Sunday, November 18, 2012

National Security

Reigniting Kashmir 

Prakash Katoch
[Lt Gen Prakash Katoch is one of India's most decorated Military Leader with a record of leading many high risk commando missions and commanding Special Forces and Formations with great success through some of the most hazardous operations. He always was where war, terror or crisis was at its worst.  Matching his valour, he has a sharp brain and an intellect that make him the most sought after advisor on national security, international relations, strategic affairs, military, technical and topical issues.  Over 160 articles authored by him have appeared in various magazines and journals.  He holds the Field Marshal KM Cariappa Chair of Excellence at the USI of India and is authoring a book on “Special Forces of India.” Has been contracted by the Centre For Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi to author a book on “Netcentricity and Indian Military.”]

John Quinton, American writer once wrote, “Politicians are people who, when they see light at the end of the tunnel, go out and buy some more tunnel.” Appears happening in Kashmir, at least on the Indian side. Some ‘overnight’ security strategists wake up one fine morning feeling they are best judges of matters military; better than the military itself. Last year the Chief Minister of J&K suddenly decided J&K was the most serene place on earth and declared arbitrarily, without reference to stake holders, he would revoke AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) naming areas including known terrorist strongholds. A terrorist incident immediately thereafter even led a squeamish politician from the same party accusing the Army of engineering the attack.

Interestingly, the CM’s statement came despite 195 terrorist incidents in J&K during 2011, spate of infiltration attempts, LeT training 21 female suicide bombers for attacking J&K, CM demanding 50 additional police battalions and the Centre allocating INR 499 crores to J&K for upgrading weaponry to fight terror. Luckily, status quo was maintained after much discussion including diluting AFSPA that could be highly disadvantageous to security forces fighting vicious insurgency and exposing troops to decades of litigation for legitimate acts.  

Presently, the CM is again gunning for revoking AFSPA despite continuous unprovoked firing by Pakistan, the  State admitting 3084 youth of J&K are undergoing arms training in 42 terrorist camps across border, 2500 terrorists in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir awaiting chance of infiltration, focused killing of Panchayat (village level elected body) members by Pakistani terrorists, over 100 Panchayat members resigning and Centre rushing 7000 additional Central Reserve Police Force personnel to J&K to control the deteriorating security situation. Can there be a worse example of short sightedness for narrow political goals?  

Last year when the Army Chief remarked that J&K administration had not capitalized on low levels of violence maintained by security forces, the present CM’s father went ballistic; himself an erstwhile CM of J&K who came to power following massive rigging of elections in 1987 initiating insurgency in the State. Army is sent in when the State administration fails. AFSPA in J&K came into effect through an Act of Parliament on 10 September, 1990 when its requirement was felt by the Parliament to provide administrative and legal mechanism for Armed Forces in counter-insurgency. AFSPA is not a tool for the Armed Forces to run riot. Politically motivated human rights groups may portray AFSPA as ‘draconian’ and ‘human rights abuse’ but the record of Indian Armed Forces compared to say counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and even Sri Lanka has been exceptional with minimal possible collateral damage and without use of heavy weapons, air and artillery. National Human Rights Commission statistics prove that only 4-5 percent of human rights abuse allegations have proved true and armed forces have ensured exemplary punishments in every case.  

Armed Forces do not want prolonged deployment in counter insurgency but the State administration has to do their part to normalize environment, which is sadly lacking. The CM continuously rejects implementation of 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Indian Constitution that empowers Panchayats. Delhi Policy Group (Think Tank based in New Delhi) held a comprehensive round table on J&K with politicians of every hue of J&K whose unanimous antipathy was that the State Government is ensuring Panchayats have no powers. How then can governance improve at the grassroots? Isn’t this by design, insurgency and criminalization of politics having become a currency for retaining power. The opposition in J&K too has clear links with Hijbul Mujahideen.  

The phenomenon is not new in India; take the hate speeches in Assam during Emergency era that created ULFA, Illegal Migrants - Determination by Tribunals Act of 1984 for Assam that regularized illegal Bangladeshi immigrants (many possibly trained in terrorist camps) drastically altering demographic profile till struck down in 2005 by Supreme Court as “unconstitutional”, training and arming Bodos, creation of Bhindranwale and what have you. Nagaland was perfect for optimizing political gains since all insurgents were based in adjoining state of Manipur and could be summoned to keep up violence when required. India used an entire Division to decimate the Maoist movement at Naxalbari few years back, yet the movement has been allowed to grow exponentially largely through mis-governance. Political power apart, insurgency is good for individual finances. The Centre doles out enormous funds, accountability not sought andno one the wiser. Presently, the Indian Home Minister has talked of “credible intelligence reports of Pakistan trying to stir up trouble in India by helping terrorist infiltration” but what the stance of the Centre will be next summer with elections approaching is anybody’s guess especially if Pakistan ensures a prolonged tactical pause.  

For political gains, the Centre may go to any length as demonstrated by the underhand Track II agreement to demilitarize Siachen without debate in Parliament. Since government officials formally briefed the Track II Team prior to proceeding to Lahore, it makes it official and smacks of intrigue at highest levels. Perhaps AFSPA could not be revoked presently because of stiff opposition by the Northern Army Commander but he retires next year. A mischievous report titled ‘Kashmir Vs Northern Command’ in ‘Geopolitics’ of October 2012 talking of differing perception of Army Headquarters and Northern Command indicates government’s dirty tricks department in play.  

The Army Chief categorically stated recently he is against Siachen demilitarization yet the government ignored his advice. Next summer may see revoking AFSPA from J&K since J&K is part of the ruling coalition. Last time when militancy similarly went down in J&K, Pakistan made massive intrusions in Kargil forcing diversion of troops that facilitated infiltration. Revoking of AFSPA will re-ignite Kashmir Valley while withdrawal from Siachen will set Ladakh afire with terrorist bases mushrooming all over Ladakh and Zanskar Ranges. Hopefully, rumours that the new Foreign Minister has been brought in just to ensure this are untrue but John Quinton must know we don’t need to buy tunnels here, we dig our own!

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