A war can be fought and won by soldiers against an enemy who is visible in the battlefield. But if the enemy infiltrates the cognitive domain, operates within and displays nothing to react against, it makes it difficult for soldiers to win such wars. Conflict in Jammu and Kashmir is an example where enemy is operating from inside in different forms and shades without giving an exposed flank. This is the war that Pakistan is waging against India in J&K. The population of J&K that was supposed to stand against the proxy war and passive aggression of Pakistan, has been eroded and now segments of the population are supporting the very perpetrators who have caused so much harm to the state, society and the people.
Three Pronged Strategy of Pakistan in Kashmir
There is no fate worse than being continuously under guard for fear of violence by a faceless enemy, and Pakistan has managed to create such an environment in Kashmir as also in other parts of the country. Pakistan has adopted a three pronged strategy in Kashmir as part of hybrid war. First, direct violence through terrorism has been the most visible strategy that has targeted the very structure of the state and made it difficult for the law enforcing agencies to maintain their control over the territory. Through violence, there has been a systematic targeting of the psyche of the people, by creating conditions which imply that if you are not on their side, then you are against them. It is this fear which has compelled the local population to render unconditional support to terrorists, albeit under coercion.The response of the government has been the application of military force to restore peace and regain lost space. But militaries can at best manage conflict. Its termination is a function of the political process.
The second prong to Pakistan’s proxy war has been the structural violence that has eroded the emotions and sentiments of the people through public uprising. This uprising was carried out by systematically manipulating emotions and sentiments of the people through Hurriyat and over ground workers (OGW), the so called unarmed jihadi. Support from across the borders in the form of money and motivation continued to flow and Hurriyat, that was considered an ineffective nuisance till 2010, has now emerged as an extraordinary tool, capable of causing unprecedented instability in the Valley. This aspect went largely unnoticed due to the inconsistent efforts of the government, which could not erode the influence of this segment. As a result, the Hurriyat and other separatists’ organisations have become the so called symbols of resistance movement in Kashmir, largely because India and J&K government gave them licence to carry out anti-national activities to support war against the nation. Hurriyat committed exactly the same crime that Maqbool Bhat committed, for which he had to pay with his life. The Hurriyat, unfortunately has been given sanctity to commit war against the nation without retribution.
The third prong to Pakistan’s proxy war is cultural violence through social engineering – a passive invasion that has turned out to be the most dangerous since it has divided Kashmiri society between ‘Kashmiriyat’ and Sufism on one side and Wahhabi Islam that has the support of Jammat on the other. Youth and educated are today followers of Wahhabi Islam; they conduct prayers in the modern mosques of Ahle-i-Hadith, while the older generation continue to follow the Sufi Islam. The crystallisation of the Ahle-i-Hadith in J&K as a separate sect was a gradual process, given fillip by the setting up of separate mosques and madrasas from the late 80s. Today, there are three times more mosques of Ahlei- Hadith in the Valley than Sufi mosques. Not just the mosques and Madrasas, but even large numbers of English medium schools and academies have mushroomed in J&K, where students are slowly being moulded to follow Wahhabi Islam. In the last 20 years, the cultural and religious landscape of Kashmir has been completely altered and with a state where 65 percent population is youth, Kashmiriyat and Sufism has been replaced by an aggressive and non-compromising diaspora, that considers Kashmiriyat a weakness of Kashmiris. There is a visible support base emerging within Kashmir against India that demands either merger with Pakistan or Kashmir as an independent state. In either case, it furthers the cause of Pakistan.
The cultural and structural violence in Kashmir remained passive and while it appeared to be working for the larger peace, it was in fact in alliance with the proxy/ cross border terrorism to create ultimate conditions of instability. Lopsided conflict assessment and analysis concluded that the Pakistan backed proxy war can be defeated by military means, without considering the other two prongs of war unleashed by Pakistan. The current instability in Kashmir is the outcome of the three strategies merging and working in a synergised manner. Even today, most security analysts look at the Kashmir conflict, simply through the lens of cross border terrorism. That remains a cardinal mistake.
Cross border terrorism is but a part of the larger hybrid war unleashed by Pakistan. Without addressing the cultural and structural violence, forces working against India in Kashmir would be difficult to defeat.
Pakistan has used deceit, violence and unjust means to destabilise Jammu and Kashmir in particular and India as a whole. Three consequences flow from a flawed grasp of contemporary conflict in J&K. These are:
• Unreasonable political and public expectations for quick resolution through application of force, without eliminating the three pronged strategy of Pakistan is self-defeating.
• The conflict has clear footprints of hybrid war(such as support of regulars, irregulars, public uprising to create uncontrolled chaos, cyber, psychological/ cognitive manipulation, criminality in the form of terrorism and subversion backed by intelligence). Viewing the threat primarily as cross border terrorism has resulted in a faulty appreciation of its exact nature.
