The Kashmir Conundrum and Indian Imperatives to Jigsaw Puzzle

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By Narindra Nath Bhatia  16 February 2019

The marriage between the North Pole- the Peoples Democratic Party or the PDP of Mehbooba Mufti and the South Pole PM Modi’s Bhartiya Janta Party or the BJP is over. At the first instance, this marriage of inconvenience should not have been solemnized as that did not last beyond even the honey moon period.

Who has suffered the most? – Obviously the Kashmir, the Kashmiriyat and the Kashmiri people including the worst sufferers ‘the Kashmiri Pandits’ who became refugees in their own country, and state’s emotional and psychological integration with our country. The next BIG institutions that suffered have been the armed forces, the local and the state police and the central police organizations/ forces (CPOs/CPFs) like the CRPF and the BSF and other similar forces. It is unprecedentable that 356 officers (including 52 colonels and 80 battalion commanders) have approached the Supreme Court as both in the Manipur and the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) the states and the central governments have failed to take steps to protect against FIRs, CBI investigations and prosecution while agitated local elements want withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFPSA). While the smallest human right violations by the security forces are highlighted, the human rights of the security forces violated by the terrorists and misguided elements are ignored even while the soldiers are not at fault. The serving and retired armed forces personnel feel victimized as even after retirement they are haunted by so called extra judicial killings in the disturbed areas and summons are issued against them even after many years of their retirement. This is adversely affecting security forces morale, their combat effectiveness and the civil-military relations. Our men in uniform show utmost restraint while brutally being stoned in the valley by the misguided ‘azadi’ seeking youths on the behest of some selfish and corrupt politicians financially, morally and militarily supported by the Pakistani government, the army and the hateful premier intelligence agency of the Pakistan ‘The Inter-Services Intelligence’ or the  ISI. While some misguided locals stooges of the Pakistani military and intelligence services go hoarse shouting, pelting stones, lynching soldiers of the Indian Army and the CPOs conducting counter insurgency and sanitization operations, blatantly ignoring the human rights of the soldiers that should be  matters of grave concern for the central and state governments and our judiciary. India may have the dubious distinction perhaps where against its armed forces working under extreme state imposed restrain have the maximum numbers of the FIRs lodged. We also have the dubious distinction, where a patriotic citizen wanting to hoist tricolor in Srinagar or elsewhere in the valley on the Independence Day could be lynched and killed by the violent mob carrying endless ISIS and Pakistani flags, shouting anti-India slogans and withdrawal of the AFSPA, that grant special powers to the Indian security forces to carry out operations in the ‘disturbed areas’! 

The J&K has three distinct parts- Jammu, prominently Hindu dominated region south of Pir Panjal ranges, Kashmir predominantly the Muslim dominated region from where by cleverly planned Pakistani sponsored Muslim atrocities affluent Hindu Pandits were forced to migrate out of the state and the Ladakh region where majority is of the peace loving Buddhists. The insurgency in the J&K is primarily limited in the valley while both Jammu and Ladakh regions are mainly peaceful. Out of the 22 districts in the state, 10 each are in Jammu and Kashmir regions while 2 are in the Ladakh region. The Kashmir region has 10 districts, namely Anantnag, Kulgam, Budgam, Shopian, Pulwama, Ganderbal, Srinagar, Bandipura, Kupwara and Baramulla and out of these, Shopian, Bandipura, Kupwara and Baramulla areas are the worst affected by the militancy. So, it is apparent that militants and azadi hysteria is mostly localized with in the valley but magnified by the  Indian and the Pakistan media as if the entire J&K was in the grave turmoil. 

What needs to be done to resolve the insurgency problem  is a very complex, intricate and sensitive issue and the shortest answer for that could be the ‘good governance’ by both the sate and the central governments. We need to ensure quality education from primary school upwards, eradicate corruption, win over hearts and minds of the local masses with appropriate civic actions, psychological war (psywar) themes, creation of jobs, development of tourism, fruits including dry fruits and cottage industry and provision of the medical, health, sanitation, vocational training, electricity and connectivity with people. BUT, by far the MOST important issue in any insurgent environment would always be ‘the winning of the hearts and minds’ of the antagonized masses.  

