Thursday, December 20, 2018

Stories of days gone by - the end of Op Woodrose in 1992 or Op Rakshak II (Punjab)

After Op Bluestar in 1983, the militancy in Punjab was put on the back foot. This forced the extremists to come out of the proverbial woodwork and the cycle of violence escalated in the immediate aftermath of Op Bluestar especially after that business by the river. Op Woodrose was launched to stabilize the situation.

Op Woodrose has been the subject of much criticism even by renowned experts like DGP KPS Gill, but one can pragmatically note that if nothing else watching the Army trample like a wild elephant over Punjab made the Punjab Police get their act together. (Yes I realize how this sounds - but c'mon we all know this is true.)

The Punjab Police (like the Indian Army at the time) had problems with infiltration. The core of Jarnail Singh Bhindran's message had resonated with a lot of Sikh men. Again this made complete sense - Sikh men are brought up from day one to fight oppression and corruption. Jarnail Singh Bhindran had successfully appropriated the teaching of the Sikh Gurus towards his own political ends and people can easily be misled by charismatic leaders.

The bulk of the effort in the case of Punjab Police was increasing its effectiveness through a process of weeding out extremists and carefully re-arming and retraining the force. It was very hard to do this while the militancy was raging and police officer families were being targeted on a daily basis. While DGP Julio Ribero put in the idea of "Bullet for Bullet" - it took many years to get that worked out in detail.

As the Punjab Armed Police came online - the Army began to take a back seat. Govt. of India signaled it's view in the matter by pushing back on demands to extend the Terrorism and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA). This offered a framework that allowed the Army to disengage from the Op Woodrose theater on acceptable terms - i.e. secure in the knowledge that it would not be abandoning the region to anti-national forces.  This is what became known as Op Rakshak II (Punjab).

This exact same process was started by the MMS Government in Kashmir and continued largely into 2013. I do NOT understand why this disengagement process stalled in 2014 and why it is so hard to restart this.

I get that Op Rakshak (yes I know the names are confusing but this is the Kashmiri end of Op Rakshak*) had to longer given the Pakistani efforts to encourage separatism in Kashmir were more intense than they were in Punjab, but I don't understand why the path of progress made from 2006-2013 was abandoned in 2014.

Please don't give me nonsense about "reunification" and "bye bye Art 370" - those are fantasies. None of that is achievable without credible commitments to peace in region. Pushing those ideas merely turns the Army into a political prop in a completely useless drama.

I do not deny that there are people in the Army who want to increase the coercion levels in the Op Rakshak theatre, but there is no evidence to support that this will lead to the desired disengagement. The key to disengagement remains bringing the JKAP to a point where they can take over from the Army units and the Army can go back to securing the LOC.

Scribbling RW fantasies on top of real Nat Sec debates does not help resolve the core debates. This needs to stop as it is immensely distracting. In an ideal world the Army would complete the disengagement form the region and revert the CIF's back to regular Army divisions and the J&K Police would take on the appropriate roles.  Continually spouting nonsense about "Akhand Bharat" etc... DOES NOT HELP.

* "Rakshak" was the name given to all this COIN ops where the Army felt serious amounts of money would be spent. There were many parts to Op Rakshak but crudely they are divided into Kashmir and Punjab commitments and phase I, II & III. It is quite difficult to attribute specific operations to each of these especially if you try to do it from analyzing the medal citations (which most of us use as a quick guide to what is going on).


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