‘Total Focus On Development, Growth Will Steer Kashmir To Normalcy’
Pakistan must be made accountable for its saboteur role in Kashmir. Bring enough pressure on them through diplomatic, political, economic or military means’
Former Director General Jammu & Kashmir Police (2007-12), Former Head of Intelligence J&K (2000-03 & 2005-07), Former Chief Vigilance Commissioner J&K (2013-17)
We have been missing the important issue regarding the emerging situation in Kashmir. It is that Pakistan has not been giving up its policy on Kashmir – the policy to keep Kashmir always disturbed and unstable.
Despite the Uri strikes or the Balakot strikes, the results which were expected could not be achieved. We have to think in terms of an effective solution. We are aware that Pakistan is responsible for every terrorist incident in Kashmir. This needs to be followed through. For any terrorist incident, whether big or small, Pakistan must held responsible. Not only verbally but also in deed. And Pakistan must be made to pay for it.
As long as we are ignoring Pakistan in this entire situation and only responding to the situation on ground, the situation is likely to continue the way it has for the past 32 years.
There is no reason to believe that terrorism is going to end solely by neutralizing the terrorists at ground level, and ignoring Pakistan’s role in it. After the recent killings, MHA came out with the statement. They stated that the targeted killings in Kashmir were planned in Pakistan last year.
Such statements on India’s part are not new. But it is ironical that we are trying to respond to the situation without taking any meaningful and effective action against Pakistan.
That does not mean that our ground operations are not yielding results. They are giving us the right results – we are able to contain terrorism. The integrity of India cannot get compromised by these acts of terrorism.
At the same time, how long can we continue with this situation? How long can we allow it to continue?
Should a big country like India – with our population and the fifth largest economy – should we always be made to feel like we have no means to end terrorism in Kashmir, and we have to live with it? No. We can deal with the challenge. Our responses must arise effectively both on the external and internal front.
Internally, we have been dealing with the problem very effectively. The police and security forces – at the cost of their lives – have been able to get tremendous results. We have never allowed terrorism to grow out of hand. Most of the terrorists neutralized within a few months of becoming active. That is no small achievement. It has to be acknowledged by one and all as a significant achievement. Internally, we have also been working on the problem of radicalization, the flow of funds.
We Need Development And Industrial Growth
The other issues which indirectly contribute to the unrest in Kashmir also have to be addressed. We need development. We need to have industrial growth going. We need more strength in the tourism sector– there is tremendous potential for that in Kashmir and in Jammu.
This doesn’t mean that the government should get into the tourism sector, or in the industrial sector. The government’s job is not to run business. Globally, governments have not succeeded in running business.
The Prime Minister has been unequivocal about it. He has said repeatedly and with clarity that our job is governance. The role of government in running businesses or providing infrastructure facility for tourism shall not be effective.
We need large-scale investment in tourism. We need better road connectivity. We need all supportive infrastructure which is associated with the development of any place. Development has happened, but it needs to be boosted. The pace has not been that which was expected, or which was comfortably possible.
We need to work on industrial growth. It needs a big push, because it shall create jobs. It is very important for us as a nation to have industrial growth in Kashmir. As long as you have youth who are not doing meaningful work, they shall keep falling prey to the machinations of Pakistan.
Those who counter this argument say that unemployment is no reason why a youth should become a terrorist. They offer the argument that if this was the case, youngsters would become terrorists in Orissa, Bihar and other under-developed states.
They forget that the youth in Kashmir have been indoctrinated by Pakistan for decades. Pakistan has been using all means to radicalize the youth in Kashmir. That is not the case in Orissa, Bihar. To deprive Pakistan of this human capital is also our job.
Bringing Kashmir back to normalcy has to be an all-round strategy. We shall not be able to steer Kashmir to normalcy only by killing terrorists and saying – we have been able to get the results. It does not amount to that. There shall be new terrorists, new recruitments. Infiltration keeps on taking place. At Sunjwan sector in Jammu, an attempt was made to target the Army camp. There was fresh infiltration. Whether from LOC or the international border, Pakistan will keep creating problems. It is their agenda.
