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Army, Government and Judiciary need to have uniform approach towards Kashmir

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The overarching strategic guidance by the Cabinet Committee on Security outlines the processes and products for developing a National Defence Strategy. The “strategy” is the output of a deliberate process after various policy options have carefully been evaluated and their implications considered, and a final decision is arrived after weighing clear alternatives. From the military’s perspective it describes “what constitutes success (ends)” and “allocation of resources and forces (means)”.

The Armed Forces develop their respective strategies in three time zones: near term/ immediate; mid-term (5-10 yrs); long-term (15-20 yrs). It is a comprehensive examination of National Defence Strategy and quantified in terms of posturing, force structure, modernization plans, budget estimates, infrastructure etc. It is a statement of “ways and means” and crystalizes the prioritized missions for the services.

Hence, one can say that the role and operational doctrine of Indian Army in Kashmir in based on the “Land Forces Strategy”which has been developed after a systemic process guided by the strategic directives from the political corridors of South Block.

If the operations in Kashmir are guided by such deep intellectual wisdom and focused approach with nearly three decades of experience, then why is Kashmir still burning? Think tanks have often attributed this to the two P(s)– Politicians and Pakistan: Inconsistent political stance and Pakistan’s nefarious design of bleeding out India. Isn’t this the Ostrich way? It is high time that Indian Army carries out an internal validation and reassesses its strategy.

Deter, don’t compel

To compel an adversary to stop them doing something, after they have started while deterrence would be to stop him from even beginning to do so.

Since “people” are the center of gravity in counter insurgency operations, compelling them has always been the preferred choice. Calibrated use of kinetic energy to blunt the violence and WHAM (winning hearts and minds) approach to hope for a long term solution, is what Indian Army has been doing so far.

Unfortunately it has largely failed, though “optimists” and “Aman ki Asha” types feel otherwise. 30 years on, and still no resolution in sight. One of the main reasons for the failure of compelling is our infamous judicial system which has failed to deliver verdict on thousands of pending terrorism related cases in the state.

Use of deterrence doesn’t necessarily mean the use of brute force alone. Deterrence in Kashmir’s perspective implies establishing the rule of law. The same stick and empathy repackaged with a different intent.

It would be a dreadful dream to immolate Pakistan, but establishing military courts and expeditious disposal of terror related cases is definitely an option which could be temporarily enforced in the Valley for a period of two years, just to test its effectiveness. Instead of “Janab mat karo” it should be “Janab agar appne kiya to”.

No Stance, So Adapt

Flexibility to the changing environment is what adaptability is all about, but for the Indian Army it’s amounting to haplessness to political intervention cloaked under fancy military terminology.

Adaptation is a phenomenon of evolution and should happen over a long period of time and not overnight. The adaptability of Indian Army is incident based defined by rapidly changing philosophy at operational level.

By the time this newly adapted philosophy reaches the troops on ground for implementation, it is already getting hammered by the political masters and media watch dogs. This “No Stance” attitude of the sword ranks is largely to be blamed for this fiasco and also undermines their credibility.

The National Defence Strategy should decide the stance which the armed forces are going to “adapt” to and then it should remain unchanged till there are enough indicators suggesting a paradigm shift in the security environment.

Risk Assessment

Risk assessment is both factual and intuitive. The identified risks are then evaluated for tolerance and acceptability, which then give the whole picture of one’s current “predicament”.

Somehow, it appears that the risk assessment matrix for the operational doctrine in Kashmir was never drawn by the Indian Army, otherwise they would have not been found off guard on so many occasions. In 2014, the Northern Army Commander made a history of sorts when he admitted that mistakes happen on ground and said, “Let me state this very clearly that we take responsibility for what has happened”, in response to an incident at one of the check posts in Budgam. Doesn’t this reflect that a realistic risk assessment had not been carried out?

As always, every incident in Valley will have repeated postmortems and no opportunity will be left by vested interests to play their dirty cards. A realistic threat assessment clearing identifying the external, internal and social threats will not solve the problem completely, but will give pre-defined response options and guidance to operational commanders on ground to tackle unpredictable situations.

Fear of Persecution and Prosecution

At present every solider in Kashmir has this fear, which has been reinforced by the honorable Supreme Court on April 27 when it rejected the curative petition of the government and ordered mandatory registration of FIR against armed forces personnel, even in disturbed areas under Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) for every encounter death.

No Officer or Jawan would want to stand a trial because he carried out his duties in difficult conditions and hostile environment. It’s no longer important to just succeed in our war against the terrorists, it’s also important to survive and come out clean.

If Indian Army wants to effectively operate in Kashmir, it must demand legal immunities and the benefit of doubt always on their side. This fear has somewhat curbed the initiative of junior leaders and the brass ranks fearful of miscalculations in command decisions, which is perfect recipe for disaster in counter insurgency operations.

The right to file FIR is the basic right of any Indian citizen, and the recent SC judgment upholds that, but haven’t the rules always been different for Kashmir? Freedom of action is what our forces need to counter this menace effectively. The Nation must trust our forces and their principle of minimum force.

Time to Reckon

It will be long war for the Indian Army in Kashmir and often they will fall back to where they started. There can be many reasons for this failure as Kashmir is a multi faced problem now. For soldiers who do not understand politics it is time to wake up to reality; enforce deterrence and stick to it for some time; risk assess your vulnerabilities and be prepared for the unheard and unseen; and lastly demand immunity to persecution and prosecution for doing your legitimate job.

The author is a full time blogger at MommyRepublic.in 

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Blogger I Fauji Wife I Mommy I Aspiring Entrepreneur I Foodie I Reader I Proud Indian I Social Media Addict I News Junkie I Politics
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