The J&K ‘Peace Process’
Developments internal to Pakistan, especially in the light of successive military regimes, are critical to India’s natural interests as a neighbour, and these assume added significance within the discourse on the current peace initiative in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). These interests develop into serious concern when viewed against the backdrop of three Indo-Pak wars, Pakistan’s nuclear status and, above all, the twelve-year long terrorist movement in J&K that is aided and abetted by Pakistan.
Successive military regimes in Pakistan have triggered forces that have destroyed the very objectives for which these regimes captured power. An ever-increasing dependence on foreign aid, both economic and political, and a continued devaluation and erosion of democratic institutions and constitutional propriety, have occurred concurrently and consistently with each phase of military rule, and these trends have severely undermined the state structure of Pakistan. India has also been cast in the mould of an inimical neighbour by successive regimes in Pakistan and next to Islam, it is the most potent source of Pakistan’s national integration. Terrorism in J&K, essentially born out of Pakistan’s obsession with gaining control over this territory, has been concretised in terms of a multi-pronged strategy based on aiding and abetting terrorist outfits, economic strangulation of the State, subversion of it’s Muslim population and armed invasion.
The Indian Army’s presence in J&K commenced with the signing of the Instrument of Accession by Maharaja Hari Singh, the then ruler of the State, with the Government of India on October 26, 1947. Troops had been moved to Srinagar and Jammu by the first week of November 1947. The Indian Army and State forces engaged the Pakistani tribal raiders and army regulars in many decisive battles.1 However, India also lodged a complaint with the United Nations (UN) on January 1, 1948, against the Pakistani aggression and a UN brokered peace process2 culminated even as the Indian security forces (SFs) were militarily in a favourable position.
Throughout the conflict, India’s approach to detach the J&K issue from the rest of its bilateral engagements with Pakistan was, by any measure, a magnanimous gesture. For example, the transfer of substantial amounts of money to Pakistan as well as the flow of defence materials to that country continued – even while the two armies were engaged in a combat in one part of the country. Pakistan’s request to be allowed to raise a new regiment for East Pakistan was also granted by the Joint Defence Council of India and Pakistan. Efforts were understandably made to reassure the adversary that the entire conflict would remain localized; a cordon sanitaire was thus erected around J&K. But the Indian strategy only emboldened Pakistan, and the military planners of that country discovered the effectiveness of waging a low-cost war from the 1947-48 aggression. Lt. Gen. Akbar Khan thus noted: "on our side, we gained the knowledge that in certain physical conditions a small number of disciplined troops, properly combined with the Azads and the tribesmen could stop a much larger forces provided we had some compact positions around which the tribesmen could operate offensively."3
The Last Twelve Years
Pakistani inspired and abetted terrorism in J&K has posed a direct challenge to India’s security since 1989. The concept and execution of cross-border terrorism has been based primarily on techniques employed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Afghanistan, where the US used local pan-Islamic guerillas with Pakistani support to settle scores with the erstwhile Soviet Union. The Pakistani establishment which had acquired significant skills in irregular warfare since 1947, further honed its capabilities on the basis of experiences gained in Afghanistan’s tough mountainous terrain and subsequently applied similar techniques in Punjab and later, with further improvement, unleashed terror and mayhem in J&K, particularly in the Kashmir Valley.
Broadly categorised, terrorism in J&K has run through six phases since 1989. The first phase, which occurred between the closing months of 1989 till mid-1990, can be termed as having witnessed the eruption of terrorism. Although sporadic and unrelated incidents had begun to occur since July 1988 onwards, terrorism escalated during the second half of 1989. The abduction of Rubiya Sayeed, daughter of the then Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, and her release in exchange for five jailed terrorists of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) is generally construed as an event that marked the emergence of serious complexities in the internal security dynamics of the region. According to one commentator, "The afternoon of December 13, 1989, changed everything. Five of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front men were set free in exchange for Rubiya Sayeed… The people saw in the exchange a surrender of India’s might. The terrorists of yesterday became instant heroes overnight. Pakistan had scored a point: The Indian government could succumb."4 During this period, minorities, especially the Kashmiri Pandits, were targeted and intimidated, forcing them to migrate out of the Valley. The ethnic cleansing of the Valley was pushed systematically and methodically by the terrorists. The Valley – particularly Srinagar – also witnessed large-scale demonstrations in what had the appearance, at this stage, of a mass pro-independence movement.