We need to dominate international border/line of control (IB/LOC) and destroy terrorist hide outs and training and logistics bases across in the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and rest of the Pakistan. Drone, aerial, field radars, satellite and human intelligence, surveillance, patrolling and domination to destroy Pak sponsored militants/terrorists and their camps and logistics dumps through relentless counter insurgency and surgical operations is the only viable option at this advance stage of the insurgency in the valley. We may need to re-group villages close to IB/LOC at a distance to ensure logistic support, shelter and updated intelligence to infiltrating terrorists is denied by providing security to these regrouped villages as was done in Mizoram during insurgency in mid 1960s. We have sizeable local population support and by appropriate civic actions and psywar themes, good governance, creation of jobs and eradicating corruption, we can win over those sitting on the fence and thus isolate minority supporting the Pak sponsored terrorism and proxy war. 

We need to launch all out diplomatic and financial war against Pakistan and tell it firmly not to let us bleed for we are capable to let them bleed through billion cuts in Sindh, Baluchistan, North West Frontier Province now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) in the way worst than what they are able to do to us. 

Lastly, it is not the military alone that can resolve the issue. Multi-prong good governance at the village, tehsil, district, region, state and the national level, focusing on the political, economic and the social aspirations of the people and making the international community aware of the Pakistani sponsored terrorists’ atrocities are the need of the hour. All along, manageable psywar themes through proper media management need to be ensured to become a force multiplier. 

How Kashmiriyat was adversely affects? 

Till independence, Kashmir was the most peaceful and insulated state of the undivided India with its pristine beauty, rich cultural heritage, Sufism, fruit orchids and tourist trade that was for centuries exploited by the Kashmiri Pandits and the corrupt state’s bureaucracy. Immediately after the independence, the Kabilies and the Pashtuns from the erstwhile North West Frontier Province covertly recruited and supported by the Pakistani regular army invaded Kashmir capturing territory short of Budgam air field to annex Srinagar. It was then the Indian offensive was launched and by the time ceasefire was imposed, 2/3 of Kashmir became part of India while 1/3 was illegally held by Pakistan named dubiously by Pakistan as Azad Kashmir (AK) but by India as the POK. Ever since, the typical shy, simple, very religious Kashmiri has been quickly emotionally swayed by the Pakistani propaganda leading to four wars between India and Pakistan, endless border skirmishes and military stand offs and some Pak paid and sponsored Kashmiri elements ever blaming their misfortunes to Hindus and the successive Indian governments. Therefore, the Pakistani sponsored insurgency and terrorism in the state also termed as proxy war is basically an aberration rather than any facet of the ‘Kashmiriyat’ that brewed up due to the Indian apathy and the Pakistani military dream. The youth is confused as with increasing population, poor education, no jobs and violence for the last seven decades has been successfully battered by the Pakistani propaganda and psywar.

 The Jigsaw Puzzle 

While Pakistan harps on plebiscite in the Kashmir; the international community understands that the UN Resolution 47 on the plebiscite pre-conditioned withdrawal of all the Pakistani forces from the entire Kashmir including the so called POK or AK, as the then Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir had signed legal document ‘The instrument of Accession’ to India under the provisions of the Indian Independence Act 1947. 

Let us be very clear on one issue-neither Pakistan nor India have the military, economic, diplomatic and political capabilities to liberate and annex parts of the Kashmir held by each other as adversaries. The large chunk of POK has been gifted by the Pakistan to its Chinese friends who are now constructing mega strategic infrastructure rail-road-port project the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) worth $62 billion linking the Chinese Western province of Xinjiang with the Gwadar port in Baluchistan. With huge Chinese strategic interest and investment, it would be a pipe dream for India to get back the disputed Indian territory of the POK acceded by Pakistan to China. 

The other solution could be to accept the present LOC as the International border between the two countries and let POK be the part of Pakistan and the rest as the Indian Kashmir. But this is neither possible to the political parties in power in both the countries that will lead to their Waterloo. It is also not acceptable to the Kashmiris as many families had been divided and seek emotional reunion and so also to the azadi seeking elements. 

The harsh truth is that some hard core Kashmiris from heart of hearts want their pipe dream ‘azadi’ or independence from both India and Pakistan to come true. This is not acceptable to India as the former ruler of the Kashmir had signed legally ’The Instrument of Accession’ with India. Also, the UNSC Resolution 47 had two options only-accede either to India or Pakistan and the third option of azadi ever since is not admissible. Nevertheless, Pakistan’s all out support even to the azadi activists is mainly aimed to let India bleed from the thousand cuts. They also hope at the end, they will be able to prevail up on the azadi elements to join with Pakistan. 

So as of now, India has no viable thinkable and possibly workable solution to liberate POK. Nor has the Pakistan any capability even with connivance and support of China to either capture or liberate Kashmir for the azadi sycophants.  While General Bipin Rawat, Indian Army Chief has stated country’s capability to fight at two fronts (Pakistan and China), we in reality lack the wherewithal, international support, financial strength, defence budgetary constraints, political will and offensive diplomacy. Even with Imran Khan of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) becoming the Prime Minister, after the initial euphoria dies, relations will be governed by the Pakistani Army’s roll call. If Imran Khan chooses not to tow the military lines, he will end up like another Nawaz Sharif as the Pakistani army’s survival as the elitist outfit exists only in spreading India centric phobia. Pakistan spends 18% of its expenditure on defence which is 3.2% of its GDP while India’s defence budget is 7% of its total expenditure and in the last budget it was 1.58 % of its GDP- sadly the lowest since 1962 Sino-Indian debacle. While PM Modi dreams taking India to moon by 2022, yet its armed forces are woefully short of modern guns, ammunition, aircraft, equipment and officers. The Indian Army is short of 9000 officers and many combat arms are under strength, adversely affecting the combat effectiveness. Notwithstanding these stark deficiencies, Pakistan and its bosom friend, China and India are nuclear powers. While the nuclear press button in China and India are held by the political masters, the Army chief holds the same in Pakistan and Pakistani generals are notorious for their military misadventures! 

Therefore, the harsh reality is that India in the present geo-politic scenario has to be combat ready both for the nuclear, conventional and long drawn insurgency war on both the fronts and so also keep embroiled in the Maoist threats in the hinterland covertly supported by our both adversaries whose combined strength is immense against India’s minuscule resources. While Indian economy, industrial and defence base and infrastructure are way ahead of Pakistan, we are far far behind that of China.

Imperatives for India  

– China has global market and India is its one of the largest customers. In the social media it is viral that if India stops purchasing Chinese goods for a few months, China’s economy would crash, hence its incapability to attack India. To do that, besides national pride, our own production and quality in every field must improve and country must head for self-reliance.  ‘GO Swadeshi’ and ‘Make in India’ should be the new revived Mantras to cripple the Chinese economy. Will that be possible as from needles to refrigerators, air conditioners, ROs, fans, TVs , mobiles, computers, cars, dishwashers, washing machines-name a thing that China does not produce  on which every household in our country is so dependant! India also must maintain high growth rate ensuring macroeconomic stability. With $51billion surplus trade this year with India, can China be adventurous against India withstand trade and economic war launched by India!

– AFPSA can only be withdrawn once militancy is contained and there is no necessity to deploy the army and routine law and order situations can be handled by the local police and the CPOs which is, as of now NOT the case in Kashmir or even Manipur.

– According to Anshuman Rao in the Asian Age dated 22 Aug 2018, rather than creating ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’, BJP is heading towards a ‘Job Mukt Bharat’. BJP had promised creating 1.2 crore jobs every year but merely created 4.16 lakh jobs in 2017 while 1.55 lakh and 2.31 lakh found jobs in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Jobless youth is the highest explosive material lured to pick up gun and become the insurgent or the Maoist.  Caste arithmetic and corruption, inequitable distribution of wealth, where few rich become richer and poor become poorer add fuel to fire in spreading terrorism. Creation of jobs, equitable distribution of wealth and opportunities and good governance will go a long way in ending terrorism.

– Our armed forces are still under the bureaucratic control of the babus who have no basic knowledge about matters military. There is, therefore, a strong case for having the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) who should directly report to the Minister of Defence on matters military.  The intra service and inter service rivalries would be curbed once CDS is appointed. At presently it appears the non- military national security advisor (NSA) has usurped the power of the CDS.

– With tensions all along its borders and presence of the big powers submarines and warships, amazingly India did not have a full time defence minister in its cabinet till the reshuffle in the cabinet on 3 Sep 2017 when Ms Nirmala Sitharaman was appointed as the Defence Minister of India in the back drop of standoff between China and India over Doklam! Our National Security needs to be seriously addressed. 

– The recent Parliamentary Committee Report under BJP MP Murli Manohar Joshi has blamed Modi government for compromising with India’s safety and security preparedness level down to 1962 when India suffered crushing defeat against China.

