(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)
Modi led NDA government has admittedly taken a very bold and historic decision to abrogate/revoke the “Special Status” for J & K. It is not the last word spoken or written. It is just the beginning of another episode in being. Bold decisions will naturally have repercussions. Surely, “Team Modi” must have analyzed in depth and appreciated threats and challenges to face and opportunities to exploit and seize. NSA Doval appearing on the scene actively over watching and monitoring development is highly appreciative and commendable.
Mankind’s lesson of history is simple – Societies and Nations traverse on their own course depending on the leadership capabilities. No permanent borders, but changing borders/frontiers in a continuum is real. In retrospect, there is close interplay between geography and history that determines future course or curse of societies and nations.
So, what is being enacted in J & K may be viewed as Act 5 or 6, Scene 2 or 3 considering the accession of J & K in the aftermath of partition in 1947. What must be accepted by all alike is the nerve-racking complexity of J & K crisis that is over 72-years old or unfolding historically in new forms. There are no easy answers to promote
Dr. Karan Singh is on record in Rajya Sabha in 2016 highlighting that the J & K issue is extremely complex and complicated affair. Ipso facto, J & K is one of the most militarized places on earth. Both India and Pakistan are locked in 72-year old eye-ball to eye-ball confrontation. Even a layman knows that J & K is one of the world’s most dangerous geopolitical flashpoints what with the adversaries being nuclear powers.
Next, it must be accepted that key national security decisions are not taken at the spur of moment by a single individual in democracy but by consensus of all those key personalities forming the Cabinet Committee of Security with the full knowledge of consequences – having considered options, choices, ways, means, costs and benefits. Team Modi may be credited for taking into consideration repercussions at local level on the streets of J & K, national, regional and international levels.
Political rivals may cry hoarse on Modi led NDA government not taking them into confidence prior to tabling the resolution in the Rajya Sabha. It is good for optics or photo opportunities to remain relevant. After all, the “Need to Know’” principle governs the timing of announcement of such decisions. Albeit rivals are crying foul, but the choice and timing of placing the resolution in the Rajya Sabha is very well thought about and executed.
Be that as it may, Modi’s sworn political rivals and bitter critics cannot also feign ignorance of such a move what with the troop induction, termination of Amarnatha Yatra, and closure of central institutions and so on.
What next? “Fear Mongering” or skepticism by Modi’s sworn rivals and critics is but natural. Media sensationalism is also but natural due to unfettered freedom of speech enjoyed by a wide variety of editors, panelists, spokespersons and many others.
None other than Dr. Karan Singh, Veteran Congress leader, son of former J&K ruler Maharaja Hari Singh, stated “he does not agree with a blanket condemnation of the government’s move on J & K, pointing out what he called were its several positives”. He also welcomed the union territory status for Ladakh and said political dialogue must continue in Kashmir to help resolve the issue.
The extraordinary and incredible complexity is due to far too many actors involved with divergent, adversarial and irreconcilable views to include: Elected representatives of national and regional political parties; separatist leaders under various labels; terrorist groups pursuing the interests of their handlers across the borders; the ISIS and the Al Qaeda groups pursuing the Caliphate goals; Pakistan and Afghanistan as regional actors; China with its CPEC interests and Tibet; OIC countries; U.S. and Russia; and members of the UN Security Council and others.
Ipso facto, people of J & K are their least concern; even national interests of Pakistan over ride the name of higher order religious interests – the Jihad. In reality, it is for their personal vested political interests. For Pakistan, the stakes are incredibly high. After all, the cause of Kashmir is very dear to the Generals and also for politicians, who invoke the plight of Kashmiri Muslims to rally their own fractious population.
Pakistan, known as the epicenter of global terrorism, has naturally gone on multi front and dimensional offensive. Its avowed aim is “to cut into 1000 pieces or bleed India” after its three attempted wars to reclaim J & K proved disasters. For well over two decades, Pakistan has invested very heavily is aiding abetting terrorism and insurgency.