The second phase lasted till the end of 1992, and was particularly arduous as popular unrest combined with a sudden upsurge in terrorist violence. The terrorists systematically destroyed infrastructure, concentrating their attacks on bridges and educational institutions. The efficacy of the Jammu and Kashmir Police (J&K Police) was seriously undermined, partly due to terrorist infiltration of its ranks, but more effectively by targeted acts of violence against the force. It was during this period that, in response, efforts were made to increase the presence of the SFs. Furthermore, the security presence along the Line of Control (LoC) was also augmented and counter-insurgency forces deployed in the interior regions. The intelligence gathering system, which had practically folded up consequent to the killing of various Intelligence Bureau (IB) personnel in the initial period, was re-established. Efforts by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s external intelligence agency, to enlarge the arc of terrorism to the southern slopes of the Pir Panjal and the districts of Rajouri and Poonch were defeated, even though there was a spillover of terrorist operations from the Valley into Doda district. The SFs were also able to consolidate their hold on various towns in the Valley.
1993 can be termed as a turning point both from the point of view of Pakistani operators controlling terrorist activity in J&K as also that of the SF response. In the Valley, the contours of a new phase of terrorism were emerging with the increasing marginalisation of pro-independence elements and the local terrorist leadership. Hard-line pro-Pakistan terrorist outfits like the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA) and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) replaced them. More potent and vicious elements emerged in the form of foreign mercenaries, commonly referred to as the Afghanis. In fact, the terrorist leadership passed on from the local commanders to foreign mercenaries. It was during this period that the terrorists began to make heavy inroads into the districts of Doda and Rajouri-Poonch.5 The period also witnessed the formation of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), a political front of 26 socio-political and religious groups to further the cause of Kashmiri separatism.
While steadily increasing pressure on the terrorists, the SF apparatus also registered significant strategic gains. Three of these deserve special mention. The concept of the Unified Headquarters, operationalised during the month of May, brought under one roof the army, para-military forces, State police and intelligence agencies, enabling them to launch counter-terrorist operations in a more systematic and coordinated manner under the directions of the Security Advisor to the Governor. The month of November saw two significant achievements: the clearing of the Hazratbal shrine6 from the clutches of terrorists who had occupied it for approximately a month; and a successful operation7 during which Sopore town, which for a considerable period had been regarded as a ‘liberated zone’, was purged of the influence of terrorists. The swift operations carried out with surgical precision and deftness were a significant blow to the morale of the terrorist movement.
The fourth phase of terrorism spanning the years 1994 and 1995 can be termed as a phase of consolidation by the state. The SFs pushed through the advantage that had been seized consequent to the Hazratbal and Sopore operations and regained the strategic initiative. The result was that the terrorists began to avoid direct encounters with the SFs and increasingly resorted to grenade attacks and shooting from a distance. Even as the terrorists were losing their perceived legitimacy, the security apparatus was significantly intensifying intelligence and information accumulation at local levels. Terrorist operations were further undermined as a result of the formation of counter-insurgency groups and the fratricidal clashes within the terrorist rank and file. The commencement of the year 1995 saw the security grid becoming more effective, even as indications emerged that the Government of India was considering the proposal of conducting elections in the State. Just as Pakistan appeared to be losing its strategic initiative in J&K, the terrorists occupied and subsequently destroyed the Charar-e-Sharief8 shrine in a desperate attempt to divert attention and stall the impending elections.
Parliamentary elections were conducted in three phases in J&K, from May 7 to May 30, 1996. The electoral process was conducted in a peaceful manner beyond the expectations of most of the observers and analysts as also to the utter surprise of Pakistan. Apart from its failure to disrupt or in any way hamper the process of elections in the State, Pakistan suffered a bigger rebuff as a record number of 110 candidates contested the polls, which saw an impressive turn out of 49.02% of voters in the entire State.9 The successful holding of parliamentary elections and an encouraging response from the people eventually paved the way for elections to the Legislative Assembly in the State after a gap of over nine years.10 These elections were conducted in four phases during September 1996 and a popular government headed by Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference (NC) assumed office on October 10, 1996.
The restoration of a democratic system also coincided with the sixth phase of terrorist operations in the State. It was expected that the installation of a democratic government would herald complete normalcy and peaceful conditions in the State and that the remnants of terrorism would, with greater participation and cooperation of the local population, be eliminated. The figures for 1997 indicate that in comparison with the preceding five years, terrorist incidents were the lowest and the number of civilians killed was also the lowest. One of the most significant achievements was the increased rate of recovery of explosive material, including grenades and Improvised Explosive Devices (IED). This trend was to continue into the year 1998 as well.11 However, during the years 1999 and 2000, terrorist activity increased, and the number of terrorists killed during the year 2000 was the highest for the entire period of the movement.
