IDR Blog

Irrationality Making Kashmir An Unstable Plateau
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Brig Narender Kumar (Retd.)
Senior Fellow, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.

John Maynard Keynes said, “There is nothing so disastrous as a rational strategy in an irrational world.” The turn of events put in place by Pakistan hints at dangerous consequences over Kashmir. Pakistan has been able to take the Kashmir conflict to a stage where reversal will not be easy. It is clear that that Pakistan has given it new twist and made it look like an indigenous uprising and denial is only self-deluding. India looked at proxy war from a rational security point of view but what Pakistan has done is that it has waged proxy war by being irrational and unpredictable. India is fighting proxy war with regulars whereas Pakistan has employed irregulars effectively.    

Considering the inherent superiority of defensive warfare Clausewitz stated that, “habitual aggressors are likely to end up as failures”. But India also forgot to take note of what Clausewitz further said that, “inherent superiority of the defence obviously does not mean that the defender will always win”.  Therefore, a purely defensive strategy without aggression is unlikely to guarantee defeat of adversary. The efforts to make Pakistan pay the price of proxy war are at best inconsistent and not hurting Pakistan enough militarily or economically. Adoption of a high moral ground is being perceived by Pakistan as sign of weakness or absence of leverage.

Pakistan has been able to create a perception among the people and international community that there is indeed a freedom struggle going on in Kashmir.  The unrest and revolt against the state especially in Kashmir Valley is today at critical stage and cannot be brushed aside in a hope that turmoil will settle down. To believe that India by employment of security forces will be able to handle the crises in Kashmir is being economic with the truth. Kashmir has reached a critical stage where only extraordinary steps can prevent its trajectory to a point of no return. Longer the security forces remain a tool of stability, faster it will degenerate into major chaos; because the fear of gun no longer appears relevant to the Awam in Kashmir.

Signature of Storm

A Movement Without Leadership. Intolerance, resistance against state, a movement without a leader is a most dangerous situation; it appears that the movement hence forth will be controlled by Pakistan and there are no leaders in the Valley to negotiate with. “Agitational terrorism” is a new strategy that is preventing any space for dialogue or discussion.

Ground Swell and Breakdown of Communication. No reconciliation can take place in the absence of formal and informal dialogue. Today there are no stakeholders who are coming forward to negotiate and discuss confidence building measures to restore peace and stability. Azadi is what youngsters want to talk about, not jobs. Saeed Sarmad, a 21-year-old B. Tech student said, “India wants to own us, but the problem is we don’t want to be part of it, we have never been a part of it. We want recognition of our own identity. We want azadi”.This is not the sentiment expressed by a student alone but even the woman and children echo similar sentiments. Most do not even know the meaning of Azadi.

Radicalisation of Murderous Crowd. There is a perception that Madarsas are the root cause of radicalisation. It is not entirely true. Murderous crowd using stones as weapon are organised by those who are studying in government or private academies. The crowds consist of children and youth in the age group of 8 to 24. The problem is that young children are easy to incite and are becoming bolder by the day. The casualty ratio of young children is higher because they cannot be restrained by logic. The blame for radicalising students goes to teachers, college lecturers and paid instigators.

Sagacity of Rationality Losing Relevance. Sagacity of rationality is wisdom to think and understand others’ viewpoints in a logical and rational manner. Pakistan has lost the sagacity of rationality and is unwilling to discuss normalisation of relations between the two countries that hover around terrorism and turbulence in Kashmir. Pakistan is aware that the Hurriyat is irrelevant and their value is nothing more than a showpiece to be preserved for posterity. On the other side the youth in Kashmir Valley have become intolerant and refuse to be drawn into debate of inclusion into the main stream of India. Terrorists lost the rationale thinking the day they chose to use the gun as a tool of their expression and are least interested in conflict resolution. The political clan in Delhi and Srinagar are either clueless or living in a hope that time will bridge the fault-lines between the people and union of India. The new phenomenon is that, along with direct violence, even cultural and structural violence has taken control of the psyche of Kashmiri youth. It is indeed a complete erosion of societal influence on its members.

Pakistan wants to create political instability to ensure that the present government fails. Mehbooba Mufti’s government must survive and the Centre needs to support it till the hilt. Governor’s rule will make one more adversary and that is not warranted at this stage. Efforts should be to minimise and neutralise the opposition by way of reconciliation, engagement and even by exposing those who wish to go against the interest of the state. It is not the time to experiment and appease separatists, it is time to break the momentum so that Pakistan is unable to mobilise youth, stone-pelters (they come at a cost) and the public against the state and security forces. Naming and shaming of Pakistan for its terror network has not worked and only way at the moment is to expose the double speak of the separatists and the agents of Pakistan proxies in Kashmir.

The biggest impact of the current turmoil is that counter-terrorism operations have come to a grinding halt and that is a big victory for Pakistan and its proxies in Kashmir. It is a dangerous situation that can undermine India’s conventional capability against Pakistan especially in Kashmir. Lines of communication can be choked, logistic support can be paralysed and rear areas can be made completely insecure. This is a big predicament that must be examined by the military and political leadership.

The pellet gun has been a disaster and it has turned even the neutral Kashmiri Awam against India. If CRPF had used the INSAS rifles the over loss would have been far lesser. The number of injured would have been much lesser and psychological scars reduced; incapacitation has created permanent adversaries. The police and CAPF should be held accountable for giving leverage to separatists to create unstable ground conditions. It is happening too often and the Army should not be made to pay the price for failure of other organs of the state. There is clamour within and outside Kashmir that the Army should be redeployed in areas where CAPF and police have created a situation that is irretrievable.

Extraordinary Situations need Extraordinary Solutions

The conflict is at critical stage and India cannot wait for a solution to come out of ordinary efforts. Solutions lie in what India does to Pakistan to inflict similar pain as being caused by Pakistan in Kashmir. Those who are aware of the ground situation are aware that it would need nothing less than a miracle to reverse this situation and until or unless Pakistan is made to pay the price. There are measures short of war that must be employed to force the Pakistan Army to step back. In India there are a number of apologists who advocate that a united Pakistan is good for India; but Pakistan in its present state is extremely dangerous for India, where the Pakistan civil government has no control over the Pakistan Army especially when it comes to Kashmir. The Pakistan Army is unlikely to lift the pressure from the pedal until or unless India is able to make it untenable for Pakistan to pursue the current Kashmir strategy.

  • Terrorists hiding in Pakistan have no right to live and wage war against India. They must feel unsafe before it is too late for India to respond. This will send messages to terrorists operating within India.
  • Pakistan is surrounded by vulnerability from Afghanistan, Baluchistan and even POK. Any delay in executing this strategy will be costly and Pakistan will continue to make India pay with Kashmir for creation of Bangladesh.
  • Pakistan has waged an economic and drug war with India including FICN and drug trafficking, it is high time to pay back Pakistan in the same coin.
  • Pakistan cannot do business with India as a surrogate representative of the Pakistan Army. One wonders if military diplomacy will be of any help. But that would take time since Pakistan Army is not keen to have direct dialogue with the Indian Army and the Indian Army has been prevented by political leaders and bureaucracy from direct interaction with the Pakistani Army except on the ceremonial hot-line. There is no harm in initiating military to military dialogue even if it does not yield much result.
  • Pakistan is politically unstable and that vulnerability needs to be exploited and fast. A chaotic Pakistan is better at the moment than a stable Pakistan that is able to trigger instability in Kashmir.
  • Election results in POK has given a stick to India to flog Pakistan, It must be used and exploited to the hilt. There is need to create an alternative narrative of supporting freedom struggle in POK. Yasin Malik and Zahoor Bhat (younger brother of Maqbool Bhat) could become pioneers of such a movement that calls for “Is par bhee Azadi us par bhee Azadi”
  • India should not remain a passive spectator to Chinese investment in POK. A two way tirade against Chinese colonisation of Northern Areas and suppression of rights of the people of this area needs to be triggered.

The Government must ensure that regular economic activities must continue even if it means relaxing curfew and providing protection to apple transport to other parts of India. Failure of tourism season has caused major instability and all those who were engaged in this industry now find themselves engaged in stone-pelting and organising Bandhs and that is a sizeable population. Economic hardship will spell doom in the Valley and even fence-sitters will become disaffected.

So far the trouble has not descended south of Pir Panjal and it is important that this area is not neglected at the cost of instability in valley. It is time to reward the people of South of Pir Panjal with economic and infrastructure development before they are instigated by separatists from Valley. Another important facet is deeper engagement with the Gujjars, Bakarwals and those living in hills because they also have a sizeable population.

Stability in J&K is can only be restored if Pakistan is tested in POK and Baluchistan. The PM may have reminded Pakistan that Baluchistan is a card that India can play if it does not behave as a good neighbor, but the focus for India should be POK; this is where it hurts China and Pakistan most. Notwithstanding the above, Indian Army, in this fog, must remain focused and keep the powder dry to ensure that Pakistan and China are not allowed to create mischief along the LOC. Primary focus should be conventional preparation and alternative plans in place to protect the rear areas.

The Kashmiri society is vertically split, youths and woman are driving the agenda of Azadi whereas the older generation is aware of the pitfalls of the direction towards which this agitational terrorism is heading. The divide is so deep that the youth go to Ahle Hadid mosques whereas the older generation still goes to the mosques of Sufi Islam. There is also no consensus among the youth whether they want Azadi or want to join Pakistan? The older generation is aware that the best option for Kashmir is to remain with India but want some face saving as part of autonomy.


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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

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