The separatists’ security is integral to India’s security interests in the Valley. That might seem an oxymoron. But that’s how statecraft works.
What Chanakya propounded centuries ago is relevant still: saam (persuade), daam (purchase), dand (punish), bhed (exploit weaknesses).
The ground rules haven’t changed. Security is another name for surveillance — for it provides the State access to separatists. Money is the means to lure them. These instruments come in handy as much to penalise or to exploit their secrets and shortcomings.
Some ‘indignant’ simplifiers — a phrase The Politico used for Donald Trump — have termed as “unconstitutional and illegal” the funding of groups acting against the country’s interests. That reminds one of former R&AW chief RN Kao’s riposte to the then Premier Morarji Desai when he accused the agency of engaging in illegal activities in the 1970s. “There’s no legal way of collecting intelligence abroad,” he told the PM.
Over decades, separatist groups, be they in the north-east or in Kashmir, have been funded to win them over, play one against the other and to cultivate informants in their ranks. Veteran journalist Asoka Raina, who authored the book Inside RAW, quoted Kao to explain it all: “The more expensive the sugar, the better the information…”
It isn’t the best kept secret in intelligence circles that money sustained the third option — freedom from India and Pakistan — as a counter to the pro-Pak Hurriyat phalanx. Funds have been planted and recovered to show them as being destined to separatists from across the border.
Not that the separatists don’t receive material support — besides moral and political — from Islamabad. Such hauls are orchestrated as an excuse to detain them or impede their moments, claimed an intelligence operative.
“These shouldn’t be a subject of discussion in public. Their complexities aren’t easy to follow,” said Wajahat Habibullah, a former J&K cadre IAS officer who served in Rajiv Gandhi’s PMO. “The demand may be there (for withdrawing security of separatists). But I don’t see how effective it will be in opening dialogue that’s the only way forward.”
Raina for his part was more candid: “Those who’re raising it are playing to the gallery. It’ll achieve nothing. You can monitor the separatists better if you give them protection.” They either be asked to leave the country, which is easier said than done, or they be secured, he said.
The argument has weight. The Indian State will face the security fall-out from harm coming to any Hurriyat leader — one among whom, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is the head priest of Kashmir.
There are conflicting views on the traction the separatists have with the agitating youth. Elements among them have been used in the past by security agencies for covertly reaching out to militants, said an official.
If nothing else, the Hurriyat prevents a wholesale transfer of the insurgency’s levers to Pakistan: they’re pro-Pakistan but they aren’t in Pakistan. “We’ve to ensure that they aren’t bumped off,” the official surmised. “Feeble or strong, they can be our line of communication to the protesters.”