police in the populated areas (31,000 around the provincial capital alone) to capture or kill most of the Islamic terrorists that show up.

It's gotten easier lately, to catch terrorists in Kashmir, because the majority Moslem population is tired of nearly two decades of violence, without much to show for it. So more Moslems are becoming informants for the police. That, plus the spread of cell phone systems, makes it easier for these informants to tip off the police when Islamic terrorists are in the area. The terrorists are trying to get people to give up their cell phones, but that has not been very popular.

The Islamic terrorists have found weaknesses in the security fence system, and the Indians must constantly tweak their sensors and security system design to keep up. In one terrorist camp back in Pakistan, a stretch of the Indian fence has been reconstructed, so the terrorists can develop new ways to safely breach it. India would like to get these camps shut down, but Islamic conservatives are a major political force in Pakistan, and the government risks a lot of unrest if the terrorist camps are trifled with. However, Pakistan and India have had a cease fire since late 2003, which has halted the assistance the Pakistani army used to provide for the terrorists. This included shelling portions of the fence, to knock out sensors, or prevent the Indians from making repairs. Without that kind of interference, it appears that India may be able to eventually reduce the number of infiltrators to a less than one or a day, and stop nearly all of them.

 


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