K B Jandial
Hardly a day passes when the nation doesn’t hear chilling news of one killing or the other in the hinterland of Kashmir or on the LoC. Latest scary news comes from hitherto peaceful environs of Jammu city. Be it the escape of Pak terrorist from a Srinagar’s Hospital or breach of security in Sunjuwan Military Station, there seems to be no end to terror strikes. While it is causing huge concern to everyone but regrettably there is no unanimity on this ever lingering bloodshed with political parties not restraining from playing politics on killings. Leave aside unanimity, the dirty politics has gone to the unacceptable extent that even one senior NC MLA and former Speaker, Akbar Lone shouted “Pakistan Zindabad” in the Assembly in response to BJP’s “Pakistan Murdabad” and later, justified it on a TV camera. What action the House would take on such brazen anti-India act? However, NC leadership was quick to say that it is unacceptable.
Only last week, the State Assembly failed to adopt a BJP member’s resolution to condemn Pakistan for causing wanton destruction of life and property on the border as all Kashmir centric parties showed reservation to “single out Pakistan” for such condemnation and instead wanted to appeal to both Pakistan and India to exercise restraint and initiate dialogue process. Alliance partner, BJP was left red-faced, but perhaps they are getting used to it for retaining power.
Comparative data on killings
Casualties 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
Militants 213 150 108 110 67 72 100
SF 78 74 43 47 53 15 33
While such resolutions are mere symbolism and have no impact on Pakistan for which bloodshed on either side of the border has little concern, it also sends a loud message across the border that J&K lawmakers are not united against Pakistan even when it is bleeding J&K. Kashmir centric parties always prefer to equate the rogue Pakistan with ‘sufferer’ India. They prefer to keep both India and Pakistan at equidistance as if J&K is not part of India.
Thirteen soldiers have been martyred on LOC in Pakistan firing since last week of December last, four including one Major in Keri sector of Rajouri sector on December 23, 2017 and five others in similar firing incidents between January 13-20, 2018 Rajouri- Poonch sectors. Fourteen civilians too have lost their lives in cross LoC firing last month, raising the number of such causalities to 42 in three years.
Indian army has been retaliating with full force to avenge these deaths and smash army positions across LoC in which many Pak rangers and civilians are killed. This eye-for-eye SOP is vigorously followed ever since Indian army successfully executed surgical strike on 29 September, 2016. Pakistan suffered heavy causalities in every retaliatory action but it didn’t serve as deterrent to it.
In less than 40 days of 2018, as many as 240 ceasefire violations have taken place causing near havoc on both sides of the border. All time high 868 violations took place in 2017 in which 18 Indian soldiers were martyred while 136 Pak soldiers were killed (Army’s claim). See Box
Within Kashmir, 213 militants were killed in 2017 under “Operation All Out”, highest in a decade which had desired impact on the ground but only temporarily as periodical terror strikes send a loud message that ‘all is not well in Kashmir’ despite repeated successes. In the last two years, 152 security personnel including JKP personnel, have been martyred which by no means is a minor loss that ought to have been prevented.
The civilians too had become victim of no-win situation. Last year, 51 civilians lost their lives in militancy related incidents. The second highest such civilian causalities of 47 occurred in 2011. Major civilian causalities, mostly stone pelters, took place in 2011 and 2016 while controlling law and order situation. In 2011, 117 were killed while 85 killed in the disturbances in 2016.
The LoC escalation and rising graph of terror strikes in Kashmir are likely to continue as elections in Pakistan are slated to be held in next two months. Notwithstanding who wins the elections, Pak army which has been scuttling all Indian initiatives of peace, would continue to be calling shots. Initiation of any moves for dialogue can be expected only after new political dispensation is in place. But can any dialogue be successful with a rogue state?
Forceful Indian retaliation has, so far, failed to deter Pakistan from pushing ‘jihadis’ into J&K to commit mayhems, and ceasefire violations. One view is that Pak army is not bothered about the consequential loss of human life both in Kashmir and PoK but wants escalation of the conflict to prevent any initiative for resumption of dialogue. What is the alternative?
In the prevailing scenario, question is being raised on Modi’s Kashmir and Pakistan policies, which Chidambaram chooses to call “muscular militaristic”. While many may not subscribe to Chidambaram’s political salvo but it is also a fact that so far, no tangible results are discernible on the ground, unless the higher number of militants’ causalities in Kashmir and the people across the LoC has been the objective of these policies. On its flipside, equally higher numbers of our security personnel too have lost their lives in this escalation. This can’t be the intended objective of Modi’s policies. Yes, this could be a road to a larger objective- to gain upper hand over militancy within Kashmir and to deter Pakistan from continuing to bleed India by raising its cost.
