The Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) organised a seminar on the ‘Current Situation in Jammu and Kashmir and Contours of Future Strategy’ on January 02, 2008. The keynote address was delivered by Lt Gen M L Naidu, AVSM, YSM, VCOAS. In the first session, chaired by Mr. Shekhar Dutt, Deputy NSA, Lt Gen R K Nanavatty (Retd) former GOC-in-C, Northern Command and Lt Gen A S Sekhon, AVSM, YSM, DGMO, analysed the present military situation and the demilitarisation issue in J&K state. In the second session, chaired by Mr. N N Vohra, Special Representative for J&K, Mr. Wajahat Habibullah, Chief Information Commissioner and a Kashmir veteran, AVM Kapil Kak (Retd), Additional Director, Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi, and Dr. Navnita Behera of Jamia Milia Islamia, analysed the stakes and interests of the various parties to the conflict in J&K in detail and dwelt on the contours of future strategies for its resolution.
Objectives of the Seminar
(a) To take stock of the conflict/military situation prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir in general and the pros and cons of demilitarisation in particular.
(b) To discuss the politico-military situation with a view to formulating future strategies for the early resolution of the conflict.
Programme: The seminar comprised two sessions. For details of speakers, please see Appendix.
Session I: The Present Military Situation and the Demilitarisation Issue
The comments and discussions highlighted some areas of persisting concern, such as the ceasefire, the border fence and demilitarisation. The salient aspects and issues articulated/discussed during the session are highlighted below:-
- A major aspect that emerged in the initial stages was that of the Pakistan Army’s continuing complicity, duplicity and deceit with respect to policies and activities in Jammu and Kashmir. While overtly Pakistan states that it extends only political, diplomatic and moral support to the freedom struggle in Kashmir, it has simultaneously and steadfastly increased its involvement in terrorist activities in J&K and the rest of the country. Terrorist infrastructure in POK and Pakistan still remains intact.
- There was general consensus that the Pakistan Army has by and large scripted the relationship between India and Pakistan since 1948. The situation is no different today. There may be a drop in infiltration levels in the state but infiltration from other states of India and through neighbouring countries continues. Funding of the militant organisations goes on unabated through circulation of fake currency and the ‘hawala’ route.
- While attempts at infiltration continue unabated violence dropped sharply by about 50 per cent, over the levels of 2006. Violence is now more specifically targeted against the security forces.
- The number of trained and armed terrorists has come down to about 1,400, with about 700 to 800 in Kashmir Valley and the remainder in the Jammu region. However, not all of them are now active. Sleeper cells are lying low and waiting to strike at a more opportune time. After the recent successes achieved by the security forces, the morale of the terrorists is low and self-preservation is a major motive. They no longer have the support of the people and are being increasingly actively resisted. Indian Kashmiri militant groups are now relying less on violence and more on other means like mass protests, influencing viewpoints through coercion of the local media, prevailing on members of local bar associations to file human rights abuse cases and nudging some of the political parties to carry forward the agenda of separatism.
- Efforts towards perception management need to be enhanced to reduce feelings of alienation.
- It also emerged that persisting with military operations on the same scale, size, pattern and intensity for a prolonged period will prove counter productive in the long run. Cases of human rights violations are being reported frequently and this may lead to further alienation of the people. The policy of “zero tolerance” of human rights abuses must be implemented resolutely.
- The problem in J&K needs to be viewed as a social-political problem. The current situation needs to be analysed carefully to ascertain whether it has reached a state of “strategic stalemate” or is it just a tactical pause. There is a need for a more vigorous political initiative to address the underlying causes of conflict.
- In the present circumstances, the ceasefire has been of significant advantage to Pakistan as it has negated whatever little military dominance and advantage the Indian army had on the Line of Control. A declared punitive operations policy in case of attempted infiltration by militants was suggested by one of the speakers.
- It emerged that although the fence on the Line of Control has resulted in decreased infiltration, yet it has also resulted in increased commitment of troops and high running and maintenance costs. Non-tactical deployment of Army troops on the fence with lights and noisy generators resembles BSF nakas. The army needs to be relieved of manning the fence. A speaker recommended that the fence should now be manned by RR / BSF battalions.
