On March 20, at least two militants, believed to be from Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeI) raided an Indian police station in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district. Four Indians were killed. The militants, dressed in Indian military fatigues, were then killed in a shootout with security forces. Photos showed the police installation scarred from gunfire, with bodies exposed outside.
The attack, the first in the state since the shaky new state government took power in February, underscores the continued militant threat in the disputed region, despite ongoing Indian counter insurgency operations. India has killed a number of suspected militants in the state recently. Most of these clashes were targeted raids, launched after intelligence surfaced of militants hiding among the population in a specific area.
At this time, however, it remains unclear whether the militants were local residents or infiltrated from Pakistan. If the latter is the case, Kathua’s location points to a militant infiltration across the International Border. This section of the border has been the focus of cross-border fire between Indian and Pakistani border forces in recent months. To that point, India has asserted that such clashes provide cover for militant infiltration. On the other hand, Indian security officials have stated that pro-Pakistan militant factions have increased recruitment of locals inside Jammu and Kashmir State, thereby lessening the use of cross-border attacks. Infiltration has simply become more difficult, thus necessitating greater local involvement in the insurgency.
While India will maintain its stance that Pakistan supports the insurgency, if Delhi deems that Islamabad supported the attack operationally, relations between the two nuclear armed states could once again take a downturn. It may be no coincidence that the raid occurred shortly after high-level talks to improve bilateral ties between India and Pakistan were held earlier this month.