Pakistan has mastered the art and science of blackmailing, double crossing and multiple crossing. Jingoistic rhetoric is quite natural. Imran Khan, the Prime Minister, with his team of Generals forming Pakistan National Security Commission, has gone record with jingoistic rhetoric to teach India lesson.
Look at the double speak! Imran Khan, Pakistani Prime Minister, stated that “war was still a possibility; “Who will win that war? No one will win it, and it will have grievous consequences for the entire world.” At the same time, they have announced to observe 15 August as a black day in supposed solidarity with the people of J & K and support with separatist forces in J & K but also to the militant groups waging war against India. Well, one can expect the former cricketer turned politician to bowl a bouncer, an in swinger, an out swinger, a Yorker and a slow ball to rattle India particularly in collusion or in tow of the armory of Generals who wield the power behind the crown full of thorns.
Imran Khan must also realize that “Team Modi” has strategic stalwarts a la likes of Dhoni, Kholi, Sehwag, Yuvaraj, Shikar Dhawan, Gambhir and others who can knock the hell out of his cricketing guiles.
None should, therefore, get unnerved Imran Khans multi front offensive, which is on expected lines or script. Imran has unilaterally downgraded diplomatic relations by expelling India’s High Commissioner thereby pre-empting scope for bilateral talks. And, Pakistan has approached U.S., China, the UN, and OIC nations to lend support to their stand for international intervention or third party mediation in accelerating crisis resolution. However, they have got rebuffed by the U.S., China and the UN besides Saudi Arabia and UAE among the prominent members of the OIC group who favor bilateral approach.
On the economic front, Pakistan has suspended trade ties and stopped transit facilities like Samjhuta Express (Lahore-Amritsar) and the Thar Link Express (Rajasthan) besides Lahore-Delhi Bus service at the cost of inconveniencing the Muslim community with family ties on either side.
Sooner than later, Pakistan is bound to step up LoC cross border fire exchanges and BAT strikes. And, they are bound to infiltrate terror groups in large numbers to escalate violence particularly stone-pelting by crowds against the security forces. It is going to be long drawn out “Hybrid War” with no light of peace in sight in short term context.
Yet another significant development – worst case scenario – is likely to be the US pullout from Afghanistan thereby facilitating Pakistan to redeploy the JeM-LeT-Taliban groups to wage the “Jihad” in Kashmir. Add to them, the ISIS and Al Qaeda groups operating in Afghanistan may also redeploy themselves in Kashmir.
Surely, Modi led NDA is also well prepared to ward-off likely threat in “Worst Case Scenario”. After all, not only the Indian Armed Forces in the past had been successful in 1947-1948, 1965, 1971, and 1998 successfully thwarted Pakistani misadventures, but also the Indian security forces have demonstrated tremendous punishment withstanding capability having been actively involved in countering numerous internal security threats in the domestic backyard particularly in J & K over the past 30 years.
Thus, Imran Khan with his band of wily Generals may resort to multiple stratagems, but they cannot dream of liberating and annexing J & K in the short term context.
In retrospect, the real threat concern for Modi led NDA is the internal political backlash. Although several Congress leaders welcomed the decision to modify Article 370, scrapping the special status provided to J & K, the party opposed the way in which it was executed. The CWC in a statement had said “it deplores the unilateral, brazen and totally undemocratic manner in which Article 370….was abrogated and the State of Jammu and Kashmir was dismembered by misinterpreting the provisions of the Constitution. Every principle of Constitutional law, States’ rights, Parliamentary procedure and democratic governance was violated.”
Spurned by opposition parties tirade against Modi led NDA government, Modi led BJP government needs to face the threat of local leadership of J & K like the Abdullah’s, Mufti’s, Lone’s and the separatist leaders with alacrity and sagacity. In the name of democracy, there is orchestrated demand for the release of the leaders so that they can rally their followers to launch fierce protests on the streets to paralyze the government besides challenging the security forces with “stone-pelting” mobs. Already the Omar Abdullah, National Conference party, has challenged the Modi led NDA government orders in the Supreme Court.