- On the much publicised aspect of demilitarisation in J&K, it clearly emerged that this concept is only applicable to the Line of Control and not to counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations. As far as the Line of Control is concerned, it is evident that there can be no talk of demilitarisation at present. “Disengagement” is what could be applicable to counter insurgency operations in the hinterland. However; this is a political decision that will be taken in consultation with the army, other security forces and intelligence agencies. In the case of disengagement, the state police rather than the Central para-military forces must be capable of taking over control from the army in a phased manner. This would be a better option as it would give a very positive indication of the improving security situation and gradual return to normalcy. The next benchmark necessitating a review of the situation will be the 2008 elections in the state.
- There is a need to address the lack of training of J&K police and make it more professional. The existing units must be better trained and should be given better weapons and equipment.
- A discussion also arose on the aspect of India’s response to the current political instability in Pakistan. The options discussed varied from “detached engagement” to aggressive exploitation. Detached engagement was the favoured option. At the same time it was suggested that there is a need for more focused economic development in the border areas in J&K.
- It emerged during the discussions that the factors shaping the situation in J&K are primarily Pakistan’s intent, political dynamics and relations between the State and the Central government. Poor governance and realpolitik are continuing to prevent emotional integration of the local people into the national mainstream. Industrial infrastructure in the state needs to be improved. Job opportunities in the state and openings for Kashmiris in the rest of the country need to be created. Socio-economic development needs to receive impetus along with increased scope for tourism industry. Talks for conflict resolution should be held only with the genuine representatives of the people.
- The participants also concluded that Pakistan’s innate desire to annex J&K through war and ‘jihad’ has been completely negated. This perhaps gives a pointer that while Pakistan’s dream of taking Kashmir remains, perhaps the strategy is being given a fresh thought.
Session II: Contours of Future Strategy
The salient aspects and issues articulated/discussed during the session are briefly highlighted below:-
- Many of the participants bemoaned the absence of a clear and comprehensive, national-level strategy that simultaneously addresses political, diplomatic, economic, social and psychological issues. Besides the lack of socio-economic development, poor governance was especially identified as a major factor fuelling conflict.
- It emerged that integration of the people of J&K with the rest of India is the biggest challenge. A multi-track approach is required to alleviate the problem. As socio-economic challenges and poor governance in J&K are the major problems which have caused alienation of the people, only a comprehensive strategy can remove the irritants. There is also a need for a joint politico-military strategy.
- Increased trade and increased people to people contacts between India and Pakistan should be the basis of the external strategy. Simultaneously, an endeavour to improve negotiating space must continue. Track two or back channels have worked in the past. These must be given due impetus for finding a solution to the problem. India needs to leverage its soft power to generate a situation where better relations with India would be in Pakistan’s favour.
- The disconnect between the government and the people in Jammu, Srinagar and Leh was brought out. Ground level policy initiatives must be given due importance to develop all regions of the state.
- At the political level there should be an institutionalised mechanism for dialogue. ‘Panchayats’ at the village level need to be empowered to bring about greater democratic participation of the people. Regional level councils on the lines of Hill Development Councils were recommended to be created. The need for the state to have an independent election commission and finance commission was also suggested.
- It was also recommended that there is a need to build up international pressure on Pakistan towards dismantling the ‘Jihadi’ network that is functional in Pakistan.
The general consensus at the end of the seminar was that Pakistan is at risk of imploding and this could have repercussions for J&K. In the present situation, India’s options are to seize the present opportunity to prevail on Pakistan to make peace or to follow a policy of detached engagement towards Pakistan. It emerged during the seminar deliberations that special development of the border areas is a must for proper integration of the people of J&K with the national mainstream. There is a need to make the dialogue mechanism more effective as the potential of such dialogues has not yet been effectively tapped.
It was decided to hold a round-table discussion to focus more specifically on comprehensive future strategies for the resolution of the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir.