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Revival of insurgency in J&K

Terrorist groups operating from Pakistan and the Taliban in Afghanistan have declared that once America 'draws down' its troops from the region, they would shift focus towards Kashmir. Lt Gen Harwant Singh (retd) writes.

punjab Updated: Mar 15, 2013 18:39 IST
Lt Gen Harwant Singh (retd)

Terrorist groups operating from Pakistan and the Taliban in Afghanistan have declared that once America 'draws down' its troops from the region, they would shift focus towards Kashmir. It would be naïve to ignore the possibility of such a situation from developing. From the middle of 2014, terrorist activity in the Kashmir Valley could pick up momentum. Neither the state government nor the Centre is fully alive to this emerging scenario.

The recent attack and killing of five CRPF personnel is perhaps an opening gambit of coming events. Jammu and Kashmir is in the grip of competitive politics of the worst kind, whereas separatists are busy spreading the anti-India sentiment. Though everyone is aware that shifting the body of Afzal Guru, who was hanged recently for the Parliament attack, to the valley would lead to a law and order problem yet chief minister Omar Abdullah, in a bid to play to the gallery, is making this demand.

The death of a youth while brickbatting CRPF personnel got the chief minister emotional in the assembly. There is no word of advice from any quarter to the people, particularly the youth, to refrain from violence against the police.

While India has given billions of rupees as aid to the state, it has failed to ensure its deployment. The money has ended up in political and bureaucratic pockets. India has not been able to evolve a comprehensive and viable policy for the state. It was the most shameful act on the part of the Indian government to have remained a mute spectator while Hindus were being evicted from the valley. When the first batch of Pandits arrived in Jammu and their camp was put up just outside Nagrota Cantt, as the corps commander in Jammu, I impressed upon the governor (it was a period of governor's rule) that we must halt this exodus and if required these camps for the Pandits be set up in the valley itself. The governor heard me out but did nothing.

So we have come to live with the most disgraceful situation where a large section of our people are refugees in their own country. Since then we have simply failed to resolve this issue. It is perhaps time to do away with Article 370 and integrate the state into the national mainstream. The Centre must bite the bullet and be prepared to control the initial reaction in the valley. It requires firmness and resolve.

There has been a persistent demand from the state government, more so the chief minister, to do away with the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the state. Demand for abrogation of AFSPA from the state, was aired on national TV by Sheikh Abdullah, a central minister. If the state government is confident that it can handle insurgency with the assistance of state and central police, then, as the AFSPA is abrogated, the military must move back to the barracks.

There is absolutely no way the army can combat insurgency without these powers. This point must be fully understood and the military authorities must make the same clear to the central government. Thereafter, the military can remain deployed on the Line of Control and when required, called out, 'in aid to civil power' with a magistrate in attendance, where and whenever there is a requirement to deal with unruly mobs etc.

Counter-insurgency operations are messy in nature and least desired by the military. Besides, it distracts the army from its primary task of training and maintaining high state of readiness for operations to defend the territorial integrity of the country.

As more sophisticated equipment and weapons are being inducted into the military, it requires regular training on these, for their optimum exploitation during operations. So when the military is deployed on duties such as counter-insurgency, it adversely impacts its operational worthiness. Given the persistent demand by the state government, Delhi should pull out the army from counter-insurgency tasks in Jammu and Kashmir and reinforce the strength of the central police forces. AFSPA may then remain operative within 5 to 10 km along the LoC.

(The writer is a commentator on defence and security issues. Views expressed are personal)

First Published: Mar 15, 2013 10:26 IST