Posture for peace in J&K

Robert Greene in his book 36 Strategies of War wrote: “Danger is everywhere; there are hostile people and destructive relationship. The only way to break out of a negative dynamic is to confront it”. The state and central governments had four months to break the cycle of negativity in Jammu and Kashmir but it was lost in inaction and flawed perceptions about the Kashmir conflict. The thaw in violence levels in Kashmir was considered as a sign of a return to normalcy due to the fatigue factor. But this spring season, in the Valley is likely to witness the bloodiest summer ever seen in Kashmir’s history. Many will contest my statement and those who believe that it will be business as usual are moonwalking.

The state government’s failure does not provide an excuse for the Centre’s inaction. People were looking forward to a political outreach to redress their grievances. But the entire administration preferred to stay away. The public space was left open for proxies of Pakistan to strategise, consolidate, and build a support base in areas where they had weak public support. The only news that came from the Valley were the encounters. Operation Sadbhavna and the administration was conspicuous by its absence. Terror organisations and proxies of Pakistan have made sure that even the role of money has been reduced to a great extent. People have now worked out a system to do business as usual during the lockdown period and the public has conditioned itself accordingly. The Azadi and Jihadi movements are now completely in the hands of youth from rural areas and they have scant respect for loss of business, lost livelihoods, or the tourism industry. They are either teenagers or unemployed youths and not many are self-employed. In any case, Valley businessmen never played a great role except for making political donations or paying money to Jihadis under coercion.

The die is already cast and people’s representatives could be threatened to switch sides to join anti-India and pro-Azadi factions. Pakistan knows that the biggest hurdle in their design is the Indian Army. Thus a situation will be created so that public sentiments are evoked and the army is denied space to execute anti-terror operations. Last year, though the army was allowed to move on roads, the initial indicators this year are suggestive of a design to restrict the Army’s freedom of movement and operations. The state administration has not been able to reach the problem areas in rural Kashmir. In any case, such situations cannot be dealt with by sitting in offices. The overall strategy of Pakistan’s proxies will be to create situations where security forces are compelled to use force to keep lines of communication open and prevent the swarming of areas of the encounter by the public. If civilian casualties occur in great numbers, Pakistan will seek to provoke a response from the international community. A complete breakdown or collapse of state institutions will be cited to suggest that it is a popular uprising against a repressive regime. It appears that the entire unfolding of the situation is as scripted by Pakistan.

The Army and security forces cannot fill the political and administrative vacuum. The tactical commanders on the ground are under pressure since their casualties are mounting due to the ‘doctrine of restraint’, which is acting as a limiting factor for the forces. Will the Army be compelled to use force to keep communication lines open? Will the Army use force including helicopters when the softer targets will be under attack (was the atttack on Drugmulla Field Ambulance a test case)? Delhi cannot just sit back and leave everything to the Army. The Centre and the state government will have to enunciate a clear policy direction for use of force against stone-pelters and unarmed jihadis. 

What are India’s options? The switch-off switch-on policy will make the situation even more volatile. The Army and security forces cannot fill the political and administrative vacuum. The tactical commanders on the ground are under pressure since their casualties are mounting due to the ‘doctrine of restraint’, which is acting as a limiting factor for the forces. Will the Army be compelled to use force to keep communication lines open? Will the Army use force including helicopters when the softer targets will be under attack (was the atttack on Drugmulla Field Ambulance a test case)? Delhi cannot just sit back and leave everything to the Army. The Centre and the state government will have to enunciate a clear policy direction for use of force against stone-pelters and unarmed jihadis. The Army must lay down the rules of engagement for various contingencies rather than allow them to happen and then start searching for answers. The political leadership should be made to commit rather than becoming defensive later. The state government must initiate contact with the people. The promised development projects should commence. Care must be taken to avoid debate on issues that are sensitive and may evoke a strong reaction. Addressing the grievances of people in the rural areas is imperative. The beginning must be made even if in small measures. Peace in Kashmir is imperative for a stable and strong India. 

The Article First Appeared In DNA

 

 

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