Last week in South Asia, intelligence-based operations in Pakistan led to encounters with the Islamic State (IS) and unidentified militants. A slight decrease in cross-border violence between India and Pakistan was observed in the Jammu and Kashmir region (J&K). Militant activity in J&K also declined, despite concerns around the ongoing local elections in the state. Security operations against Naxal-Maoist rebels in the Red Corridor in India led to an increased number of clashes. Lastly, farmers clashed with police in North India after attempting to stage an indefinite demonstration in New Delhi against the government’s new farm laws.
In Pakistan, intelligence operations against militant groups have intensified, leading to encounters with unidentified militant groups and IS. The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) killed a suspected suicide bomber, who tried to infiltrate a police station in Lahore city, wearing explosives. Four unidentified militants and a soldier were killed during an intelligence-based operation in North Waziristan district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KP). Occasional attacks, mainly targeting security forces, have taken place in North Waziristan this year, although the army declared the mountainous area cleared of foreign and domestic militants in 2017 (Associated Press News, 22 November 2020). Also, in KP, security forces killed two IS commanders and arrested several others during an intelligence-based operation. One of the commanders was wanted for involvement in several militant activities, while the other was reportedly the IS Karachi chief. IS first appeared in Pakistan around April 2015 in KP, and the CTD has continued launching operations against the group since then (for more on IS in Pakistan, see this ACLED piece).
Cross-border violence between Pakistani and Indian forces along the J&K border slightly decreased last week, yet remained at a high level. Eighteen incidents occurred, compared to 21 during the previous week. At least eight Pakistani soldiers, one Pakistani civilian, and three Indian security force officers died as a result of the clashes. Indian forces fired a mortar shell across the Line of Control (LoC) in Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s Kotli district, injuring at least 11 Pakistani civilians during a wedding celebration. Pakistan registered a protest against alleged ceasefire violations and summoned a senior Indian diplomat to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Economic Times, 26 November 2020). Meanwhile, the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) held a meeting with Pakistan Rangers along the International Border (IB) in Samba district to hand over the body of a Pakistani national, who was shot by the BSF for allegedly crossing the border. A BSF team also fired shots at a drone flying near the border in Jammu, which eventually retreated. According to an assessment by Indian intelligence agencies and the BSF, Pakistan uses drones to deliver arms and ammunition in the Jammu sector (Hindustan Times, 24 November 2020).
In India’s J&K, reports of militant activity have decreased as security forces have remained vigilant with the start of the District Development Council (DDC) elections in the state. Security forces have learned that militant groups have planned attacks to disrupt the elections. The BSF detected an underground tunnel in Samba district, presumably used by four Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants who had recently infiltrated India from Pakistan (Daily Excelsior, 25 November 2020). Last week, three suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and JeM militants ambushed an Indian army team on the outskirts of Srinagar city, killing two soldiers. The incident coincided with the 12th anniversary of the Mumbai attack, when Pakistani militants associated with LeT killed at least 164 people (CNN, 15 November 2020). Twelve coordinated shooting and bombing attacks lasting four days were carried out across various locations in Mumbai in November 2008 (The Hindu, 26 November 2020; Deccan Herald, 25 November 2020).
Elsewhere in India, armed clashes between Naxal-Maoist rebels and security forces have increased in the Red Corridor, mainly due to security operations. At least five Maoist rebels, including a platoon commander, were killed during different encounters in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha states last week. These states are traditionally considered strongholds for the Maoist insurgency movement (for more on the Naxalite-Maoist conflict in India, see this ACLED piece). Two civilians were also killed during an anti-Naxal operation by security forces last week, and a Communist Party of India (Maoist) commander was arrested in Odisha. Maoist rebels have also been active in rural areas of Telangana, where last week 33 of them surrendered to police (Times of India, 24 November 2020).
Lastly, in North India, thousands of farmers from Haryana and Punjab states drove and marched to New Delhi to demonstrate against the central government’s new farm laws. Demonstrators broke through barricades in both states and along the Delhi-Haryana border and clashed with police. The police had rejected their request to begin indefinite demonstrations in the capital city. The farmers oppose agricultural reform, fearing they might lose market protections, such as the minimum guaranteed price for their produce (BBC News, 27 November 2020). Police lobbed tear gas and used water cannons at the demonstrators, while farmers engaged in stone pelting in several incidents. The clashes ended with an agreement allowing farmers to demonstrate in the capital. Farmers from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand states are expected to join the demonstrations in the following days (Hindustan Times, 28 November 2020).
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