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Pakistan’s quest to keep the pot boiling in J&K will not change

File photo: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. Photograph:( Reuters )

Delhi, India Feb 18, 2019, 10.20 AM (IST) Written By: V P Malik

Yet another tragic terror incident in Kashmir! It’s so serious that it has shaken the soul of the nation once again. 

There is no change in Pakistan-sponsored terrorists’ strategy. But the methodology adopted this time is new. A bus carrying CRPF personnel was attacked by a suicide bomber driving an explosive-laden car alongside the running convoy in Pulwama. More than 40 CRPF personnel were killed and many others were critically injured. Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammed, ready with a video of the local suicide bomber Adil Ahmad Dar, has promptly claimed credit for organising this terror attack. Its new tactics, and likely repetition in J&K, will definitely cause more challenges for the security forces and the government.

How did they manage to organise such a planned attack? This and related investigations are in progress by the J&K Police and the National Investigation Agency. These are being reported every minute in the media. My comments are on more fundamental issues.

Terrorism in J&K has two dimensions: Internal and external. The latter is related to Pakistan with which India has a running territorial dispute and a violence-prone boundary or Line of Control. Both dimensions, though linked, require integrated and well-coordinated policies and a comprehensive grand strategy. Unfortunately, there has been a lack of focus on our policies/grand strategy, if there were any.

Internal dimension

In J&K, we have had several political failures. The last one was the PDP-BJP coalition, formed on March 1, 2015. We forgot that PDP rose to power with solid support of Jamaat-e-Islami elements in South Kashmir. Its ideology would not gel with that of BJP. The resultant coalition failure, rise of radicalisation, and further deterioration of law-and-order situation was no surprise. It also gave large space to the separatists; so much that even mainstream politicians felt compelled to tow their line and often coerce security forces to dilute safety and security measures. 

These failures and the deteriorating situation have led to an approach that has put the security forces on the forefront. A hard military strategy without a proper political strategy does not succeed. They now have to take the flak from the local population and from those in the government if there is any mistake or collateral damage. The political and social aspects — contact with local communities and local development initiatives — have been lost.

Terrorism is not just a military problem. It is primarily a major socio-political-economic problem. A pure military approach, given the lack or fragility of the institutional framework in operational areas, can worsen the situation.

Security forces are meant to handle terrorists and violence, not the rise of radicalisation, or the separatists’ calls for hartals and marshalling of stone-pelters. 

Worldwide, counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations have not succeeded unless the ideologues have been neutralised. In India, we not only give them more outreach space but also state security, communication and other facilities. We claim that they are being funded by the ISI and yet do not block their bank accounts. We also allow them to take telephone calls from Pakistani ministers. 

Now that we have Governor’s rule in J&K, here are a few suggestions:

The Governor should reactivate the United Headquarter (UHQ) and meet regularly to ensure better civil-military coordination and its effectiveness.

Take immediate steps to isolate and neutralise Hurriyat leaders and other separatists and withdraw all their government-funded facilities.

The Governor should hold separate regular meetings with political leaders, civil society leaders, educational networks, youth organisations, NGOs, business leaders and local professionals. Local development initiatives should play a role with government as a supportive partner.

Arrest radicalisation attempts in schools, colleges and religious institutes.

Security grid in South Kashmir, lifeline to Srinagar, should be further strengthened to deal with the current terrorist situation.

External dimension

Causing terrorism in India is a decades-old Pakistani state policy, sponsored and controlled by Pakistani Army. Terror outfits like Lashkar and Jaish are only cheap tools. For justice, it is necessary to book or neutralise their leaders like Hafiz Saeed and Maulana Masood Azhar. However, that is unlikely to deter Pakistani Army from changing its policy. Pakistan can find many more such already trained terror leaders. In fact, even if J&K issue is somehow resolved, its anti-India policy is unlikely to change. In its present polity, Pakistan does not believe in sub-continental geo-political stability and co-existence.

Pakistan’s quest to destabilise India and keep the pot boiling in J&K will not change. Another surgical strike on terrorists’ camps will not lead to deterrence or dissuasion. In any case, it has already lost its surprise element and political or strategic impact. The government could consider taking covert action in Pakistan. A major military option requires not only capacity assessment but also its build-up, if necessary. More importantly, it cannot be left to the armed forces alone as has been stated in public by some of our political leaders. A major strike or a limited war option is a national issue. It requires political will, diplomatic push, economic sustenance, and advanced preparations. We should prepare our grounds well. A half-hearted or a divided national power should never be employed in a conflict, without adequate escalation control politico-military ability. 

I am happy that despite forthcoming elections, all opposition parties have extended full support to the government at this juncture. It is now up to the government to keep them adequately briefed and take their views and suggestions. We had an almost similar political climate during the Kargil war. India’s national security should always take precedence over our political ideologies and interests.

(This article was originally published on The DNA. Read the original article)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)

V P Malik

The author is former Army Chief

Story highlights

Causing terrorism in India is a decades-old Pakistani state policy, sponsored and controlled by Pakistani Army. Terror outfits like Lashkar and Jaish are only cheap tools.