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jaipur, rajasthan, India
retired Army Colonel

Monday, May 28, 2018

KASHMIR: A PERSPECTIVE

KASHMIR: A PERSPECTIVE

Kashmir, has been the bone of contention between India and Pakistan, since 1947, and remains to be an unfinished agenda of the great Partition. The Srinagar Valley is on a constant fire; consequent to Operation Tupac, unleashed in 1989, by General Zia-ul-Haq.  After losing Bangladesh, Pakistani urge to snatch remaining Kashmir from India was the strongest, for two reasons. One, to avenge the humiliation of 1971 war, and two, to settle score of the Partition as Kashmir rightfully, Pakistan believes, belongs to her, being a Muslim majority state; the very principle of the Partition. Every Pakistani General, harbours a life time ambition to capture Kashmir, and General Reheel Sharif called it even a Jugular’s vein.
The history of Kashmir is dead and buried, never to rise and influence its future ever. The erstwhile Princely State of J&K today lie trifurcated under different political controls. It includes, India, Pakistan and China. It’s unlikely that any kind of reunification would materialise ever in distant future. The reason lies in the history of Dogra expeditions in North and West to build over the real estate they bought from Sikhs, so that the latter could pay their war indemnity. The conquered lands remain ethically and geographically disjointed from a young unified state of Jammu & Kashmir. A kingdom bought, like Kashmir would have it’s subjects naturally more of slaves than citizens, and lands would be a private real estate. The people, the nation there in Kashmir remained a suppressed idea, and it waited for the day of judgement. We, even today deal with Kashmir more as real estate, than a federal dominion. Many takers fake two nation theory in Kashmir to pursue political aspirations, without seriously believing in it. It provides them a political platform to gather noise.
15 Aug 1947, dawned in Kashmir with bloodshed, state sponsored ethnic cleansing attempt in Jammu region, Raiders attack, the Dogra Rulers having acceded kingdom to India, the consent of it’s people never having considered necessary. The day of judgement had gone without delivering a judgement. The case of Kashmiri nation was dead, because it was not there in the first place. Aksai Chin in Tibet, Gilgit, Jammu all were neither geographically nor demographically a bound nation. It got splintered with ease.

The part of Kashmir held by India is vital for her strategic defence, and remains non negotiable both politically and militarily. The people of Kashmir, how so ever radicalised or alienated they may be, but India will never be compromising her existential imperatives. It also therefore, clearly dictates that Pakistan has no role to play hereafter, and it already has more than it’s share of contentious bone.
For Indian state to exercise it’s political will over Pakistan, there is only one option of formalising status quo.
More necessarily, immunisation of Indian held J&K from external Islamic overtures, flirting and subversion, must be first completed in all respects.
A realistic picture of Kashmir is necessary to be drawn so that our remedial strategy have right direction and pressure points to press.

Review of the Situation:
The voice of Kashmiri nationalism was first raised in 1931, led by Sheikh Abdullah, and people demanded freedom from oppression of Dogra rule, abetted by Kashmiri Pandits, the bureaucracy of that time leaving Muslims distressfully downtrodden. The movement got hijacked by the Independence of India form British Paramountcy, and subsequently accession to India. The movement never died though, but changed it’s political façade. And, of late manifested into a Islamic one.
Indian state promoted and patronised stooges and puppet Governments in J&K as a short cut, rather than engineering social and political integration with rest of the country.

The instrument of accession, by all virtues, has lost its legal status after 70 years of signing. The fact of the matter is that the Princely state never physically got acceded to India, except on paper. Therefore, all it’s constitutional bindings should rightfully stand annulled legally. What remains a ground reality today is, that India, like China and Pakistan also holds a portion of, splintered erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir; the fragmentation being the result of many evolutionary factors beyond the political control of sovereignties, emerging during that period.

