Author : Vikram Sood

Expert Speak India Matters
Published on May 06, 2017

There is no freedom struggle in Kashmir, but a war foisted on us all these years with ground rules laid down by the Pakistan Army.

Kashmir, stop being delusional

Source Image: Isriya Paireepairit/CC BY-NC 2.0

Let us start with a few clarifications. There is no freedom struggle in Kashmir, but a war foisted on us all these years with ground rules laid down by the Pakistan Army. These ground rules, therefore, must change, where we are no longer reactive but be in charge, literally. This should start with an escalatory response. There is little point in our having our High Commissioner in Pakistan or theirs here when there is no substance in the relationship. At least, their High Commissioner gets prime time on TV and is lionised all over the country. Downgrading would be the first signal. The MFN status should be withdrawn. There is hardly any trade, let it remain negligible or less. There is no need to offer electric power for onions. This may not amount to much, but, currently, the optics about this are askew. Many years have elapsed since India and Pakistan signed the Indus Waters Treaty and the time has come to reconsider this to better suit Indian interests and present conditions. Strategically, we need to revisit our No First Use doctrine. Finally, we should do all this not just out of a sulk but based on political realism which means accepting that Pakistan and India have very little in common with each other and it is best to part ways. (Pakistan Goodbye and Good Luck, Anand Ranganathan).

Let us also stop being delusional about the nature of the rulers of Pakistan — their Army. Its attitude does not change with the change at the top. Numero Uno is answerable to his all-powerful Khaki Cabal of Corps Commanders. There has been a consistency in this from the beginning. They have also had scant regard for their own elected representatives and make this disdain obvious. They cannot be expected to treat India — both enemy and Hindu, any better. So, those of us who dream of eternal peace would do well to wake up to this eternal reality.

The recent bloody attack in the Krishan Ghati in Poonch was not by a professional army. It would be an insult to the animal kingdom to call this an act of bestiality. It was an act by an army that has now imbibed the values — if one can call them that — of the Islamic State where intolerance in extreme is practised. Kill the enemy with extreme brutality and hatred. Ensure that there is no possibility of a reconciliation.

Jagannathan (Pakistan Isn't the Problem, it's Us) recently made a very pertinent observation when he said that we should not fear war and that it was time to abandon defence and embrace offence. This has to be supported with the full awareness of what a war could mean. At the same time, we cannot also let that country decide the ground rules that maim, kill and dishonour our soldiers. They claim they kill in the name of Kashmir. This is not true; it is an excuse. Pakistani soldiers are taught to kill Indian soldiers as a sign of incalculable hatred for the "Hindu" inculcated by an increasingly Wahhabi Pakistan. It is strictly an India-Pakistan affair and we need to respond accordingly.

True, we made mistakes, plenty of them, and grievances, real, imagined or exaggerated, exist. We were able to sort out the curse of the Radcliffe Line elsewhere, but were paralysed when it came to Jammu and Kashmir where the several parts, Gilgit, Baltistan, Jammu, Ladakh, and Srinagar had been put together artificially by different rulers. The British, with their imperial interests still paramount, were smart. They quickly arranged for Gilgit and Baltistan to revolt and claim to join Pakistan. They presumed they needed this to deal with the Soviet bear in the future.

Kashmir is not going away, but we have to be careful that Islamiyat does not replace Kashmiriyat.

Many fear it has already begun to happen. The young who demonstrate on the streets are not just looking for better economic opportunities or political freedoms. They just want out. The army and paramilitary are not at fault for this. The army has been sent there to restore order and not to find solutions; it did not ask to be involved. This is a task foisted on them by our politicians. The politicians have consistently bungled and the bureaucrats have done no better. Despite this, the army and paramilitary are performing a difficult task commendably. So let us stop being apologetic about the army's actions. Politicians in Srinagar and New Delhi, assisted by their bureaucrats, have to find the solutions.