One security agency may say that terrorists have infiltrated from LOC. Another may claim that terrorists have infiltrated from the international border. We cannot get into a blame game. We have many concerns to address.
Use of Drones For Terror Activities A Cause For Concern
We have another emerging issue for the past couple of years. It is the extensive use of drones to supply small arms, grenades to the youth for terror activities.
Intelligence reports say that small arms and grenades have been distributed on a wide scale. Over a dozen pistols have been seized. A single terror operative who was arrested said during interrogation that he had delivered a consignment of 40 pistols. These are alarming developments. These pistols are then used for individual targeted killing.
One the external front, we have to keep Pakistan in focus. We have to bring enough pressure on them through diplomatic, political, economic and military means, like in Balakote. The last option is not to be ruled out. It has to be kept in loop, otherwise results may not be achieved.
Pakistan comes under international pressure at times regarding the terrorism that it exports to India. But the pressure is not to the extent that Pakistan shall stop terrorism.
We have to employ more extensive measures vis a vis Pakistan. We have to make it too costly for Pakistan to continue with its machinations on Kashmir soil.
Bureaucracy Must Be Extremely Responsive To People’s Needs
On the internal front, an important issue is that the bureaucracy has to be made extremely responsive to people’s needs. In our discussions, on formal and informal forums, it has come to notice that the response of the Administration is not what the people want. The Administration needs to be more responsible to the requirements of the people. The Administration needs to be more responsive to their day-to-day problems.
A mechanism has to be established that if people have a grievance, it shall be addressed by a functional system. Genuine grievances need to be addressed on fast track basis, whether these relate to health, education, revenue or any other department.
ELECTIONS IN J&K
Elections are part of a normal democratic process. As and when the government feels that that the elections should be conducted, they shall be held. As of now, the problem on hand is the instability created by Pakistan in Kashmir. Whether elections should be held or not is purely a decision for the government and the Election Commission to take a call on.
Let nobody think that because of the current disturbances, we have reached the end of the road in Kashmir, and that there is no solution. This is not the case at all. Effective and impactful solutions are available. The thing is to recognize the problem and address it meaningfully.
Containing terrorism is not the solution. Resolving the problem in full – that is the real solution. There are no quick-fix solutions available. On all the fronts, these measures take time. The ball has been set rolling. We have to ensure strict and time-bound implementation of the development initiatives.
Like we spoke about the Smart City for Srinagar and for Jammu. Examine people’s perception. Their positive perception is the best indicator that some real change has happened.
It is important for the government to make announcements about what it has done and what it is doing. Claiming something is good. People should know what you are doing. Equally, it is important to know what people feel about the claims. Any survey can reveal the ground realities. It shall reveal that a lot is required to be done in that direction.
Where redressal of people’s grievances is concerned, there is huge scope for improvement. It is important for people to feel that their grievances are getting resolved in a time-bound manner.
JK Police Is The Backbone In The Fight Against Terrorism
There was a recent tweet from a journalist in Kashmir regarding the lack-luster performance of the police. The man is known for his forthrightness, his bluntness. He has his ears to the ground. What he said about the police, I will say this. We had a system of carrying out informal surveys through all thanas. The survey would be conducted for all the villages which were in the jurisdiction of a particular thana.
The survey would maintain detailed information about all the persons who had the inclination to support or sympathize with anti-national elements. The survey was carried out regularly by the beat constables. They would collect the intelligence, the feedback from the people and update these lists regularly.
In this way, we knew which house has a youth who may have the potential to get recruited as a militant or an OGW to provide shelter or other assistance to terrorists.
This mechanism proved to be very effective. Once pistol-shooting started in a very noticeable manner, these surveys that were carried out in a time-bound manner gave us valuable intelligence. Many among the guilty were promptly nabbed.
Intelligence flow cannot be 100 per cent. But even if eight out of ten guilty persons are contained, it is very effective intelligence network.
The issue is that a lot of hard work is required to be one on routine basis. You have to keep updating the list of potential people who are vulnerable to inducement, to indoctrination, to cash flow and other incentives.