The Kashmiri separatism, on Indian side, and it’s perpetrators had been weak and geographically confined to some four districts of the Valley only. These provided hot bed and opened gateway to Pakistani monster, the Operation Tupac. Indian sleeping Intelligence Agencies were caught with their pants down. Kashmir was flooded with AKs 47 during 1989, and formidable arsenal. How quickly it got cached is surprising.
The Indian Army redeployed, raised Rashtriya Rifles, mobilised para military, CPOs to fight the menace of Tupac, both on LOC and the hinterland. The Valley was infested with foreign mercenaries, mainly Afghans, Syrian, Arab Mujahideen, recently spared from Russian engagement in Afghanistan. Sallahuddin,(Yusuf Sheikh), raised his own Army, and had local Kashmiris,  considered weaklings, unradicalised, unmotivated, and timid in many cases.
During the next 30 years from 1989 onwards, the collateral damage due to Counter Insurgency and Counter Terrorist Operations was enormous. More than physical loss of life &  material, the major impact was delivered on People’s psych, thinking and attitude. The mental stress on women, children, older men was unbearable. It lead to alarming levels of alienation, angst, anger and revengefulness, which in turn has manifested into a hydra with mainly three heads:  radicalisation, jihadism and Alienation. The insurgency got indigenous and we witness Burhan Wani, stone pelting, intifada, like Palestine, solidarity fight for insurgents, funerals as projection of strength. The political parties, in Kashmir fallen and stooped low to broker deals between separatists and Union of India. The elected Government runs it’s writ in shadow of the separatists and the Centre of gravity of J&K politics remain in South Kashmir, for some very strange reasons. Pakistan, can today reap it’s ROI, put the Kashmir burner on auto and sits back watching us muddling in blood and sweat.
Resolution

The resolution would be best found in reverse engineering.
Efface the ghost of erstwhile J&K State, denounce the instrument of accession and along with it, article 370 on the same plea to start with. The Centre of gravity of Kashmiri politics must shift south of Pir Panjal, Demography must change to fit into rest of India profile and thus completing the integration. The road would be steep, winding, meandering and tough. But, nations evolve with grit, determination and clarity.
There is a case for quasi state like Delhi, in Jammu and of a UT in Ladakh. The Kashmir valley can have special Administrative Zones(SAZ), leaving a 5 km belt along LOC as Military Protection Zone. The SAZs should have political bodies only upto Panchayats, empowered sufficiently to have people’s rule in spirit. The district administration could be placed under mature, acclaimed administrators of fame and proven records.
Covert Intelligence operations to root out radicalisation from Mosques and Madrassas, selectively banning religious organisations and overt separatists (Hurriyat) lobbies, would be needed with additional resources pooled in from rest of the country.
Education and mass recruitment of youth(both genders) into uniformed services with highly relaxed qualifications and dispersing in rest of the country, would extricate them from the black hole of insurgency.
Investment into infra structure, through Military and Defence budgets would pay more dividends, dual purpose as well.
A slow, genuine reconciliatory soothing approach would settle the fire and make headway for permanent peace.
All we need is a DOER and not the TALKER at the helm.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Indian Farmer & his hope




Largely, agriculture in India, besides being an unorganised business sector is acutely capital-dry reducing farmers to zero sustenance. They, have no power to hold on to their produce even for a day and are heavily pressed against debt servicing. The distribution system is ruled by the middlemen who have the money power to control the rates leaving farmers high and dry. The case is no different than artisans starving and retailers making huge money. In an open market economy, the Capital controls the MRPs tactically, nullifying the strategic factor of demand and supply, which has slow and indirect effect. That explains flourishing Aadti (wholesale trader in Mandi) and starving farmer. We are not talking exceptions but generally speaking. Undoubtedly, world wide there is subsidy on agriculture because of various socio-political reasons and rightly so, but that is only to keep the system healthy and not as ventilators, what we witness in India.
 Since, farmers are poor, debt ridden and have no control over retail pricing suffer the most, to the extent of suicides and wildest of protests as we witnessed at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, or in Mandsaur(MP) or Maharashtra. It's now spreading like a wild fire despite a happy harvesting this year.
Subsidies, loan wavers are not the answers and these would be rather injurious to our national economy. Such measures are for compassionate healing and can be administered as immediate painkillers but not the remedy to the ailment.
Indian agriculture has to turn into a Corporate Business House, to become financially viable. That would necessarily require a structural changes in rules related to Revenue deptt, land holdings, land reforms, irrigation network, seed research and trade, taxation etc. More importantly, the need is of socio-economic transformation of farmers from land lords to businessmen/working hands.
Unless, we attempt to juxtapose socialism(public sector) or cooperative farming and refuse to learn from the world experience, the answer lies in turning farming into large  corporates. That will allow the satellite agro market and industry to flourish, generating employment and prosperity in rural areas, besides retarding human migration to urban areas. These have far reaching advantages.
Firing guns on Protesting farmers, politicising it for quest of power, blowing the wind for media TRP are criminal offences if argued by any jurisprudence.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Sword & the Scabbard

