The recent killing of Islamic State’s Hind Province (ISHP) militant has exposed the growing rivalry between local insurgent groups and militant groups affiliated with international terror outfits. If, left unattended, the increasing trend of rivalry will not only impact the Kashmiri insurgency in the near future but also contribute negatively towards Indo-Pakistan bilateral relationship over Kashmir issue. This analysis aims to discuss the current security situation in India held Kashmir (IHK) with the context of growing rivalry among the militant and insurgent groups hindering the peace in valley.
On June 26, Adil Ahmed Das, an ISHP militant, died mysteriously in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district. According to Indian media reports, a clash between ISHP militants and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) insurgents resulted in the killing of Adil Das and another militant was arrested by Indian security forces. This incident is considered as one of the high profile infighting incidents between outfits involved in IHK because it possesses one of the serious risks to the peace and security of the valley in near future. Meanwhile, an Open Source Intelligence analysis revealed the detail of the whole incident. According to the analysis, Adil Das, who joined LeT last year in June and later switched to join ISHP, was killed by Zubair Wani of Hizbul-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), Arif Bhat and Burhan Ahmad of LeT because Adil Das switched his loyalty to ISHP from LeT. Following the killing of Adil Das, a video was released by the ISHP on social media in which the militant outfit claimed that LeT and HuM are working at the behest of Pakistan and are involved in killing and targeting of innocent Kashmiris. The militant group claimed that they are not fighting for the liberation of Kashmiris but merely trying to grab land for Pakistan. In response to ISHP’s video, HuM chief Syed Salahuddin’s video message was released in which he requested militant outfits to forget their differences and appeal for unity. The HuM chief also offered to conduct a probe into the killing of ISHP militant.
Additionally, in a statement released by the HuM commander in Kashmir, Riaz Naikoo, called the group of ISHP militants in Kashmir the “Indian Agents”. According to Naikoo, he had talked to the HuM militant Zabair Wani who was at the site of incident. Zubair told Naikoo, Adil put his gun on my chest. In response, Wani pushed the gun away while Adil kept on firing and one bullet hit Adil himself. Furthermore, Naikoo claims the killing of Adil on “bad intentions”
While introspecting the reasons behind the recent infighting incident, it is pertinent to mention some of the major causes contributing towards the occurrence of such incidents. The major reason behind the infighting between local insurgents and affiliates of international terror outfits is the ideological difference. Islamic State (IS) is a global terrorist organization which aims to establish global caliphate. On the other hand, the primary objective of the local insurgent groups (LeT/HuM) is to liberate IHK from Indian ‘occupation”
Taking in to account the above mentioned details of the current scenario, it is believed that the emerging phenomena of Islamic State and Al-Qaeda allied groups in Kashmir valley, will create negative impacts for regional peace. Furthermore, local and international outfits have been involved in turf war ever since the arrival of affiliates of international terror outfits and the recent killing of ISHP militant has the potential, to escalate this clash into full-fledged civil war among the outfits for acquiring local autonomy. If such a war erupts in Kashmir for local influence then it will primarily have four actors involved namely: ISHP militants, Al-Qaeda allied Ansar Ghazawatul Hind (AGWH) militants, insurgent groups like LeT and HuM and Indian forces.
Furthermore, clashes between local and international outfits will have negative impacts on peace in Kashmir. Any civil war between militant outfits will further contribute towards more fragile security situation in IHK.
India will be the major beneficiary of the infighting between militant groups. Uptill now, India has maintained an official mum on the whole matter and will continue to do as long as these groups become weaker in capabilities and then undertake crackdown against such entities. Such situation will mean that India will no longer have to face any form of ‘armed struggle’ against itself. Additionally, infighting between militant outfits will help India in further strengthening its narrative of projecting Kashmiri insurgency as terrorism. It will also help India in building its case of projecting Pakistan as “state sponsor of terrorism”.
Amidst the forecasted situation, Pakistan will not prefer the increasing influence of ISHP and AGHW in IHK. In this regard, Pakistan has reportedly passed a credible intelligence report to US and India about a militant attack in Pulwama by Ansar Ghazawatul Hind (AGWH). Therefore, there is possibility that intelligence sharing regarding the movement of ISHP and AGWH can be materialized to ensure that IHK does not become a hotbed of international terrorism. However, there will be certain obstacles in the materialization of such an initiative. First, militaries of both countries will have apprehensions regarding sharing of intelligence with one another. Second, existing trust deficit between both countries will govern how such a future mechanism can be materialized.
The presence of Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda in Kashmir demand that the Indian state reexamines its approach towards the Kashmiri insurgency. Indian authorities need to address the demands of Kashmiri people so that the militant outfits cannot exploit the existing political vacuum to their advantage and contribute towards further destabilization of the region. Additionally, Pakistan and India need to ensure that their existing trust deficit towards each other should not influence in ensuring that IHK does not fall under the influence of international terror outfits.
Arslan Aziz has served as an intern at the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research. He is currently pursuing his MS in International Relations from SZABIST, Islamabad.