The quick deterioration in Indo-Pak relations amid unprecedented turbulence in Kashmir in India has pushed the security establishment on the edge to counter the coming onslaught from a mix of battle hardy foreign terrorists and local militants both along the LoC and within the Valley.
About 60-70 battle-hardened terrorists from the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) are ready to infiltrate into India from eight launch pads in Pak-cantrolled Kashmir (PoK). A sizeable number of them are foreign militants.
Intelligence agencies in India say Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had held a meeting with the United Jihad Council (UJC) and top LeT, JeM and HuM commanders in Muzzafarabad on August 14 and they have been assigned specific areas to be attacked.
The intelligence inputs suggest that the ISI is pushing in more terrorists through sustained infiltration and funneling money through various channels. The fresh lot of terrorists carry far more sophisticated arms and technological equipment than seen earlier.
Security forces are expecting intensified attacks both along the LoC and on Indian Army bunker camps that check infiltration bids inside the Valley.
On Tuesday, Indian home minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir with national security adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval, Indian home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi and chiefs of intelligence agencies and other top civil and security officials. But news from Kashmir was bad: four civilian casualties were reported from the rather peaceful central region.
Singh cautioned security forces to keep casualties, both civilian and security personnel, to the bare minimum.
Unverified inputs suggest that the ISI has already succeeded in infiltrating hardened Afghani terrorists, who specialise in lethal attacks on the army, into Kashmir, and is trying to push even more to increase the heat in the valley.
Agencies are increasingly becoming wary of a situation, where a deadly cocktail of battle-hardened foreign terrorists and local Hizbul militants can play havoc in the valley.
What is troubling the agencies even more is that intelligence-based counter-insurgency operations within the valley have almost come to a standstill since the last one month. The cloak-and-dagger network of informants has turned cold to a great extent due to the massive uprising, in which demarcation between "with us or against us" has become far too clear.
Worse still, the massive turbulence has upset the counterinsurgency (CI) grid so much, that security forces have, for the first time in 26 years, suspended all operations in the Kashmir plains.
The CRPF operation in Nowhatta, in downtown Srinagar on August 15, in which commandant Pramod Kumar was martyred, stands out as the lone CI operation in the past one and a half months.
While the Indian Army intercepted the infiltrating militants and neutralised some of them in Nowgam and Machhil sectors on the LoC, suffering collateral damage, not a single raid or counterinsurgency operation was conducted in the plains in the last one month.
Facing paucity of resources in the face of massive unrest, all field units have been directed to maintain only vigil over the activities and movement of militants and avoid raids or counterinsurgency operations in populated areas "during the period of turbulence".
"No reason has been specified, though it is clear enough that operations have been suspended for fear of mob attacks and civilian casualties," said a senior official.
The official pointed out that, on over a dozen occasions in 2015-16, people of neighbouring villages gathered around the site of Indian Army and Special Operation Group (SOG) operations and disrupted or attempted to disrupt them, particularly in south Kashmir.
On one occasion, people of Padgampora and neighbouring villages in Pulwama district, helped a group of six heavily armed militants to escape from a cordoned area. Reports that a huge assembly of people was planning to storm the EDI complex forced the Indian Army to end the operation quickly on February 22 this year, despite the death of two of its captains.
On certain occasions, sources said, militants covering themselves in civilian demonstrations opened fire on police or security forces who observed restraint, fearing civilian casualties.
"Even on August 9, we spotted three armed militants in a protest demonstration at Lalpora in Lolab area of Kupwara district. We did not strike them as there was every apprehension of civilian casualties," said an officer of security forces.
(This story first appeared on DNA)