There is an old saying in the Army. An event takes care of itself; it’s the fallout and the post-event dynamics, which always become the challenge.
While complimenting the central government for the courage displayed in taking a strategic decision of no mean proportion, the resulting elation is good for a short time.
Now starts the process of reaping the benefits of the decision, its implementation in letter and spirit and management of its impact in different domains.
A few things have happened in the pre-event run-up and the short post-event follow up. The LoC has been alive and will probably not return to peace and quiet for some time. Pakistan will spare no effort to ratchet up the counters to the Indian decision and take the issue around the world. India will be painted the villain, if our information management is not up to the mark. There will be efforts to re-energise terror in the hinterland and provoke street turbulence.
A lot will depend on how we manage our security domain. The public in Jammu and Kashmir will be negatively influenced to enhance its alienation unless we can find ways to regain its confidence. Many of our countrymen have no idea about the steps needed to enhance the positive impact of the decisions.
For starters, we need to energise our diplomatic missions. We must have knowledgeable scholars speaking at every discussion initiated by important think tanks at relevant capital cities around the world.
The missions must be proficient in their projection of the level of tolerance displayed by India in the face of grave provocations that India is facing in the changing geopolitics of South Asia.
The US, China, Russia, UAE, Saudi Arabia and a host of other countries need to hear the Indian perception. A selection of outstanding commentaries from the Indian print media must be in sustained circulation in the next 24 hours. Let selected personalities access international media and institutions and be in social media conversation. This must form a part of the information reach out.
The Army is quite capable of securing the LoC, but it may need selective reinforcement. Its hands must not be tied by mundane budgeting issues as it happened during Doklam, when the transportation budget dried up.
However, the biggest challenge comes from the Kashmir’s hinterland, where rabble-rousing will be attempted under instigation from Pakistan. Mercifully, the separatist leadership is reasonably marginalised and financial networks under dismantling, but the rump elements still exist as an invisible leadership.
We cannot afford a repeat of either 2010 or 2016. In the latter case, India became the target of international criticism due to the blindings by pellet guns. The police forces will need officer-level leadership to prevent being sucked into the vortex. The Jammu & Kashmir Police would need to be protected from deep-set propaganda. I can perceive its personnel coming under intense pressure. The effectiveness and role modelling of the police is a crucial factor.
Any security specialist will identify the people of Kashmir as the centre of gravity of the proxy war. The people are in anguish, confused and leaderless, thus contributing to more alienation.
We as a nation cannot be in celebratory mode if part of our people are in this state. Instead of targeting the Kashmiris, this is the time for us to display Indian large-heartedness.
I strongly recommend to the political community to form all-party committees for outreach and engagement with the people. Models for this are well known to the army, who can be consulted on this.
Intra-state engagement between Jammu and Kashmir segments is equally important as there are common stakes that exist. The people of Jammu and of Kashmir are embarking on a fresh journey. Let this not be in different directions. I wish to compliment the Centre for its outstanding decision not to trifurcate the state and divide Jammu from Kashmir.
The political community of Kashmir must regain confidence and events of the last few days must be put behind them. Their positive leadership will make a major difference. Let them all work towards returning Kashmir to normalcy faster than ever before.
It’s governance, which the government must focus on. A demonstration of quality governance must emerge in the next few days to prove just how beneficial the decision for central oversight in governance will be for the people.
Feedback from the ground indicates that a certain enthusiasm about this exists. The mindset of the Kashmiris that they have perforce to adjust themselves to live with corruption has to be changed. There is a bigger, better India which is waiting to absorb the Kashmiris; that is the message required to be conveyed.
The states of the Union of India where Kashmiri youth study in large numbers, cannot afford to have them running back and forth to their homes due to persistent threats to their security. The entire rationale and purpose of the government’s brave decisions would be defeated if these threats persist and a tit for tat philosophy is adopted.
The recommendations above by no means exclude the Kashmiri Pandit community, which has suffered much with lip service paid to its interests at most times.
Let the Kashmiri Muslims demonstrate their willingness and happiness to absorb them as equals in society in Kashmir. All mundane objections must be put an end to. Composite culture must re-emerge to destroy the hold that radicalism has come to establish in the region.
It will be contingent upon how the immediate aftermath is handled. A government which has the courage to take difficult decisions will surely be adept at recognising the impact of those decisions. That is where the hope lies.