Three weeks back this author was invited to Akhnoor to deliver a talk on “National Security Challenges”.
This kind of an invitation in a small town of J&K was unthinkable before the arrival of current dispensation in New Delhi. It was inconceivable because nationalism was stifled by various jihadi oriented, pro Pakistan dispensations. This is the same Akhnoor which Ayub had described as the jugular vein of India and in the 1965 war launched Operation Grand Slam in conjunction with Operation Gibraltar in Kashmir, which was essentially an invasion by jihadi irregulars. Gen Yahya Khan, the then divisional commander who presided over Operation Grand Slam, had promised his men to deliver the next breakfast at the Akhnoor Bridge. In the 1971 war there was another offensive in the same area, more specifically Chamb. The objectives of both the offensives, in ‘65 and ‘71, was to severe J&K from rest of the country.
Key to Kashmir is Jammu
On several occasions before the abrogation of Article 370, this author had been invited to Jammu to participate in seminars on national security. It was virtually impossible to have similar seminars in the Kashmir Valley because, in theocratic, sociological and psychological orientation, it had turned into a hostile alien entity in its interface with Jammu and Ladakh. However, the governance apparatus was Kashmir centric and Pakistan biased Kashmiri Muslim dispensation ruling over a vast landmass with which it had no emotional connect.
A G Noorani, an author and commentator on constitutional matters, opines that the entire exercise of removal of Article 370, was inspired by the motivation of facilitating a Hindu Chief Minister. He has only reflected the Muslim majoritarian mindset in J&K, that a Hindu chief minister in the state was not acceptable notwithstanding the fact that Hindu majority states like Bihar, Maharashtra and Rajasthan had Muslims at the helm.
So given the prevailing mindset , this author, on all previous visits, came across people of the Jammu region who had resigned to this ground reality of being second class citizen in their own state and country. However, given the emphatic electoral promise with regard to abrogation of Article 370, given by this dispensation, there was glimmer of hope, a tentative sense of assurance. This indeed was a decisive point to be seized. PS p
Exodus From Jammu?
During the latest visit to the Jammu region in connection with the scheduled talk in Akhnoor, this author met people who had suffered all these years by the tyranny of Article 370. This segment represented the majority. They were majority in Jammu but minority in J&K, even though geographically the Jammu region is a much larger in size. Most of them said that after decades, they were breathing easy. They asserted that but for the dispensation in Delhi they would have met the same fate as five lakh Kashmiri Hindus who were driven out of Kashmir Valley by the Kashmiri Hindus with whom they shared their ancestors. Change of faith is no ordinary matter, it vitiates both internal security and external security. It creates hostilities of history and geography. It creates new boundaries. It consumes prosperity and well being. It feeds on animosity, fear and apprehension. The Hindus of Jammu told me that they too were driven to the edge of exodus. They revealed that they had begun to search for new hearth and home across India to escape the “cursed land of J&K”. They said that once Article 370 got abrogated, the jihadi juggernaut has not reversed but has certainly halted. A police officer, back from Ladakh said that that the new Union Territory status has politically, socially and theoretically energized the Ladakhi’s and Buddhism is again breathing fresh air in absence of Kashmir induced jihadi clouds. The visit of HH Dalai Lama is of great significance.
Kashmiriyat is Gasping
A senior officer in J&K administration proudly proclaimed to this author that this was the first Id festival ko that was not marred by violence. His only lament was a complaint from an organization devoted to welfare of animals. The complaint was about slaughter of a camel as part of the festivities. Though the official was not very perturbed, the incident does trigger several questions. Why was it so important to slaughter a camel, a desert animal, in the hilly environs of Jammu? Why was the desArab Islamic culture of the desert imported to the land of Jammu? Has Kashmiriyat and Dogriyat completely disappeared from the Muslim community in the region? Is Kashmiri Islam dead? Has Dogri Islam perished ? Have all Muslims in India succumbed to Pan Islamism?
Changing Face of Proxy War
During the interactions, a key operative in the security apparatus told this author that post 370 infiltrations across the LoC has come down ; but has gone up in the IB sector. Tunnels are created with the tacit indulgence of the Pak Rangers. One of the reasons ascribed for increase in infiltration through IB is ISI making the availability of drones to Pak based jihadi organizations for reconnaissance ,thus making the task of finding weak spots and opportunities easier over a wide frontage. Once they cross undetected through man-made tunnels, the jihadis get into a prearranged vehicle on Highway 1A. Further it is arduous to carry out checks because this particular highway has one of the heaviest volumes of traffic. Also, this author was told that drone activity has gone up considerably, and they can now carry pay loads upto 15 kgs. AK 47s, grenades, pistols and variety of other weapons are being delivered by means of drones.
As the world moves towards unmanned platforms, its impact is being felt on the LOC and the International Border with Pakistan. The drones impose big challenge to border fencing. The nature of proxy war is therefore changing. The recent targeting of AlQaeda leader Al Zawahari with a Hellfire R9X missile fired from a drone only reinforces this truism. It indicates that the conflict in Afghanistan is far from over, and distance is no deterrence to proxy war. The Americans could not have carried out this operation without proxies embedded in Afghanistan or even the Taliban regime.
India has been rather slow in appreciating the import of Proxy War as prosecuted by Pakistan. We have rather been too obsessed with Kinetic Conflicts. One example of proxy war is the dilemma faced by Kashmiris in the Indian Army. They were trained and tasked to defend the country from external aggression which they performed in a laudable manner. But many of these personnel could not save their own homes and properties inside Kashmir. They could not prevent the exodus of half a million Hindus in 1990. The internal loss was on account of the same enemy that poses external threat, i.e. the Pakistan Army. This is the simplest example of change in nature of war in the context of Pakistan. We suffered internally because Pakistan hit at the very root of our ‘war and victory’ mindset and defence policy and posturing. Pakistan had become masters in this form of Warfare over ten long years I.e.1978 to 1988, wherein it trained and deployed jihadi proxies in Afghanistan in concert with the US. It also created and manipulated proxies within the Afghan regime and security forces.
Proxy Industry in Disarray
If one considers India as geographical entity bounded by defined frontiers and protected by the armed forces and security and administrative machinery within, then India as a country may, as of now, may appear safe, but is Bharat safe as a nation. With so many Pakistani and Chinese proxies within, it is certainly not. The Soviet Union militarily was an unassailable state but a weak nation, hence it collapsed. During the 370 period the Pak created proxy apparatus in Kashmir was in direct conflict with the imperatives of the security forces. The proxy apparatus comprised the J&K government, the Hurriyat Conference, the Jamiat-e-Islami, the Aligarh Muslim University, the JNU and the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi. These proxies openly demonstrated their strength from time to time. This Kashmir proxy industry is in total disarray after abrogation of Article 370. The Hurriyat has been dismantled. Pak proxies dread going to Pakistan High Commission . Jamiat e Islami is palpably circumspect, JNU is in the scanner and most jihadi separatist leaders are in jail, including Yaseen Malik being the most vicious but openly courted by previous dispensations.
Jihad on India!
Two kinds of Jihad impact on India. One which is J&K centric, and is orchestrated by the Pakistan Military- Intelligence establishment. Pak based jihadi organizations like the LeT and JeM are its instruments. The second type of jihad is unleashed on India by global jihadi organizations that are based in Afghan – Pakistan region ,over which the Pak military has little control. The two main outfits in this genre are Al Qaeda and Islamic State. These global jihadi organizations have different chapters in different parts of the world like the Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). Both these types of jihads have one ultimate objective I.e. to establish Shariat based Islamic State under a Caliphate. Their mission is to convert India from Darul Harb (abode of nonbelievers) to Darul Islam (abode of believers). This nevertheless is the ultimate objective. The intermediate objective with respect to Kashmir is to assimilate the territory into Pakistan, and as far as rest of the country is concerned, the ongoing struggle is for establishing Islamic rule, if not directly then by proxy. There are different routes for the objectives. In case of Kashmir, it is ‘Pak Military-Jihadi-Proxy War’ route and for rest of India it is ‘Political-Jihadi-Terror’ route. To an extent Pakistan and Kashmir are common factors for both the routes.
Why Kashmir So Important For Pakistan?
But why has Pakistan been so desperate to acquire J&K. It is because it is strategically critical both in regional and global reckonings. It is the crown of India. It is critical for the ecology of the sub continent .It acts like shield for India. It interfaces with China, Central Asia and China. It has an indirect but intimate interface with Russia. The possession of POJK will give India direct access to Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan and could facilitate energy pipelines from Russia and Central Asia. Without the POJK, Pakistan would have no geographical contiguity with China and hence no feasibilty of the China -Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Without POJK there would no possibility of two front situation for India. And finally the rivers that keep Pakistan alive originate from the J&K region. Without these rivers Pakistan would be dead.
Abrogation of 370 at an Ideal Time!
