January 2019 News

Go Beyond The Military Realm In Jammu And Kashmir

5 January 2019
The New Indian Express
Lt Gen (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain

New Delhi: The establishment's policy on Jammu & Kashmir through 2018 witnessed attempts at stabilising the polity and bringing a semblance of reform in governance. The first did not succeed in the wake of the breakup of the PDP-BJP alliance and the second remains work in progress as governance has never been a strong point in the state; especially due to the security situation. 2018 had one strong point and that was the field of security operations. Yet, in the absence of balancing factors such as social and political outreach, the ultimate path to stabilisation remained static. Claims of having conducted successful polls for new local bodies do not gel. That's because firstly the turnout in the Valley was much lower than experienced in 2011 and secondly, unless the long wait for the empowerment of local bodies takes place, the polls are meaningless. A measure of understanding of the current impasse will help in formulating a strategy for 2019, if there is sufficient stomach to do that even as the central elections take up space in the first half. The security forces have to be complimented for doing what they are adept at. There were challenges thrown at them in the form of targeting of policemen and soldiers on leave with virtual potential of paralysing intelligence work and policing. That the J&K Police (JKP) withstood this and actually bounced back is due to good leadership, something JKP has never lacked, and the resilience of the policemen who have time and again demonstrated their loyalty and integrity. The Army's own statistics returned it to the success ratio of 8:1 after the miserable situation in early 2017 when the ratio was 1:1, the lowest ever. However, in the realm of public order, the success did not translate to the streets where young, radically charged and alienated youth, under influence of Pakistani propaganda, continued to demonstrate their lack of fear even for the Army and interfered in anti-terrorist operations with impunity. Civilian casualties resulting from this help create opposite emotions in Kashmir and rest of India, through social and visual media thus extending the Separatist and Pakistani agenda. The print media fortunately has adopted a far more mature stance towards the situation. People of Jammu remain completely alienated from Kashmir making governance a competitive issue between the regions with suspicions against each other being rife. These are not just challenges for 2019 but for well beyond because these issues combine to be strategic in nature, with alienation being the prime concern. There can be a fresh beginning with resolve to continue towards stabilisation with steadfast purpose and not being misled by parochial agenda. The Army in particular has brought about this situation several times before but for want of clarity on the next steps, the nation seems to falter. Policy formulation must include much consultation with the people and other stake holders. The Separatists need to be kept out of that. A four-pronged strategy could be considered. The first of these prongs covers the deficit of grassroots politics and outreach, which have eluded the Valley for many years. This recommended outreach is not of the Operation Sadbhavna kind; its core focus has to be the involvement of the political community and the civil administration facilitated by the only agency which can provide the requisite security, the Army. Placing balm on wounds is a well-known strategy on paper, difficult to implement without ideas and courage. Encouragement of these activities will bring the focus on participative governance and encourage people to share grievances. The second prong is to garner the willing and cooperative participation of the moderate clergy in programmes, which harp on the tolerant and inclusive model of existence. The government must approach the electronic media in particular not to bait the people of Kashmir and thus take away from the anti-nationals the basic argument of rest of India being ranged against Kashmiris. This should extend to universities and colleges where Kashmiris study. The third prong is social media, the most powerful influencing instrument of modern times. The realisation of developing tools to counter Pakistani and separatist propaganda exists in all institutions and agencies. It is the inability to coordinate and have a central campaign that is the challenge. The central government cannot wash its hands of this responsibility. The Army for one and at least one of the major intelligence agencies has programmes which are well developed but the combined effect is lacking with absence of joint effort. Fourth and the last is the perceived fear against each other with which people of Jammu division and Kashmir division exist. The intra J&K alienation is palpable and has to be overcome if any progress towards national reconciliation has to be made. Issues such as Article 370 and 35A are conflict resolution and termination issues, not conflict stabilisation ones; that is an understanding only analysts of conflicts will comprehend but it needs to be brought home to the political leadership and the bureaucracy. A more deliberate effort towards getting the people of the two regions to resolve differences will spur greater positivity. The Kashmiri Pandit community can make a major difference in this having suffered all these years. Peace in J&K is not anywhere near the corner but the path to peace can be found and strengthened on the basis of cooperative efforts of institutions and organisations. The first step in organisational effectiveness is to admit that individual organisations can make a difference only marginally; it's the combined weight of India which will finally win this conflict in J&K. Lt Gen (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain Former Commander, Srinagar-based 15 Corps