Since the beginning of 2017, the security forces have done a splendid job in Kashmir and have neutralised over 250 terrorists including many hard core Pakistanis.
However, even as they get one tactical victory after another, Kashmir is falling into an abyss faster than one could imagine.
And the biggest reason is that while we have a sound tactical operation going on, the equally important strategic vision is seen wanting or either missing.
And this lack of strategic vision, needed from the political class, has led to a situation where the deadly ISIS ideology is spreading in the valley, a development that the security czars in Kashmir are very much concerned about.
Along with the spread of ISIS ideology that aims for the creation of an Islamic state, the recruitment of local terrorists is at an all time high.
Top security sources say that the situation is so bad the terror organisations are actually rejecting candidates because they have a limited supply of arms and ammunition unlike in the 1990s when arms were in greater supply and there were less local recruits.
When ISIS ideology first reared its head in Kashmir a few years back, with sporadic display of ISIS flags in street protests, the officials downplayed it saying that it was just an attempt to garner media publicity.
However, the pace of the spread of the deadly ideology has come as a shocker for the very same officials who while waging a brutal battle, at the cost of their own lives, against the terrorists know that future looks very bleak.
The ugly face of this was seen this year in Anantnag when Mohammad Taufeeq from Telangana was killed along with a local boy Eisa Fazili, who had literally become the face of the ISIS in Kashmir. As per police, Taufeeq was radicalised into ISIS ideology on the internet and had then travelled to Kashmir to participate in ISIS attacks.
One must wonder if a boy from down south can get radicalised and come to fight in Kashmir, could there be actually a situation where a similarly radicalised youth from Kashmir does something sinister in another part of the country?
Equally shocking was when Fazili's body was snatched from the family by a frenzied mob and taken out in a procession draped in ISIS flag.
The separatists leaders in Kashmir, who half heartedly denounce ISIS ideology, hailed Fazili as a 'martyr', a hypocrytic stand which furthers the ISIS thinking.
While earlier slain terrorist Burhan Wani managed to catch the imagination of the youth, the new trend is Zakir Musa, the chief of Ansar Ghazwat-Ul-Hind, an offshoot of al-Qaeda. Musa, who talks about an independent Sharia ruled Kashmir, has garnered huge fan following among the youth.
Youth chant 'Musa, Musa, Zakir Musa' whenever funeral processions are carried out. Terrorists join the funeral procession where they open fire with hundreds of locals egging them on, a scene which makes many youth to commit themselves to the path of terrorism seeking the same glory.
Officials point out that one of the main reason is lack of a strategic vision for Kashmir because at the end of the day, everyone knows that the issue at hand cannot be solved through the barrel of the gun.
Steps have to be taken to ensure that the youth are brought into the mainstream and for them to understand that there is a bigger glory in living life to the fullest rather than death.
There needs to be a connection between the government and the locals, especially the youth which is missing. One needs to understand that the situation needs to be dealt with an iron fist with velvet gloves.
Sadly, while the iron fist is there, the velvet gloves are missing. The Army, along with CRPF, has a tactical mandate and their job is to neutralise anyone who picks up an arm. The Jammu and Kashmir Police has both a tactical and a limited strategic role and they are doing it to the best of their ability.
However, the political class, mandated with strategic planning, is seen missing in action. It is important for the State to reach out to the public and take concrete steps to offer an alternative to the youth and take steps to ensure that the spread of ISIS ideology and recruitment comes down.
Because even though security forces continue to do their job and extract kills, the deadly cocktail of ISIS ideology, local recruitment and feeling of alienation among the youth will explode in our face and by then little can be done.
(The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors own.)