Armed Forces are State’s Instrument of Power and beside their primary role, these are called upon to execute writ of the Government where necessary. These remains State’s last bastion and therefore not only be deployed judicially but decisively. The latter holds the key. As the Indian State evolved over period of last century, the political leadership and bureaucracy in comparison with Armed Forces lagged much behind despite being cornerstones of arch of power. It was because of British Raj’s patronage to Military and quality building out of sheer necessity. Today, when Indian Republic stands as world's most liberal and largest democracy, the acumen of state to employ and deploy it's Armed Forces shows large amount of deficit. The Nehruvian paranoia, on the other hand continues to clip the wings of Armed Forces reducing them into castrated bulls or oxen to pull the cart at the whip and whims of bureaucracy and Political leadership. 70 years after the Independence, the Armed Forces have started taking shape into the cast designed for them as the old guard has slowly faded away.
Going back to the deployment of Armed Forces, it's now going from bad to worse for a simple reason that the interface today has become more pliable as both the engaging wheels get greasy.
Protracted deployment of Armed Forces in Counter Insurgency role becomes even more complex decision to make, thus warrants deeper thought and strategy, the key word being ‘decisive’. Under no circumstances the deterrence of Armed Forces and their sanctity as a final Instrument of Power never be diluted leave aside losing them.
With this as a background, look where our Armed Forces stand today? During JAT Agitation last year in Haryana, the Army was marching with a placard saying ‘Army’. The Kashmiri youth is able to swarm at operations sites, totally undeterred as a flash mob and throw stones at the Armed Forces in defence of holed up militants. Stone pelters do not leave a chance of displaying their fearlessness to raining bullets.
The Armed Forces, much to their distaste are made to occupy front office of the State and seen as instrument of governance,  in addition to that of power. The failings of Government are inadvertently seen as failings of Armed Forces. A guile the politicians possess to their brim, and Military bites the bullet.  A case in point of Kashmir is there for all of us to see. A mission strapped young Army Major, make use of an unwilling human shield to save, reportedly some 100 lives. Means justify ends in war as they say, but is there a war in Kashmir? If yes then which is the other Army we are fighting against?The larger question remains as to why the Army has lost its deterrence power? Who is responsible for it? And now that alienated Kashmiri youth is undeterred, what next? I am sure no nuke and no Chemical Agents. Syria, Turkey are already under world's RADAR.
If, we talk of only Kashmir, it is a political problem and Military cannot resolve it, except bringing down the violence to a manageable levels of civil governance. The Army brought it down many a times but found follow up wagons missing. Last 30 years, it's been like a bloody game and politicians doing the cheer leader. The edge of Security Forces have been blunted, their deterrence lost and Operations turn into personal street fight.
Abusing and Misusing Armed Forces is a sin and no act of treachery or sedition could surpass it. Those who are jingoistic must look under their collar.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Burhan Wani, a Kashmiri Resurgence