In statistical terms, the casualty figures for the period 1990 to 2000 have been as follows – militants killed 12,414; civilians killed 11,683; security forces’ personnel killed 2,465; in all 26,562 lives were lost.12 Not more than two thousand of these were foreign mercenaries and over twenty-four thousand Indians, including terrorists, had been consumed by the fires started and stoked by Pakistan. From the Pakistani point of view, consequently, the conflict in J&K was and continues to be a very beneficial war. As in the case of loss of human lives, the recovery of weapons and other warlike material was also of stupendous proportions, enough for three divisions of the Army.13 Furthermore, the terrorist leadership had completely passed into the hands of battle-hardened men from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Local outfits receded into the background, with the prominent players in the theatre restricted to the pro-Pakistani elements with their organizational structures based in and controlled by operators in Pakistan. The erstwhile local militant organizations such as the Students Liberation Front, Hizbullah, Al-Umar-Mujahideen, Jamait-ul-Mujahideen, Al-Jehad, Al-Barq, and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF)14 have practically disappeared. The outfits currently controlling the terrorist operations are pro-Pakistani and pan-Islamic groups like the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Al-Badr and Jaish-e-Mohammad.
In spite of the overwhelming evidence pertaining to the commencement and sustenance of terrorist activity of this magnitude, Pakistan has consistently denied its involvement in J&K. This is despite the fact that, apart from irrefutable evidence provided by the Government of India to this effect, many international and independent observers and sections of the media have amassed evidence, and there are a large number of commentaries castigating Pakistan for its role in fuelling terrorist violence in the State. According to one such critical analysis that recently appeared in the Times magazine,
Since Kashmir erupted in 1989, India has pointed a blunt and unwavering finger at Pakistan, accusing its neighbour of fomenting the entire problem… Today, however, India’s report ranks a lot truer. Despite a decade of denials – Islamabad insists it provides only moral and political support, not training or tangible aid – Pakistan is fueling militant activities in Kashmir. Of the five main militant groups operating in Kashmir, four are based in Pakistan, where open recruiting and funding are commonplace. Training of militants is also done on Pakistani soil. The Pakistani military is deeply involved, especially in smuggling of anti-India militants across the Line of Control.15
The July 24 Cease-fire
With the escalation in terrorist violence and an equally efficacious response from the SFs, the level of attrition in the terrorist ranks, particularly the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, increased rapidly from the onset of the year 2000. The terrorist casualties during the months of May, June and July were 140, 180 and 154 respectively. The visit of the then US President, Bill Clinton in March 2000 to India and Pakistan, and his friendly overtures in India and blunt speaking to the Pakistani military regime, followed by certain reportedly behind-the-scene diplomatic maneuvers, also created pressures on Pakistan and the terrorist leadership to look for alternatives beyond armed struggle. The rising aspirations of the local population for the restoration of normalcy also created its own dynamics, stimulating an urge for peace. Consequently, at a press conference in Srinagar on July 24, 2000, Abdul Majid Dar,16 the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen ‘commander’ in the Valley, announced a unilateral cease-fire for three months.17
The cease-fire announcement, apart from being received with a sense of relief by the people of the State, was also welcomed by the Union and State governments. The fact that, on the day of the cease-fire announcement, Qazi Hussain, Chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan (JeI), was in the United States, meeting officials of the US State Department, gave rise to speculation that the cease-fire initiative had the tacit approval of the US Administration. Subsequent events, however, failed to fulfill the expectations aroused by the announcement. First, Syed Salahuddin, ‘supreme commander’ of the HM, said at a press conference in Islamabad on July 25, that the cease-fire offer of Majid Dar had his approval.18 But responses from other prominent terrorist outfits were negative and hostile to Dar’s announcement. The APHC appeared confused and jittery. In a forceful reaction, Salahuddin was removed from the chairmanship of the United Jehad Council (UJC), an umbrella outfit of the various Pakistan-based terrorist groups, to be replaced by Mohammed Usman of the Muslim Janbaz Force.19 The first official reaction from Pakistan came in the form of a wait and watch policy enunciated by Brig. Rashid Qureshi, Director General of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR). Obviously, Pakistan did not want to be perceived as attempting to derail the peace initiative, particularly since it had emerged as an initiative by a local ‘commander’, although it still continued its surreptitious strategy of disruption. The unsettling nature of the whole scenario was aggravated by widespread terrorist attacks on Hindus, a desperate attempt to stall the peace initiative. Thus, on August 1, 2000, terrorists killed 33 persons, including many Amarnath pilgrims, in Pahalgam. 26 Bihari labourers were killed in Mir Bazar Achhabal; more than 20 persons were killed in the Ramban Budhal area of Doda, eight Village Defence Committee (VDC) members were killed in Dachhan area in the same district and five family members of a Special Police Officer (SPO) were killed in Kupwara on the same day.20 On August 2, 2000, even as the Prime Minister, Union Home Minister, Union Defence Minister, the Leader of Opposition and other national leaders visited Srinagar and Pahalgam to express shock and sympathy over these killings, a curious development occurred. The Union Home Secretary, accompanied by Special Secretary (Home), interacted with a team of HM terrorists at the Nehru Guesthouse in Srinagar and announced that further discussions between the two parties would continue.21 Viewers across the country witnessed on their television screen, the spectacle of two senior civil functionaries of the government meeting a group of masked men wearing dark glasses. However, such meetings produced negligible consequences as subsequent developments overtook this tryst.
