The military can only have a limited role, with solutions critical for resolving the larger Kashmir issue lying in the realm of politics — good governance, and political engagement as witnessed during the Vajpayee years, according to the Army’s Valley chief, Lt Gen A K Bhatt.
“The military can only create conditions of normalcy. Beyond that, the initiatives have to be at levels of good governance, politically talking to people. During the Vajpayee era, it has happened, and similar initiatives the government will take at the right moment. I am sure they will,” General Officer Commanding (GoC), 15 Corps, Lt Gen Bhatt said in an interview to The Sunday Express.
“One of the main things is to find the methods and means to convince the youth that the path of violence will not deliver anything. And second, more importantly, is to work in the psychological space with the populace of Kashmir, to tell them that their future is far better in India than in Pakistan… that they are only being used as tools by the Jamaat, by the separatists and Pakistan,” he said.
About the Army’s role, Bhatt said, it was to ensure that peace was maintained. “Of course long-term solutions, the government has to look at them.” Admitting that different people could have different interpretations about what a political solution should comprise, he said, “I don’t want to get into that realm because it not mine.”
Admitting the challenge posed by social media in the Valley, the Lt General said it is being used to radicalise youth as well as to mobilise crowds to sites of counter-terror operations. “Social media is the biggest concern for me. This, which is a privilege we have in a democratic nation… why I am calling it a privilege in a democratic nation… you see how China handles it, how other countries handle it and have tight control over social media. Here, social media is entirely free. And the freedom has resulted in this being used very actively by our adversaries.” Creating an “indigenous social media platform” could be the solution, according to Bhatt.
Calling elements based in Pakistan the “instigators”, he said “all stone-throwing groups in Kashmir have Pakistani numbers”.
Noting that attempts at infiltration had increased, Bhatt said 50 militants had been eliminated this year trying to cross the Line of Control. “About hundred have been able to infiltrate. Every day and night, at some place or the other on the LoC, an attempt is being made to infiltrate… They try and use new methods.”
The other worry for the Army has been “larger number of local recruitments”. “It has gone down in the last two months. But in the early months of April, May and June, this slightly increased. That is why, despite us neutralising about 200 (militants), the number is still the same.”
Among militant groups, Bhatt said the Jaish-e-Mohammad was a concern and was among those recruiting locally. “They have also displayed accurate firing skills, what you call snipers.”
Acknowledging the threat posed by snipers, he said, “From fidayeen, it has changed to pin-point firing, with night vision. We were able to neutralise the so-called best ‘firer’… The other one also, with area domination and other tactics, we have kept on the run. But the threat exists.”
On the demand for azadi, Bhatt said, “Can somebody define azadi to me? What does their (call for) azadi mean? Azadi from whom? They don’t go beyond that and everybody has been giving their own interpretation. So the attempt has to be to convince them. Which is why I believe that their future is far better and happier with the growing democratic India.”