Cracking the Kashmir Code
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