Kashmir is a disputed territory at the heart of the decadeslong rivalry between India and Pakistan. As Indian security forces employ a more vigorous counterinsurgency campaign against militants in Kashmir, the militants are changing their tactics, too. India accuses Pakistan of aiding militants, and a miscalculation by either side could provide the trigger for a larger confrontation.
Jammu and Kashmir state experienced its deadliest bombing in nearly two decades Feb. 14 when a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device killed at least 44 Indian security personnel in the disputed Himalayan territory. Officials said a local member of the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed rammed his explosives-laden SUV into a bus carrying members of India's Central Reserve Police Force. The bus, which was part of a 78-vehicle convoy carrying more than 2,500 people, was en route from southern Kashmir to Srinagar, the Indian state's summer capital. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack, while India's Ministry of External Affairs called on Pakistan to "stop supporting terrorists."
Why It Matters
The use of vehicle bombs in the Kashmir insurgency may signify a shift in tactics. Militants on the receiving end of an increasingly robust counterinsurgency campaign are seeking new ways to strike Indian security forces beyond coordinated assaults against army installations. The attack also comes as Modi is preparing for a tough re-election campaign in parliamentary elections, which are due by May. Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party has long advocated for a muscular foreign policy against Pakistan, which it accuses of stoking the insurgency in Kashmir.
Militants on the receiving end of an increasingly robust counterinsurgency campaign are seeking new ways to strike Indian security forces.
Tensions between the South Asian adversaries could escalate. Modi has limited options, however, beyond sharpening his rhetoric against Islamabad and authorizing a more forceful response against Pakistani troops who fire across the Line of Control separating the Indian- and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir. And because it appears the attacker hailed from Pulwama, the district where the attack took place, the Kashmir insurgency could be becoming a more local phenomenon and less driven by foreigners as more locals take up arms against the Indian security presence.
The dispute over Kashmir is at the core of the decadeslong rivalry between India and Pakistan. Each country administers a portion of the territory but claims it in full. (China also administers a portion that India claims, called Aksai Chin.) The Kashmir insurgency began in 1989. Modi's objective is to quash the insurgency through the use of overwhelming military force. Pakistan views Indian control over Jammu and Kashmir as a strategic vulnerability, since key rivers that feed into the Indus basin cross through the region. Because of this, Islamabad has long tacitly aided the Kashmir insurgency to maintain pressure on the Indian military presence in the region.