January 22, 2004
It is indeed tempting to wax eloquent about the shikaras full of tourists on the Dal Lake in Srinagar and the peace moves between India and Pakistan. However, a pragmatic assessment of the military situation in the 15th year of insurgency reveals a strategic stalemate.
Even as the peace process moves forward, the internal security situation continues to be precarious. Innocent Kashmiris as well as security personnel are still dying everyday. The only positive aspect is tenuous military control has been achieved.
A lot of water has flowed down the Jhelum since the Kashmir valley was up in flames in 1989-90 and slogans of azadi rent the air. The bridges and culverts destroyed by the Kashmiri militants have been repaired. Schools and colleges have re-opened. Trade and commerce have resumed. Tourists are back.
Above all else, elections have been held, the Kashmiri people have re-staked their claim to self-governance. Though they still nurture their grievances, they have apparently realised the futility of armed struggle.
Meanwhile, the militancy has passed entirely into the hands of Pakistan army-sponsored mercenary terrorists. These so-called mujahideen are detested by the people and if they still manage to get food and shelter, it is only at the point of their Kalashnikovs.
So as to not alienate the Kashmiri people any further, these terrorists have orders from their ISI handlers to strike only at military targets and pro-India or neutral politicians. This is the reason for the recent spate of suicide attacks on security forces’ camps and the major rise in both the number of terrorists killed as well as Indian security casualties.
In the absence of a government white paper, one has only news reports to go by. As per these the number of active terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir is between 2,000 and 3,000, almost half of them being foreigners. A similar number is available to the ISI as an immediate reserve.
For the Pakistan army a strategic stalemate is a win situation. Between two neighbours with military asymmetry, a stalemate equals victory for the smaller one. Hence it would be reasonable to deduce that the ongoing peace overtures are only a tactical move, The Pakistan army will continue its low-cost, low-risk, high-payoff option of a proxy war.
There is need for a pro-active strategy. Since the roots of militancy are now almost entirely in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), aggressive trans-LoC measures are necessary, both covert and overt.
From this point of view, the present cease-fire along the LoC is inconvenient for the Indian army. It allows the Pakistani army the freedom to continue its nefarious activities in Kashmir without fear of retribution. Therefore, the fight has to be taken across the LoC by other means.
Indian Special Forces must be employed on a regular basis to raid known ISI terrorist camps. They should be utilised to launch clandestine attacks to destroy logistics installations and army infrastructure in PoK, such as ammunition and FOL (fuel, oil and lubricants) dumps, bridges, radio-relay towers and battalion and brigade headquarters.
If and when the ceasefire breaks down again, punitive artillery assaults should be delivered on Pakistani posts through which infiltration takes place.
The nation has paid dearly for 15 years of terror. Only trans-LoC measures will raise the Pakistan army’s military and political cost for waging a proxy war and act as a deterrent.
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