Cross Border Terrorism And Home Grown Militancy


By Harshit Singh Jadoun

Editor’s Note: India and Pakistan are two countries which are endeavouring to deal with the issue of cross border terrorism since the time of independence, 1947. One of the most important issues with which almost every country is trying to overcome is of combating militancy, terrorism and nuclear menace. The entire growth of country comes at a screeching halt if the security concerns are not timely met and addressed.

Manifestations of threat range from communal/sectarian violence to jihadist terrorism, separatist insurgencies in northeast and Naxalite extremist militancy. Most external threats emanate from an unsettled boundary dispute with China and ongoing cross-border jihadist terrorism in J&K sponsored terrorism, supported by ISI and Pakistan-based Islamist fundamentalist organizations like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad who, in turn, are inextricably linked with international jihadist groups like Taliban and Al Qaida.

Threat from Bangladesh assumes serious dimensions since it became a base for northeast insurgent groups like ULFA and Naga factions. Of late, it has also been serving as a conduit for ISI sponsored infiltration of terrorists along India and Bangladesh’s porous border. To cap it, nuclear threat from neighbouring states and from jihadist groups have the potential of using nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future, significant being China-Pakistan nuclear nexus.

Terrorism can be classified into Political terrorism for political purposes and non political terrorism- which exhibits “conscious design to create and maintain a high degree of fear for coercive purposes, but the end is individual or collective gain rather than the achievement of a political objective.” The very fact that India shares its border with many nations, it makes its task of internal and external security more difficult. The ethnic mix of population also adds fuel to the fire, when ideology and aspiration of all religion in India are not met concurrently by the govt. This has been seen in Punjab terrorism in 1980s, followed by Assam and J&K problem in 1990s and now as Maoism in state of Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, west Bengal and Orissa. Boundary problems, difficulties and hence border security and defence are universal phenomena.

Borders mark the extent of sovereignty which a State can claim in relation to another. As such, they are usually associated with defence arrangements and often wars. Today the problem has reached an alarming proportion in some parts of the world and in particular in Asia where the concern of leaders has been to formulate and implement their foreign policy objectives towards the permanent resolutions of these border problems in their interactions.

These interactions can either be co-operative or confliction depending on factors such as relationship between border populations, presence of resources along the borders and of course the nature of regime. This article basically deals with terrorism question and that always remains unanswered and explains reasons behind such cross border threats which plonk the life of the citizens of the country under menace.


India is one of those countries which have a massive boundary ranging from Himalayas Mountains in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south including the territory between the Strait of Hormuz and Strait of Malacca India has absorbed many people and endured many invasions, expansions, and disintegrations of empires that have shaped its land boundaries.

The Indian subcontinent of more than one and a half million square miles was considered to be an “intelligible isolate.” India’s land boundaries have been subject to constant changes and by 6th century B.C, sixteen kingdoms or tribal republics had come into being in Northern India and jostled for more territory.

Alexander the Great of Macedonia attacked from the North- Western direction in 326 B.C after crossing the Hindukush Mountains defeated Porous on the banks of the Jhelum River and extended the territory up to the plains of Punjab. The Kingdom of Magadha, situated in the middle Ganges region, expanded into a vast empire covering three-quarters of India–from present Kashmir to Mysore, from Afghanistan to Bangladesh. The Kushans controlled sectors of the Silk Route that was the crucible of lucrative trade between the Indian, Persian, Chinese and Romani Empires as well as the highway for the outward spread of Buddhism.

The contours of India’s land boundaries further changed with the thrust of Islam which came from the Turkish people of Central Asia, newly converted to Islam and the Persian culture. For 200 years the new Muslim rulers of Delhi defended borders and staved off Mongol attacks, which had devastating effects on China, Persia, Russia, and Eastern Europe.

India shares ethnic, religious and cultural affinities with its neighbors and in times of conflict, a certain portion of tension flows inward in form of state-sponsored terrorism. Since these states can unleash the terrorist activities in a different capacity, they may use their own directly recruited and controlled terror squads or may choose to work through proxies and client movements across the border. The terrorist menace from across the border is supported financially and materially by the government and institutions of these countries.

Therefore there is a number of problems which poses serious challenges to the national security of India unless immediate measures for border areas are taken. Without peaceful borders with its neighbors, India can hardly play its legitimate role in global affairs.


At present India is facing threats from each and every country it shares its borders from. The form of threat through varies from purely military to a combination of military and non – military. India has land borders with Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh, out of which two are nuclear powers one is Pakistan and the other is China.

