South Asian Insider
Post Pulwama: Call for action
The Pulwama terror strike against India has proven what many have long feared: India's Pakistan policy, especially with regard to Kashmir, is an utter failure. While Pakistan has consistently deployed 'non-state actors' to carry out its monstrous and murderous machinations, India has been helplessly handcuffed and out-manoeuvred.Our security forces, hamstrung for want of political or diplomatic support, are unable to carry out effective counter attacks despite our much vaunted and singular 'surgical strike.' On the other hand, we have never, whether officially or unofficially, resorted to our own retaliatory response of "bleeding Pakistan with a thousand cuts."
A history of conflict
A long view of the Kashmir conflict reveals that Pakistan has consistently resorted to non-state agents, deflecting blame from itself, while simultaneously accomplishing its objective of inflicting heavy casualties and damage on India. In fact, Pakistan started using this method way back in 1947 itself. On October 22, 1947 under 'Operation Gulmarg', mercenaries and tribal lashkars, supported by Army and paramilitary forces, crossed the border. Their attempt to seize Kashmir almost succeeded.In just three days, the invaders were just 50 km from Srinagar, having captured Baramulla on October 25. The troops of Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir proved quite powerless and incapable of defending their princely state.The warlike but greedy Maseed Pathans, however, lingered on for days in Baramulla to rape, loot and pillage the town. In the meantime, scared with the prospect of imminent capitulation, Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession to India on October 26. Rao Bahadur Vappala Pangunni (or VP) Menon, ICS, CSI, CIE, Sardar Patel's trusted lieutenant in the integration of the 565 princely states into the Indian Union, carried the vital document to New Delhi. On October 27, the following day, the accession was accepted by Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma and India's last British governor-general. That very day, Indian troops were airlifted to Srinagar. They fought back fiercely, but before they succeeded in fully repulsing and repelling the invaders, a harsh winter set in, with the prospect of prolonged and inconclusive hostilities.A ceasefire was declared on December 31, 1947, coming into effect on January 1, 1948. The Line of Control (LoC) thus came into being, which is still the virtual border between our countries.Using non-state actors, Pakistan gained roughly one-third of Kashmir, which they termed 'Azad' or free Kashmir. Within 10 years, in 1957, this territory was integrated into Pakistan. India lost Aksai Chin, another 37,244 sq km of territory, to China in the 1962 debacle.But on the Indian side of the LoC, Kashmir continued to be a burning cauldron, with thousands of security personnel and civilians lost to a deadly proxy war with Pakistan.
Terror in the Valley
In the late 1980s, this bloody feud entered a new phase, with home-grown terrorists euphemistically called 'militants,' waging war against their own state and country. Political solutions to the problem have only succeeded partially, that too at a heavy cost, with increased infiltration, division, and alienation between Kashmiri Muslims and Jammu Hindus, not to speak of the heavy price paid by the lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits in losing their homeland. To all appearances, then, Pakistan has the upper hand in both the narrative and the actual wars, that too at relatively low cost. In contrast, India has lost state troops, resources, and prestige, without being able either to secure peace or stability in the Valley.
What is India to do? Not talking to Pakistan, isolating it internationally, hurting it economically, and hitting back from time to time, as and when opportunities present themselves is the least we can do. But what are our better, if not best, options under the circumstances? One hawkish view, is to 'finish' off the Pakistan problem, to break its neck so to speak. Advocates of such a view believe that Pakistan resorts to non-state actors precisely because it can neither afford nor win an outright war.
Playing their game
Insiders speak of Pakistani generals being cowardly, crooked and corrupt, unable to inspire leadership, let alone fight themselves. They enjoy cushy and comfortable lives, preferring others to do their dirty work. Mercenaries, militias for hire, dirty armies, drugs, counterfeit currency, and export of terror - these are much cheaper and more costeffective when it comes to injuring India. Why would they risk losing their hold on their country, whose blood they suck vampire-like, with a frontal and all-out war? Nuclear deterrence, according to this view, is only a bluff to prevent an outright fight. The question, however, is who can dare to call this costly bluff? Its catastrophic possibilities are almost unimaginable.
Without an all-out war, India can definitely exercise several other more meaningful actions. These include better, preventive intelligence rather than post-facto assessments or damage control.
Deploying our own 'non-state' squads to achieve targeted goals is also an option to exercise if not done already. Even a few high-profile blows are sure to send the right signals. Closer home, the abrogation of Article 370, inclusive of 35A, seems the only way to end separatism in the state. Doesn't it stand to reason that if Kashmiris can settle or buy property in any part of India, non-Kashmiri Indians must also have the same rights in Kashmir?
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