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LOC: The pattern behind the Pakistani attacks

To know what they are really up to, we need to look at the data.

Tony Joseph  |  New Delhi 

This morning, Pakistani troops (or terrorists in Pakistani army uniform, take your pick) ambushed an Indian post along the Line of Control in Poonch, killing five Indian soldiers.This comes after a series of incidents on the Line of Control, caused by Pakistani Army’s attempt to provide cover to terrorists infiltrating into India.

There will be much argument in the coming days about whether this is an attempt by the Pakistani army to scuttle the efforts of the new Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, to seek peace with India. And whether this means that Sharif has no control over his Army. Some would certainly argue that along with the suicide attack on the Indian consulate in Jalalabad in Afghanistan three days ago, this constitutes a determined effort by the Pakistani establishment (the code name the Pakistani media uses to describe its Army) to ensure that peace doesn’t break out.

But to know what’s really happening, we should just follow the data. So here’s the breakdown of annual fatalities in Kashmir, as compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

The graph tells a stunning story: of terrorist activity steadily increasing from 1988, peaking in 2001 and steadily decreasing every year since then. The current year, 2013, could be the year when the graph turns again: it’s only August and there are over four months still to go, and the body count is already at 103, against 117 in 2012. There is a good chance, therefore, that we will see the first increase in fatalities due to Pakistan-promoted terrorism in Kashmir this year since 2001.

The turns the graph makes are not accidental: they are determined by the strategic situation in south and Central Asia. Give us a minute to explain.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev publicly announced the Afghan withdrawal in February 8, 1988 and completed it about a year later, on February 15, 1989. Even as the war was winding down, Pakistan was re-deploying its terrorists from its western front in Afghanistan to its eastern front in Kashmir, provoking never-before-seen violence in Kashmir. So the steady increase in fatalities that you see in the graph between 1988 and 2001 is the result of an excess supply of terrorists and the resultant decision of the Pakistani Army to put them to good use in Kashmir.

The graph tells you that the number of deaths in terrorist violence in Kashmir shot up from 31 in 1988 to 4.507 in 2001. That is a 1,451--fold increase in 13 years.

What changed the shape of the graph in 2001 is well-known: September 11 attacks, and the consequent invasion of Afghanistan by US-led forces. The terrorist oversupply suddenly vanished since they had to be deployed to Afghanistan once again. So the number of deaths due to terrorism in Kashmir started declining steadily and rapidly, from 4,507 in 2001 to 117 last year. This year, we have already notched up 103 deaths and it’s a fair bet that the full year’s number will cross the previous years.

The reason for this likely upturn in the graph is also well-known: the withdrawal of American-led troops from Afghanistan. The draw-down has already begun, and before the end of next year, the withdrawal will be complete and Pakistan is already counting on having a friendly regime on its western border once again. And whenever Pakistan has a friendly regime in Afghanistan, the infiltration into Kashmir increases. And that’s bad news for peace on the Line of Control.

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First Published: Tue, August 06 2013. 18:37 IST