By Dr. Ashok Bhan
Why have recent developments along the LoC/ IB in Jammu and Kashmir evoked such uproar in the Indian media and surprised a section of security analysts? Did India expect Pakistan, its Army and the ISI to play ball just because a democratically elected Prime Minister had made certain friendly overtures hinting at a desire to have friendly relations with India? Did we read too much into such an expression of intent without taking into account his capacity to deliver?
Improving relations with India found place in manifestos of various political parties including the PML-N, but whether religious forces will allow this remained a question mark. Links of PML (N) with terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, and support of Punjab Government led by the Prime Minister’s brother to Hafiz Saeed should be taken into consideration. Besides, Pakistan Army continues to dominate discourse on security and foreign affairs.
Nawaz Sharif is not in a position, at least currently, to stop use of Pakistani soil to launch terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India. His government finds it difficult to control widespread terror strikes within Pakistan, many of which are directed towards the security forces. Any such expectations have comprehensively been belied by recent developments along the LoC/ IB and UNGA speech of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif harping on the right of self determination and UN resolutions to solve the problem of Jammu and Kashmir.
The security grid in J&K needs urgent remedial steps. The prolonged combat fatigue coupled with mirage of peace carved by reduction in incidents of violence and expectations from Pakistan has set complacency in the system. Add the war of words between the civil government and the Indian Army on issues including AFSPA. The unsavory and indiscreet remark of the former Army Chief that ministers in J&k were receiving payments from the Army has further soured the Civil- Army relations within the State. His clarification regarding the purpose of such payments went almost unheard. The damage had been done. It provided handle to separatists and those with grouse against the Army to blame the mainstream parties for hobnobbing with the Army for electoral gains.
The much needed synergy between various colours of uniform as also between civilian Government and military needs to be restored if attacks of the kind witnessed on Hiranagar police Station and the Samba based Army unit are to be prevented. There were sufficient warnings which should have alerted the security grid in the state.
The net infiltration during 2013 has increased as compared to the previous year. In 2012 and 2013, for the first time after many years, the number of terrorists infiltrated was many more than those neutralized thus adding to the numbers on ground. The increase may not be very large but it reveal a trend- that Pakistan wanted desperately to increase number of terrorists and add to weapons to be used at the time of their choosing. The recent infiltration bids including the much touted Keran operation only support such apprehensions.
Three important forthcoming events may provide some clue to the developing security situation in Jammu and Kashmir: American drawdown from Afghanistan, the elections to the Indian Parliament and the elections to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly.
Fears have been expressed that Pakistan wary of Indian influence in Afghanistan may raise level of violence in Jammu and Kashmir to keep Indian troops engaged. The existing nexus between the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Haqanni groups presently used to target Indian interests in Afghanistan can extend to J&K. The alienation not having been addressed adequately, the ground, they argue, is fertile for such an adventure.
Pakistan is averse to strengthening of the grassroots democracy in J&K as it will impact the influence of their separatist supporters. They have demonstrated repeatedly on the eve of elections by targeting political leaders and activists and using separatists to give boycott calls against participation in electoral process. The recent killing of panchayat members and threatening them also is intended with the same sinister design. Another peaceful, free and fair Assembly election will take the sail out of the separatists’ boat much to the discomfort of their Pak masters.
Pakistan is likely to wait for the outcome of Indian general elections and settling down of the next Government in New Delhi before deciding on a meaningful dialogue. If recent events are any indication, meanwhile the Pakistan Army and the ISI, with or without a nod from the Pak Government, will go about their task of destabilizing India and stepping up violence in Jammu and Kashmir on the eve of the parliament and assembly polls. It is for the Indian State to meet the challenge through preparedness to neutralize the threat appropriately and even inflict costs on Pakistan, if necessary. No amount of Pakistan bashing by the media or rhetoric of political leaders will help. The recent incidents along LoC/ IB should serve as a wakeup call for Indian security establishment.
Dr. Ashok Bhan
Distinguished Fellow, IPCS; Former Director General of Police, J&K; and Member NSAB
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