By Ashok B Sharma
Union Government needs to carefully develop appropriate stratagems on how best to counter the recent lone wolf attacks by terrorists in the Kashmir valley. The developments in Afghanistan with Taliban in power have posed a new challenge. Of course Taliban has assured that its soil will not be used for any terrorists attack against any neighbouring country. But has the Taliban have complete control over all the different terror outfits on its soil? Just resting on assurances will not do. Adequate preparedness is needed. As regards the nearest neighbour Pakistan its intentions are known.
One thing to note is the strategy and the nature of terror attacks in the Kashmir valley. The terrorist are frustrated as the situation in the valley is gradually bouncing to normal with public activity in swing after relaxation in curfew in many places, business returning as usual and a noted surge in tourist arrivals. Tourism is the backbone of the valley’s economy. People are by and large satisfied with this situation. But terrorist outfits are restless as they are losing their prominence,
They, therefore, have changed their strategy and have adopted lone wolf attacks on targeted minority communities. Incidences have come to the fore with killings of Makhan Lal Bindroo, a chemist, Virendra Paswan, a street vendor and Mohammad Shafi Lone, a taxi driver in separate incidents in Srinagar. Shooting of Supinder Kaur, principal of Government Boys Higher Secondary School in Sangam Eidgah area of Srinagar district and Deepak Chand, a teacher of the same school also took place. The new strategy is to target the minority communities and those who help them. This is being systematically done to create a divide between the minority communities and local Kashmiri Muslims.
On Monday four soldiers and a junior commissioned officer (JCO) were killed after an encounter broke out between the security forces and militants in Poonch district’s Dehra Ki Gali. Former Punjab Chief Minister has blamed the terror outfits operating out of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Lt Governor Manoj Sinha has owned the responsibility for the lapses resulting in lone wolf targeted attacks even though there were no intelligence inputs before the incidences.
The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) which works in the frontier areas, has developed a good networks of roads. The total length of national highways in J&K was only 1695 kms in 2014 and within a span of seven years it has increased to 2664 kms in 2021. This has helped in the movement of security forces to gun down terrorists and maintain law and order. Besides a number of hotels and restaurants have come up along the highways for tourists. Thus the hospitality sector got a boost.
But this is not enough. There is a need to deal with occurrence of avalanches and roads being blocked with snow cover for about six to eight months particularly between mid-November to April at places in harsh winter when mercury slips down to below 40 degree Celsius. This prevents the movement of security forces and intelligence agencies. The work is on afoot by development of tunnels to avoid avalanches and blocking by snow cover in winter. According to the Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari projects costing Rs 100,000 crore are underway in J&K. The Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia has announced that a new airport terminal worth Rs 1500 core will be established on 25,000 sq metre area in Kashmir while another airport terminal worth Rs 650 crore will be established in Jammu on 22,000 sq metre land size.
The National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL) under the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways after giving contracts to BRO for developing national highways in difficult and border areas, is now concentrating in construction of tunnels in areas prone to avalanches and road blockade in harsh winter. Construction of bi-directional Zojila tunnel at an altitude of 11,578 feet above sea level, highest in the world. Its length is estimated to be 14.15 km and when completed it would be Asia’s longest bi-directional tunnel. The Zojila project is being executed by Hyderabad based Megha Engineering & Infrastructure Ltd (MEIL) and Gurugram based APCO Infra under the tender process conducted by NHIDCL. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 4,600 crore.
Zojila tunnel between Baital and Minamarg on Srinagar will provide connectivity in all weather conditions between Srinagar in J&K and Leh in Ladakh. The Z-Morh tunnel on National Highway 1 between Gagangir and Sonmarg will provide connectivity between Srinagar in J&K and Kargil in Ladakh. The estimated cost of Z-Morh project is Rs 2,300 crore. While the distance between Baital to Minamarg will be reduced from 40 km to 13 km, the travel time too will be reduced by 1.5 hours between two union territories. Both the Zojila and Z-Morh tunnels are expected to be completed by December 2023 to enable its inauguration by Prime Minister Modi on January 26, 2024.
According to J&K Lt Governor Manoj Sinha 11 tunnel projects have been approved for the union territory in one year. Four tunnel projects will be built on Chenani-Kishtwar highway at a cost of Rs 10,000 crore. To modernize Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, tunnels at a cost of Rs 4000 crore, besides five flyovers costing Rs 3000 crore will be built in J&K, reducing travel time and traffic congestion substantially. By December 2022, Kashmir will be connected to Kanyakumari by railways.
The plan for connectivity looks sound and proper. Hope this will help the quick movement of security forces and intelligence agencies to hound the terrorists and wipe out terrorism in the valley. There is also a need to check infiltration at the border. Pakistan is engaged in pushing terrorists to perpetuate terrorists attacks in the valley. The network of connectivity will definitely improve tourism in the valley and boost the hospitality industry. Tourism is after all the backbone of the valley’s economy. Both tourism and infrastructure development will provide business opportunities and jobs to the local population. Overall there is a need to develop appropriate strategy to counter the new lone wolf attacks on minority communities in the valley. (IPA Service)