Event ReportsPublished on Oct 25, 2019
A multidimensional approach can be effective in Kashmir.
Kashmir needs single-point leadership, says former General

Major General U.M. Rajavelu (Retd.), who has vast and varied experience in handling insurgency in States like Jammu and Kashmir and in the Northeast, has said that only a multidimensional approach, addressing geopolitical, historical, economic, social, political, regional and military aspects of the problem, can be effective in Kashmir.

Initiating an interaction on “Terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir” at Observer Research Foundation, Chennai, on 5 October 2019, Maj Gen. Rajavelu, former Deputy Commander, Officers Training Academy, Chennai, said neither hard power alone nor soft power alone can create an impact in the Valley. He said what is needed is an appropriate combination of both, which should work in tandem.

Maj Gen. Rajavelu gave a panoramic view of the past and present situations in the border State, both before and after Parliament abrogated ‘special status’ under Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution. Tracking terrorism in the region to the 1990s, commencing with the breakup of the erstwhile Soviet Union and the need for the Pakistani ‘protectors’ of the Taliban and other ‘fighter’ groups in Afghanistan to re-employ them, Maj Gen. Rajavelu said Islamabad and ISI devised the plan to redirect them to India. He also referred to former Pakistan President Gen Zia-ul-Haq who had declared to make India ‘bleed with a thousand cuts,’ strategised in the aftermath of Pakistan’s defeat in the ‘Bangladesh War’ in 1971.

In this context, Maj Gen. Rajavelu also referred to the prevailing, and at times continuing socio-economic situation in the troubled border-State, pointing to how terrorism of the past decades have denied education, employment and employability to GenX in the Valley. He said that the youngsters have been radicalised, and children used to be paid hard cash on hand to pelt stones at the armed forces. As a religious philosophy, peace-loving Sufism has been replaced by violent jihadism. Unverified false news against the Government and the armed forces have also been playing havoc, with such propaganda sowing seeds of secessionism in the minds of the youth, turning them into militants and terrorists.

Terror industry

In this background, Maj Gen. Rajavelu said that in Jammu and Kashmir especially, terrorism became an industry, where Pakistan’s ISI pay the locals for training for the anti-national terror against India. While the Pakistani armed forces train and help the terrorists to cross into India, by opening ‘cover fire’, in summer, at times they are similarly smuggled across, at the height of winter.

Maj Gen. Rajavelu attributed this to the high levels of motivation of individual terrorists before and after preaching and training in Pakistani camps. Common folks, especially the youth, were indoctrinated and were being recruited to join the militant force, with proper training and are then deployed along the ‘Line of Control’ between India and Pakistan.

In this context, Maj Gen. Rajavelu underscored the fact of the Centre pumping in large sums to help improve the socio-economic situation of the local population, to be able to wean them away from indoctrination and militancy. However, much of it is lost in transit, as the State administration at various levels end up frittering away both the funds and the attendant opportunities, keeping the pot boiling all the time, all at the cost of the children and their future. The situation worsened after a point that the State was seen as needing terrorism more than the terrorists needing the State.

Soft-power approach

Speaking on the humanitarian aspects of the army operations in the State, Maj Gen. Rajavelu said that human rights violations caused by militants on civilians and officers have to be seen to be believed. He said that the armed forces have always stuck to the ‘ten commandments’ of humanitarian behaviour, and to ensure people-friendly operations. The modus operandi to be followed in the Valley and along the border is certainly different.

He pointed out the difficulties being faced by the security forces. As the enemy is not known, and by mistake, the armed forces might fire at an innocent civilian, he said. “As we don’t have a good policy for the rehabilitation of militants who surrender, the militants and insurgents who are handed over to the police, as ordained under the law, keep jumping bail and go back to their old ways of terrorism, he said.

Maj Gen. Rajavelu felt that with the abrogation of Article 370, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Removing the special status will allow for demographic changes, economic investments and trade, he pointed out.

“We should focus on women, children, soft power and tactics to win the hearts and minds of the local population,” he said. “In addition, we need a multidimensional approach comprising political, economic and trade elements, to make hard and soft power work together.” From an administration and policing perspective, there was a need for a single-point leadership, whether entrusted with the armed forces or in the civilian administration, which comprised the bureaucracy and the police, to help in better coordination at all levels, Maj Gen. Rajavelu said.

This report is prepared by S. Sivanesan, Research Associate, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai.

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.