Killing of Burhan Wani literally, had set the Kashmir Valley on fire that continues to simmer till today. No other killing of a terrorist has ever resulted in high octane volatility as this. Why? It's a question we all must ask ourselves and dig out answers for. Those who feel otherwise are either naïve or pretend to be one. It's  not matter of conjecture but a simple fact that occurred undeniably in the valley. His funeral gathered unprecedented solidarity and anger against the Indian State.
Burhan, was romanticising militanthood to avenge his brother’s killing. The least any professional terrorist would never do is to post selfies on social media. A staunch radical Islamist only desists the very camera, Burhan was toying with. There were no known or acclaimed terrorist attacks alleged on him. He and his whole gang apparently took up, otherwise easily available gun in Kashmir to become a hero in the eyes society which is largely petrified, specially the young girls. His bravado was an arrogance towards the might and merciless iron hand of security forces.
Those following the insurgency in Kashmir, closely and empathetically, had not only foreseen the cataclysmic results of Burhan’s killing,  but are also pulling their hairs at the annoying disconnect between military and the political establishment, which is so very visible. Whereas, the field units of Security Forces are conducting operations to eliminate terrorists in their conventional stride, the finer strategic direction to their colossal effort is found apparently missing. An intelligent target analysis and realistic damage assessment, in context of counter insurgency would require deeper understanding of complex strands that such evaluations bear. It's the job of our worthy intelligence agencies to continuously evaluate otherwise a fluid situation, and feed our political leaders as well as commanders so that they can keep fine-tuning their strategy. Killing of Burhan Wani explicitly displayed the disconnect, or was it incompetence at strategic level?
 This makes it a classic example of how not to fight insurgency. Any Counter Insurgency campaign would require a clear cut strategic thought and direction. Resorting to fire fight or retaliations, is simply faulting the basics. The strengths of a State in neutralising any political uprising are perseverance, strategic capacity and political acumen. On the contrary, by adopting reactive and punitive approach towards the alienated population and insurgency, the State agencies tends to get personal over a protracted period of deployment, thus losing their superiority of edge.  It not only does create a bloody melee but dissipation of state effort. And we have created such a melee in Kashmir.

We would view Kashmir better through an Indian prism rather than a Pakistani lens. Islamist Violence and religious fundamentalism has disturbed the global peace matrix. Pakistan, couldn't help itself to avoid becoming part of the problem and the world is aware of the same.  She has got cornered internationally for sure, and it's  outrageous support to Kashmir is waning on two accounts. Firstly, the World Community pressure and secondly, a severe resource crunch it faces in house. Its own domestic violence and public opinion are only making the situation worse. Our focus should well now be shifted to people of Kashmir away from Pakistan's proxies.

This, would put us in context of Burhan Wani, and his likes who are picking up gun not to defeat India but to wriggle out of life of an inmate a Kashmiri lives strangulated in barbed wire. The youth want to rebel and push the barrel of gun away, that always seen pointing at him or her. A joint strategy of political wisdom and military prowess can bring peace and tranquility back in Kashmir if we all put our hearts and minds together as Lt Gen Hooda, Northern Army Commander rightly said.
It's the delivery boy or the messenger that not only bears the brunt of war but also put up a front face of the back office, that may be any insipid, distorted, disjointed and ill-intended.

Sunday, July 3, 2016


A Cindrela in Waiting..

