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Review of the J&K situation: What’s in store this season?

In all calls for surrender given by security forces at incident sites where cordons are laid, the rookies have preferred death.

Published: 03rd May 2022 02:02 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd May 2022 02:02 AM   |  A+A-

Jammu And Kashmir Situation

For representational purposes (Soumyadip Sinha | Express Illustrations)

Ukraine has kept me away from my prime self-imposed responsibility of constantly monitoring Jammu & Kashmir. There is such high learning value for strategic analysts today from the unfortunate events in Europe that one tends to remain glued there. Taking a break from that conflict, there is also so much to look at within India. J&K is of course special in terms of security and the integrative process because of the proxy war of 33 years, which has had many ups and downs but appears to be on the draw down. There are aspects of the proxy war that are yet unknown. Not every facet has been documented. The film ‘The Kashmir Files’, a runaway success, has itself revealed aspects relatively unknown to India’s public. For the likes of us who served in J&K many years and many times, there was a lack of realisation that the Indian narrative has not been known much to the Indian public; it’s hardly ever been told.

The political, economic, social and ideological environment in J&K are all extremely dynamic but understanding and predicting the security situation is always such a nuanced challenge. The prime minister was in Jammu just a few days ago. It was a high-octane visit from the communications angle, as much got summarised and conveyed in terms of the development efforts that are going on in the Union Territory (UT). As an example, the power situation in J&K has probably never been better but the government will now need to find a means of ensuring that the people pay for the electricity they consume. Infrastructure-wise, the next few years will see delivery of much that has been initiated. Hopefully all the promised facilities for healthcare and education will also find delivery. That is when the message of development will start making a greater difference.

A fine tourist season seems to be in the making because no big-ticket security-related incidents have taken place in the recent past, notwithstanding reported shootouts every other day and some targeting of non-Kashmiris and minorities that has been on since October 2021. By and large tourists continue to flock to the shikaras of the Dal and Nigeen Lakes, the boulevard, eateries in upmarket areas, and of course to Gulmarg and Pahalgam. The heatwave in the plains is aiding this too. This means improvement in the economy and the lot of the common man to some extent. Hopefully an incident-free Sri Amarnath Yatra will further ensure more contribution to stability and the economy.

The figures of terrorists killed appear to be on the higher side for the first four months. This is positive especially considering that the LoC is quiet and there are no high-energy exhortations about jihad and the likes emanating from anywhere; 62 terrorists killed is a large number and could be ascribed to constantly improving intelligence, a shortage of safe houses and the quality of terrorists, many of whom are local rookies. It may be observed that in all calls for surrender given by the security forces at incident sites where cordons are laid, the rookies have preferred death; that is always an ominous sign of radical influence. There have been negligible stone-throwing incidents signifying better control over the street networks, one of the bigger achievements of the J&K Police and intelligence services. Equally the Army continues to provide an effective counter-infiltration grid with nothing alarming reported thus far from the LoC where the ceasefire of February 2021 appears stable.

All this should mean that the balance of 2022 should follow suit and it should be one of the best years in Kashmir for long. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, although as a Kashmir observer, I wish it was so simple. Kashmir is many times connected with the complex geopolitics of the world. Afghanistan’s turbulence travels here quite early after events there, almost as a kind of inspiration. With extremely unpredictable global geopolitics, Pakistan’s travails too have a way of travelling to Kashmir, and there has been much that has happened in the former the last few weeks. There are changes taking place in Pakistan with alignments and realignments of political forces; how these manifest here is again unpredictable. The one thing for which figures are unavailable is local recruitment; and it’s going on for sure despite some good efforts by the security forces. It’s obvious that recruitment is mostly linked to ideology; the inspiration comes from there. We do hear of many demands from observers and analysts for counter-radicalisation and deradicalisation programmes but nothing much is heard about the initiation of those. There are indirect strategies working well to attempt motivating the youth through the spirit of nationalism. These are good measures and must continue. Viewing the National Tricolour at Hari Parbat, Gulmarg or Lal Chowk, as also playing of Army bands in downtown areas is all reflective of higher confidence and greater faith in youth; add to that lots of festivals, and Kashmir’s youth is getting a taste of peace. However, I do believe the core of Kashmir’s youth and middle-aged citizenry remains anti-India, not necessarily pro-Pakistan. This is where a more tempered and well-analysed campaign needs to be run. The Army is doing a fabulous job in its outreach, touching untouched segments of the past. What is needed is a transformational way to counter the sentiments of radicalised people; it can’t be done with simple, straightforward face-to-face interactions.

In the prevailing environment, we need to continue following the adage ‘the absence of violence is not peace’. That is a belief I learnt long ago. It can all go to pieces in a matter of days unless the networks continue being targeted as they no doubt are. The presence of networks remains under the surface while everything appears normal and stable. Remember how violence suddenly erupted south of Pir Panjal in October-November 2021 and the Army’s ‘jungle bashing’ could not produce much. We have a new Army leadership in Delhi, Udhampur and shortly in Srinagar. Adversaries have a nasty way of testing and assessing resolve and response. Our leadership is sound and will respond most appropriately to all kinetic acts designed to test. As J&K inevitably moves towards greater political activity preceding delimitation and elections, we must ensure that the security situation remains completely stable and is not hijacked by extraneous elements seeking chaos in the UT.

Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd)

Former Commander, Srinagar-based 15 Corps. Now Chancellor, Central University of Kashmir

(atahasnain@gmail.com)



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