The Kashmir conflict which had its genesis in the birth of two nations India and Pakistan (and may be as direct consequence of British inability to control the “Great Game” any further and thereby handing over the responsibility to the US through established bases in Pakistan) continues to be unresolved to this day, fueling a bitter conflict lasting over six decades. This conflict spawned a conventional arms race between the two neighbours which resulted in three major wars with the possibility of more. Yet at the end of it all, both sides seem no closer to a resolution and Kashmir continues to be the bone of contention with the sunk costs especially in political terms abhorrent to both sides. The rise of militancy in the late eighties with Pakistan’s support has further fortified India’s resolve to settle the matter as an internal issue with the Kashmiri people. India insists that the accession of Kashmir to India is final and complete and hence Kashmir is an integral part of India and that all would be well in Kashmir, but for Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism. Pakistan on the other hand, insists that Kashmir is a disputed territory and that it is merely providing moral and diplomatic support for an indigenous freedom struggle in Kashmir.
China’s position has been shifting since 1950s but for the last decade it has been more or less of the same view as that of the Western countries, which is to see Kashmir as disputed between India and Pakistan. The stapled visa for Kashmiris was an experiment by China that should be understood in the context of India’s approach toward the Dalai Lama and Tibetan exiles. The period when this issue was alive is the period when there were new developments within Tibetan diasporas and seemed to want to give a message to India that China,s neutrality on Kashmir, while Sino-Pakistan relation being very important, could shift if India restricted further the political activities of Tibetan exiles in India. China has been clear that it will not accept an independent new state in the region. Actually, it is in China’s interest that the dispute between India and Pakistan continue. This fulfils the primary agenda of preventing any new independent state in the region that may have a domino effect on Uighur Muslims and Tibetans and the secondary agenda of keeping India, the only possible competitor to China in Asia, tied down in South Asia through a permanent rivalry with Pakistan. China will not allow Pakistan to weaken further, one of the reasons is to prevent more Uighur separatists getting radicalized and trained in Pakistani territories and the other of course is the CPEC. It has put all its eggs in one basket ie, the CPEC as far as the BRI is concerned and therefore it needs to create space around it, in order to allow it to succeed. This can only be done in case the focus continues to be in Afghanistan on one flank and Kashmir on the other. In all this geopolitical game, unfortunately the aspirations, dignity and welfare of Kashmiris get crushed.
While the issue of Kashmir appears to be rather simple on the face of it, the multi-dimensional nature of the problem and sheer number of actors, many of them hidden, with stakes of some form or the other has ensured that this problem takes on the character of the proverbial ‘Gordian Knot’. In fact, so convoluted is the matter that identifying the problem has itself become a source of angst and hand wringing amongst the disparate populace that makes up the kaleidoscope of Kashmir. All in all, Kashmir appears to be condemned to have the past repeating itself, over and over again; inflicting untold misery on a people conditioned to suffering by the whimsical currents of history.
While the situation did appear hopeless, much has been done on the ground by both the Center and the State, chiefly with the help of the Armed Forces to pull the state back from a precipice. After the hectic events of the last three and a half decades, there seems to be a relatively uneasy calm (especially in the period between 2012 and 2016) which keeps getting disrupted –whether it is a potent for the future or the proverbial ‘calm before the storm’ is too soon to foretell. But Kashmir today is on the cusp of a number of events which will have a direct bearing on its future.
Firstly, the population seems to be tired of the repeated, senseless acts of violence and is looking forward to a sense of stability and progress. Secondly, the foreign militants have been contained; however the efficacy of the security forces and the government, in weaning the population away from this path, seems to be producing limited fruits which are visible in sporadic incidents of crowd support during encounters, especially after the Burhan Wani encounter. The frequent engineered disruptions during counter terrorist operations and bye-polls is a cause for concern and the danger of muddying the waters for narrow political gains is a very real danger. Thirdly, the Hurriyat after furious activity over the last few years seems to be struggling to paper over the differences between its members and present a façade of unity, albeit with indifferent success. Fourthly, on the external side, Pakistan’s civilian government in spite of corruption issues, appears to be gaining a tenuous grip on the Army, though the strength of the leash in a crisis and the effect of fundamentalist forces remain untested. But, at the moment, Pakistan appears to be resolving its internal issues – those related to corruption, economic issues, internal security and unity, fundamentalism and its relations with Afghanistan. Fifthly, the Pan-Islamization card, the fate of ISIS and in turn Pakistan’s Narrative of Radicalization of Kashmir hangs in balance. Lastly, a positive dispensation at the Centre, a near simultaneous change of guard at Washington and positive intent being shown by the Trump Administration to make State Sponsored Terrorism in any form unacceptable, will certainly have an effect on the situation in Kashmir – for better or worse is up in the air for the moment.
