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Current Affairs ( 28 Aug 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Kashmir: Militants lost their war. We shouldn’t let them change tactics

Losing the peace in Kashmir

By Gagandeep Bakshi

Posted online: August 28, 2008  

A prime target of modern-day, fourth-generation, asymmetric warfare is the political will of the opponent, in most cases that of the nation-state. By the sheer persistence of their assaults on the national will over decades, organisations seek to tire out and wear down the will of the state and erode it to an extent that it will supinely surrender to their diktats.

 It was, however, utterly amazing to see the Indian national media leading this assault upon the national will over Jammu and Kashmir. Strident rhetorical questions were posed on whether it was time to let Kashmir go, and whether it was time for “Azadi” for the people of the Valley. A well-known television news channel cited an opinion poll to say that 70 per cent of its respondents were of the view that India should let the Kashmiris go. Another national daily conducted a more nuanced survey. Though its findings indicated that over 70 per cent of those polled in the nine metropolises opposed the idea, it nevertheless discussed at length that 30 per cent were not.

 The battle in J&K is primarily ideological. There are a 150 million Muslims in India, whose parents and grandparents voted with their feet to stay in the secular republic of India rather than in a theocratic Pakistan. If today the Indian state permits 5 million Muslims of the Valley to secede on the basis of religion it could unravel the very ideological basis of our secular republic.

 The post-1989 upsurge in militancy in Kashmir had virtually had its back broken. Border fencing, better night vision devices and concerted operations severely curtailed the levels of infiltration. Violence levels had been drastically scaled down. The breakthrough had initially come south of the Pir Panjals (where the LoC fence was not as vulnerable to disruption by heavy snowfall or from avalanches). Concerted mopping up operations in the wake of Operation Sarpvinash had virtually broken the back of the militant tanzeems in the Rajouri-Poonch area. Seventy to 80 per cent reductions had been achieved in the levels of violence in the year 2005 alone.

 The terrorists had then focused their attention towards the Valley (where the fence was damaged by heavy snow). What was needed was a large-scale anti-terrorist operation to neutralise the Bandipore Base area — from where militant cells controlled the actions of their members in the city of Srinagar itself. Unfortunately, this was not undertaken. With the first signs of normalcy, the Mufti administration put pressure on the security forces to scale down operations, with the intention of minimising human rights violations — although, unlike the Americans in Iraq or the Russians in Chechnya, or even the Pakistanis in FATA and NWFP, the Indian army, in counter-militancy operations, has never used any air support or heavy artillery or tanks, relying on infantry operations.

Despite these pressures, security forces had succeeded in scaling down the levels of terrorist violence considerably. This year, five lakh pilgrims visited the Amarnath Shrine. Another four lakh tourists have already visited the state. With yet another well-conducted assembly election, Pakistan would have totally lost its case for Kashmir by default.

However, realising that the tanzeems have largely lost the military phase of the battle, it appears that there might have been a deft shift of strategy to exploit trivial local causes and generate mass hysteria over communal issues. Poverty is not responsible: the poverty ratio in J&K is four per cent compared to 21.8 per cent in the rest of India. J&K gets eight times the central assistance that other Indian states get. J&K was getting Rs 3197 crore in 1991-92. This had gone up to Rs 8092 crore by 2001-02. Does this new approach of agitation represent a change of tactics to initiate an Intifada phase of the secessionist movement, precipitated by these figures?

 If so, the nation-state must be resolute, and clearly display that will and resolve, given that what is at stake is the most crucial aspect of its own ideological basis. The agenda in J&K is becoming unabashedly communal, frightening even mainstream local parties into tamely going along. There is the need to cool atavistic passions but there is equally the need to stand absolutely rock-firm on an issue which could unravel our entire nation-state itself.

The writer is a retired major-general. He spent three consecutive tenures in J&K between 2000 and 2005

Source: Indian Express, New Delhi