Not to be left out of consideration for “Team Modi” is the challenge of its “Blabbermouths” within its ranks. Modi must direct all of them to keep their “Mouths” shut at this extremely critical and sensitive juncture. If anyone of them disobeys Modi’s diktat, then they must be expelled from the BJP ranks. It is never too late for Modi to summon all of them in a meeting and given sermons to maintain decorum for they can add fuel to the embers burning among the estranged people of Kashmir.
In retrospect, restoration of normalcy will be quite challenging in the immediate context. Most critical is the successful conduct of information warfare using various mediums, particularly interaction with civil groups. Local administration and police forces are the best sources and means to restore normalcy by taking decisions since they best know the “pulse of the people”. Such decision making processes must be highly flexible depending on the responses by people.
Already normalcy has been restored in Jammu region and life is returning to normal. Sooner than later, normalcy is bound to be restored in the districts of Poonch, Rajouri, Doda and Ramban South of Pir Panjal Range besides Ladakh UT including Muslim dominated Kargil area. Sooner than later, normalcy is bound to be restored even in the Valley particularly due Eid celebrations.
However, reactivation of mobile networks, internet and media broadcasting services is most critical. Their mediums may be used to incite and instigate protests, bandhs’s and stone-pelting. Fake or fraud news coverage may even depict minor incidents as major eruptions of violence. The danger lies exactly therein.
Daily eruption of street protests, bandhs and stone pelting on streets will follow lifting of curfew restrictions. In particular, eruption of violence is most likely in the three districts of South Kashmir and Srinagar.
Media is a double edged weapon. Pakistan may aid and abet anti India propaganda by stirring the emotions and sentiments of Kashmiri Muslims. So, all news from Pakistan needs to be effectively blocked by electronic jamming. On the other hand, local and national media must cover events and incidents in a positive manner. Most important, peace promoting themes must be widely circulated imaginatively.
Until recently, the true story of the “Loot” by the local dynasties remained on the backburner. Even now, the complete data has not been widely publicized, that is, Central funds allocated till date starting from 1947. It must also include the thriving ‘local market economy’ on account of transaction by security forces and tourism. Surely, the Kashmiri, known for his intellect, would recognize their follies in supporting the most corrupt and bankrupt political leadership responsible for their plight.
Yet another critical issue will be the timing of the release of political and separatist leaders. There will be tremendous pressure orchestrated through the media to release them earliest. All one can say that if Sheikh Abdullah could be arrested and later jailed for eleven years, accused of conspiracy against the State in the infamous “Kashmir Conspiracy Case” and also interned from 1965 to 1968 and exiled from Kashmir in 1971 and kept in Ooty until he signed the Indira-Shiekh Accord in 1974, where is the urgency to release all the leaders arrested particularly the separatist leaders and other vocal leaders.
Of course, Pakistan will attempt to upstage the terror strikes inside J & K in pursuance of their end objective of “bleed India through thousand cuts” by proxy war and wait for a more opportune moment to strike hard. As per media reports, there are still over 250 terrorists operating in the valley. They are bound to stoke the embers of violence at every single opportunity in collusion with their supporters. After all, terror breeds more terror.
It is quite heartening to note that government agencies alike are closely collaborating with each other to maximize synergy amongst security forces. In fact, the local police forces are doing yeoman service to flush out terrorists from their hideouts with the help of locals.
In sum, the security forces and the local government machinery are going to face critical challenge to maintain law and order below the threshold of equilibrium. If the security forces succeed in containing and marginalizing terrorists and insurgents, it would be a remarkable achievement in restoring normalcy. Of course, the army guarding the LoC will continue to prevent infiltration of terror groups.