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Strategising Kashmir policy - Circa 2017
1/11/2017 10:17:20 PM
Dr. Simrit Kahlon

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, on more than one occasion, put his political reputation at stake to walk the extra mile in pursuit of peace with Pakistan. The most dynamic, out-of-the-box initiative in this regard was his impromptu and unscheduled visit to the neighbouring country to wish Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his birthday on 25 December 2015.
The fateful Pakistan sponsored terror attack on the Air Force base in Pathankot on, January, 02, 2016, within a week of the Prime Minsiter extending a hand of friendship, constitutes a most ignoble rejection of his efforts and intentions.
Yet, he did not allow relations between the two countries to nosedive. An assurance of credible action from Prime Minister Sharif led to a sanction by the Government of India for the visit of a Pakistani investigating team to Pathankot. Unfortunately but not unexpectedly, nothing came out of the initiative.
Pakistan gave momentum to its belligerent Kashmir policy yet again post the killing of the terrorist Burhan Wani on 08 July 2016. Burhan was a petty local terrorist whose death would have gone unheralded had not Pakistan mobilised a massive propaganda campaign across the valley with the help of the many "friends" that it has nurtured within the "free" Indian media and the "disruptive and separatist assets" it has created within Kashmir.
The plan did not succeed because the people of the state rejected the disruptive and divisive agenda after months of sustained effort by the paid agents of Pakistan.
The Indian security forces, on their part, creditably controlled the spike in terrorist activity; all terrorist initiated actions during this period were nullified despite the pressure of handling the engineered internal unrest, this was also done with active support of the people at large.
The consistent failure of the Pakistan Army in making a dent in Kashmir considerably weakened the position of the erstwhile Chief of the Pakistan Army, General Raheel Sharif, who was looking for an extension in tenure based on Kashmir succumbing to the policy of disruption.
The orchestrated attack on an army camp in Uri on 18 September 2016 was his last ditch effort to wrest the initiative. The terror attack was part of a well calibrated game plan to escalate the threshold of violence in Jammu and Kashmir.
Fidayeen (Suicide) squads of terrorists had been launched across the state to support those who were causing social disruption in the Kashmir Valley. Uri was, by far, the most successful of these attacks.
The attack caused widespread disgust and revulsion across India and led to a well planned and highly successful surgical strike by Indian forces on multiple terrorist camps located near the Line of Control (LOC) in Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK).
The media machinery of the Pakistan Army went into overdrive to deny the surgical strikes. This was because the military leadership of the country has been consistently feeding the people with stories of herculean Pakistani military power as against the docility of the Indian leadership and the Indian Army; the strikes were anti-theses to such propaganda.
The success of the surgical strike put the last nail on the coffin of Gen. Raheel Sharif and he was compelled to retire when his term came to an end. He, however, did not go out without extracting his pound of flesh. In a parting gift to its outgoing chief, the Pakistan army ambushed an Indian patrol on the Indian side of the LOC in the Machil sector of the Kashmir Valley on Tuesday, November, 22. This was followed by the twin terror strikes in the Jammu region, one near the International Border and the other within the Nagrota Cantonment.
Pakistan is concentrating on strikes against Indian military bases, especially so in Kashmir. The intention is to send out a message of vulnerability of the Indian security system, especially the Indian Army, without isolating the local population. There is also an attempt to increase the terrorist "boots on ground" with enhanced infiltration and local recruitment. Showing a weakness in the security apparatus is a good indoctrination tool for local recruitment.
The two countries have witnessed a change in the top military hierarchy. Gen. Qamar Bajwa has taken over as Chief of Pakistan Army and Gen. Bipin Rawat has taken over as Chief of the Indian Army.
Considering the high level of fundamentalism that has seeped into the Pakistan Army, Gen. Bajwa has no option but to toe the line so as to ensure his own survival. The twin strikes in Jammu region on the eve of his taking over the mantle could not have taken place without his approval. It therefore can be taken for granted that he set the ball rolling by giving a message of violence to India.
Gen. Bipin Rawat, on assuming command, has been speaking to the Indian media quite freely. From his various interactions it becomes apparent that the Indian Army will continue to follow a policy of proactive retribution to military misadventures by Pakistan in accordance with the stated policy of the NDA Government.
It is quite apparent that a policy of appeasement by the Indian Government with the hope that Pakistan would relent from its evil designs is unlikely to pay any dividend. Indian needs to follow strategic policies that are pragmatic and in tune with the existing realities.
India would do well by taking credible steps to make the cost of Pakistan's misadventures unacceptable in economic, social and diplomatic terms. This would require a strong political will and taking of some bold decisions that are in tune with the might of the nation and the aspirations of its people.
It is also quite apparent that the ultimate defeat of subversive activities by Pakistan in the Kashmir valley will be brought about by the people of the region with, of course, the unstinted support of the security forces, especially the Indian Army.
Identification of a people centric approach, therefore, should form the prime strategy of the government.
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