Clarity on Kashmir
19 January 2000
The Times of India
Pakistan has been waging a proxy war against this country fro nearly two decades. This war was initiated in Punjab in the 1980s and then extended to Kashmir and north-east. It was also supplemented by terrorism in other parts of the country. Pakistan's game plan was to deter India's conventional and nuclear superiority through its own nuclear capability and by tying down two corps of the Indian army in Kashmir. It launched the Kargil aggression in the hope that nuclear deterrence - and the fatigue of the Indian army engaged in prolonged counter-militancy operations - would enable in prolonged counter-militancy operations - would enable Pakistan to size the Kargil heights before the Zojila pass opened, as happens normally in June. a quirk in the weather and the opening of the pass a month earlier than expected frustrated Pakistan's designs. The architect of that defeat, General Pervez Musharraf is still not willing to learn the lessons of the setbacks Pakistan suffered in 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999. Indeed, since General Pervez Musharraf is unlikely to succeed in setting things right domestically in Pakistan, his hope is to demonstrate some spectacular achievement in the proxy war in Kashmir. Unfortunately, successive Indian governments have tended to treat this proxy war as a law and order problem in which the army merely extends `aid to civil power'. The unified command in Kashmir is not a truly integrated command appropriate to fight the Pakistani plan. Upgrading and equipping the paramilitary forces take on the responsibility of fighting the proxy war - with the army providing back up support - has not so far been tried.
Only in the high-level government conference on Kashmir on January 17 has a move in this direction been made. In spite of all the fanfare, however, Monday's decisions do not meet the requirements of the situation. What is needed in Kashmir is a totally unified command, under an army general, with all forces totally integrated and intelligence performing an operational role as part of the counter-proxy war campaign under that command. The Indian political and administrative culture appears to inhibit efficient team work and coordination. Punjab proved what works in India is single line structure. There has been too much of turf fighting and oneupmanship in Kashmir among the different agencies. The Central government has tended to pass the buck on to the army, without giving it the necessary capability to fight effectively The January 17 decisions are merely improvisations and fall far short of a total rethinking on the most effective command structure and force composition needed to fight the proxy war. Necessary though these changes in the military approach to the problem are, the government must also accompany them with some fresh thinking on the political front. The present upsurge in militancy may be directed by Pakistan but the myopic approach of the Abdullah government in Kashmir is not helping matters either. If it is interested in a permanent solution, the Centre must take the lead in liberating Kashmir from the clutched of dynastic politics. It should also assume the responsibility of reviving a normal political process, not excluding the release of some of the imprisoned dissident leaders.