Friday, October 11, 2013

Kashmir: Keran Defining Battle for 2014

October 9, 2013 by Team SAISA   
Filed under Analysist
Arun Sahgal 
Keran marks the beginning of the long road to 2014
2014 – the year of US withdrawal from Afghanistan and that of general elections in India along with Assembly elections in J&K has created a resultant dynamic in J&K where only one stakeholder seems to be having a long-term end game in mind – The Jihadi Military Complex(JMC) of Pakistan. While all other look at J&K from their partisan short-term perspectives, the JMC has a sanctified and coherent strategy to wear down the Indian and Kashmir governments in pursuit of its larger ‘Ghazwa e Hind’ game plan.
As violence was coming down and media played up stories of how youth were focusing on jobs than militancy and the politicians sang their chorus for removal of AFSPA – a series of events began to take shape to remind India that the JMC would go to any length to keep the pot boiling. For a detailed analysis of the Keran operation read here and here.
Gool and Kishtwar provided the motivation for the resurgence of violence. However, this time around JMC launched a twin strategy of Fidayeen attacks, as in Sambha and Kathua along with activation of Line of Control (LC) in Mendhar and Keran Sectors on the LC. These were followed up by isolated attacks against soft police targets as in Lal Chowk and Ahmadnagar. For flavour they helped revive the strikes and bandh strategy as in Kishtwar, Budgam and Shopian. In most cases the triggers unfortunately were provided by inept action by police and para military forces as in Kathua, Gool and Kishtwar. Ministry of Home Affairs internal inquiry has indicated that Kathua police not only did not inform the local army unit but also failed to inform police headquarters.  
The main drivers which helped them achieve this congruence, unfortunately, came from lack of governance and the controversy arising out of Gen VK Singh’s disclosures. The cumulative effect was instant suspicion and lack of faith in the democratic process in Kashmir. Pro India politicians were targeted and maligned through a surge in intelligent dissemination of misinformation by vested interests for their partisan gains. As brought out in our earlier post, Kashmir – What Now?  the three institutions that were bringing Kashmir towards stability were systematically destroyed. As Nitin Pai puts it succinctly:
First, the emergence of a favourable political dispensation in the state after well-attended, credible, free and fair elections. Second, the containment of Pakistan interference in Kashmiri politics. Third, the materialisation of a favourable international environment where violent Islamism was neither tolerated nor fashionable to defend.
We have discussed these at length herehere and here
Now let us see the JMC plan, duly supported (unwittingly) by the main stream and the separatists to subvert the army and divert attention from governance to emotive issues such as AFSPA. This nowhere underscores the fact that the separatist strategy has also changed significantly in favour of an educated youth driven “resistance” mode where the ageing Geelani is being guided by the youth rather than the other way round.
The raging smear campaign against the army is caused by an unholy nexus of four vested interests.
  •  At the Central level, the anti-army wave was initially unleashed by political and other interested lobbies against the former army chief. It may not have been part of a larger conspiracy to discredit the entire institution at all. Instead it was perhaps based on a serious attempt to reign in a former army chief who has been at serious odds with the ruling establishment and seen to be cosying up to the opposition.
  •  Because of the growing disconnect between the leadership of the armed forces and the civilian government, perhaps little attention was paid to the long-term consequences of such a destructive campaign of vilification. With damage done by utterances of the former chief who in an attempt to hit back has come out with sweeping claims undermining the democratic process in J&K. Now the Centre is clueless as to how to put the genie back in the bottle.

  • At the state level in J & K, there already was a prolonged and increasingly vicious campaign against the army since 2010. Starting with a demand to revoke AFSPA and continuously blaming the army for atrocities committed implying thereby that it was the Army that may have orchestrated militant attacks to justify the number of troops in the state. This is discernible from most of the political platform of the government and opposition alike being centred on anti-army themes. 
  • As J & K is entering the election cycle, smear campaign against the army is likely to get shriller as the present government has little or nothing to show on the development front and wants to move back to emotive issues for gaining local sympathy. It is thus trying its level best to keep the scandal alive.
At the security forces and agency level
  • , there has been much competition and animosity between different players, especially at the state level. The state police and associated agencies have been pushing for more control and increased funding for security related operations by the state police forces. This has been aided largely by Delhi which would like to see much of the responsibility for law & order and even counter insurgency operations transferred to the local police/Para military forces. Inevitably, this has led to a power struggle between different branches of the unified command and allied intelligence bodies.
  •  Almost everything that happened in the valley was blamed on Army. If a particular act could not be attributed to Army, effort was made to paint it as a crime rather than terrorism. Inevitably, this has led to a power struggle between different branches of the unified command and allied intelligence bodies. 
  • The scandal and continuing smear campaign has come as a blessing in disguise for local law enforcement agencies who have the complete support of the ruling party. The chains of responsibility and command have become too blurred for comfort. Also, in the valley the state government and the police are worried as the demand for revocation of PSA has far exceeded that of AFSPA.
Thus the mainstream is doing the separatist job by keeping the issue alive and by busily discrediting itself and its legitimate institutions. . With most of the accusations against the army emanating from the mainstream they have seized this opportunity by highlighting to distraught local population of entire democratic process being a sham something that they have been saying for many years.
This has provided Pakistan the meddling role it was seeking. Recent attacks are but manifestations of this as indeed stepped up attempts at infiltration. A dangerous scenario is unfolding which if not addressed in a synergistic fashion both at central and State level could result in security situation nose diving back to the eighties. It would be of interest to note that the new discourse in the Valley is “victimhood”, “resistance” and “war crimes”. The change from ‘Sufi’ to ‘Salafi’ identity is reaching critical mass.
Both Delhi and Srinagar have to get their act together to stem the rot which might be extremely detrimental to peace in Kashmir where people remain the main losers.

Kamal Kapoor

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