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Drones a Challenge as Insurgency in Kashmir Takes New Turn

Anees Zargar |
The latest incident of drone activity along the border was reported at a time when a top BSF officer termed drones as a prevalent threat to the entire border region including in Rajouri and Poonch which fall along the volatile Line of Control (LoC) in the Jammu division.

Image Courtesy: The Financial Express

Srinagar: The Border Security Forces (BSF) on Tuesday said it fired at a drone near the India-Pakistan border in the Akhnoor area of Jammu as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are emerging as one of the major challenges for security establishment in the region.

The paramilitary troops located a drone flying about 800m high along the International Border (IB) in Kanachak village, outside Jammu city. The J&K Police also recovered three magnetic IEDs dropped by the drone in the area. The payload of IEDs shot down by the forces was kept in tiffin boxes and were set with timers reportedly, however, the drone flew back.

The latest incident of drone activity along the border was reported at a time when a top BSF officer termed drones as a prevalent threat to the entire border region including in Rajouri and Poonch which fall along the volatile Line of Control (LoC) in the Jammu division.

"Drone threat is prevalent everywhere on borders and so is in Rajouri and Poonch," DIG BSF Rajouri Poonch sector, DS Sindhu said.

The officials claimed that the militant groups have been struggling for the past two years as military operations have killed almost all the top militants and most of this year’s fresh recruits. About 40 militants were killed within three months of their joining various outfits, according to official data.

The UT administration believes that the militancy in Kashmir is on the brink. "When the lamp is about to extinguish, the light is bright. It (militancy) is breathing its last breath and is trying to bounce back," LG Manoj Sinha said on Monday.

Since February 2021, India and Pakistan have been strictly adhering to the 2003 ceasefire agreement but there has been a gradual increase in incidents involving the smuggling of narcotics and arms and ammunition through UAVs. The use of drones is also being seen as part of the renewed efforts of the militant outfits – operating from across the LoC – to change the landscape of insurgency in Kashmir. There are growing concerns that militancy is evolving into a far deadlier state.

A senior security official considered the use of drones to smuggle weapons and narcos and targeted killings – in which as many as 19 civilians and security personnel were killed so far this year – to be the main traits of the current insurgency.

“The militant groups are evolving and are learning from the conflicts such as in Nagorno-Karabakh and Ukraine where drone technology made significant interventions,” another senior security official said.

The security officials believe despite intercepting multiple consignments, it is likely that many consignments have successfully brought magnetic IEDs or sticky bombs and smaller ammunition like pistols to the region. The use of weapons like Kalashnikov has been reduced and there is more reliance on pistols, the weapon which is being used to carry out targeted killings, officials said.

Tuesday’s incident comes a week after a drone with a payload consisting of seven magnetic bombs and as many Under Barrel Grenade Launchers (UBGL) grenades were shot down along the border in Talli Hariya Chak of Kathua district in Jammu on May 29.

The security network in Kashmir including the Army and J&K police has already prepared a report regarding the threat and challenges posed by the drones in the emerging scenario. To detect and destruct incoming drones, they are relying on the counter-drone system which was developed last year by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in the wake of threats from UAVs that heightened after an attack at Jammu airbase last year.

Since May, violence in Kashmir spiked as suspected militants carried out a series of targeted attacks against civilians including panchayat members, policemen, non-local labourers and members of the minority community. The fresh spurt of violence triggered protest and subsequent migration of scores of members from the minority community.

Most of the killings are being attributed to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and its off-shoot The Resistance Front (TRF), however, intelligence officials believe that most of the prominent outfits including Hizbul Mujahideen, Al Badr and others are operating closely. “Jaish, however, seems to have isolated its cadre in the region and are avoiding recruitment to minimise leakage which indicates that they may be planning for a spectacular attack,” the official told NewsClick.

The officials added that there are apprehensions that the upcoming Amarnath Yatra, which begins by June end, might be one of the targets. In less than six months, nearly 100 militants have been killed across the valley this year of which a majority were locals and over 30 were foreigners, which is much higher than last whole year.

The spate of targeted killings despite heightened security measures, arrests and military operations has posed fresh challenges for the authorities. These challenges are compounded by the use of drone tech to push weapons and drugs to aid militancy which, officials said, is providing “cost-effective” logistics to the Kashmir insurgency. “It (militancy) is becoming exclusive within isolated networks...and surgical,” an official said.

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