Where is Kashmir’s Much Touted Normalcy?

Where is Kashmir’s Much Touted Normalcy?

Syed Ata Hasnain The challenges of conducting elections in Kashmir’s turbulent scenario are in multiples especially when many a paradox exists For some months now, the media and influential members of Delhi’s civil society have been speaking of the return of normalcy in Kashmir. In pure security terms ‘normalcy’ could be defined as the relative absence of violence, the enhanced confidence of society and the rekindling of hope.        On all three counts the situation in Kashmir, a day prior to the first polls in the Valley, does not appear to inspire too much confidence. There has been more violence than even in the Maoist areas in the run up to the elections; and the northern passes have yet to open so this violence has not been executed by fresh inductees but rather by the residual terrorists left over from previous years.     Sarpanches, the ones who still have the courage to remain in their pseudo posts are resigning, threatening to resign or making a beeline to the nearest police stations to remain secure.  A Kashmir English media publication has this to say this morning – “On the last day of election campaign on Tuesday, not a single political party managed to organize an election rally in any part of the South Kashmir except Noorabad, where Chief Minister Omar Abdullah addressed an election rally amid tight security”.       Where are we and where are we heading, I often ask. As a veteran of many an election in Kashmir I can vouch that such a situation possibly did not exist even through 1999 to 2011 when in the early period militancy was at its peak and later civil strife the order of the day. Kashmir watchers the world over, the serious ones, must have waited for this moment to ascertain the validity of their assessments or otherwise. Most had predicted continuing stability and returning normalcy based upon the age old parameters of assessment; security related statistics, residual strength of terrorists etc. They would be a mite disappointed by the events of the last week which have upset all such deductions and appear to be pointing back to the Nineties.   The situation isn’t really so bad...

A Matter Of Honour

A Matter Of Honour

SYED ATA HASNAIN Some years ago I was commanding a Division in Kashmir. One morning I received a call from a senior staff officer at the Command HQ at Udhampur that the Army Commander was upset at the string of non-battle casualties in my formation; two suicides, a vehicle accident, a weapon lost in a training exercise, two jawans dead because of avalanches etc. I stated to the officer that none of these incidents were under my direct control; that while I was morally responsible physical responsibility did not rest with me. I was, however, willing to be removed from command if it pleased my superiors and sent an appropriate message to the command chain. I never heard of the issue again. However, in the wake of Admiral DK Joshi’s resignation as the Naval Chief all this came rushing back into the mental hard disc. The issue is one of physical versus moral responsibility. Let me start by stating unequivocally that Admiral Joshi is one of India’s finest scholar sailors, a gentleman to the hilt, a man of great virtue and someone who carries the stamp of being a professional to the core. Therefore my heart bleeds to see such a man go. No doubt he has raised the level of honor by many notches for all three Services by his act of resignation taking full moral responsibility for the string of accidents which have occurred in the Navy in the last few months, the one with the INS Sindhuratna being the latest. The morning blogs and papers are full of the necessity of some others also taking the rap for the failures, primarily the bureaucracy and the political level too. It actually boils down to the difference between the moral and physical responsibility, the issue I raised at the beginning of this piece. Who is responsible for what? Obviously there is nothing black and white about this. Are the numerous crashes of Migs the responsibility of the Air Chief, the AOCs, the Air Force Station Commanders or the Squadron Commanders; not easy to peg. Whose responsibility is the series of negative incidents on the LoC? The failure to provide sufficient intelligence to prevent...

Trojan Tactics

Trojan Tactics

Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain comments on this piece You may disagree but I think Fahd Humayun needs compliments on his ability to articulate exactly what is required in Pakistan today. His emphasis on the non military aspects of the counter movement either COIN or CT hits the nail on the head. The employment of the clergy, exploiting the power of the mosque to slowly dilute the footprint of fascist radicalism, the drying up of financial conduits, the control of drug running, narcotics and arms, the recognition of criminal nexus and how jails can be used for producing fedayeen squads, manipulation of dissensions within the TTP et all are the methods which will work. Force on force, employing weaponry to dilute the lethality of the radically oriented TTP and using large size forces to fight the TTP in its own area which it knows so well, are not measures which will get the Pakistani establishment its gains.  I am not proffering advice to Pakistan on how to fight its terrorists. I am recognizing the identified aspects which our own establishment has refused to recognize. Ours has been a force on force approach in Kashmir and the Red Corridor. There has been no doctrine specific to the problem. Perhaps we need to take a leaf from the analysis by this young Pakistani who I happened to meet recently. He gave me no inkling of his cerebral capability. Shouldn’t that be worrisome to us; a young Pakistani from its premium think tank, with no ground exposure to CT is able to articulate a counter narrative for the Pakistan Government. I am not sure how many young people from our think tanks have that capability to appreciate which way our policy on Kashmir and the Red Corridor should move.    Access to Jinnah Insitute’s write ups is a good way of assessing Pakistan’s strategic thinking. By Fahd Humayun                   Last week the PM teetered on the knife-edge of launching a full-scale military operation in North Waziristan. For the first time in months it seemed as if the PML-N had finally come of age and commenced its climb up the...

Jammu and Kashmir, Where Are We And Where Are We Going ?

Jammu and Kashmir, Where Are We And Where Are We Going ?