– India must improve its military capability. Rather than raising more ill equipped formations and units, India needs to sharpen its combat forces taking Israel as the role model. The Mail Today of 23 Jul 2017 reports that the Indian Army has critical shortages of ammunition that may last only 10 days as the Ordnance Factory Board has failed to deliver ammunition. Also, all our DRDO/ HAL projects are painfully slow to develop and produce warlike equipment, tanks, guns, combat aircraft, ammunition and explosives.

– With the recovery of huge oil in the South China Sea, China has laid territorial and judicial claims over it which have been contested by the adjoining countries especially the Vietnam who is supported by the US, Korea, Japan, Australia and India. Since India has some drilling interests, to counter India, last year, the Chinese submarine along with three warships were reportedly lurking in the Bay of Bengal, posing threat to our eastern coast. To counter Chinese naval threat in the Bay of Bengal, the tripartite, India-US-Japan’s Malabar naval exercise was the right snub to China. Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam and South Korea could also perhaps be included in these naval maneuvers to isolate and blunt Chinese move. In this direction, the US has proposed Australia-Japan-India-USA alliance to contain China while all pro-peripheral countries supporting and contributing towards the success of this alliance. With right thought and with an eye on its advantages, India should make the maximum out of this policy to contain China and get the most benefit out of it. Significantly, China’s major oil supplies from the Middle East pass through the choke points of Straits of Malacca very close to Andaman & Nicobar Islands where our tri-service Andaman & Nicobar Theatre Command is located that can choke these supplies and bring our adversaries to their knees.  But such actions can escalate to war as well.

– We need to prevail upon the US, the EU, Russia, the Commonwealth, the ASEAN, the SAARC, Japan and South Korea to declare Pakistan as the terrorist state. The US has rightly cancelled recently the $ 300 billion military aid to Pakistan for training and operationally and logistically supporting the Haqqani, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and other Islamic terror groups to carry out cross border attacks in India and Afghanistan.

– India should initiate diplomatic war against the hegemony of China and its nexus with Pakistan and North Korea and subscribe for India, South Korea, Australia, European Union (EU), and the US, Central Asia and Japan and other like-minded countries as one bloc. The ASEAN, SAARC, Commonwealth, G20, UNSC, look east, look west, Central Asia and the Middle East are the countries India must cultivate besides the traditional friends like the US, UK, EU and Russia to galvanize support against the belligerency of the Pakistan and China as was done before the 1971 War of liberation of Bangladesh.

– India needs to highlight to world the human rights violations and subjugation of democracy in the Pakistan and the POK and in the Chinese autonomous regions of the Tibet and the Xinjiang, high lighting the suppression of human rights in Tibet, the Xinjiang, Uygur and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Regions where lately, the most intriguing development has been the atrocious treatment meted to the unfortunate Muslim minorities concentrated in China where 10 lakh Muslims are imprisoned in transformation camps and their children sent to orphanages to change their belief in their religion and customs. China has put ban on halal meat and atrocities and human rights violations on the Muslim and the Christian minorities are on the increase BUT Pakistan on the threshold of the Muslim world leadership as a vassal state of China is keeping quiet over these issues. While Pakistan is in the habit of raking and magnifying small Muslims related issues in India relentlessly.  China on the other hand being a clever emerging super power wants India’s support for fighting US trade war! We need to highlight these issues discreetly and diplomatically in all forums.

– We could discreetly train and support their dissident elements like Mukti Vahini to fight for their liberation from their oppressive masters.

– India should think changing its stance over Tibet and project the world how the Chinese have suppressed their independence and human rights. We should also highlight diplomatically China’s designs to grab Arunachal Pradesh, parts of Ladakh, South China Sea, Taiwan and suppressing dissidents in Hongkong. With economic corridor coming up, IS and Muslim fundamentalists can easily sneak into Xinjiang causing unrest.

– India must improve relations with its neighbours-Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Burma, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Maldives giving them liberal industrial, military and economic aid helping in developing their infrastructure and prevail on Sri Lanka with international diplomatic pressure to stop sale of Hambantota port to China  and the SAARC and the ASEAN countries are weaned away from such Chinese influences. Many feel India should stop big brother policy over them.

– We must diplomatically prevail on Russia to regain its erstwhile super power status and distance itself from China. No one can deny that erstwhile Soviet Union was India’s greatest ally during the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 War.

– India organised ASEAN-India Car Rally in 2012 from Singapore winding its way through 8 of the 10 ASEAN countries before finally ending in New Delhi, covering about 8000 km. We need to develop this as road cum rail route to counter China’s One Belt One Road initiative and promote trade, transit and tourism amongst the ASEAN countries.Most of the monetary support for Hurriyat and Lashkar supporters in the valley comes through hawala and LOC trade. We need to ruthlessly curb such illegal transactions taking speedy legal action. 

