Hard and soft options for Kashmir Imbroglio

Successive efforts by the government have failed to derive tangible dividends, affecting the development of Jammu and Kashmir where fear of alienation looms large. It is time to take some hard and soft military options simultaneously.

Hard and soft options for Kashmir Imbroglio
Hard and soft options for Kashmir Imbroglio (Representative image)

By Mohinder Pal Singh

Every type of insurgency has a gestation period, maturity period and a period when annihilation of it is imperative. There are three truths associated with each type of insurgency, one, it does not succeed without the people’s support, second, the people themselves are the biggest sufferers and the third, it is generally fuelled by financial and moral support of a power outside the state.

There are numerous examples of insurgency/militancy being quashed and annihilated by the state forces. Punjab and Northeast are two recent examples from our own country where it has been successfully squashed by the state taking some hard options. Further protracted insurgencies prove beyond doubt that it cannot be handled by soft gloves and talks alone as in most of the places the insurgents are armed with lethal weapons and are involved in inflicting casualties on the state forces. Taking the case of 30 years of militancy in the state of J&K, there is a two-front battle the security forces are fighting there.

One, on the borders, to stop the infiltration of trained militants and the second, the internal strife. In the past, many options have been tried by the government i.e., talks with militant groups, all party meetings, Sadbhavana, Iron hand in velvet glove options (soft military options), the option of people to elect their leaders in the assembly (democratic options), but it has not paid any tangible dividends and the situation remains ebullient affecting the development of the state and fear of alienation looms large.

The nation is looking up to the present government expectantly to solve the problem and bring in a happy and peaceful ending. Hence, it’s time to take some hard and soft military options simultaneously.

Before I come to the options proper, I would like to talk about the category of militants the security forces are dealing with. On top of the list are the foreign mercenaries who have been trained in Pakistan, followed by hardcore Kashmiri youth militants who have been recruited by militant organisations and trained in their training camps across the borders. Both of them are heavily armed and are categorised as ‘Black’ by the security forces.

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There are other categories of local militants who have taken up the gun against the security forces and I would like to categorise them as ‘ Dark Grey’ instead of just Grey as they are generally referred to as. The overground workers and sympathisers, who have hitherto been left out of any categorisation, should also to be included in the category of militants. ‘Light Grey’ is the category they can be assigned with. They are the non-gun lased militants but without their active support militancy cannot sustain. At this time it’s important to tackle all the three categories and differentiate them from the normal innocent Kashmiri public which wants peace and development in the state.

In view of the recent escalations of the situation in J&K, there is reason for analysis if the time is ripe for a full-scale action to quell the strife and bring peace to the peace-deprived valley. The surgical strike 2.0 and the successful isolation of Pakistan in the international arena is most likely to finish the covert support to the militant organisations which have deep roots in their soil. The diplomatic efforts to further pressurise Pakistan to shed the support will once and for all finish the cross border support.

There is a need to put into practice two types of military strategy to tackle the present imbroglio, the hard, and the soft. The soft one revolves around taking on board all the Kashmiri separatist leaders who are continuously adding fuel and arousing sentiments of the innocent local populace by their pro-Pakistan stance. The whip is already been tightened by the first step of widhrawl of security cover and the other methods include no-tolerence to anti-India rhetoric. The second soft step is to debar such separatist leaders to address public gatherigs and spread venom against the state. A zero-tolerence policy is the need of the hour for the leaders talking against the unity of the nation.

The third would be to modify Article 370 without diluting the special status to J&K. A modification which would permit people to buy land and settle down in the state and get dual citizenship. In other words, open the citizenship of J&K to the people of India. Interestingly, the PoK has nothing similar to Article 370 for the denizens and the demography of that area is already seeing a change. When I was posted in the Kashmir valley, at a visible distance we used to be indicated the houses of retired Pakistan army officers by the local military informers or surrendered militants who had been that side for training. We were told that the government there gives them free land to settle there after retirement.

Fourth, there is a strong need to open another two or three road and rail axes to the valley of Srinagar and Leh and enhance connectivity. With the new and upgraded technologies of road construction and tunnelling, converting the existing smaller roads linking Jammu to Rajauri and Poonch and further linkage to Uri and Baramulla can be converted to 4-lane all weather road. A parallel axes through Pirpanjal mountains can also be thought of. Simillarly, a direct all weather road link to Leh will integrate the three divisions of J&K well. This would in the long run give multiple options of build up by the security forces at the place and time of need.

The hard military options (non-war options) could include an all out military blitzkrieg against the training camps established by militant organisations on the other side of the border by land and air surgical strikes. Internally, there is a need to initiate an all out offensive against the black, dark grey and light grey militants simultaneously in the state. While doing the inhouse cleansing operations, there is a need to keep the borders active which will make any new infiltrations impossible. A close watch by all intelligence services and large deployment of paramilitary forces would further reduce any disturbances. The monitoring of the communications of major militant organisations can provide important leads.

The hard military actions could actually be carried out with minimal collateral damage. A fifteen day to one month all-out all-front exercise with integration of all security forces is the need of the hour. A positive political narrative, national will and strong executive are all in place.

It is actually a now or never opportunity.

Col (Dr) Mohinder Pal Singh is an army veteran and presently Director at EGROW foundation, Noida. Views expressed in the article are personal.

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First published on: 06-03-2019 at 14:06 IST