Some of the veterans of Indian military and diplomacy including G Parthasarthy, Lt. Gen(R) Syed Hasnain and Maj. Gen (R) K K Sinha seriously believe that the cost of escalation for Pakistan has to be raised to make it feel the pain. They suggested opening up of eastern front (Afghan border) to make Pakistan army to feel the heat. Their prescription is for raising escalation from strategic level( politico- military) to operational level and then to tactical level( war).They referred to 2003 ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan which came into being only because Pakistan had started feeling pinch of the cost of bloody escalation on border. The years 2001 & 2002 accounted for about 9000 ceasefire violations. Earlier in 2001, there was both armies stand off on the border. Since Pak army wanted a way out, Gen Musharraf offered ceasefire which was preceded by secret meetings of NSA of both countries- then RAW Chief C D Sahay and Gen Ehsan-ul-Haq in a European city. Interestingly, both NSAs too have met at Bangkok in December last but positive results are yet to come out.
While Pakistan is bleeding Kashmir through its proxies, there is “growing pessimism about Kashmir’s “azadi” within Pakistan” with diminishing public interest in celebrations of Kashmir Day on Feb 5, this year, reports The Dawn, a leading daily Pakistan quoting its Gallop poll. It also reported that Kashmir doesn’t evoke the same passion in Pakistanis as it did in the 1980s and 1990s.Participation of people and important leaders in this year celebrations was the lowest since 2010.
But this changing public trend in Pakistan is not impacting Pak proxies in Kashmir. Over 126 Kashmiri youth have joined ranks of militancy last year while this number was 88 in 2016 and 66 in 2015. This poses a serious question to Mehbooba’s and Modi’s Kashmir policy. While there is no alternative to “Operation All Out”, concerted efforts will have to be made to prevent swelling of militants’ ranks. How could it be checked?
On one side Mehbooba as CM cannot afford to lower the morale of security forces that are risking their lives to safeguard the territorial integrity of the country and on the other, prevent civilian- army confrontation that tend to lead to some causalities. The recent controversial decision to include specific name of Major Aditya in the FIR on the regrettable killing of three stone pelters is a point to ponder over. Was his name was necessary in the FIR? Registering FIR for investigation of any incident is understandable but to name any officer in it is to put army against the police and political leadership. This has unleashed a debate on the national level and intervention of Apex Court has been sought. Investigation, in any case, would have revealed the lapses, if any. Then, APSPA will also come into play.
FIR was also registered in Machhil fake encounter of April, 2010 but in this case, there was 250-strong mob of stone pelters who cornered four- five vehicles of an administrative convoy of 10 Garwal Riffles and targeted them. The police should have reached there and intervened. Its role should also be probed. The purpose is not to fix army but to prevent human loss from either side. No one expects that the stone pelters would have been allowed to burn their trucks, heckle army men, snatch their riffles, humiliate them and they remain mute spectators. Army is different than the police. Army’s induction in internal security is a compulsion and not a desire. The youth targeting army convoys must be made known the heavy cost involved in this misadventure. Army is a symbol of Indian nation and its humiliation is the last thing one would accept. Their martyrdom in encounters is a different matter. Today, Major Aditya is getting nation’s support, not for killing three stone pelters, but for unnecessarily dragged in the FIR.
Many Kashmiris may not admit but it is also a fact that there still exists respect for Army for its operational restraint and for its efforts ‘to win the heart and minds’ that lead to material benefit to the people in terms of services in rural and far flung areas. This respect is lacking in urban Kashmir and a new trend of attacking army and security forces vehicles with stones and petrol-bombs would always be fraught with dangers. In last three years, 11,566 security personnel were injured in 4736 stone pelting incidents in Kashmir which shows the quantum of the problem. Amnesty to thousands of stone pelters doesn’t seem to have good results on the ground. Filling FIRs and naming army officers will not be an answer to new trend of militancy.
This is, indeed, a catch-22 situation for CM Mehbooba and PM Modi; the former cannot be expected to take a stand viewed to be against the killed locals while the latter has to protect the interest of the country, honour of the Army as also Kashmirs. How both are harmonized for a win-win situation would be the litmus test of their political maturity and statesmanship.
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