However, five of the six states in South Asia have borders with India, and this has resulted in inevitable complications since all the states are in their infancy and in several cases the boundaries are not yet firmly settled. India, which looms large as the centerpiece, shares ethnic religious and cultural affinities with all its neighbors. In times of conflict in neighboring countries, this becomes a source of acute tension. A spillover crisis across the borders is not uncommon.

The problem of cross border terrorism over the last fifty years in India has occurred in three regions – Punjab, Kashmir, and the North – East, where people are on the social and physical fringes of India. Language, religion and the feeling of alienation set these people apart from the people of the heartland of the country. All the three are concentrated at the outer limits of India adjoining a neighboring country that has the desire and the ability to create problems in India’s internal security.


The border to be guarded on Indo- Pakistan borders is running along the States of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, and J&K. It is clearly demarcated except for about 900 km of borders in J&K categorized as Line of Control (LOC) and Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) which divides the State, held of India and Pakistan – further helps it to threaten the security of the State. The borders have a variety of problems and issues and need a comprehensive focus for durable settlement. At many places, the social contours of the border are mercilessly cut across and divided into various ethnic groups. In the time of conflict in neighboring countries, this becomes a source of acute tension.

The Pakistan sponsored border terrorism in Punjab remained active for over a decade broadly, from 1980- 1990. The conflict was caused due to a number of reasons ranging from the future of Chandigarh, territorial adjustments with neighbouring States, river water allocations, protection as well as promotion of Sikhism, reducing landholdings over the past few decades which resulted in the progeny of marginal farmers being converted into owners of economically unviable land holdings, and unemployment reaching a new peak in the early 1980s, which gave rise to disgruntled youth who took to militancy.

During the period when militancy was at its peak, about 15,000 people died in the militant attacks. Pakistan exploited the dissatisfaction borne out in the State and gave covert and overt assistance for their struggle. External support also came from influential/ prosperous members of the community who resided abroad6. The cross-border terrorism sponsored by Pakistan has to be situated in the broader context of the burgeoning terrorism that has plagued contemporary Pakistan. The links between top army personnel, bureaucrats and political leaders, on the one hand, and terrorists and drug barons, on the other, have acquired a measure of legitimacy under the banner of Islam and jihad.

The transnational links of terrorist outfits also necessitate international coalitions to weed out terrorism. Nevertheless, the India-Pakistan peace initiatives that currently underway represent a positive development because they can make an incremental contribution to ending cross-border terrorism. Indo-Pakistan relations are characterized by the existence of a number of bilateral disputes some of them rooted in historical past such as Kashmir issue, others in current dynamics of bilateral issues viz. Baglihar Dam dispute. Pakistan continues to occupy illegally large areas of Kashmir and lays claim over the whole State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Both countries have sections at both the ends of the borders which are yet to be settled. The situation in the State of J&K has almost always been more vulnerable than that of any other State in the country. This is the only State which Pakistan has never accepted to be a part of India. It is the only Muslim majority State of India which Pakistan believes should have belonged to it like all to her Muslim majority parts of the subcontinent.

Although the dispute originated in 1947 along with many other complex problems that were the product of hasty and badly planned partition, Kashmir dispute is perhaps one of the very few and the most important dispute that has survived over the years in somewhat original form Pakistan demands that India should permit the people of Kashmir to decide their future through an internationally supervised plebiscite. While recognizing that vast majority of the Kashmiri people are the followers of Islam, India justifies her possession of Kashmir on the basis of the Maharaja’s instrument of accession, the legality and validity of which cannot be questioned, at least of all by Pakistan.

Due to India-Pakistan conflict on Kashmir, the subcontinent has experienced four wars and continues to face proxy war, low-intensity conflict, and limited war. Pakistan has failed to grab Kashmir despite fighting wars resorted to the strategy of terrorism. Not only have the conventional wars proved quite expensive but also the chances of achieving political objectives through wars have diminished due to the development of nuclear weapons and the possible international reaction.

The three wars between India and Pakistan, although ended without settlement of the dispute, proved Indian conventional superiority which convinced Pakistan that it could never achieve its mission in Kashmir through conventional warfare. Pakistan continues to illegally occupy Kashmir and lays its claim over the whole State of J&K and hence does not recognize even the international border in the Jammu sector. Unsolved border disputes with Pakistan in the area of Sir Creek in Gujarat, the LOC in J&K, AGPL portion in Siachin are the outstanding issues between India and Pakistan on boundary demarcations.

The main objective of Pakistan’s sponsored terrorism across the border in Kashmir is to use violence to affect the psychology of India so that it gets exhausted and surrenders. Pakistan sponsored terrorism is a well – planned strategy. They specifically target political leaders of institutions to malign the creditability of a government. The main aim of Pakistan’s proxy war against India is to ensure that the Indian Army and central paramilitary forces remain engaged in counter-insurgency and internal security operations in Kashmir. In religious terrorism, though the target is the State, the victims are civilian.

Pakistan resorted to the strategy of cross border terrorism because it appeared to be a more cost-effective option. It was a low–cost option that has greater chances of success. It also does not involve the risk of conventional was as it is fought on the victim’s territory. It appears that due to these advantages the option of proxy war through terrorism has increasingly replaced the option of conventional war in South Asia. It enables Pakistan to keep the conflict at low costs, less intense and at a low level to avoid the possibility of full-fledged conventional war.

Lieutenant General Chandra Shekhar, Vice Chief of Army staff, explained that proxy war is a low- cost and no- case option but best suited to promote Pakistan’s geopolitical, diplomatic and military interest, not only to wrest Kashmir but also to gain forward strategic depth. Pakistan’s main objective is to keep India involved in protracted ‘proxy war’ to degrade India’s conventional superiority through a process of strategic fatigue.


India is emerging as an economically and militarily strong nation in both continental Asia, as well as, the Indian Ocean region. In the present scenario, India faces a great threat from all the countries with which it has borders, in one or the other form. The form of threat varies from pure military to a combination of military and non-military.

Today India faces more security threat from Pakistan than any of its neighbors, because of multiple conflicts since 1947 partition on issues like J&K, water sharing, Sir Creek etc. Pakistan has not accepted regional supremacy of India and undertaken many military and terrorist actions to destabilize India since independence.

The dynamic nature of the problems concerning management of borders is brought out by the manner in which the sensitivity of the India- Pakistan, Indo-Bhutan and India- Bangladesh borders have changed over a period of time. These borders, which have been open, were once peaceful and trouble-free. However, with the increasing activities of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Pakistan and frequent movement of militants in other States, the nature of the borders has changed completely.

The Pakistan is resorting to Cross border terrorism, to covertly bringing pressure to bear on India across the border through violence, so as keep it engaged in proxy wars, divert its resources from other development and garner support of the Muslim community in India for creating separate Muslim state and finally to degrade India’s conventional superiority through a process of strategic fatigue.


1. The state police and its intelligence set-up: Under India’s federal Constitution, the responsibility for policing and maintenance of law and order is that of the individual states. The central government in New Delhi can only give them advice, financial help, training, and other assistance to strengthen their professional capabilities and share with them the intelligence collected by it. The responsibility for follow-up action lies with the state police.

2. The national intelligence community: This consists of the internal intelligence agency (Intelligence Bureau), the external intelligence agency (Research and Analysis Wing), the Defence Intelligence Agency that was set up a year ago, and the Intelligence Directorates-General of the armed forces. The IB collects terrorism-related intelligence inside the country and RAW does it outside. The DIA and the intelligence Directorates-General of the armed forces essentially collect tactical intelligence during their counter-terrorism operations in areas such as Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, etc, where they are deployed.

3. Physical security agencies: These include the Central Industrial Security Force, responsible for physical security at airports and sensitive establishments; the National Security Guards, a specially trained intervention force to terminate terrorist situations such as hijacking, hostage-taking, etc; and the Special Protection Group, responsible for the security of the prime minister and former prime ministers.

4. Paramilitary forces: These include the Central Reserve Police Force and the Border Security Force, which assist the police in counter-terrorism operations when called upon to do so.

5. The Army: Their assistance is sought as a last resort when the police and paramilitary forces are not able to cope with a terrorist situation. But in view of Pakistan’s large-scale infiltration in Jammu and Kashmir and the presence and activities of a large number of Pakistani mercenaries, many of them ex-servicemen, the army has a more active, permanent and leadership role in counter-terrorism operations here.


1. Military Option- India needs to consider the military option seriously. This would not only enhance the deterrence in place against such attacks but would ensure that the state-jihadi nexus is constricted. The state element would likely be more sensitive to the likely hurt that India could inflict militarily and therefore exercise restraint over jihadi impulses.

Any such consideration would enable execution of the military operation better and integrate it with the political and diplomatic prongs of the strategy that would likely unfold in real time. India must invest more in strengthening its security forces including army by procuring state of the art weapon and equipment, surveillance devices, mobility vehicles including helicopter and aircraft and logistic support.