On August 8, 2000, the HM chief Syed Salahuddin announced, from Islamabad, the withdrawal of the cease-fire,22 and as expected, claimed that India was not agreeing to make Pakistan a party in the process of dialogue. Later, almost as a postscript, an IED explosion occurred near the State Bank of India and J&K Bank branches on the Residence Road, Srinagar, resulting in the death of eight police and one press personnel. It was clear that guns were to dictate the course of events in the State once again.
During the period from July 24 to August 8, 2000, over the cease-fire remained in effect, unmistakable signs of differences on issues relating to the peace process between the HM leadership under Syed Salahuddin, based in Pakistan, and it’s leadership under Abdul Majid Dar in the Kashmir Valley, became evident.23 In the Valley, the ‘divisional’ and ‘district commanders’ of HM were divided between pro-Pak hard-liners and the relatively moderate commanders, with a majority of the cadres inclined to favour Abdul Majid Dar’s initiative. The Hizb cease-fire also diluted the credibility of the APHC, whose leaders, in expressing reservations on the peace process, were perceived to be going against the popular sentiment and derailing the peace process. More significantly, the APHC had lost its claim to be the ‘sole representative’ of the Kashmiris.24 However, even as the APHC leadership was being marginalized, certain observers opined that, in the subsequent months, it would increasingly rely on Pakistan to enhance its credentials.
Commenting on the sequence of events, Pakistani analyst Ayaz Amir observed, "This initiative is destined to wither away. The people of Kashmir are destined to suffer more because they are caught between the high mountains and implacable forces and also because sub-continent lacks the genius of statesmanship."25 Another opportunity to end the preceding twelve years of blood letting in J&K had been lost due to the intransigence of the Pakistani regime, who thought it more beneficial to continue with irregular warfare in the State. A more perceptive analysis of the failed cease-fire and subsequent course of events notes: "Sustained military pressure, and the twin processes of ideological and political disintegration within the Hizb, suggest some form of dialogue could emerge again. Prophecies of doom notwithstanding…."26
Ramadan ‘Non-initiation of Combat Operations’ (NICO)
Even though the Hizb cease-fire had failed to yield any results, it had whetted the people’s appetite for peace. The residents of Srinagar could not forget the fortnight of near tranquility that they had experienced, and the sense of jubilation that had spread across the length and breadth of the State during that period. This popular mood and a strong urge for peace generated its own dynamics. Early in October 2000, Abdul Ghani Lone, a senior functionary of the APHC and Chief of the Peoples League, organized a convention in Srinagar, in which, approximately 3,000 delegates from across the Valley participated.27 The first political convention organized by Lone in the last decade, it signaled his intention to participate in the future peace process. The dissension within the Hizb on the scope of its earlier peace initiative, as also between terrorists of Kashmiri and Pakistani origin, was another factor in the dynamics of the peace process. At a more practical level, terrorist casualties, especially among the HM cadres, increased significantly with 142 terrorists killed in the month of August and 182 in September. During October, 183 terrorists were killed and the casualty figures for the first fortnight of November was as high as 117.
On November 19, 2000, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee announced the Non Initiation of Combat Operations (NICO – referred to as cease-fire hereafter) by the security forces against terrorists during the holy month of Ramadan commencing from November 27.28 It was a bold and statesmen-like initiative, which brought about a qualitative change in the terrorism-affected State. Announced four months after the failed Hizb cease-fire, this peace initiative was of far greater significance, as it reflected the authority and prestige of the highest executive authority in the country. There was also a reported meeting between29 the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) of India and Pakistan on November 21, 2000, to de-escalate existing border tensions and the intensity of firing and shelling between troops stationed along the Line of Control (LoC) and the international border. The meeting succeeded in significantly bringing down the cross border incidents that had become a daily ritual between Army positions on both sides.
