Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Redeployment of forces in the Op Rakshak theatre

I note a sense of growing concern over the redeployment of forces in the Op Rakshak theatre. The move has been accompanied by a gradual relaxation of communication barriers between the Srinagar and Muzzafarabad. There is also talk of opening the traditional link to POK via Poonch.

The concern is not misplaced. This is a dangerous but necessary endeavor.

The dangers in it are obvious to all of you, so let me tell you why I feel it is necessary.

Lets start with what Kashmir means to the Kashmiris. The Kashmiri muslims view Kashmir as their homeland, a place to do as they please without external scrutiny. They resent the fact that a large number of troops are stationed there. We in India are familiar with their distaste for all things Indians, we have watched this hatred mature over the last twenty years. The Pakistanis however think that because the Kashmiris are Muslims, they will never be unhappy about Pakistani presence there. Unlike us the Pakistanis are blind to Kashmiri resentment, and given the culture of terror and repression popular among the elite of praetorian Pakistan, the Pakistanis probably believe they can smash the Kashmiris to bits if they want to. The Kashmiris hated having Indian police and army units trampling all over their homelands. I empathise, but I also recognise that the Kashmiris will not exactly welcome Pakistani troops either. A fact that is lost on most Pakistanis.

Kashmiris probably hate the Indian Army to the point where they do not see that the Indian army is the only thing that is now keeping the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba at bay. Once the Indian Army leaves LeT sympathisers and agents will move to wipe out any Kashmiris that disagree with them. It is a naive belief that the Hizbul Mujaheddin will be able to provide security against Lashkar operations. As long as the JeI(J&K) remains closely tied to its Pakistani counterpart, the HM will not be an effective deterrent to the LeT especially in an environment where the LeT is retains its Pakistani military support but the HM loses it. Violence will become endemic here as the Pakistanis will most certainly pursue Kashmir with the desire to secure better access to water from the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum rivers. Whether the politicians in Srinagar like it or not, all work on development projects especially those related to hydelpower and transport will effectively stop when the security forces leave. Kashmir will only sink faster into a mess of its own making.

It is fair to say that Kashmir lacks a leadership that can steer it clear of such troubled waters. The Kashmiri political elite is split. There is a small (and terribly marginalised) faction that favours pluralistic democracy and then the rest are all political opportunitists willing to swing any which way the money flow goes. The bulk of the Kashmiri elite are unrepresentative of the populations and most live atop a mountain of inherited wealth from a land ownership system that never really underwent reform like it did in the rest of India. There are no new economies in place, and the only new economy that the last 20 years had seen, the support and services economy that had built up around the presence of a large number of security troops there, will collapse when the soldiers leave. By contrast the instinct to opportunistically seek short term alliances among the Kashmiris will not cease and slowly but certainly Kashmir will turn into an Afghanistan. Who knows in a decade from now American bombers may even be dropping daisy cutters on Kupwara.

So why am I suggesting that Kashmir be left to the wolves?

Firstly because I am a great believer in the Indian idea that everyone knows what is best for themselves and true to their nature. I admit we cannot save the Kashmiris from themselves. The Kashmiris so far have carefully nurtured a culture of extremely poor political choice, and I see no reason why this choice could be any different. Already a generation of Kashmiris have been murdered in a pointless pursuit of "azaadi", I see no reason to stop the present Kashmiri leadership from sacrificing another generation on the altar of "Kashmir banega Pakistan".

Secondly, I grow increasingly concerned about our troops and their welfare. Prolonged deployments in hostile populations deeply undermine troops morale and effectiveness, so I am not keen to keep our security troops where they are not wanted.

Thirdly securing the valley was necessary only as long as the NH-1A (Western Tier) was the only viable LOC in the region. This is no longer the case. A lot of the vitality of NH-1A was a self fulfilling affair, we secured the 1-Alpha because it was the only route to conflicts in Kargil and Siachen, and we fought the conflicts in Siachen and Kargil because we needed to secure the 1-Alpha. This paradigm has proved costly but there were no alternatives in the age when air mobility and alternatives were limited. Times have changed.

Lastly, many Indian advocates of pluralism argue that a victory of the forces of intolerance would deeply undermine the Indian state. If the state was shown to fail to protect Kashmir from the ravages of the Islamists of Pakistan, then there would be a big crisis of confidence about the Indian government. It is true that if the GoI loses to the Islamists in Kashmir, people will distrust the government but consider the flipside, what will happen when the Islamists win in Kashmir? You all know what sort of a man Geelani is? You know how little he values his own people? What do you feel he will do once he takes over Kashmir? All those of you who saw what the Taliban did know full well what the Islamists will do if they take a hold of Kashmir. Sure today if an Indian Army fellows looks the wrong way at a passing Kashmiri woman, she instantly becomes polluted and impure, but tomorrow when a LeT Jihadi rapes her in the name of Allah or just for fun, will she be considered a houri? okay what if he doesn't rape her just throws acid on her face? will she still be Kashmir ki kali that her family loves and cares for?

I hope I have given you all something to think about.


At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Tell me if I read you correctly:

The jihadis in Kashmir are Pakistani soldiers by proxy and they seek to advance Pakistani interests and not Kashmiri interests that they claim to fight for. In doing so they show absolutely no consideration for Kashmiri lives.

The heavy presence of the security forces in the cities, towns, and villages of Kashmir provides an umbrella of protection to the Kashmiris from the Pakistani Tanzeems. Instead of showing a degree of gratitude for this, they abuse it by forming and acting out political fantasies that are detrimental to India from behind the relative safety of this umbrella.

It might not be such a bad idea to selectively remove this umbrella and make them actually face the consequences of their political fantasies. Give them a dose of reality, so to speak. One hopes the shock of seeing their own murdered and mutilated by "their boys" might bring them back to their senses and a degree of gratitude to the Indian state.

Do I read you correctly so far?

Also note that whatever redeployment has occured has not pulled the security forces out of Kashmir. They have merely reduced somewhat their overt presence amongst the civilian population.

Might this be a way of removing the umbrella slightly but keeping it close at hand nonetheless?

At 5:42 PM, Blogger asad said...

It is a pitty to know the Indian mindset on the issue through this and other write ups that i get a chance to go through.I wish n pray that you use your brilliance n intelligence to bridge the gaps for the betterment of teeming millions rather than sow the seeds of discord and discontent.

At 10:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1)can we withstand the american might if they decide to attack us?
2)What happends to ladakh,jammu?
3)Isnt't this a hint of things to take place in future.This is what Gen S.padmnabhan had visualised in his book.
4)What will happen to the Rest of India?
5)I hope one day America bombs pakistan. There mentality is very clear: pakistan will go down but it will bring the entire world down with it.

At 7:03 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hello Anonymous,

You read me correctly.

Dear Asad,

I support the reduction of security troops in Kashmir. What greater commitment to "removing the seeds of discord and discontent" can I make?

I have been told for the better part of sixty years that if India falls over on its back in Kashmir and lets Pakistan have its way with the Kashmiris, peace and prosperity will blossom between India and Pakistan.

I don't actually believe this, but I am agreeing to do what the Pakistanis have been telling me India should do for such a long time now.

Yet it seems you are unsatisfied with my effort. Once those Indian troops are out of there, the Lashkars will be able to murder and rape err.. I mean award shahadat and make houris out of Kashmiris and their women at any time of their choosing. And from what I have seen of people like Geelani, Yasin Malik etc... the Kashmiri people detest seeing their women raped by Indian troops but are more than happy to see Pakistani Jihadi groups "purify" them.

I don't understand this peculiar Kashmiri mindset, but I accept it and with that sense of acceptance I fully support the redeployment of Indian troops in Kashmir.

I have been on the record here saying that India should make a move towards resolving the Siachen issue even if it means accepting the Pakistan Army's demand no to authenticate the Actual Ground Position Line. This goes against even what the Army says in India.

Despite all this it seems you feel that my commitment to "removing the seeds of discord and discontent" is inadequate. It seems nothing I do satisfies you.


India is bound by UNSCR 1373, we will do whatever it takes to meet our commitments to it.

If America informs India that Al Qaida terrorists are hiding in Kashmir, India will provide the Americans all the assistance they need to flush them out.

Unlike Pakistan which runs on drug money, India is a poor country, it can't stand up to America, so if American aircraft based in Pakistan decide to attack terrorist training camps in Kashmir because they are "Al Qaida" then my guess is that India will provide the Americans with the precise coordinates on which to drop their bombs.

This is a scenario popularised in some American movies or TV shows recently, who knows it may even ring true.

As long as the Americans would foot the bill for the collateral damage, I don't think even the brave Jihad fighting Kashmiris would object to it, infact my guess is that the Kashmiris would want to be the ones dictating where to drop the bombs. I am sure the HM representatives will be lining up outside the American embassy in Islamabad to give American bombers the exact coordinates to the training camps.

After the trifurcation, the affairs of Ladakh and Jammu will be handled differently.


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