There should be more cooperation and interoperability amongst all security elements for the synergy of operation. All sensitive areas along the border must be guarded and infiltration routes covered by deploying adequate forces. The intelligence must be shared by all to detect and counter any form of terrorist activity in time.

2. Diplomatic Dialogue- India must diplomatically engage not only Pakistan but also Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar, so as to formulate policies for cooperation in economic, military, cultural and terrorism fields and ensure mutual quest for regional peace, prosperity, and stability.

As far as Pakistan is concerned India need to adopt test and trust policy in all future relations and engage them actively by giving more economic facilities and trade concessions. India must also ensure that Pakistan remains politically viable nation so that it is not taken over by non-state forces.

3. International Support- India has initiated many dialogues in the international forum for the formulation of combined policy and guidelines for combating terrorism, some of which are in force and being implemented. India needs to especially motivate and convince the USA and China to keep Pakistan under control so that ISI can be checked for sponsoring and supporting various terrorist groups operating out of Pakistan.

In wake of recent attack by Taliban on the naval base of Pakistan, the security of their nuclear arsenal is threatened. If Taliban and al Qaeda are successful in securing nuclear weapon from Pakistan, then India will be the nation to face the brunt of their hatred.

4. Internal Stability- India needs to understand the importance of maintaining peace and harmony amongst all religion and community in India, with special reference to Muslim and people belonging to NE states and RED CORRIDOR( Maoism). Over the last decades, ISI has targeted these people and fuelled the insurgency in these regions.

The importance of good grievances detection, monitoring, and redressal machinery so that the build-up of grievances in any community is detected in time and the political leadership alerted and advised to take prompt action to redress them. The intelligence agencies have an important role to play as the eyes and ears of the government in different communities to detect feelings of anger and alienation which need immediate attention.


The fight against terrorism is a very difficult and challenging task, for which concerted efforts by various responsible agencies, both national and international, is required. For fighting a successful war against cross border terrorism, international political support and cooperation and coordination among the neighboring States are required. It is unfortunate that various states are pursuing cross border terrorism in spite of its prohibition, as International Law regarding the implementation and enforcement of its rules is not as strong as it should be.

India- Pakistan relations have deteriorated over a period of time even though continuous processes by both nations are being initiated for peace, harmony, and cooperation. However, due to ideological and historical differences, not much has been gained by either side. Pakistan policy to degrade India’s conventional superiority through a process of strategic fatigue is the main stumbling block in all peace process. ISI of Pakistan has taken up one point agenda of spreading terrorism in India by all means, and unless India takes all necessary actions to check its activities now, the threat of nuclear terrorism looms ahead.

Formatted on February 15th, 2019.


1. Surjit Man Singh (1998), Geographic settings, New Delhi, p.4

2. Prakash Singh, “Border Management”, (July 2, 2001), BSF Journal 11

3. N.S Jamwal, ‘Management of Land Borders’, Strategic Analysis, Vol.XXVI, (2002).

4. N.S Jamwal, ‘Counter-Terrorism Strategy’, Strategic Analysis, Vol.XXVII, (2003), pp. 56-78.

5. N.S Jamwal, ‘Terrorists’ Modus Operandi in Jammu and Kashmir’, Strategic Analysis, Vol.XXVII, (2003), pp. 382-402.

6. N.S Jamwal, ‘Counter-Terrorism Strategy’, Strategic Analysis, Vol.XXVII, (2003), pp. 56-78

7. Bal Raj Puri, ‘Security Situation in Jammu and Kashmir’, Strategic Analysis, (July- September 2003), p.32.

8.  Jay Millan, “Terrorism as a Military Weapon”, (January- February 1999), 28 Air University Review54

9. India’s national security: Internal and External Threat, http://www.livemint.com/Specials/xziEQVjEQhApmtqEAR8dtI/Indias-National Security-Internal-and-External-Threats.html. Last seen 24/01/2015.

10. Challenges for Cross Border Terrorism for India
http://www.cdsrd.org/userfiles/19_%20Col_%20Rawat.pdf. Last seen 24/01/2015.

11. India’s stand on Cross border Terrorism
http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in:8080/jspui/bitstream/10603/10659/9/09_chapter%202.pdf . Last seen 24/01/2015.

12. Economic and Political Weekly
http://www.epw.in/commentary/cross-border-terrorism.html. Last seen 24/01/2015.

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