Responses to Pulwama Attack

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Politics, but no politics

Shyam Saran

…..In the present case of a suicide bomber jamming his explosive-laden SUV into a CRPF troop carrier which was part of a long convoy, several points are noteworthy. The attack occurred on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, which is the only major artery leading into the Valley. This is used by civilians as well as the security forces. To close off the highway whenever it is being used by security forces is simply not feasible. It would have an adverse impact on the state’s economy. This compulsion created the opportunity for the explosive-laden SUV to drive alongside and jam into one of the CRPF vehicles. Could the troops have been moved by air instead? Yes, but this would have been a major expense and if included in the SOPs for the future, will necessitate a huge increase in the security budget.

The use of a suicide bomber for the operation, and that too, a local youth, is ominous. It represents a deliberate escalation and points to growing radicalisation of Kashmiri youth.

There is talk of intelligence failure. Those familiar with intelligence work know that the agencies are inundated daily with a large volume of information picked up from human and electronic sources, including communication intercepts. Intelligence alerts may be issued on this basis but alerts are not the same as precise intelligence indicating the place, time and nature of a planned attack and who may be intending to carry it out. In the present case, too, there were vague “alerts”, but to allege intelligence failure because these alerts did not lead to apprehension of the attacker before he carried out his murderous attack, may be misleading.

Being aware of the very real limitations, technical and political, under which security forces operate, one must be prepared to deal with a likely breach. Our reaction when that happens should be balanced and nuanced. Morale should not be undermined by the failure to prevent one such incident when many more successes have been achieved. Additional measures should be put in place but only after careful evaluation rather than as a knee-jerk reaction. Nor should additional measures put even more onerous restrictions on normal daily civilian life.

The deteriorating security situation in the Kashmir Valley cannot be delinked from the abdication of political responsibility by successive governments in Delhi. The security forces have repeatedly restored relative peace and stability enabling political processes to be activated and more enduring political solutions to be found. But each time, relative peace has only bred complacency in the political leadership creating the setting for renewed bouts of violence and local disaffection. In a highly polarised pre-election environment, political parties must not engage in a high-decibel blame game. They must come together to deal with what is a festering wound which could spread its toxin in the entire body politic.

What is happening in Kashmir and in other disturbed parts of India is only the more acute manifestation of a national malaise whose symptoms are rising communal, parochial and sectarian confrontations which often erupt into brutal violence. While the state has to deal with such violence and restore safety and security, the only sustainable answer is addressing, through constitutionally-mandated political processes, underlying political, economic and social grievances that are drivers of these multiple mutinies. To treat each such manifestation as a law and order challenge is to enmesh the state in an action-reaction process where violence born out of disaffection and state suppression follow in mutually escalating and destructive steps.

Kashmir cannot be isolated from the rest of India and its alienated population brought to heel through imposition of ever stricter security measures. To accept this logic is to open the door to citizens in other parts of the country being subjected to the same oppression in the name of safeguarding the state if they express dissatisfaction and dissent.

The Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) based in Pakistan has claimed responsibility for the latest attack. There are already demands that Pakistan be punished for aiding and abetting the terrorist group in undertaking cross-border attacks against India. This could take the form of another round of “surgical strikes” and/or heavy artillery fire directed against Pakistani targets much like what we witnessed after the Uri terrorist attack.

There will be renewed attempts to mobilise international opinion against Pakistan on the terrorism issue, including by persuading China to withdraw its objection to declaring JeM leader Masood Azhar a global terrorist at the UN. We should bear in mind their failure so far to change the strategic calculus in Islamabad. Will more of the same work, and if significant military escalation is proposed, can the inevitable risks be contained and managed?We must also acknowledge that external forces will continue to exploit the disturbed situation in Kashmir to undermine India’s security. What we need is a strategy which takes into account both the domestic and external dimensions of the Kashmir issue. Unless a security perspective is accompanied by a willingness to use democratic political processes to chart a path towards normalcy in the state, the precious lives sacrificed by the security forces will continue to be in vain.

The writer is a former Foreign Secretary. The write up appeared in The Indian Express



A Lesson to Change the Mindset

Asif Durrani

Thursday’s suicide attack on Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Pulwama, 20 km from Srinagar, has been the deadliest so far in which 40 CRPF soldiers were reportedly killed while scores were injured. It is a sad incident as poor soldiers were killed while complying with the flawed policies of their political and security bosses. Government of Pakistan has expressed grave concern over the incident, but ‘rejected any insinuation by elements in the Indian government and media circles that seek to link the attack to the State of Pakistan without investigations’.

As expected, Prime Minister Modi adopted a threatening tone towards Pakistan. Other Indian leaders have also been equally caustic towards Pakistan. Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley after the National Security Council meeting, presided over by PM Modi, announced that India has withdrawn the Most Favored Nation (MFN) status granted to Pakistan. Indian media has gone berserk and seems to be hell-bent to force their leaders to attack Pakistan. This is a dangerous trend promoted by the Indian media, especially the electronic media, whose anchorpersons have acquired the status of demigods and consider their words as the cardinal truth.

It is being claimed that Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has accepted the responsibility of the suicide attack conducted through an explosive laden vehicle. The attacker reportedly hailed from the area which the Indian commentators view as growing influence of the JeM in the valley. If this is true that the Kashmiri youth are now attracted towards taking ultimate steps to register their protest, it should ring alarm bells for the Indian leaders who have been feeding the population on misconstrued fallacies of ‘Kashmir Bharat ka Atoot Ang hai’ (Kashmir is an integral part of India). This mindset should change now as both India and Pakistan have suffered a lot due to this flawed approach which has only added poverty to both the countries, a shameful distinction for the two nuclear powers.

Pulwama incident has come at a crucial time of Indian politics when in a couple of months, India will be heading for the parliamentary elections

Let us look at the scenarios that India faces now in Kashmir. If Kashmir is the integral part of India then why fourth generation Kashmiris are agitating? Obviously, India has limited choices in Kashmir: a) they have to kill all the Kashmiris, b) make them good Indians, c) talk to Pakistan and resolve the dispute to the mutual satisfaction of the two countries and the Kashmiris.

.…Pulwama incident has come at a crucial time of Indian politics when in a couple of months, India will be heading for the parliamentary elections. PM Modi’s sagging popularity badly needs steroids to repair the damage.

…..It has become fashionable in the Indian politics to drag Pakistan in the electioneering to portray a macho image of the contestants, particularly leaders belonging to the Hindutva stream. Surprisingly, while India remains a major factor in Pakistan’s security calculus, it is a non-issue in any of the contesting parties’ election campaigns.

India also lacks a Kashmir policy. When raised by Pakistan at the international forums, India maintains that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. When Pakistan raises the issue bilaterally, it tells Pakistan that Kashmir is an internal matter of India. Amazingly, when demanded within India to resolve the issue, the standard response comes that it is a matter between the Centre and the State. Hence the whole issue gets bogged down to nowhere.

Now the bogey of ‘Pakistan-sponsored terrorism’ has become a useful alibi to justify atrocities against the agitating Kashmiris whose fourth generation refuses to be recognized as Indians. Invariably, all Kashmiri funerals become a platform to renew allegiance to Pakistan, which may be a dreaded scenario for any Indian leader to tread for a political solution. But there is no escape. Being nuclear neighbours, both India and Pakistan should realise that they cannot browbeat each other or enter into conventional conflagration. The viable option is a negotiated settlement of the Kashmir dispute to satisfy the aspirations of the Kashmiri people through peaceful means. Perhaps Musharraf’s formula may serve as a starting point.

Author is a former Pakistani ambassador.

 

 

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