We are an emotive people. For all the positives that emotions evoke, assessments made in their wake, insufficient substance to balance them sometimes create problems in the strategic sphere. More so, if the strategic issue under assessment happens to be Jammu and Kashmir. Trends perceived on the basis of statistics, events or simply hype are mostly discussed and opinion formed. These can sometimes be well off the mark, in different directions, as they appear to be in the case of the emerging environment in that state. How does this come about and how can it be rectified? After all, national planning should be based on realistic assessment. Year-end statistics of bomb blasts, terrorists killed versus own casualties, civilian deaths and infiltration viewed against the inevitable backdrop of 2014’s much-hyped withdrawal of the ISAF from Afghanistan, all go into the potpourri which gives the evaluation of how bad things are and how bad things are going to get. The comparison of the current statistics with those of the nineties provides a completely different picture; one, of return of peace as professed by some who press for the early withdrawal of the Army from anti-terrorist operations in Kashmir. So who do we believe?
Comparisons of statistics in absolute terms are just mathematical models with little logic applied to them. Selective statistics taken for convenience can be hyped to present a preconceived deduction. Let us take a few examples. There may be just two terrorist-related incidents in a given quarter but if each has resulted in eight casualties, the figure of 16 dead may cause eyebrows to rise. The nature of incidents needs to be kept in mind. If own casualties are by fidayeen action or by ambush on convoys, the seriousness of the situation automatically multiplies and brings about concern.
The increase in the comparative losses by the Army is raising eyebrows. Counter-terror (CT) operations are dynamic in nature and such situations are common. The down curve soon gets balanced by an up curve. Military professionals need never worry by this; otherwise their thinking will be stymied. CT operations are a subset of manoeuvre philosophy and this philosophy demands creative thinking, alternatives and out-of-the-box solutions, none of which is possible with assessments based purely on statistics.
There is another misnomer doing the rounds, that the Valley is waiting with open arms for the Afghan mujahideen to rescue them from Indian occupation. This is archaic thinking and gives little credit to the cerebral capability of Kashmiri citizens besides situating an assessment which is 24 years old. Kashmir has moved on and its highly intellectual citizenry cares little for the shenanigans of the Taliban or its radical warriors; besides, the LoC is fenced and the Army much more experienced to handle infiltration. What is needed is the will to reach out to the Kashmiri brethren and motivate the slightly less motivated about the advantages of secular democracy, Indian ideals and 1.2 billion committed people putting their shoulder to the Indian wheel of progress which is only temporarily in suspense. In the interim let us be just a little patient with the Valley and not be tempted into taking hasty deductions for any short-term gains.
Our neighbours have a way of letting loose issues for our populace to discuss with much emotion. Pakistan is so deep in trouble that it needs weeds and straws to remain afloat. So, let us not read anything in a hurry and pass judgment. That worries people who do not have strategic orientation.
The writer, who retired recently, has had extensive service in J&K, and was General Officer Commanding of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps