Kashmir Success

Army gaining upper hand

The Statesman | Sep 15, 2001

Contrary to the canards being spread by vested interests, that the army is tired and India is negotiating from a position of weakness in J&K, the army has actually enhanced its capability to deal with the foreign sponsored insurgency by several orders of magnitude. The army has never been so assured in dealing with the so-called "Guest" militants as it is today in J&K. The other central and state forces such as the BSF, CRPF and the J&K police, have also considerably improved their ability to support the army's proactive stance.

Prime Minister Vajpayee’s cease-fire in Jammu and Kashmir was a bold initiative that reflected the Kashmiri people’s despite for peace. When it was first announced in the holy month of Ramazan last year, it had generated an electrifying wave of hope for the future. However, disappointment was soon followed by the systematic disruption of the cease-fire by fanatical mercenary terrorists sponsored by Pakistan’s jehadi groups. Despite grave provocation by way of fedayeen attacks on its camps and enhanced levels of terrorism, the Indian army had held its fire and followed and a policy of non-initiation of combat operations. This implied that the army would retaliate only when attacked first and that too only against terrorists who were unmistakably identified to be armed.

It was a policy that called for the highest levels of restraint and discipline in combat against terrorist insurgents who had no scruples. These mercenary terrorists from across the border with Pakistan did not hesitate to mercilessly kill, maim or wound innocent Kashmiris to gain media attention and thereby keep their so called jehad alive, even when the Kashmiri people were tired of over a decade of militancy and wanted peace above all else. In especially targeting the minority community in the areas south of the Pir Panjal Range, the terrorists were quite obviously executing the ISI’s old strategy of creating an ethnic and communal divide.

In Control

Finally, after two extensions, the government decided to let the cease-fire lapse and the security forces were once again free to initiate active counter-insurgency operations against the militants. The army had utilised the cease-fire interlude to build up its intelligence network, step up its civic action programme and increase its contact with Kashmiri people to win the battle of hearts and minds. Events of the last three months have shown that efforts have borne fruit.

Due to the cooperation of the people of J&K, stemmig from their intrinsic belief that the so-called jehadis were ruining their lives and holding the future of their children hostage for their nefarious ends, “actionable” intelligence started flowing more freely to the army and spectacular results were achieved in operations. In the three month period June-August, the army has eliminated approximately 600 mercenary terrorists, the highest ever in any comparable three month period since the present phase of militancy began in 1989-90. The ratio of army personnel to terrorists killed has gone up to 1:7. The counter-infiltration net along the LoC has been considerably tightened. Every day reports come in of major success in preventing infiltration. On some days the number of mercenary terrorists killed while attempting to penetrate the gaps along the LoC has ranged between 10 and 15.

In face, in sheer frustration at the foiling of its attempts to abet infiltration, the Pakistan army has started violating the cease-fire that it had fairly assiduously observed along the LoC for almost six months. A number of forcible attempts to recruit young Kashmiri boys to join the so-called jehad have been successfully thwarted. About 100 young men have been returned to their parents. The conclusion is unmistakable: despite sporadic attacks by fedayeen squads and some massacres in isolated villages inhabited by the minority community, the army is in control of the military situation and the terrorists are on the run.

The qualitatively superior results in operations achieved over the last three months can to a large extent be attributed to the success of the army’s ongoing modernisation drive. In recent years, the army has been constantly striving to upgrade its technological capability. Better intelligence and surveillance capabilities are providing relatively more effective early warning of infiltration attempts, particularly at night and during bad weather conditions. Improved tactics due to the experience gained over a decade and the introduction of more effective close quarter battle weapons are paying rich dividends. This synthesis of trained and motivated combat troops with sophisticated modern technology is bound to generate even greater success. Naturally, the process is an ongoing one and a lot still needs to be done to reach an optimum level of combat efficiency.

Human Rights

Due to the constantly increasing military control over the internal security situation, the pressure on the army is continuously decreasing. The raising and induction of additional Rashtriya Rifles battalions in J&K has enabled the army to considerably reduce the number of regular infantry battalions being employed for counter-insurgency operations. Both these factors have led to a situation where the troops can be given more time off for rest and recuperation and recreational activities than was the case till a few years ago.

Every battalion being inducted into J&K for counter-insurgency operations is being given one to two months of basic on the job training. The aspect of safeguarding human rights is emphasised during training and closely monitored by the commanders during the conduct of operations. The key principles applicable in upholding human rights have been enshrined as commandments and issued to the troops. On the rare occasion that violations do occur these are mainly attributable to instinctive reactions in the heat of the moment. Not-withstanding the motivation or the cause, deterrent punishment is speedily awarded to the individuals concerned and the results or the trial conducted are widely publicised. Gradually, the whole process is being made more and more transparent.

Contrary to media apprehensions, the recent extension of the provisions of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act to the areas south of the Pir Panjal Range will enable the army units, including the Rashtriya Rifles battalions, deployed in the affected areas to do their job better rather than lead to human rights violations. In the remote and often inaccessible areas in Doda, Bhaderwah, Kishtwar and the interior areas in Dodam Bhaderwah, Kishtwar and the interior areas of Udhanpur, Rajauri and Poonch, the army’s presence has increased over the last few years due to the ISI’s efforts to enlarge the arc of militancy to areas beyond the Kashmir Vally. In these areas it is not operationally expedient to secure the presence of a magistrate or obtain written permission before launching cordon and search operations. Nor can apprehended militants be handed over expeditiously to the civil police.

In over a decade of militancy in J&K, the army alone has killed approximately 12,000 militants and mercenary terrorists. Over twice that number have been apprehended and handed over to the J&K police for the civil judiciary to proceed against them. More than 30,000 Kalashnikovs (AK-47s, AK-56s and AK-74s) and other major weapons have been recovered from the militants and from their hidden arms caches.

Right Conditions

Several hundred thousand rounds of ammunition have been recovered. The TNT stocks that have been recovered are sufficient to blow up several high-value targets many times over. a stage has been reached where the militancy in J&K is being driven primarily by foreign mercenary terrorists controlled by Pakistan’s ISI and there are only a handful of “indigenous” militants still left in the fray. Abdul Ghani Lone of the Hurriyat admitted as much in a recent statement. The notable successes of the army combined with those of the other security forces, have created the right conditions for a political dialogue to be initiated to eliminate the root causes of militancy in Kashmir. Contrary to the canards being spread by vested interests, that the army is tired and India is negotiating from a position of weakness in J&K, the army has actually enhanced its capability to deal with the foreign sponsored insurgency by several orders of magnitude. In fact, the army has never been so assured in dealing with the so-called “guest” militants as it is today in J&K. The other central and state forces such as the BSF, CRPF and the J&K police (particularly its special operations group), have also considerably improved their ability to support the army’s proactive stance. Together the security forces have given the Government of India a strong platform from which to negotiate a solution to the long standing J&K issue and to firmly tell General Musharraf and his colleagues in Pakistan’s ruling coterie that the core issue as far as India is concerned is the cessation of cross-border terrorism and that further progress in negotiations is contingent on their condition.