Pakistan’s immediate response,30 on the day after the PM’s announcement, emphasized that a declaration of cease-fire should be followed by de-escalation and dialogue, meaning thereby, tripartite parleys. On December 2, Pakistan declared that its Army would observe ‘maximum restraint’ on the Line of Control in order to strengthen and stabilize the cease-fire.31 But, these postures by Pakistan were merely cosmetic in nature as its actions failed to reflect any sincere attempt to take the peace agenda forward.
A majority of the mainstream political parties at the national and State level welcomed the Union government’s initiative and hoped that it would lead to a possible breakthrough in disrupting the vicious cycle of violence in the State. At a broader level, the consensus was that, even if certain difficulties persisted at the local level, the cease-fire would enhance India’s image as a mature nation attempting to solve an intractable issue through peaceful means, despite sustained provocation from the adversary. However, the cease-fire was not without its dissenting notes.32 One such opinion, while terming it a risky gamble, added, "In view of the negative reactions by the Jehadi groups, the Ramazan truce runs the risk of provoking more militant violence."33
Consequent to the declaration of the Ramadan cease-fire, visible differences surfaced within the Hurriyat leadership. On December 10, 2000, followers of rival factions clashed with each other at a seminar on human rights organized by the APHC, with divergent slogans being raised in favour of accession to Pakistan and Azadi (freedom).34 In a joint statement issued following its executive committee meeting on December 17, 2000, the APHC leadership indicated that they were ready to take part in an extensive, meaningful and result-oriented political dialogue for a permanent solution to the Kashmir issue. The APHC also demanded permission from the Union government to travel to Pakistan and hold a dialogue with the terrorist leadership in that country.35 Abdul Majid Dar of the HM, while supporting the peace initiative, pointed, "India and Pakistan were not enough to resolve the complicated Kashmir issue and the Kashmiris will extend full cooperation to see that the issue is resolved in the framework of insaniyat."36 Abdul Ghani Lone while endorsing the truce said, "by itself the ceasefire is not enough… It should be the start of negotiations. However, the move is to be welcomed."37 Jamaat-e-Islami chief Ghulam Mohammed Bhat said, "Vajpayee’s gesture is a major opportunity which should not be lost at any cost."38
Unexpected support for the cease-fire emanated from the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) region, where Sardar Abdul Qayoom Khan, the former President and Prime Minister of ‘Azad Kashmir’ said at a press conference on November 27,2000, that a positive response should be given to the Indian cease-fire offer as it can lead to the resumption of dialogue and a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue.39 Reactions in prominent sections of the Pakistani media also exhibited cautious optimism. The Dawn remarked in an editorial, "Pakistan has always stood for the right of self determination of the Kashmiris. Let them now decide how they want this imbroglio to be resolved. If they want proximity talks, why should we be opposed to these?"40 The Frontier Post cautioned, "That in the event of the cease-fire collapse the Indians would go to town, crying that it failed because Pakistan didn’t do what they had expected it to do."41 According to Nation, "We do expect that India will follow-up the Ramazan cease-fire with some of the suggestions made by the Kashmiri leaders and through the Track-II diplomatic process and prove that it is not just a political gimmick."42
Certain Pakistani observers, basing their analysis on the ground realities, advised the military regime to respond in a positive and mature manner. Ejaz Haider and Imitiaz Gul, writing in The Friday Times, cautioned, "This is the slippery slope. While the political leaders may opt for a dialogue, the militants could always be made to scuttle any such move."43 Brigadier Siddiqi opined: "Nothing would be more welcome and rewarding for India than to find the Mujahideen react like a house divided against itself." He also advised that the unmistakable loss of the initiative from Islamabad to the ‘field commanders’ must also engage the attention of the government.44 Ejaz Haider observed, "The biggest problem for Pakistan is that it cannot be seen as a wrecker of a peace process. This is where it will have to bear the brunt of its past follies. The international opinion is in India’s favour."45 Mansoor Ejaz, a Pakistani-American who was involved in back-channel diplomacy for over one year, while castigating the Pakistani government for its inability to reciprocate India’s efforts for peace said, "With virtually all Islamabad’s demands met and a historical opportunity to find a permanent solution, why has Pakistan not yet embraced it."46
The impact of the cease-fire declaration on the ground situation in the State was positive during the month of Ramadan. Even as the level of terrorist-related violence decreased significantly, disruptions in the life of the common citizens became minimal, with the security forces suspending their search and cordon operations against the terrorists. The firing across the border, which had reached alarming proportions during the month of November, practically ceased. The number of terrorist casualties during the month of December 2000 was 51, the lowest for the entire year, and casualties amongst the security forces were also low. However, beyond respite to the local population and deceleration in terrorist violence, not much progress was made in terms of pursuing a political solution to the larger Kashmir issue.