I am not sure whether this process is being followed now or not. If not, it can be reintroduced. There must be close surveillance of villagers. The lists must be regularly updated. J&K Police is well trained to fight terrorism in Kashmir. JKP has sacrificed 2000 persons in the line of duty for the integrity of the country. We cannot undermine those acts of bravery.
JK Police is the backbone in the fight against terrorism. In the counter-terror operations prior to 2000, adequate ground-level intelligence was not available. Hence collateral damage would be large. The intelligence networks of the police resolved this challenge. The police were able to correctly pinpoint the places where the terrorists would hide or take shelter. As a result we were able to avoid huge collateral damage.
Without the police, the security apparatus cannot function in Kashmir. Some deficiencies which are there can be removed. JK Police has huge potential to give excellent results, as they have in the past. We must keep regular and organized intelligence inputs on the vulnerable families and vulnerable youth.
On this issue, lots of formulas and solutions have been propounded from time to time. The police have worked on them. The police have tried to implement them.
Should The Police Be Lenient Or Tough With Stone Pelters Or OGWs?
A question often asked is – should the police be lenient or tough with stone pelters or OGWs? The answer is simple. We have a very robust legal system in the country. We have laws which can effectively deal with these elements. Any OGW or anybody who assists terror activities should be treated as per law. There is no point being soft on them or trying to give them incentives. Any such policy will boomerang. It shall bring negative results. All those who assist target killing or provide information about vulnerable people need to be dealt with strictly under the law. It is essential to take appropriate action against such people. Those laws need to be effectively implemented.
The Judiciary also has to respond to the situation in the manner that these people who provide oxygen supply to keep terrorism alive must be dealt by law appropriately and effectively. The channels for terror must be blocked. The Judiciary has to play this important role in national interest.
We have to make Pakistan accountable for its misdeeds in Kashmir. We have seen the example of Sri Lanka, of Israel – how they eliminated terrorism.
A big country like India obviously needs to do more to show Pakistan its place. Some defense experts say that war cannot be an option. It is bad for everybody. It shall push back the economy, make GDP go down.
These considerations are right, but there is always a tipping point where one has to decide. One has to examine whether any option is left to tackle Pakistan in any other way.
Pakistan has been indulging in proxy war against India for three decades. Pakistan is not going to give up its approach on Kashmir unless it proves very costly for them. Till now it has been a low-cost proxy war for Pakistan. They are willing to continue it despite their economy being in tatters. Pakistan does not have the money for the welfare of their own people, but it keeps the funds flowing to keep the pot boiling in Kashmir.
India must analyze and exercise all options on priority, and then also think about the military option. It may make us bleed economically, but at some point of time, something has to be done. We cannot address only the external dimension of the problem. We cannot just content ourselves with kadi ninda and say that Pakistan is involved. Yes, Pakistan is involved, but what are you doing about it?
Fast Track Work On Smart City Project Required
We have the Smart City project for Jammu and for Kashmir. More than any other city in India, the Smart City projects in both these cities have to be monitored very closely. This must make visible changes on ground – how the government has been able to make best use of funds provided for Smart City. How people’s lives are better because of it.
It has now been more than six years that the smart city project was announced. Some billboards and signages have come up. There are paintings and decorations. Some shikaras have been provided with solar batteries. All this is good.
What about functional sewerage systems? What about traffic congestion? What about broader road networks?
We have to make the living of people easy. Has there been visible progress in that? Ask the people what progress they have seen after the Smart City project. Whether it has improved living, commuting. Whether it has addressed issues which impact the common man on daily basis.
Jammu and Kashmir is a unique problem. It requires unique solutions. We need proactive action on all fronts. On the external front, we need to deal with Pakistan. On the internal front, we have to address the challenge through development, through continuous security operations.
The progress has to be monitored on day to day basis. People’s perceptions are very important in these issues. We have to make them think about whether we are good with India or not. Whether the Administration is responsive or not.
We have to get people on board so that they develop a vested interest in being part of India. This is how we shall normalize Kashmir. You can’t have people who feel that their life is not getting the comforts which citizens of a robust democracy should get. The problems faced by people have to be addressed very effectively. Implementation has to be result oriented.