Lt Gen (Retd) Syed Ata Hasnain, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM**, VSM**  Commentaries on Kashmir have been the flavor of the season ever since Shekhar Gupta’s article in Dec 2013 suggested that the time was ripe for the Army to vacate the hinterland and restrict itself to the LC in J&K, declaring a ‘victory’ of sorts for the Indian State. A series of articles in response by informed military leaders argued that there was no question of a victory against our own people and that the Army was as yet relevant. This is because the conflict stabilization stage in J&K was still existent. Any decisions about diluting the Army’s role in the stabilization process would need to be taken in the light of the potential situation in the region as the draw down and vacation of Afghanistan is commenced by the ISAF in Afghanistan. These decisions need not be taken under pressure of adversarial propaganda about the presence of disproportionate strength of the Army in J&K. We also need not be pressurized about the Rashtriya Rifles (RR) presence or begin to think that its job is over because the residual strength of terrorists is extremely low. It needs to be remembered that the RR was raised for a purpose. Some claim it was to defeat insurgency while the truth actually points to the fact that it was raised for the purpose of re-integrating J&K with India; the task of re-integration has not yet been completed and therefore the necessity of the RR’s presence in Kashmir remains. Currently the main theme of all discussions on Kashmir is the likely effect of the withdrawal of the ISAF by end of 2014. Will it see a repeat of the events of 1989 which witnessed the inception of militancy and entry of foreign militants in Kashmir? The less informed are assuming that Kashmir will see much more turbulence in 2014-15. However, it perhaps may be  incorrect to template 1989 to 2014. The situation is vastly different. There are very few mercenaries in Afghanistan whose main commitment will be to assist the Taliban against the Afghan National Army without much attention towards Kashmir. The Pakistan Army will similarly be more...

Kashmir 2014: Talk by Gen Ata Hasnain at IDSA

Kashmir 2014: Talk by Gen Ata Hasnain at IDSA

  “Kashmir 2014: A Review and Prognosis” The Internal Security Centre at IDSA conducted a talk by Lieutenant General Syed Ata Hasnain on 06 January 2014 on the topic “Kashmir 2014: A Review and a Prognosis”. Gen Hasnain provided a strategic review of the Kashmir situation through the 1990s and 2000-2013 followed by a prognosis for the period 2014-18. This involved analyzing key concerns like the effect of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) withdrawal on Kashmir, issues pertaining to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in J&K and the need to take Operation Sadbhavna to the next level. Followings are the key points brought out by the speaker in his talk: Highlighting the strategic importance of Kashmir, Gen Hasnain argued that it is important to keep in mind the October 1947 ‘Instrument of Accession’ and the 1994 joint resolution of the two houses of the Parliament, asserting the idea that the whole of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) is an integral part of India. Having said that, he laid emphasis on changing the narrative for Kashmir against established narratives and then went on to analyze Kashmir’s current status and where is the situation heading. After years of antipathy and anguish, many people claim victory in Kashmir today. But the question is, can a victory be declared when there isn’t even an articulated political and military aim? Gen Hasnain felt that while a military aim existed in vague terms, a political aim in Kashmir has been eluding for long possibly because of the unclear external and internal dynamics.  Militarily, infiltration has been taken care of and every year the numbers of successful infiltrators in the valley are dwindling – all thanks to the Line of Control (LoC) fence which was constructed in 2003 -4 that changed the mathematics of terror; more terrorists being eliminated than the numbers that could successfully infiltrate. Politically, however, he stated that there is a long way to go and the Army would have to continue to be the lead agency in supporting and rebuilding efforts; this is because of the outreach that it has and the organizing will and zeal to bring normalcy in Kashmir. No other...

‘Nice guys finish second’

‘Nice guys finish second’

So what should the governor of Kashmir be like? HAPPYMON JACOB I am using the title of BK Nehru’s famous book ‘Nice guys finish second’ as the title of my column today because what follows would have certain indirect links with Mr. Nehru’s tenure as the governor of J&K from 1982 till he was shifted out by Indira Gandhi for refusing to remove Farooq Abdullah from power in J&K.  The Times of India carried a news item the other day that there is a strong speculation that the incumbent National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon will replace Mr. N. N Vohra as the Governor of J&K, that too in the near future. I am not sure how much to trust this story but if indeed there is such a move underway, I don’t consider that to be a good choice for a variety of reasons. If Menon’s stint as the Foreign Secretary and National Security Advisor is any indication of what kind of a Governor he will make, then one would have to say that he is unlikely to be any more than a guardian of the status-quo, something the people of Kashmir patently detest. Mr. Menon is a sophisticated diplomat who can articulate and justify New Delhi’s positions on various issues with élan and aplomb. But that’s it – he is no visionary who can put together a roadmap for conflict resolution in J&K considering the fact that governors in this conflict-ridden state have been given more powers than governors elsewhere. So what should the governor of Kashmir be like? Clearly, Kashmir and Kashmiris deserve someone better than Mr. Jagmohan whose tenure can easily be termed as one of the most disastrous in the modern history of Kashmir. First of all, the governor of J&K, where a number of internal and external security considerations converge, should be someone who can get out of the comfort of the Raj Bhavan and connect with the people of the state. He/she should be a statesman, sensitive individual, and who does not see governorship as merely a post-retirement perk. Again, when it comes to J&K, there is no point in suggesting individuals who may be very good...

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