Srinagar, Kashmir, Jammu and Kashmir Photo: Jesse Rapczak/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Each time, when some peace and order was restored by the armed forces and paramilitaries after great difficulty and loss of life and property, the politicians failed to take advantage of the reprieve and the gains were dissipated through petty politicking. Each political party only thought of political power for itself and preserving its political patch. They even collaborated with the fundamentalists like the Jamaat-e-Islami and we see its repercussions today. There are disturbing visuals of an armed soldier having to "exercise restraint" — under orders from top, no doubt — as a local hoodlum attacks him repeatedly. This would not happen in any other country and it is not ennobling in the least. Once fear and respect for the uniform is lost, we are staring at institutional breakdown and we are on our way to becoming a banana republic, brought down to this by a neighboring state that is imploding.

Is there a solution? There has to be and we have to find that by talking with the people of Kashmir. The Hurriyet does not represent the people of Kashmir but Pakistani interests. We must always differentiate how we treat Pakistan and not tar our own Muslims with the same brush. It would be a grave error if we did. For Pakistan, it is not a country without its religion. India will cease to be a country if it is based or divided on religion. We tackle Pakistan for its transgressions against India and we tackle Kashmir to find solutions within the Constitution. Talking to Pakistan to find a solution in Kashmir is not going to happen. By now, we should realise that this is a fool's errand. There is undoubtedly a section in Pakistan that may want normalcy with India and are opposed to the army's dominance, but they are weak, and more, will not talk differently on Kashmir.

Is there a solution? There has to be and we have to find that by talking with the people of Kashmir.

There are three aspects to be considered. In the short term, the effort must be to restore peace, law and order and normalcy of life. This has to be done by the Army and paramilitary without the usual caveats we tend to attach to such activity. The armed forces need to be trusted to do their best. Keep media and its scaremongers out. They add to the tension with their hyperbole and uninformed speculation. Thus, while the forces go about their business, they do not need expert opinions from greenhorns or insensitive incendiary reportage, especially that which denigrates the forces and the men. Short term running into the medium term would always need better intelligence. This is a given.

In the medium term, the ministries of defence and home need to improve systems, cut through red tapes and provide state-of-the-art equipment to the soldiers. Determination and deployment of adequate force levels should be left to the commanders. All infrastructure development activity should continue. Remember also not to stop the tremendous infrastructure development in Jammu and Kashmir. The construction of roads, bridges and tunnels must continue. Connectivity within the valley, the State and the rest of India must be improved. This hurts Pakistanis as it contrasts with the pathetic situation in POK. They not only create employment for the locals but also lead to permanent benefits.

We should also go ahead with all permissible river and power projects. Each time Pakistan objects to such legitimate schemes, it shows itself up as a country that is not concerned with the well-being of the average Kashmiri. Pakistan only wants the land and the rivers that irrigate their farms in the Punjab province. The Kashmiris fate will be like that of the Baloch or Sindhi or Pashtun. But that is a hypothetical comparison. In the medium to long-term, the State must have secular education away from ahle hadith and Jamaat schools. Such schools have no place in India. We should have a Kashmir-specific task force, comprising mostly the armed forces and a smattering of bureaucrats. This is because we are tackling not just the Kashmiri problem but the spoilers, Pakistan.

In the long term, the Prime Minister must lead in helping to find a solution through talks with all Kashmiris. These talks could include Hurriyat representatives but cannot be exclusively Hurriyat nor Hurriyat-led. There would be need to specify ground rules. There can be no talk of independence. Special privileges and exclusions must go. These time periods are not mutually exclusive but there will be a natural overlap.

We periodically seem to forget that that the Pakistan Army is in control, it owns the country, politicians exist at the pleasure of the army and the army is the biggest private-public business conglomerate in the country. It has some very good reasons to remain in control. It can do this by keeping the bogey of the Indian threat alive, be the defenders of country and Islam. < style="color: #000000">We get evidence of this periodically but continue to be inappropriately hopeful. Recent incidents beginning with the charge against Kulbhushan Jadhav that he is an Indian spy and sentenced without trial to hanging; the allegation that the 'surrendered' TTP leader Ehsanullah Ehsan was an India-supported terrorist, in his clumsily tutored interview, were indicators of what was being planned by the new leadership in Rawalpindi.