Geopolitically, the journey of Article 370 had come to its end. It all began with the tribal invasion in October 1947, leading to a 15 month long war. Once the tribal invasion took place, and India responded aggressively, the ensuing war in hindsight appears to be fixed match between the British army chiefs of the two countries i.e. Gen Lockhart in India and Gen Gracey of Pakistan. Initially the British were working behind the scenes to ensure that J&K goes to Pakistan in entirety, but when that did not work out they were contended with Pakistan’s possession of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). In the British post colonial and Cold War strategic aspirations, GB was an uncompromising imperative. No sooner that was achieved they ensured UN sponsored ceasefire by machinations, of which Mountbatten was a part. On 01 Nov 1947, ten days after the tribal invasion into Kashmir Valley Maj Robert Brown, Commander of the Gilgit Scouts led a revolt with his men for accession to Pakistan. The British conspiracy could barely be concealed. Gilgit-Baltistan along with the Durand Line formed the ‘limit of penetration’ to check Russian inroads. It was known as the Great Game. Even after the Second World War, and during the Cold War, GB retained its strategic significance in British reckoning. It may be remembered that from 1947 till 1956, Britain remained the most influential world power. It was supplanted by America in 1956 after the Suez crisis. Hence during these years Britain could internationally blackmail India on J&K in deference to its strategic interests and interest of Pakistan, with its veto power.
There was no power that could be trusted to veto in favour of India. Even the Soviet Union misguided by its communist philosophy was not in favor of India. It was when in 1955 that the US signed defence pact with Pakistan that the Soviet Union began to solidly back India on Kashmir. Khrushchev along with Bulganin visited India and went to Kashmir as well. During this visit Khrushchev had famously remarked: “We are so near that if ever you call us from the mountain tops we will appear at your side.” Thereafter the vital Soviet veto in UN could be relied on. It emboldened successive prime-ministers to dilute and downgrade Article 370. The process was halted during the ‘90s as post Cold War the US enjoyed immense uni-polarity. It was with the turn of the century that wheel of geopolitics began to turn in favoour of India, where India’s role in Indo Pacific strategy became crucial. Meanwhile India’s standing in the world community grew formidable over the years not only on account of geopolitics but geo-economics as well. India is one of the world’s largest economies and largest markets. Today countries in West Asia are vying with each other to increase their energy export share. They are all Islamic countries , in fact the progenitor of Islam. So this was the ideal time to drive the death knell into Article 370.
Map of J&K Through the Third Eye
The map of J&K has much to convey. We did not heed to the underlying message in it. Percentage area wise the spread is as follows: Ladakh -26.9 percent, Jammu- 11.8 percent, Valley-7. 2 percent, and POJK- 35.2 percent ( GB -29.2 and 6 percent is what Pak calls as Azad Kashmir). What Pakistan acknowledges as disputed is the tail of the kite shaped POJK I.e. just 6 percent of the area. Pakistan had gobbled GB in 1949 through the instrumentation of Karachi Accord in 1949 and we did not protest. GB was renamed Northern Areas and we did not protest. In 1963 Pakistan gifted a slice of territory to China and we did not protest. We never emphasized on GB- Kargil interface during the people to people contact period. We tuned our perception of POJK to Pakistan’s parameters of Azad Kashmir. The abrogation of Article 370 will go a long way in correcting this perception because the Union Territory of Ladakh will be more focused on Gilgit-Baltistan. Given that CPEC traverses through GB this is of urgent importance.
The Kashmir Valley is overwhelmingly inhabited by Sunni Muslims but as we move eastwards towards Kargil there is increasing density of Shias who share cultural affinities with inhabitants of GB. Further east is Buddhist majority Ladakh.
Statehood cannot be Route to Darul Islam
When judging the demography in the backdrop of the map of J&K, the picture that emerges is of ugly, vitiated and draconian face of democracy. The Sunni concentration in the Valley hounded out half a million Hindus to turn it into Darul Islam. The same was being attempted in Jammu before abrogation of Article 370 struck. Ideologues like Madudi attempted the same on a larger canvas. They argued that Pakistan, a Darul Islam could serve as a base to change Hindustan from Darul Harb to Darul Islam. In context of J&K, people living in 7 percent area cannot be allowed to preside over the destiny of the people living in 93 percent of the area. The narrative needs to be altered. The option of statehood to J&K should be weighed. Statehood cannot be the route to Shariat and Darul Islam.
Mehbooba Mufti had famously proclaimed that if Article 370 is abrogated, there would be no one to lend his shoulder to the bier of the National Flag(Tiranga). The reality post abrogation is the fast growing ubiquity of Tiranga through the length and breadth of Kashmir Valley. So far 12 million tourists have visited Kashmir. The average number of flights landing in Srinagar is 60.These are staggering numbers that engender enormous economic spin offs. The Sunni Muslim Kashmiri rulers belonging to few families considered Jammu and Ladakh as vassal states. It was reflected in the annual durbar move from Srinagar to Jammu, which costed the taxpayer Rs 400 crores. This aristocratic exercise has been done away with. Jihad had nearly bled Kashmiriyat to death, Hindustaniyat has begun to revive it. Abrogation of Article 370 is proving to be wonder medicine for J&K.