MUZAFFARABAD: Kashmiri militants are threatening an “unprecedented” surge in attacks on Indian targets as deadly skirmishes imperil any rapprochement between Islamabad and New Delhi.
A fresh influx of fighters is ready to flood the disputed Himalayan territory, from Afghanistan when Nato troops quit next year.
Syed Salahudeen, head of United Jihad Council, an umbrella organisation of groups fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir, said “thousands” of militants would move across from Afghanistan. “The coming months and years will see a tremendous surge in mujahedeen’s activities in Indian Kashmir.
“The encounter between mujahedeen and Indian forces will enhance to an unprecedented level. The increase in attacks will be enormous and Indian forces will face huge losses.”
Regular deadly exchanges of fire across the militarised Line of Control (LoC) that separates Indian- and Pakistan-administered Kashmir have killed 11 people since August 5 and sent tensions between the neighbours soaring. The latest spate of clashes began when five Indian soldiers were killed in a raid that Delhi blamed on the Pakistani military. The attack came shortly after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took office, promising to improve ties with India.
Pakistan denied any involvement in the killings and Sharif has consistently urged restraint and dialogue to resolve the dispute, which dates back to independence from Britain in 1947.
Sharif also wants to meet Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly next month, although New Delhi has warned violence may make it impossible.
Militants claim they no longer need clandestine support of the Pakistani security establishment, signalling that the conflict in Kashmir is increasingly out of Pakistan’s control.
A dozen rebel groups have been fighting in the Indian-held portion of Kashmir since 1989 for independence or its merger with Pakistan. By the mid-1990s, separatist ranks swelled with foreign “jihadi” fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan and other countries.
“Kashmiri youth have realised that they should rely on themselves,” said Uzair Ahmed, a militant with the Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen group. “Attacks on Indian forces by Kashmiri mujahedeen have been enhanced during the last three to four months... and the coming three-four years will be very difficult for the Indian forces.”
Abdul Aziz Alvi, the Kashmir head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, blacklisted as a terror organisation by the UN and the US, said the militants command wide support. “We, the citizens of Pakistani Kashmir, will also provide them with support, whatever they require from us, because fighting to free our homeland is our basic duty.”
India still accuses Pakistan of providing logistical help to the fighters, though Islamabad insists it extends only moral and political support.