Recently, a major general of the Pakistan Army publicly rebuked the office of the Prime Minister of Pakistan; something similar in India is unthinkable. Therein lies the difference between the two countries. Friendly drop-ins are good optics. They would normally go a long way to bringing about better bilateral relations. Unfortunately, this does not bring us any closer to solutions with Pakistan. Indian forbearance has encouraged adventurism and the hope that by giving some concessions, improving people-to-people relations will strengthen the politicians has not worked. Either such overtures are killed soon enough or the argument is that it was Pakistan's hardline policy that has made the Indians offer concessions. Therefore, the policy must continue, they argue. The jihadi and the army together run away with the narrative. General Pervez Musharraf had come to Agra in 2001 firmly convinced that the Indian leadership was tired and had sued for peace.

Pakistan and Kashmir thus have to be tackled separately. Pakistan will simply not let peace be restored; it has no reason to help India because it finds the present situation to its advantage. An adversarial stance with India suits the Pakistan army; it keeps the rest of the world concerned about the nuclear dimensions of this problem which it seeks to exaggerate periodically. Pakistan did not create the present problem beginning from 1989. We did and they took advantage. Do not expect Pakistan to change and assist India in solving the Kashmir problem. Why should it? The present situation suits them the most. Those who think and advocate that talks with Pakistan will solve this live in their own make-believe cuckoo land.

Pakistan and Kashmir have to be tackled separately. Pakistan will simply not let peace be restored; it has no reason to help India because it finds the present situation to its advantage.

Kashmiris must be encouraged to understand that their merger with Pakistan or independence are just not going to happen. Surely, Kashmiris already know there can be no future in a country where the Baloch and Sindhis want independence and the Pushtun are increasingly suspicious of the Punjabi dominance in Pakistan. Maybe, after the violence stops or is made to stop, there might be some special arrangements for the valley but that is into the future. There will be no talks until terror continues; excessive restraint by the military forces is counter-productive; appeasement does not help but on the contrary, helps hoodlums, demoralises the moderates and makes the army cynical. Let us not destroy institutions while trying to pretend to be good and soft.

China and the United States protect Pakistan for their own strategic reasons. Pakistan's continued belligerence has been because of the support it received from these countries for other reasons. The US does not know where it stands as its leadership suffers from ADD. We do not know which way, when and how much the US will swing. Europeans are too busy sorting themselves out, petrified and clueless as they are of Islamist terror. The Russians and the Chinese see opportunities for themselves from Pakistan to the Mediterranean. Pakistan hopes to be able to take advantage of this fog. Pakistan seeks to seal off Balochistan from the rest of the world, put its people under a pressure chamber and brutalise its people to suit the Army's Chinese masters and the country's creditors. It hopes to keep India on the back foot as it tries to tighten its hold in Afghanistan through its other favourite jihadi surrogates.

In normal times, had this been in the West or in the US, the cry would have been for Nuremberg type trials. They did this to Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic. Why are there not any similar trials for the Pakistani military? We should accept this erroneous attitude that assumes that terrorism against India is India's problem. Thus, all India can expect is some ambivalent statements and nothing more. We even had a Turkish dictator visiting us recently, sounding holier-than-thou after brutally silencing freedoms in his own country. Advisories from distant lands tend to sidestep local realities and history. What India has been facing is a 70-year war by other means. This must end before the policy of endless restraint ends. It is, however, good to remember we are on our own on this one. If we cannot do this or do not have the stomach for the grim long battle ahead beyond hot air during TV discussions, then let us roll over and play dead.

Ultimately, we will have to endgame and hit where it hurts the Pakistan army and elite at a time and place of our choosing. And do not worry about the nuclear threat that Pakistan keeps talking about and the West keeps echoing. If the West is concerned about this, then the first thing they need to do is to tell Pakistan that it will have to pay a price for its thuggery in the region. In any case, one would be more concerned about the fallout of the present confrontation between North Korea and the US. Nether of the two protagonists have exhibited their abilities for cool introspection.

Do not also worry too much. Pakistan generals may be adventurous and Islamic but they are not daft. They are not going to start a nuclear war for some territory about the size of all their farms in the fertile Indus basin and Okara farms with a Muslim population smaller than that in Balochistan whom they subjugate ruthlessly. The generals are also not looking at losing all of Pakistan in a mushroom cloud.

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Vikram Sood

Vikram Sood

Vikram Sood is Advisor at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Sood is the former head of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&amp;AW) — India’s foreign intelligence agency. ...

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Holger Rogner

Holger Rogner

Holger Rogner International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

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