From day one, the new army chief, Deepak Kapoor, has made it clear that a decrease in violence in Jammu and Kashmir will not automatically result in troop cuts. He has reiterated that position once again, with the added caveat that amidst the ongoing chaos in Pakistan, a dirty nuke falling into jehadi hands was a cause of concern for all stable democracies. While there is every need for the army not to interfere with day-to-day civilian life in J&K, General Kapoor is right when he says that the crackdown in Pakistan’s western flank could well mean that jehadi elements could enter India from the east. Bitter experience has shown that whenever there is an escalation in violence and tension in Pakistan, the fallout on India has been negative. We have no reason to believe that things will be different now.
In fact, there is all the more need for caution, with General Musharraf and PPP leader Benazir Bhutto seemingly at loggerheads. It has long been suspected that not all factions of the army heed the general’s instructions and these could facilitate the entry of militants into India. Though violence levels have dropped by up to 50 per cent this year, the rate of infiltration has remained the same. The seeming calm in J&K should not give room for complacency, since many of these Pakistan-backed terrorist cells can be activated at short notice. By firmly ruling out troop cuts, General Kapoor is sending out a clear signal to potential troublemakers that the army means business.
Fortunately, Defence Minister A.K. Antony is of the same mind as General Kapoor. The BJP has alleged that there has been substantial troop pull-out in Doda, Poonch and Rajouri, but this would seem more political rhetoric than based on ground realities. Earlier this year, PDP leader Mufti Mohammed Sayeed had suggested that the changed and improved climate in the state required a rethink in troop deployment, with the emphasis being on reduction. The Defence Minister had ruled it out then. Now, with the volatile situation across the border, any such move would be suicidal. Even when things simmer down there — and this would be in India’s interest — it would be premature to consider any form of demilitarisation. It can only be after a sustained period of peace and iron-clad assurances from Pakistan that India can even begin to let down its guard.