• Naive views of the reach of adversaries and the context of conflict has led to flawed response. It is the passive forces that have emerged as the most potent threat to Kashmir. The response of the state has been focussed on fighting terrorists and their supporters, while the other elements have been left largely unaddressed. Inner front was allowed to be exploited due to political reasons and inability of intelligence agencies to carryout holistic conflict assessment. Even military, that has wide footprints on ground, failed to identify the inner front strategy and passive aggression, which resulted in entire focus being laid on dealing with cross border strategy.
Need to Apply Ordinary and Extra Ordinary Strategy
War has always been ruthless and nothing remains unconventional for long; innovation and shifting strategy is therefore a must to maintain unpredictability. Military should deal effectively with terrorism and direct violence. Other organs of the state should deal with social engineering that is destroying the cultural and societal fabric of Kashmir to prevent a fissure between state and the people. State should also ensure that the unarmed Jihadi and separatists are not allowed to continue with business as usual.
Cease fire has worked in favour of Pakistan because prior to cease fire agreement, every post that used to push terrorists across had to face heavy punishment. This was an effective deterrent. Time has come to abrogate the cease fire and implement the annihilation strategy of Pakistani posts along the LOC that endeavour to push terrorists into Indian Territory.
It is criminal to provide exposed flank for Pak proxies to exploit. Every installation must have boundary wall, intruder alarm and CCTV network to provide structural and electronic obstacle to prevent terrorist attacks. Apart from this, an area upto 50 meters ahead of the outer perimeter wall should be declared as ‘no go areas’, where any intruder is liable to get shot. Soldiers can’t be asked to exercise doctrine of restraint, especially when there is a threat to collective security. It is bad strategy to first “get shot to shoot back”.
Soldiers have become indecisive due to fear of punishment for error of judgement. Dilemma of soldiers to react is also attributed to fear of retribution post killing of two youths in Badgam district on 05 Nov 2014, when the deceased jumped two pickets and were in the process of jumping third one when the soldiers intercepted them and shot them dead. Under pressure Army quickly pronounced that it was a mistake and guilty will be punished. This caused indecisiveness among the rank and file, especially the tactical commanders, because it was an error of judgment and not an error of intent. Decision dilemma in the minds of soldiers and tactical commanders can cost lives. Army needs to re-visit “doctrine of restraint” against terrorists and those who have wilful intent to harm or trespass red lines.
It is a flawed strategy to fight an aggressor in own land. This has created a sense of immunity and Pakistan continues to get involved in an armed conflict with India without retribution. There is a growing perception among the Kashmiri youths that every Pakistani terrorist killed in Kashmir is a martyr for the cause of Kashmiris. There is certain sympathy and sense of gratitude for these terrorists for having laid down their lives for the ‘Kashmiri cause’, and their graves are now becoming focal points of sentiment in favour of terrorists. This aspect needs to be addressed. The bodies of terrorists should either be burnt, or buried along the LOC and not on the hinterland. Acts of terror cannot be glorified as is being done now.
It must be remembered that the experiment of social engineering by Pakistan will not remain restricted to Kashmir. Idea of Pakistan is to take it to other parts of India including Kerala, UP, Bihar, Bengal and Assam. Flow of money, movement of Tabliqi Jammat and funding of Ahle-i-Hadith mosques needs to be monitored in J&K and other parts of India. It started in West Asia as early as 60s and it is now exploding after almost 50 years of initiation. To deal with such threats, government should employ intelligence agencies and soft power backed by state machinery as invisible force. Forces inimical to India cannot be allowed space to carry out social engineering by funding and manipulation of sentiments. Kashmiri’s by nature are not fundamentalists, but when emotions are evoked, logic takes a back step.
There is a need to regulate funds to mosques, academic institutions, and madrasas that are fuelling emotions of Kashmiri youths.
Hurriyat cannot be allowed to continue with waging unarmed war against India. It is bad idea to arrest and keep the separatists leaders in Valley.Arrest is a good investment for separatists if kept in Valley and it raises their stock value. Arrested persons must preferably be shifted to Ladakh or Jammu. funding route through hawala or physical transhipment of money needs to be completely cut off, because money power is one of the main sources of initiating and sustaining instability in Kashmir. In the last 26 years of proxy war, not even one Pakistani terrorist captured by security forces has been given death penalty for waging war against India. On the contrary, a number of terrorists have been released without punishment. There is thus a need for special courts to be constituted for trial of foreign terrorists, waging war against India.
India needs to rework its strategy on Kashmir and a fresh look is required to carry out conflict assessment. Idea is to defeat the strategy rather than defeating the terrorists and proxies. It also must be acknowledged that the endeavours of the state should be to win back the population not by appeasing but by resolution and redressal of grievances.
Brig Narender Kumar, an Infantry Officer, commanded a Rashtriya Rifles Battalion in J&K and Assam Rifle Sector in Manipur. He is a Delhi based Defence Analyst and is currently Senior Fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), New Delhi. JAMMU & KASHMIR