For Mufti and its party PDP, demilitarization of Jammu and Kashmir may be an issue to appease a particular section in the State and a part of vote bank politics but Pakistan'sinsistenance for troops withdrawal from Kashmir as a pre-condition for talks with India is a well planned design of another Partition of the State on religious lines.
A scrutiny of the trajectory of violence in J&K helps understand why General Pervez Musharraf is insisting on troop withdrawal specifically from these two districts, and indicates that the rationale goes beyond concern for the ?impetus for peace? or for the welfare of the people of Kashmir.
Further, it goes well beyond the fact that these districts are close to the LoC. Baramulla and Kupwara have traditionally served as a gateway to terrorism in the Kashmir Valley, and have, for long, been crucial to the Jehad in Kashmir.
It is also an indication of the end game Musharraf proposes to pursue on the Kashmir issue, comprehending a Partition of the Valley under which these two districts, both with a Muslim majority of over 90 per cent, would be ceded to Pakistan.
According to those who oversee security in the State, the prevailing situation in the two districts, does not warrant any re-adjustment of the counter-insurgency grid, and any dilution of Forces is bound to affect the counter-insurgency grid and the security base. Pakistan-backed terrorist groups active in the districts include the HM, which has a northern division for Kupwara-Bandipora-Baramulla, LeT, JeM, Al Umar Mujahideen, Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen and Al Badr. Kupwara and Baramulla witness high levels of infiltration and terrorist activity, and any lowering of guard there would allow the terrorists, who have been under extraordinary pressure lately, to regroup and recover lost ground.
It would also mean granting unhindered access to the Valley, especially to Srinagar, which is to the south-east of Baramulla. Being border districts adjacent to the LoC, any withdrawal of troops from Baramulla and Kupwara would undermine the internal security grid and would facilitate infiltration into the Valley. The operational advantage in these districts, vis-?-vis the execution of operations, accruing primarily due to terrain and location, lies with the terrorists. Troop withdrawal would simply cede the entire territory to the terrorists.
Furthermore, the flow of actionable intelligence of terrorist movement into other districts in J&K would also be adversely affected.
It is pertinent to mention here that approximately 34 terrorist commanders were killed in the two districts between January 2003 and September 2005 (10 in Baramulla and 24 in Kupwara). While the number of civilian and SF fatalities is not as high as in some other districts of J&K [Baramulla witnessed 55 civilian and 19 SF deaths; and Kupwara: 13 civilian and 16 SF deaths last year, till September-end]. As many as 159 terrorists have been killed in Kupwara and 122 in Baramulla in the last year (the highest and second highest numbers in the State), and the two districts continue to be vital for terrorist and subversive activities.
A comparatively low number of civilian and SF fatalities in Baramulla and Kupwara also means that the sustained terrorist pressure has not led to any measure of abatement of counter-terrorism operations by the SFs. Even the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service, despite the initial attempts to target it, continues to roll out on schedule every fortnight. Indeed, continuous terrorist efforts and the rationale of area domination make a strong case for the maintenance of existing troop presence, so that the zone does not lapse into greater terror, and serve as a gateway of subversion into the rest of the State – objectives that the jehadis seek to achieve.
The Army currently holds commanding positions on the Shamshabari mountain range, north of Kupwara and above Uri in Baramulla. It is here that the Indian positions commence, on an approach from the PoK side, and these are crucial for any counter-infiltration plan. For instance, after the snow began to melt in the higher reaches sometime in July 2005, terrorists crossed the LoC from Chakwali to Kaobal Gali and the Kanzalwan area, in the Gurez sector. While the Security Forces (SFs) have, to a large extent over the past few years, been able to block ingress sites across Kishan Ganga River, which flows through the Gurez Valley in the Baramulla District, and also physically dominate the area up to Shamshabari range, the fact that heavy snowfall and avalanches earlier in the year destroyed a portion of the LoC fencing has made the task of the Army a wee bit difficult. Diluting presence on these positions would lead to unbridled infiltration, affecting the security grid right up to the plains of Srinagar.