Can India afford to be silent?
By Maj Gen (Retd) Afsir Karim, AVSM
India faces several problems in Kashmir, which converge to make the Kashmir issue extremely complex. The main problem in Kashmir is of course, military threats and ceasefire violations by Pakistan army alone with sponsored terrorism to perpetuate an environment of internal turmoil.
It seems that the Pakistan is moving further towards jihadism and will continue stoking the fire in Kashmir. Pakistan military-intelligence-Jihadi complex will continue sending well armed jihadi militants to Kashmir without letup in the near to midterm regardless of any offers of peace by India. Jihadi agenda is likely to spread beyond Kashmir to other parts of India after the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
The ceasefire violations that started in the first week of October continue unabated as a part of a new offensive to draw attention of the international community towards the Kashmir problem. Pakistan’s aim is to divert public attention from the serious internal problems and near economic collapse it is facing. Pakistan has complained to UN about India’s aggression on the LC; Large rallies are also being organised in UK to attract worldwide attention and garner support for Pakistan’s request for international intervention in Kashmir.
Pakistan has been varying the level of cross-border firing as needed to draw away attention of our troops from infiltration attempts while accelerating the subversive activities, propaganda and protests by the separatists assisted by the Pakistan agents. The aim of this intensified violence is to perpetuate internal disturbances, hinder economic growth while spreading discontent and disorder. Hurriyat and its associates also have been guilty of providing shelter and logistic support to Lashkar-e-Tyabba, Jesh e Mohammed and other jihadists who are waging a relentless covert war against India on the behest of the ISI.
In spite of military superiority, it is not been possible for the Indian army and the other security forces to completely stop infiltration and terrorist attacks. Army can at best contain the infiltration across the LC and contain the terrorist violence in the valley.
Pakistan’s proxy war that peaked in 1990’s gradually lost momentum, insurgency too largely withered away except for sporadic terror attacks. Civil disturbances orchestrated successfully by Pakistan in the past have also fizzled out because of lack of adequate public support. However, alienation and discontent in Kashmir valley has grown alarmingly in the absence of a cogent policy to wean away people from Jihadi-separatist agenda, we have also not been able to expose false Jihadi propaganda.
The untiring efforts of the army during the recent devastating floods changed public mood to some extent, but it was short lived and the separatist soon succeeded in alienating a large number in the big towns by false propaganda about the BJP governments design to change the demographic ratio in the valley.
Separatists and pro-Pakistani elements are taking advantage of our liberal policies to conduct a vicious anti-India campaign afresh. Strangely the government is doing little to deal firmly with the subversive political and religious propaganda of separatist outfits.
The deployment of a disproportionately large number of paramilitary forces for internal security duties in towns is also responsible for increased levels of alienation and discontent.We can not ignore the fact that overwhelming presence of security forces in Kashmir and their overbearing attitude has created a wall of mistrust between the people of Kashmir Valley and rest of India.The policy makers in Delhi in the past continued to look at Kashmir problem through the lens of insurgency, ignoring the political fallout of their policies that ignored economic wellbeing and human problems of the people of Kashmir.
In the absence of any meaningful political initiative, public unrest has increased in the valley and the people here have lost faith in democratic institutions of the state. Now that the elections are over, hopefully, a new state government will jointly find ways to restore faith of the people in democratic governance.
There was a change in the air. Militant activities in Kashmir are at low ebb despite an intensive drive by separatists to enlist new recruits, Pakistani agents too were finding it extremely difficult to enlist enough people to carry on subversive activities.The recruitment drive of the most popular face of indigenous Kashmir militancy, Hizbul Mujahideen was failing. Sensing this change Pakistan is planning to infiltrate large groups of outsiders to carry out terrorist attacks, this was evident from the intensive cross- border firing for infiltrating new terrorist groups.
Experience shows that the defensive action alone cannot succeed in stopping sponsored terrorism and our present defensive posture in Kashmir is not sufficient to deal with the new Pakistan offensive. To reduce Pakistan’s capabilities to intervene in Kashmir India should consider covert quasi-military operations across the LC against terror groups, their leaders and training camps
The next government must also take determined political and administrative initiatives in Kashmir to wean away people from the subversive agenda of the separatist groups. There is a need of a sustained effort to expose those who have been carrying on pro-Pakistan agenda that has hurt the people Kashmir for many decades.Greater coordination between the J&K and the Central government and a joint effort by the security forces against the separatists and other shady wheelers dealers is required to put a stop to their anti-national activities.
The spurt of ceasefire violations by Pakistan on the LOC is all linked to large terrorist groups waiting to cross the LC from several points. To scuttle the new threat from Islamic Caliphate and al-Qaeda; India needs to respond by taking take special measures to counter the new Pakistani plan.
Major General Afsir Karim, AVSM, commanded a Para Battalion during the Indo-Pak War in 1971. An expert on terrorism and internal security, he was a Member, National Security Advisory Board and has authored several books on military studies and strategic affairs. He is a graduate from the Defense Services Staff College DSSC, Wellington and the National Defence College NDC.