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Wednesday, 19 January, 2000, 15:39 GMT
On the defensive in Kashmir

Indian troops Indian forces face an uphill battle this winter

By Defence analyst Rahul Bedi in Srinagar

India's security forces have their backs against the wall this winter in their decade-old civil war against Muslim militants in the disputed state of Kashmir.

Kashmir Conflict
Kashmiri militants received a boost last month after the government released three militants in exchange for 155 passengers on an Indian Airlines jetliner hijacked to Afghanistan, according to some security officials in the state's summer capital, Srinagar.

Others don't think the releases will make much difference.

Hijackers in AFghanistan Releasing the hijackers gave militants "a boost"

Nevertheless, police officials in Srinagar said winter was normally the time when they had the upper hand in "hunting" down militants who have been unable to return to their bases in neighbouring Pakistan.

"This year is just the opposite," one official said.

"We are the ones on the defensive now," he added.

Militant strategy

Over 150,000 military and paramilitary personnel are deployed in counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir in addition to around 50,000 local policemen.

Pakistan, which controls a third of Kashmir and lays claim to the rest, denies Indian claims that it is sponsoring the proxy war in the state, saying it offers only moral and diplomatic support.

Militant attack Militants are targeting security forces directly

Intelligence officials said between 1,500 and 2,500 motivated, well-trained and armed militants had changed tactics by executing "quality hits" on the security forces, successfully tying them down and forcing them into a laager or defensive posture.

Attacks on the Srinagar HQ of the army's 15th Corps and the nearby offices of the police's Special Operations Group over the past eight weeks in which 19 security personnel were killed, indicate the militants' revised strategy of taking the war directly to the security forces.

"The separatists are making a concerted push into Kashmir this year after taking big losses over the past two years," an official said.

Fighting the system

Senior security officials claim any concerted strategy in dealing with Kashmir's separatist movement has been "hijacked" by several federal agencies and departments, locked an endless " turf battle" for supremacy.

Military officials want a more pro-active policy

"Just when Kashmir desperately needs a pro-active policy, the federal government is responding apathetically," one officer said.

He said he was fighting the politicians, the system, other security organisations and lastly the militants.

Military personnel don't see an easy outcome to the situation in Kashmir.

Fighting Pakistan's proxy war is going to be a long haul
Senior army officer

"Fighting Pakistan's proxy war is going to be a long haul" a senior army officer said.

He said India needed to inflict such heavy casualties on Pakistan that it became untenable for it to continue sponsoring Kashmiri separatism.

Analysts say India has failed to realise that Pakistan is confident about raising the stakes in Kashmir, safe in the knowledge that Delhi will remain committed to preventing any crisis from escalating into a full-blown conventional conflict in which Islamabad would find itself at a disadvantage.

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See also:
06 Jan 00 |  South Asia
India arrests four over hijack
05 Jan 00 |  South Asia
Freed militants in Pakistan
29 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Narrow escape for Kashmir chief minister
28 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Troops battle for control of Kashmir HQ
15 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Kashmir army camp attacked

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