J & K – Scenarios, Choices and Options
by G B Reddy on 13 May 2017 14 Comments

The current crisis situation in Jammu and Kashmir is commonly perceived as extraordinarily explosive and complex, a multi-dimensional politico-military conflict. But, it is not so. Some time ago, a newspaper published former Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s statement on 25 February 2017 highlighting: “he had a sinking feeling that Kashmir was nearly lost for India ...” [The Hindu] Chidambaram also stated earlier that “the path taken ….was perilous and asked them to reverse course; and the answer was not muscular Kashmir policy but engagement with stakeholders.” [Indian Express]


Mani Shankar Iyer too stated “There is only one way out of this maze. It is for Mehbooba to withdraw from her untenable coalition …. and open the way to the three principal parties of the Valley to jointly work out a strategy….”.


This view is cynical, but also comical. Such alarmist views only provide “oxygen to the other side” to prolong the nearly seven decade old fight. “Hawks” want more aggressive actions against the separatists, militants, stone pelters and their Pakistani partners. Their recommendations include: Exile all separatist leaders; no talks under bullets, declaration of Pakistan as a terrorist state; no MFN status; no transit facilities; downsizing embassy’s; and so on.   


The ongoing violence is the consequence of the killing of Burhan Wani of the Kashmir-based Hizbul Mujahideen, in July 2016. Pakistan sponsored and paid ‘stone pelters’ are defying security forces in Srinagar and towns of South Kashmir. Almost daily encounters are reported between security forces and separatist militant groups, bank robberies, curfews by both, media sensationalism, infiltration and ceasefire violations and cross border skirmishes, including revenge beheadings and surgical strikes.


Media hype over “War clouds hovering over the horizon” is unwarranted, despite jingoistic rhetoric by “Generals”. Media sensationalism is increasing volatility, which is breeding despondency among skeptics. In reality, the “threshold” of violence in J&K has not crossed the line of equilibrium for war to break out; nuclear deterrence holding the key. 


Media should desist from sensationalism. Headlines over the past 70 years, such as, “at crossroads; paradise turned into hell; boiling cauldron; imbroglio; quagmire; morass; quicksand; and so on” contribute to increasing alarm in the minds of the people. So what if there is no sight of the ‘Light of peace’ at the end of the Tunnel? 


Chasing peace in J&K is like chasing shadows – so near, yet so far. All peace initiatives including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sudden visit to Lahore, All Party Delegations to Srinagar and Yashwant Sinha’s five-member delegation, have failed to produce tangible breakthroughs.


The study of data available in the public domain (Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of External Affairs, and South Asia Portal on Terrorism) mercilessly exposes the blatant falsehoods perpetrated by Congress Party stalwarts, ignoring the irrefutable fact that the prime culprits for the J&K crisis are Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, in cahoots with the Sheikh Abdullah dynasty. 


Be that as it may, when we compare the data of violence from 1990 to 2000 and 2001 to 2007 with the current data, violence pales into insignificance. For instance, from the high of four figures (over 4000 in some years), it is down to three figures (less than 400).  Similarly, there is reduced number of fatalities suffered by Security Forces vis-à-vis terrorists. Also, there is substantial reduction of infiltration numbers.


Although the present cycle of street violence is the longest in the Valley, the 2010 street violence was much worse in terms of fatalities, with at least 101 persons killed and 4,288 persons, including SFs, injured. In the street violence of 2008, 46 persons were killed and 1,265, including SF personnel, were injured.


None can deny that the security forces are performing quite creditably in containing and marginalizing terrorism and street violence by stone pelters among others. The forces have the will and capability to stem the menace of violence. Strategically, viewed militarily, it is a stalemate or deadlock or still below the “Line of Threshold of Equilibrium”.


Viewed in the above content, why are the opposition political leaders and national media hyperventilating the absurdity of ‘almost all is lost” in J&K?


War fighting outcomes are predictable – victory/defeat/stalemate. The lesson of mankind’s wars and violence is simple – “Slender is the difference between victory and defeat.” In the ultimate, victory goes to the ‘strong willed; but not ‘weak kneed’.


Furthermore, victory also goes to the side with “greater punishment withstanding capability”. Who has more punishment withstanding capability – separatists and non-state and State actors, Kashmiri Muslim people, democratically elected representatives or the Indian State? Surely, the Indian State has more resilience than others.


