February 2000 News

Some loose ends in Kashmir

15 February 2000
The Hindu
By P. K. Vasudeve (Defence Analyst)

On paper, the ``proactive package'' announced by the Centre for Jammu and Kashmir looks attractive and effective, but in practice, it is only another piece of rhetoric. For, without the command and control element and proper coordination among the Home and Defence Ministers and the Cabinet Secretariat, the Unified Command Headquarters cannot function. The present loosely-knit organisation will further cause confusion and casualties due to its inbuilt weaknesses.

The main features of the new package are: One, to counter terrorist activities, specialised battalions of the Central Reserve Police Force will be raised. Two, a unified command headquarters will control the three-tier, counter-insurgency grid divided into 49 sectors. Three, an additional unified command headquarters will come up north of Zoji La. Four, special counter-terrorism operations will be launched with the help of ex-servicemen and members of the village defence committees (VDCs). Five, the VDCs will get sophisticated arms and modern communication equipment. Six, special funds will be provided to build border roads. Seven, new job-generating projects will be in operation.

This is not a proactive package but only a reactive package which is not likely to succeed. The Chief Executive of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, has ambitious, long-term strategic plans for annexing Kashmir and he makes no bones about it. In his 20-year strategic plan, he has started settling ex-servicemen all along the Line of Control (LoC), with the sole aim of capturing Kashmir. He has openly said in Saudi Arabia, China and on other fora that Pakistan will continue giving political and moral support to terrorist organisations until the Kashmir problem is solved.

India in its reactive policy has launched unspecified operations with the help of ex-servicemen and the VDCs. What type of operations will be launched and what their mode are not known. Pakistan has a number of training camps in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and elsewhere on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border for training Kashmiri militants and inducting them into the Valley. What action the Government will take to eliminate these known camps is not indicated in the package.

Pakistan has now created a war-like situation in Jammu and Kashmir, attacking headquarters and camps of the police, the army, and the Rashtriya Rifles. In other words, the counter-insurgency is on the verge of taking the shape of a guerilla warfare which cannot be tackled by the Centrally-administered paramilitary forces because they are neither trained nor equipped for such operations. This is no longer an internal security matter. Therefore, the Unified Command Headquarters has to be headed by a senior Army Corps commander and coordinated at the highest level. The paramilitary forces need to be put under the command of the army for looking after the law and order situation in the State and for handling casualties and prisoners of war. In the proactive package, this aspect is missing.

On January 22, Pakistani soldiers attempted to capture an army forward post at Pallanwala in Akhnoor district, but the attack was repulsed by the alert Indian troops and more than a score of the enemy soldiers, including an officer, were killed. Indian troops should have crossed the LoC and destroyed a couple of more enemy posts immediately, without giving any chance or time for the Pakistanis to react. That would have been a proactive action. Killing the attacking soldiers is only a reactive and defensive action, because there was no alternative.

Unconfirmed press reports indicate that two Indian posts in the Batalik sub-sector of Kargil have been captured by the Pakistani troops. According to State Government reports, the Pakistani troops have captured an Indian post at Dah village called Haryali post atop the Batalik hills. Government functionaries are of the view that Pakistan, finding the two posts unmanned has grabbed them. What is the Indian Army doing, if the reports are correct? It should have immediately recaptured the two posts and grabbed a few more by crossing the Laxman Rekha, LoC so that the enemy dares not attack any of the Indian posts. Then it would have been called a proactive action. Israel is the only country which has proactive policies.

It is surprising that a high-level meeting has been held and decisions have been taken without the recommendations of the National Security Council (NSC), which has a definite role to play in formulating a long-range strategy for countering terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

The main cause of the failure of the operations in Jammu and Kashmir is lack of coordination among the Ministries of Defence and Home and the Cabinet Secretariat. There are no clear-cut responsibility and accountability for counter-insurgency operations between the Army and the paramilitary forces. For any failure, each shifts the blame on the other. A tug-of-war is on between the paramilitary forces and the Army on the crucial issue of who will command the counter-insurgency operations. Though after the Kargil conflict a separate corps of the Army has become accountability functional in Leh, the responsibility for all operations in the Valley lies with the Badamibagh Corps. What is causing resentment among the senior officials of the Home Ministry is the Army's ``big-brotherly'' attitude towards the paramilitary forces, particularly the Border Security Force. The role of the paramilitary forces and their contribution towards the upkeep of law and order and internal security in Jammu and Kashmir cannot be brushed aside, but their role in the counter-insurgency operations has raised many questions.

The contention by senior BSF, CRPF and Indo-Tibetan Border Police officers as well as top Home Ministry officials that the Army should hand over some of the districts or sectors to them does not seem tenable. The Army suffers setbacks wherever the paramilitary forces are deployed, because of ego and oneupmanship problems. They do not even share intelligence reports. Here the JIC has an important role to play.

The Union Government also wants civilian control to remain firmly in place over the Army as an elected Government is in power in the State. The meetings of the Unified Command Headquarters are presided over by the Chief Minister but in his absence the Army wants the Corps Commander to head the setup, a move not to the liking of the Centre and the paramilitary forces.

If this controversy persists, there will be no hope of checking militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. The Army has to be given a free hand for counter-insurgency operations in the Valley and the Rashtriya Rifles needs to be expanded further. The paramilitary forces should be put under the command of the Army to carry out internal security duties for which they are trained.

This oneupmanship among the security forces must end. The Army and the paramilitary forces must work in unison to thwart Pakistan's designs of fomenting militancy in the most beautiful and scenic Valley of the world. The Unified Command Headquarters must be made functional under a senior Army General who should not only be made responsible but also accountable. Operation Meghdoot in Siachen and Operation Rhino in the North-East are successful, because these are launched under the direct command and control of the Army.

 

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