Extensions of NICO
The Indian Premier announced on December 20, 2000, an extension of the one-month Ramadan cease-fire in J&K. The extension was welcomed by all important political parties and by the people of J&K. In spite of certain initial reservations, the Chief Minister of J&K, Farooq Abdullah, expressed his approval of the cease-fire extension. Kukka Parray, a former militant, the Chief of the J&K Awami League and currently a member of the State Legislative Assembly, said, "The extended Ramazan cease-fire has sent a wave of relief in the Valley. Signs of this relief are visible on the faces of the otherwise exhausted people. Kashmir is passing through a crucial time of history when every positive thinking person is supposed to come out and play its positive role to facilitate the process of peace."47 Ghulam Nabi Azad, an All India Congress Committee General Secretary and Rajya Sabha (Upper House of the Indian Parliament) member from J&K said that the Ramadan cease-fire and its subsequent extension has provided an opportunity, which Pakistan must avail as an escape window. A commentator aptly described the mood of the people in the State: "Whatever was the aim of the Prime Minister in announcing the cease-fire it came as music for the ears of the common people who had lost all hopes of peace."48
In comparison to December 2000, there was an increase – but still much lower than the months before the cease-fire was announced – in the level of violence during January 2001 with 78 terrorists and 28 security force personnel killed. With the deadlock between the APHC and the Union government over the issue of passports to its executive members to visit Pakistan persisting, and a lack of significant measures at the political level for the initiation of a peace process, the Union government faced a dilemma vis-à-vis an extension of the cease-fire and the resumption of combat operations against the terrorists. The Union government’s decision to further extend the unilateral cease-fire by another month again resulted in a positive impact on the people. The Chief Minister, while describing it as a bold step, added that the only solution to the Kashmir issue was through a peace process. He also indicated that the LoC should be accepted as the final border. Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, President of the Peoples Democratic Party, while welcoming the cease-fire extension, asked the Union government to issue passports to all the APHC executive members to enable them to hold parleys with the Pakistan-based terrorist outfits.
Sardar Abdul Qayoom Khan, maintaining a consistent response, asked the political leadership and terrorist outfits on both the sides of the divide to support the Indian Prime Minister’s effort to resolve the Kashmir issue. As before, the jehadi outfits including the Pakistan-based leadership of the Hizb rejected the cease-fire extension as being ‘meaningless’.
Abdul Ghani Lone took a bold stand in favour of the peace efforts and castigated the jehadi outfits in no uncertain terms, "When it comes to settlement," he said, "it will be the Kashmiris – their militants and political leadership – which will have to represent the people of Kashmir… They (the foreign militants) are our supporters, they are guest militants, they are not the owners of the movement. But the facts are facts, if a settlement is entered into, then we are the owners, our supporters cannot replace us."49
Discordant and doubtful notes dominated the discourse as the second extension was nearing termination. An added complexity was the perceptible absence of significant measures on the political front. Lt. Gen. Harwant Singh noted,
From the very beginning the terrorist groups did not accept the ceasefire (cessation of anti-insurgency operations). Consequently, it has been unilateral. A unilateral ceasefire has a definite life- span, depending on the response from the opposite side. Where the other side does not respect the ceasefire and, in fact, increases the tempo of terrorist activities, it is difficult to understand the logic behind the idea of continuing with the unilateral part, month after month. The peripheral advantage apart, the final outcome may not be in the best interests of the people of the State, more so the security forces, who will sooner than later face heightened activity from the terrorists, their jihadis and Fidayeen elements, who stand to gain from the ceasefire.50
The Times of India in an editorial stated,
Atal Behari Vajpayee’s insaniyat-driven cease-fire seems in danger of losing direction. And that’s a pity because there was so much it had achieved – after years of viewing the Indian government with suspicion, the Kashmiri people seemed finally willing to give the democratic process a chance… It is not an easy decision, and yet Mr. Vajpayee must use all the persuasion at his command to get the cease-fire extended. The sooner the Cabinet Committee on Security meets to decide this, the better equipped the government would be to plan for the future… The hearts of the Kashmiri people must be won.51
V.R. Raghavan expressed the opinion that there were stronger reasons and greater benefits in continuing with the cease-fire. Arguing that the cease-fire was at risk of being made into an issue in itself, instead of remaining an instrument to energize the momentum for peace and for building the peace constituency in J&K. He concluded,
It would, therefore, be useful to invest in a cease-fire on a long-term basis. The government can free itself of the burden of responding to the needs of extending the cease-fire every month. All that is needed is to be bold on a courageous set of actions already taken. India’s interest can only be better served by a longer cease-fire. Three months extension of the cease-fire would achieve these larger interests better than a monthly dose of scepticism.52
As if on cue, the very next day, the Prime Minister announced a three-month extension to the cease-fire beyond February 26, 2001, but also added that the Indian security forces had clear instructions to act decisively against the Pakistan-based terrorist outfits. He said that the government was ready to enter into a dialogue with every group in the State that abjured violence. The reaction from the jehadi outfits remained uncompromisingly negative. The APHC, while terming the extension as an "eye wash" favoured a comprehensive dialogue to the "basic dispute" for restoration of peace in J&K.53 The demand for the issue of passports to the APHC leadership to visit Pakistan was renewed. The differences within the Hurriyat deepened with the efforts of most of its top leadership to sideline the pro-Pakistani hard-liner and former APHC chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who insisted that an implementation of UN Resolutions was the only solution to the Kashmir issue. Geelani also received a fillip to his political fortunes when the attempt of the Hurriyat leadership to get the Jamaat-e-Islami to replace Geelani as its representative in the APHC failed. He further upped the ante by declaring that Kashmir was a religious and not a political issue,54 thereby sowing further seeds of dissension within the APHC.