The time therefore, appears to be ripe to find and implement a solution to the issue of the troubled state. The solution can never be one which is acceptable to one and all, or acceptable to anyone in all respects but merely one which is acceptable to the largest number of stakeholders in parts or in whole. “Selling the solution” will be as vital as finding it and therefore managing perceptions becomes all the more important.
Present State Vs Desired End State
Present State. The present state of security in the state can be at best narrated as one of an uneasy calm, that is to say that there is a sense of functionality where the security situation in the state is bordering on the line between militancy and a law and order situation, yet the governance is struggling but slowly gaining ground due to a stable and functional environment being provided by the security forces. There is an increasing demand by the Awaam to allow them more breathing space. The security forces however, understand the sacrifices that have resulted in this present functional environment and do not want to loosen the grip to allow militants to gain lost ground and then go through a tedious process of sanitizing the area which may cost more lives and sacrifices. Radicalization through Wahhabi Islam is a big challenge in the valley; there are 1,000 Jamat-e-Hadith mosques in the Valley, the clergy being from UP and Bihar but being funded by Pakistan through the Middle East. Increasingly, traditional Sufi Islam is ceding space to the radical brand of Islam in Kashmir. On top of all this stone-pelters are being indoctrinated in schools and Madrassas and then in jails where they come in contact with extremist literature and hard core militants and OGWs. A new mindset in Kashmir in the younger generation is due to the fact, that Kashmiris have been made to severe their relationship with their past through a structured doctrinal narrative created by Pakistan through radicalization and this break is being exploited to the maximum as a reinforcing loop by inimical agencies. To say the least there seems to be a deadlock and all are looking forward to a phased yet definite set of coherent strategies to reach the desired end state.
Desired End State. The desired end state of the J&K situation may be envisioned as “Peace and Prosperity” in the state which can be only be achieved if the Centre of Gravity, i.e., the Awaam perceives that all their basic needs of physiology, security as well as higher needs of esteem and self-actualization are met during the process and therefore start supporting national integration.
Perception is the Key to Success
From the desired end state it is evident that the Awaam becomes the Centre of all activity. The perception of the Awaam becomes the key to the resolution of this conflict of ideas. Efforts are needed to change the mindset as the hearts will remain where the hearth is. How do we address the higher needs of the Awaam in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, ie, the Esteem need and Self-actualization need? Although many a study has been carried out on J&K, there is a need to holistically study it as a System as well as carry out a Net assessment. Net Assessment comprises of two words, Net – the consideration of all aspects and perspectives of ours against that of competitor, relevant and significant to the problem at hand, to give a net outcome of a competitive situation. Net Assessment Integrates accurate information and intelligence to draw right implications, both direct as well as cross. It covers adequate time span of assessment as imperceptibles over a short period can produce large effects when viewed over long term. Perceptions are made in the mind and for managing perceptions it is important to study what is actually affecting the mind of the Awaam today in J&K. Understanding of the competitive situation will lead to derivation of strategies for ensuring peace, progress as well as improving Perceptions in J&K which in turn would assist us in reaching our above stated desired end state.
Perception Management/Improvement. Perception management/improvement includes all actions used to influence the attitudes and objective reasoning of foreign and domestic audiences and consists of Public Diplomacy, Psychological Operations (PSYOPS), Public Information, Deception and Covert Action. The main goal is to influence friends and enemies, provoking them to engage in the behavior that is suitable to achieve the desired end state. While the exercise of perception management has been carrying on in the Kashmir valley for years, by way of ‘Sadhbhavna’ and other measures, these are being rejected of late by the youth as a symbol of state hegemony, as these do not have the foot prints of traditional governance. There needs to be a more focused and concerted approach towards the same which is carried out at all levels over a sustained manner. We need to make a counter narrative to the idea of radicalization through picturization of the success story of development and freethinking futuristic India as a Nation as compared to many nearly failed states in the vicinity. There are broadly eight points which need concentration.
Centralized Control. Employing entities such as perception bureaus.
Preparation. Having clear goals and knowing the ideal position you want people to hold.
Credibility. Make sure all of your information is consistent, often using prejudices or expectations to increase credibility.
Multichannel Support. Have multiple arguments and facts to reinforce your information. For this do not shy away to use the international organizations like the DPKO and the ICJ as well as various for a within the country.
Security. The nature of the perception improvement campaign is known by few.
Flexibility. The deception campaign adapts and changes over time as needs change.
Coordination. The organization or propaganda bureau is organized in a hierarchical pattern in order to maintain consistent and synchronized distribution of information.
Concealment. Contradictory information is destroyed.
The perception management/improvement campaign will have to start with deciding which are the target groups which need to be addressed. These target groups should give us the maximum dividends in the long run. This evaluation is only possible if we understand the net competitive situation being played out correctly through a holistic system analysis. Through this complicated process of perception management/ improvement we are actually trying to win over the Assam to our side through a detailed positive narrative. These actions will affect the next generation and we can not afford to go wrong in the interest of gen next India.