– Relentlessly carry out surgical strikes on the known terrorist camps in POK and their routes of ingress. 

– We need to develop lateral and horizontal roads and rail network crisscrossing our entire land borders with Pakistan and China with alternate routes, for the faster movement of goods for the locals and troops and their logistics support.

– Both the Pakistanis and the Chinese are the world’s most notorious hackers. We need to develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) and measures to protect our public, defence and private domains from their attacks, counter them and deface their sensitive sites. Pakistan and China are notorious in honey trapping Indians on sensitive assignments and the armed forces through beautiful Urdu/ English speaking girls on WhatsApp and Face book. We need to guard against such cyber and information technology (IT) crimes.

– India needs to strengthen collection of real time actionable strategic, tactical and battlefield intelligence. We have failed to implement Henderson Brook Report on 1962 War or Krishnaswamy Subramanian Kargil Review Committee Report and optimize our combat effectiveness. All means of intelligence gathering and its interpretation -humint, techint, satint and IT should be dovetailed and we must have adequate numbers of translators/interpreters of the dialects in which our adversaries communicate.

– India must pursue relentlessly through economic and diplomatic initiatives to be the member of the UNSC and the NSG even though vehemently opposed by China. China needs to learn that India is not its enemy but another democratic, secular and progressive state wanting to improve its economy and standards of living of its masses with dignity. Poverty, ignorance and dismal health care are their common enemies that need to be eliminated jointly and universally.

– The BRICS comprises the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, that has carved a niche in the world’s geopolitical order. In today’s G-20 countries’ forum, the BRICS countries are playing a formidable role in shaping the macroeconomic policy. In 9th BRICS Summit hosted by China from 3-5 Sep 2017, the Doklam standoff was achieved due to Indian pressure of boycotting the Summit. PM Modi’s   key note address reiterated, ‘SABKA SAATH, SABKA VIKAS’. The BRICS, the Indian Ocean Rim Countries Association (IORA), the ASEAN and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) are the other forums to pressurize China, Pakistan and North Korea to mend their ways.

– In a vibrant democracy like India print and electronic media plays pivotal role as fourth estate. But we must ensure our media does not get hysteric day in and day out blasting and sensationalising reporting which is counterproductive. We must be objective, constructive in our reporting with appropriate psywar themes for own people and our enemies and refrain on winning war or cricket world cup through hysterical media reporting.

– Many military thinkers feel, since India, Pakistan and China are nuclear powers; chances of long drawn conventional war are minimal. However, short swift wars and skirmishes to take local strategic or tactical advantage cannot be ruled out.

– Persuasive bilateral dialogue(s) can resolve nagging issues and not using force or proxy war. India needs to take genuine peace initiative and dialogue to remove bilateral irritants.

– Proxy wars can get escalated into full-fledged conventional war and that would mean for India playing to Pakistani army’s tune.

– We lack ability to fight war at two fronts if border skirmishes, proxy war, surgical strikes or forward policy get out of control and turn in to conventional war, India lacks ability to fight combines of China and Pakistan. India, Pakistan and China are all three nuclear states and threat of nuclear confrontation would always exist in conventional and proxy war(s) scenarios.

Last but not the least, genuinely winning the hearts and minds of the locals in Kashmir valley, improving education, job opportunities, tourism, cottage industry, good governance, development, weaning away the masses from the terror groups and relentless counter insurgency operations are the keys issues to integrate dissident elements in the main stream. The last one can be effectively done by the armed forces BUT the rest have to be done by the state and the central governments respectively. The country must ensure that the Indian Armed Forces have optimised combat effectiveness as they are committed to protect our national security at all costs. As vital instrument of the state, operating in most difficult insurgency environment, our judiciary should not think differently about the human rights of the enemies of the state vis-à-vis the soldiers fighting them. Our armed forces have always protected our nation from the external and internal threats as their primary duty and have been on the forefront in internal security duties, counter terrorist operations and in disaster mitigation with fair play and humane approach that every citizen can swear by. Nothing gives more joy and pride to serving and retired veterans when one got WhatsApp messages during floods in Kashmir two years back or now in Kerala as under- 

‘All the temples, mosques and churches here are drowned in water BUT God came wearing uniforms to save us.’ 

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