The ruling National Conference expressed the view that their efforts were directed towards ensuring security for the common citizenry, a strengthening of patriotic forces and greater autonomy for the State. Welcoming the three-month cease-fire extension, the State units of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also spoke favourably on the issue. However, National Panthers Party President Bhim Singh criticized the cease-fire extension and alleged that the decision was taken under the pressures of western powers. Within the media, Manoj Joshi wrote,
All indications are that the government of India is on a treacherous slope, with neither a plan nor equipment to traverse it. The Kargil situation seems to have unhinged the government to the point where it is ready to throw away the achievements of the Indian security forces between 1990-96 in rooting out militancy from large parts of the State.55
D C Pathak, striking another note of caution opined,
We can handle the ongoing cease-fire on a note of cautious confidence but with the full realization that it is in this period that the responsibilities of our intelligence and security forces in Kashmir become much heavier in terms of preventing the violence of the foreign gunmen there and maintaining the morale of the local populace. In the absence of an effective response from the other side, Indian cease-fire offer obviously would not last long as we cannot afford to land in any strategic disadvantage for the future.56
Analysis of NICO
The protagonists and opponents of the peace process can argue endlessly to buttress their respective claims. However, a dispassionate analysis brings out certain incontrovertible facts and consequences of these initiatives. The biggest advantage has been a sense of relief and the mood of expectation generated amongst the people of the State particularly in the Valley. They have not failed to note that the Government of India, instead of reiterating its stand on Kashmir being an integral part of India, displayed genuine concern at the highest executive level for the well being of the public. As already noted, the July cease-fire declared by Abdul Majid Dar and his ‘commanders’ of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen generated a dynamic of its own, which was further strengthened by the Union government’s cease-fire announcement of November 19, 2000. The favourable perception generated among the people ought to be a force multiplier as and when a breakthrough in the negotiating paradigm occurs.
Beyond the din and mist of terrorism, there is a large segment of the local population, which is silent, sullen and hurt. These people fall into the so-called gray area, which, for lack of a better term, can be termed as ‘moderate’. This constituency of peace has brought forth a sense of resourcefulness and diligence with the masses carrying on their daily chores with a sense of purpose and a will to succeed. The increasingly dispersed economic activity of the Kashmiris across the country and the movement of a large number of students, both boys and girls, are visible manifestations of this constituency. The peace process has touched a chord in the heart of the moderate element and has strengthened their resolve, giving them new hope on the possibilities of a better future. This is a gain that is neither quantifiable nor tangible but, to the discerning, the vibrations are palpable. Indeed, the strengthening of this moderate segment of society is a positive and long- term gain for the peace initiative. Diplomatically, the peace initiative has enhanced India’s prestige at the international level. Standing in stark contrast against Pakistan, driven by a fundamentalist ensemble and painted in the colours of the Afghan Taliban, and on the verge of being termed a rogue state, India’s attempt to find a peaceful solution to a bloody and festering conflict has been appreciated by various key nations. This perception was unmistakably underlined in March 2001, when the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, during his visit to India and Pakistan, indicated to his Pakistani interlocutors that the UN Resolutions of 1948 are no longer enforceable and the Kashmir issue has to be solved bilaterally within the parameters of the Simla Agreement.57 The Secretary-General’s observations created consternation and dejection within the Pakistani establishment and intelligentsia. Similarly, remarks of the Chairman of the National Peoples Congress of China, Li Peng, during his India visit in January 2001, bordering on a condemnation of terrorism of all descriptions and in any region, led Pakistani observer Afzaal Mehmood to comment, "During the course of this visit Li made some observations which need to be closely examined by decision makers in Islamabad."58 Similarly, the Prime Minister’s visit to Indonesia and Iran and External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh’s high-level talks in Saudi Arabia, during which important Islamic countries supported the Indian peace initiative, are also to be construed as significant factors in favour of the peace process. These developments have certainly forced Pakistan on the defensive at the international level. In tangible terms, however, this has not yielded any positive results on the political front in terms of initiatives to find a durable solution, even as differences between some of the key actors in the ongoing militancy, viz. HM and the APHC have deepened.
