Cracking the Kash­mir Code

India Today - - UPFRONT - by Gen. Bikram Singh The au­thor is former chief of army staff and former chair­man, chiefs of staff com­mit­tee

Pak­istan has suc­ceeded in engi­neer­ing un­rest in the Kash­mir Valley and sus­tain­ing it for al­most 11 months since Burhan Wani’s killing on July 8, 2016. It has em­ployed so­cial me­dia net­works and its prox­ies to in­cite the youth to chal­lenge the rule of law and state author­ity. While the num­ber of Kash­miris who took to the streets for ide­o­log­i­cal rea­sons was mi­nus­cule, the ma­jor­ity joined the band­wagon for petty sums of money. J&K has the high­est rate of un­em­ploy­ment in north­ern In­dia.

The past 11 months have also wit­nessed the un­mask­ing of some key play­ers in the Valley, who for decades have run the ISI­funded ter­ror in­dus­try and been re­spon­si­ble for keep­ing the Kash­mir pot boil­ing. Sting op­er­a­tions by the me­dia have helped the na­tion un­der­stand the com­plex­i­ties and the Machi­avel­lian na­ture of the Pak­istan-spon­sored dirty war. Bal­anced and ma­ture me­dia re­port­ing has also helped raise the morale of the se­cu­rity forces be­sides high­light­ing their self­less ser­vice in ex­tremely volatile con­di­tions. It has also been in­stru­men­tal in marginal­is­ing some of the paci­fists whose con­sis­tent de­mand has been re­sump­tion of dia­logue with the sep­a­ratists.

Restor­ing peace in the Valley re­quires an en­dur­ing ‘whole of gov­ern­ment’ ap­proach. Our Pak­istan strat­egy should aim at in­flict­ing max­i­mum pain to its army through co­or­di­nated ap­pli­ca­tion of all in­stru­ments of na­tional power. Since 1989, the Pak­istan army has nur­tured the In­dia-cen­tric ter­ror­ist out­fits that have bled us on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions. The only way to dis­suade it would be to give it a taste of its own medicine. We have to sur­rep­ti­tiously ex­ploit Pak­istan’s in­ter­nal fault­lines to now make its army bleed by a thou­sand cuts. Such covert op­er­a­tions would have to be sup­ple­mented by a com­pre­hen­sive pub­lic in­for­ma­tion and per­cep­tion man­age­ment cam­paign to keep its army on the back­foot by show­cas­ing its ex­ces­sive use of force and hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions.

The cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy of not en­gag­ing with the ‘ir­rel­e­vant play­ers’ in J&K should con­tinue, notwith­stand­ing the pres­sure from op­po­si­tion par­ties and peaceniks. While dia­logue and close en­gage­ment with the peo­ple is a must, it should be through the demo­crat­i­cally-elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives and not Pak­istani prox­ies. To get stone-pelt­ing youth off the streets, the state gov­ern­ment will have to proac­tively reach out to the peo­ple. The Cen­tre will have to cre­ate jobs. Rais­ing cen­tral armed po­lice bat­tal­ions is one op­tion.

Op­er­a­tions on the Line of Con­trol (LoC) and in the hin­ter­land should con­tinue with re­newed vigour. Moral as­cen­dency must be main­tained on the LoC through fire as­saults and sur­gi­cal strikes. Troop den­si­ties and sur­veil­lance ca­pa­bil­ity should be aug­mented. It will not only help plug the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties be­ing ex­ploited by Pak­istan’s Bor­der Ac­tion Team and in­fil­trat­ing ter­ror­ists but will also pro­vide our troops req­ui­site time for rest and re­fit. Vil­lages near the LoC should be ruggedised un­der the Bor­der Area De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme.

In the hin­ter­land, in­tel­li­gence-based peo­ple-friendly op­er­a­tions to neu­tralise ter­ror­ists and their over­ground work­ers should con­tinue while re­spect­ing hu­man rights and the law of the land. The holy month of Ramzan must not make our se­cu­rity forces com­pla­cent. Usu­ally, this month, the world over, wit­nesses a spike in ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties. Given the ISI’s fo­cus on fuelling the cur­rent un­rest, se­cu­rity for the Amar­nath Ya­tra should be en­hanced. Stake­hold­ers in the J&K strat­egy must not for­get the cen­tral­ity of Kash­miris in en­sur­ing last­ing peace and sta­bil­ity. While clean, peo­ple­friendly mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions will pro­vide se­cure con­di­tions, the state and cen­tral gov­ern­ments need to ex­pe­di­tiously ad­dress the big­ger is­sues of un­em­ploy­ment and de­vel­op­ment.

Stake­hold­ers in the J&K strat­egy must not for­get the cen­tral­ity of Kash­miris in bring­ing last­ing peace and sta­bil­ity

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