Ipso facto, peace talk outcomes – mediation, negotiation and consensus – are vexatious and most uncertain. Track II talks by concerned citizens of both sides – so called reliable interlocutors – have failed to produce significant breakthroughs either with Pakistan or the separatist groups in the valley in the past.


There is no end to the cycle of peace talks. Key peace initiatives since 1947 include: UN-mediated ceasefire in 1948; Nehru-Sheikh Abdullah talks ending the “Kashmir Conspiracy” case; Tashkent Agreement following 1965 War; July 1972 Shimla Accord following 1971 War; 1975 Indira–Sheikh Accord, 1986 Rajiv Gandhi-Farooq Abdullah Accord; Vajpayee-Musharraf Agra Talks; and the ongoing Track II talks.


Suffice it to say that peace efforts between Kashmir political parties and enhanced financial grants have failed to produce enduring peace largely due to separatist parties’ demand for holding talks simultaneously with Pakistan.


The hard line demand of separatists is azaadi, which is non-negotiable for the entire J&K. But, it will be unacceptable not only to Jammu Dogras and Ladakh Buddhists, but also to Pakistan and its sponsored separatist groups which want merger with Pakistan.


As per past polls conducted, the majority of Kashmir Valley Muslims want “azaadi”. A sizeable minority prefer merger with Pakistan. Under the fear of the guns of terrorists and separatists, even the voices of the majority are stifled. Less hyped, the majority in Jammu and Ladakh region prefer to remain with India as per polls.


Most importantly, will current political parties like Abdullah’s National Conference and Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party, among others, concede for merger with Pakistan in the full knowledge that they will be marginalized politically by separatist leaders and their assets seized inside the Valley. The loss to the economy on account of Indian tourist inflows cannot be compensated by Pakistan. The chaos in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Baluchistan and FATA serve as grim portents.


If relative peace and violence continue to swing in macabre ways with utter disregard to innocent lives, besides growth and development, so be it. The worst sufferers are the Kashmiri Valley Muslims. But, there will be economic costs to both nations.


A wide array of strategic options have already been employed since 1947-48 to reach an amicable solution: three and half wars, UN intervention, ceasefires, coercive diplomacy, all-party delegations to find political solutions, elections, appeasement, winning over people’s hearts and minds, attrition, and so on.


Yet, the current impasse persists. Why this continuing peoples’ psychological alienation? The Islamic State and Al Qaeda have made inroads. A religious ideological shift from Kashmiriyat to Sunni Islam is getting embedded in the psyche of the people, which is not easy to overcome due to communal acrimony in the rest of the country and world over.


Some strategic options are available like, “Strategies of Patience, Appeasement, Riposte, Attrition, Annihilation, Decapitation, Presidents Rule; and so on.” They have mostly been tested and have failed to produce enduring conflict resolution.


Of course, recourse to war must be the last resort, especially when both nations are nuclear weapons states. Yet another low cost strategic option available is pursuit of low-cost counter “proxy or hybrid” war against Pakistan in Baluchistan and Sind, viz., balkanization. Like the Baloch, even Sindhis have major points of friction with Punjabi Muslims.


Realpolitik is ruthless in the hawkish global strategic environment. There is no place for moral and ideological considerations in advancing national security interests. Over the past 30 years, Pakistan has ruthlessly resorted to hybrid warfare: information warfare combining terrorism and Islamist ideology (1000-years Jihad), thereby inciting and provoking violence by locals to achieve the end of bleeding India through thousand cuts.


Prime Minister Modi must realize that appeasement politics, mostly in defensive-cum-reactive mode inherited from the Congress Party’s dumb strategy (a dangerous mix of idealism and opportunistic coalitions) or Vajpayee’s failed Agra peace summit cannot promote enduring peace. The withdrawal of AFSPA or pellet guns cannot alone restore sanity in the valley.


Political options include: Impose President’s Rule and exile separatist leaders to remote places in India; declare Pakistan a terrorist state; withdraw trade and transit facilities; no MFN status; and hold conditional talks only under the Constitutional framework. At the same time, conduct aggressive counter infiltration and terror operations on the border and interior towns and villages, besides “surgical strikes by various means” against terror camps.


Simultaneously, there must be counter “hybrid” war strategy in the Kashmir valley based on information warfare campaign, media restrained from sensationalizing alarmist views by opposition political parties and from championing the cause of human rights activists. There must also be counter “proxy or hybrid war” with the objective of balkanizing Pakistan.


There are no shortcuts. Be prepared for a long haul, which is the worst case scenario. 

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top