My 85 year old father once narrated me a small anecdote. While studying for an History exams in high school, he had asked his older brother “ Bhaisab, how come it's only Mughals that win all the battles and no Hindu King ever?  To this his older brother replied “You will learn in later chapters that only Angrez(British) are winning all the battles thereafter.”
This made me curious to dig more into the history and draw my own conclusions. My father and his older brother, both were right. Paradoxically, the Armies of Mughals as well as British were constituted mainly of native Indians though, the wars got identified by the Kings who fought them. I couldn't avoid observing that valour of Indian soldiers and officers had been always exemplary; and despite this we lost to every raider / invader and were enslaved for 1000 years. It is a question I tried searching an answer for.
 My first deduction was that there existed a serious deficiency in our polity which threw up sordid rulers of a low political acumen, incapable of forging stronger alliances and build a mightful nation. Probably, the folly goes on till today with no change.
Secondly, the Kings maintained their Armies necessarily to quell internal rebellions rather to thwart an external aggression. The soldiers were seen more as kingsmen rather protectors of people and their nation. The Army lacked its nationalist character from its origin. The genesis of Indian Armed Forces has another typicality which has been aptly observed by General JN Choudhury, former COAS while delivering Lecture in Cambridge Trust series. He recalls, I quote “that the Indian armed forces as constituted today originated from the locally recruited watchmen employed by the East India Company to guard their trading sheds and settlements. However, when the directors of ‘John Company’ changed their priorities from enlarging their trade to increasing the size of their trading territory, these watchmen grew in number and quickly became an army. As the scope of military operations began to expand, into this army were incorporated the military forces of those Princes who threw in their lot with the British. Take my own regiment, the 16th Light Cavalry, for example. The     brief history given in the Indian Army List states: ‘Date of raising unknown. Formed from details of   the Nawab of Arcot’s Bodyguard in 1784’.” unquote.

Indian Military slowly got cast into a colonial Army as event unfolded. Instead of, for own freedom and independence, it fought and won wars for our masters. The character of Indian Military was thus shaped by the purpose and intent of its rulers, keeping it nationally and politically colourless.

Going back into prehistoric times, the religious discourses, philosophical dictums and righteousness preachings occupy an overbearing space in our much revered epics, the Mahabharata and Ramayana. It leaves military valour, strategy, tactics and art of warfare at the margins. On the contrary, the Greek epics like Iliad highlighted more upon Military values, valour and bravery. The Armies, therein, were  formed by the best men of the country who had an ability to defend people’s freedom and liberty, even at the cost life. Soldiers were thus seen in country as elite, saviours and Godly. That encouraged, among people a culture to respect and envy Military traditions and ethos. War and valour got romanticised and drew lot of glamour in Western World. Till the British came we never had experienced this among our common men.
Casteism, in India had been another evil which kept military a domain of few privileged and blessed ones. It added to an already existing disconnect, that Military had with common men.

Independent India had on her hands a Queen’s Colonial Army laced with British traditions and Brown Saheb culture. At the same time it was a reckonable force, seasoned through Frontier insurgencies, and two world wars. Since, it had served  the British Crown for two hundred years, our   political leadership, drawn from Independence movement, doubted the loyalties of Military and    would not believe that these can change instantly. Till few days back Military officers would look  down  upon the topi &  dhoti walas and chased them out with their mounts and batons. Indian Army had some very tall leaders and battle hardened distinguished officers who overshadowed both the political class and civil bureaucracy. Field Marshal Cariappa, General Thimayya, Rajendra Singhji, SD Verma, Nathu Singh ji, to name only few. The envy and insecurity it generated among bureaucracy were to guide future civil military relations in independent India. A bad note to begin with. No wonder Nehru said “Scrap the Army”. Blatantly, it also reflected Nehru’s paranoia about Military Coup and lack of his strategic vision and statesmanship. In fact it sums up the perineal dislike the Indian polity has in its Military and vice versa.
Flaws in Nehru’s leadership have been brought out best by Madhav Godbole in his book ‘The God Who Failed’. When it's almost fashion these days, in a new Indian political era, to loudly criticise and castricate Nehru, astonishingly no word comes out on his ill treatment of Armed Forces, not even by Godbole. Is it a testimony to the disconnect and insensitivity the nation has towards its Military or its connivance with the imprudence?
We do witness cricket kind of hoopla during war, calamities and anniversaries with Armed Forces but that's veneer of our patriotism and skin deep.
Our very fine Armed Forces, despite their proven unflinching loyalty, competence and dedication to our countrymen, time and again, for some very strange reasons as fathomed above, have been denied their due space in national affairs. Are we going to carry on with the follies and deficiency of our history or shall learn from it? When we were just rejoicing the dawn of a new political era on Indian horizon, the sky got overcast again.

Will our Cindrela get her Prince Charming ?