The situation in Kashmir has become both brittle and fragile. The seeds of terrorism and radicalisation sown in the eighties under the craftsmanship of Gen Zia ul Haq have started bearing fruit. Over the years, the situation has drastically changed from domination by foreign terrorists to home-grown ones. Their masters are comfortably remote-controlling the situation from Pakistan and providing support in terms of funds, arms and ammunition, subversion, propaganda and political initiatives. The very fabric of Kashmiriyat and national integration is under stress.
On 14th February, in Pulwama, a 21 year old local Kashmiri boy executed the deadliest terror attack ever by ramming a SUV laden with over a 100 kg of highly volatile explosive into a CRPF convoy, killing over 40 policemen with many more critically injured. The instant response of anti national elements on social media was, “Wow!! what a surgical strike”.
For Indians, the incident is not only painful, but embarrassing too. Besides the loss of valiant soldiers, the precise execution, that too by a local terrorist, is a major cause for concern.As in the case of a number of previous terror attacks like the one on our Parliament, 26/11, Samba, Sunjwan, Pathankot, Uri etc., there is immense outcry by all segments of the society, with pledges of teaching a lesson, Surgical Strike 2, air strafing, all-out war and a lot more.
Seeing the intensity of the prevalent situation wherein even local Kashmiri women are coming out on the streets to resist the security forces by throwing stones and chappals at them, mothers motivating and proudly complementing their sons on their martyrdom, there are distinct possibilities of the situation further deteriorating and Kashmir gradually slipping out of Indian sovereignty.
It’s time for productive, meaningful and discernable action, in a ‘now or never’ situation. Any hesitation and the country would be viewed as a week-kneed nation. There is requirement of a comprehensive, well calibrated, multi-pronged action plan with a fine blending of such aspects as the rights of a nation to protect its sovereignty, democratic norms, diplomacy including military diplomacy, use of minimum force;being rolled out in the quickest possible time frame. The suggested course could be dictated by six to seven salient parameters.
Firstly, the security forces should immediately go all out to eliminate/apprehend the planners, Over Ground Workers (OGW) and the terrorists. Along with it, the Line of Control needs to be better sealed to obviate possibility of movement of terrorists, arms/ammunition and other material. The major trouble-spots, four to five districts of South Kashmir, need to be thoroughly sanitised and isolated in a professional manner. It needs to be appreciated that while 85% of the area and population of J&K is peaceful, it is this hotspots in four to five districts comprising of 15% of the population which needs to be suitably addressed.
There can also be no more leniency for anti-national elements displaying outright treason by raising ISI or Pakistani Flags, anti India slogans, misguiding the local youth and yet enjoying the fruits of Indian economy; in particular, the separatists who use the Indian taxpayers money and raise the chorus ofAzadi/Pakistan etc. The security and other privileges provided to them should be immediately withdrawn. Till now the apprehension was that the separatists may be bumped off by Pakistan and they would blame it on India, as has happened in some cases earlier. Even if that be so, so be it. The Government has already initiated action in this regard.
It also sounds ridiculous that the Pakistani Foreign Minister spoke to separatist leaders, or the separatists visited the Pakistani High Commission in Delhi. Rather than blaming Pakistan for such activities, the Indian state needs to snap all possibilities of such communications. Nowhere in the world such anti-national activities are tolerated. Democratic liberties should only be accessible to those who deserve it.
The next step that we need to implement is allowing the professionals to do their jobs and keeping them in the decision-making loop at all levels. The Indian Army is one of the most professional Armies in the world. They know how to do the job and do it well, keeping the aspects of being humane, good faith, use of minimum force and drawing a fine balance between force and civic action. The AFSPA must continue, in letter and spirit, rather than questioning and punishing soldiers for performance of duties in good faith. The time tested SOPs and drills of the Army must not be abruptly diluted or discontinued.
In the instant case too, meddling with military SOPs has made it easier for the driver to ram his car into the CRPF bus. Sometime back, the local administration/State Government had forced the forces to permit plying of civilian vehicles and personnel alongside the movement of military convoys. Had old SOPs that disallowed civilian vehicles running alongside military vehicles remained in place, it would have made the terrorist’s task much more difficult. Towards this end, the announcement by the Prime Minister of giving full freedom of action to the Armed Forces is praiseworthy; although late by a couple of years.
Thirdly, the major cause for this massacre was intelligence failure, as acknowledged by none other than the Governor J&K. There were enough indicators of a possible terrorist attack in the social media; be it the statement “Bada hona chahiye, pura Hindustan rona chahiye” or the video featuring Adil Ahmad Dar also known as ‘Gaadi Takrane Wala’. Yet the collated information could not be translated into hard intelligence. Notwithstanding the existing setup, there is a crying need for better intelligence network by integration of all resources, preferably under the command of the Army. Similarly, the operations being executed in the Valley by different agencies like the Army, Central Armed Police Services, J&K Police etc., also need a serious review. Both these verticals of intelligence and operations should function directly under the Army Commander, Northern Command, for optimised results. It is a war-like situation and should be handled accordingly by the most competent authority.
Next, there are a lot of voices including politicians for dialogue/talks with stakeholders. The present Government’s argument on it, “Talk to whom?” and “There can be no talks with the gun pointing towards you”, is a justified stance. It is only if the Pakistani Army comes on the table, talks may have some relevance. However, the Pakistani Army would try to decimate those who attempt a rapprochement. The examples of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharief,who were considered somewhat moderates, is well known.
The present Pakistani Prime Minister is an acknowledged pawn in the hands of Pakistani Army. Within the Valley, talking to separatists on their demand of Azadi/Pakistan is an exercise in futility. Talks are welcome within the overall framework of the Indian Constitution, with the support of local political parties. The elected legislators are the true representatives off the people. Student bodies, civil society, intellectuals could well be part of those with whom dialogue could be undertaken.
The next measure that needs to be strengthened is in the area of foreign policy. An aggressive diplomatic effort straddling capitals globally for exposing and isolating Pakistan is the need of the day. In particular, the initiative needs to be directed more at the P5 countries, the Islamic world and at the United Nations. Notwithstanding the fact that Pakistan projects the violence in the Valley as the result of a movement powered by local aspirations, it would be naive to ignore as to who is providing weapons/ammunition, explosives and other material to the terrorists. Definitely not the Union of India!Who is protecting the likes of Hafeez Sayeed and Azhar Masood? These are terrorist leaders who openly claim responsibility for conducting attacks in India; by itself, enough evidence to expose Pakistan.Denial of MFN status to Pakistan is a step in the right direction The Government should consider other areas to hurt and choke Pakistan economically.
Lastly, media needs to be more responsible, rather than being focussed on gaining Television Rating Points (TRP). The media, too often, provides platforms to anti-national elements to air their views. Pakistani TV panellists sing pro-Azadi/Pakistan songs and brazenly shout”Hindustaan Mudabaad”, spew venom against India on TV shows. Such narratives subvert the minds of our youth. Along with media, the actions of Human Rights organisations who are mostly indulging in security forces bashing needs to be looked into. Even after such a ghastly incident having taken place, no Human Rights organisation has given a statement so far in support of the deceased soldiers or their families.
While it is time for the nation to rise to the occasion and give a befitting reply to the perpetrators of this dastardly act, at the same time, calm and composure need to be maintained. We are in a war-like situation in Kashmir, and a well-calibrated action plan needs to be rolled out by professionals. A knee-jerk reaction will not be adequate.
Maj Gen DK Jamwal (Retd)
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of BharatShakti.in)