CBRN Assessment

Kashmir neighbours install new security chiefs

17 January 2017
Pakistani army tanks take part in a military exercise in Khairpur Tamiwali, Pakistan, on 16 November 2016. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif travelled to the strategic border with India to observe a drill amid escalating tensions with New Delhi over the disputed Kashmir region. Source: PA

Key Points

  • A series of incidents in 2015 and 2016 called into question India's ability to defend against militant incursions, although its intelligence capabilities against mobile targets appear to have improved.
  • With India maintaining a clandestine network of agents within Pakistan, Islamabad is concerned about New Delhi's intent and capability to disrupt the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and to support insurgency in Balochistan.
  • Likely future developments in India's intelligence posture include covert operations that seek to punish Pakistan immediately after any terrorist attack in India and aggressive targeting of Pakistani espionage within India.

The strategic tension between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan produced a series of bilateral spats in late 2016. Most notably, a September attack on an Indian army camp near Uri in Kashmir by militants operating out of Pakistan led to purported 'surgical strikes' in retaliation by India; then, in early November, Islamabad accused eight Indian diplomats of terrorism and espionage, following mutual expulsions of diplomatic personnel one week earlier.

Intelligence operations by both countries underpin the political dynamics, and by the end of 2016 change was afoot on both sides of the border. In December, India appointed Rajiv Jain as the new head of the domestic intelligence agency, the Intelligence Bureau (IB), and Anil Dhasmana to lead the foreign intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

In the same month, Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif appointed Lieutenant-General Naveed Mukhtar as the new director-general of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Mukhtar's appointment closely followed the designation of a new chief of army staff, General Qamar Bajwa, potentially signalling that Islamabad may wish to take a different direction on security and regional policy matters.

The range of bilateral challenges pitting the two countries against each other - from the contested territory of Kashmir to insurgency in Balochistan and the roll-out of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) - suggests that further clashes could occur in 2017, with the potential for rapid escalation.

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