The impact of the five months since the NICO announcement on the security situation in the State has also not been very favourable. With the implementation of NICO, the security forces practically ceased operations against the terrorists and maintained, by and large, a defensive posture, reacting only during an attack or under imminent threat of an attack. This resulted in a comparatively much lower casualty rate among terrorists and a higher ratio of security forces/terrorists killed. Even the civilian casualties have not significantly decreased. An analysis of the casualty figures of the four months preceding the cease-fire, the same period during 1999 and during the four months immediately after the declaration of the cease-fire is useful in this context:
During this period, the State Police suffered considerable casualties under increased pressure from the terrorists. Furthermore, with the SFs operating under a defensive framework, advantages accrued to the terrorist outfits that began to increasingly target SF installations and camps, inflicting heavy casualties. Their action at the Red Fort, New Delhi, where a Lashkar-e-Toiba fidayeen (suicide) squad attacked an army garrison, killing three army personnel on December 22, 2000,59 and a suicide car bomb attack on the Army Head Quarters at the Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar on December 25, 2000,60 received more than adequate national and international coverage. The lethal nature of such attacks boosted the sagging morale of the terrorists, and also increased the impact on the local population. Such attacks assume immense psychological significance in a conflict where the attempt at winning the hearts and minds of the population is an important factor. The changing mood was reflected in reports that ex-filtration and in-filtration across the borders increased and that terrorist outfits utilized the hiatus in counter-terrorism operations to re-group, reorganize as also to shift arms and ammunition dumps and to create new ones.
More importantly, the terrorists during this period, succeeded in extending their area of operations to certain parts of the Jammu division hitherto not under any terrorist influence. The attacks on SF and civilian targets in the peripheral areas of towns like Banihal, Ramban, Udhampur, Bani, Kathua, Hiranagar, R.S.Pura, Tata Pani, Rajouri, etc., indicate that the terrorists were attempting to gain a foothold in new areas of the Jammu Division.
The political impasse that had been a major point of criticism against the peace initiative, was sought to be broken with the announcement, on April 5, 2001, of the appointment of K C Pant, Deputy Chairperson of the Planning Commission, as the Chief Interlocutor of the Union government on the Kashmir issue. The official announcement inter alia mentioned "The Government invites people of good-will, who desire the restoration of peace and normalcy in the State to come forward and participate in the dialogue… The doors are also not closed for Kashmiri Organisations which are currently engaged in militancy in the State but are desirous of peace."61
Considered to be a symbolic step forward in the ongoing peace process, the announcement was welcomed by many political parties and groupings across the political spectrum. A week later, Pant met Syed Mir Qasim, former Chief Minister of the State and also issued invitations to a large number of individuals, organisations and political groupings to have discussions with him. G.M. Shah’s Awami National Conference and Shabir Shah’s J&K Democratic Freedom Party also evinced keen interest in this regard. The APHC, characteristically, with uncertain posturing and ambivalent confabulations along factional lines, rejected the offer on April 27, 2001, making their proposed visit to Pakistan and the inclusion of Pakistan as a party in the parleys as pre-conditions for their participation in a dialogue. While an early and definitive assessment or a comprehensive analysis of the choice of K.C. Pant as the Center’s point man, or of his initiatives so far would be hazardous, the move is certainly a step forward.
The Pakistani Mind Set
Although the point has been belabored before, it needs to be reiterated that Pakistan’s policy of pitting itself against India since its inception has to be interpreted within the context of the political compulsions of the ruling elite of that country, who, consistently lacking legitimacy, create a mindset in which this conflict becomes an imperative of survival for them. Spreading hatred against India and keeping the Kashmir issue constantly alive and on the boil has been a major policy plank for the legitimization of successive regimes in Pakistan. Kashmir, in fact, has been a forceful unifying factor for the Pakistani polity and nationhood. Despite the failed attempts of 1947-48 and 1965, and the lack of any ‘positive movement forward’ during the violence- filled twelve years since 1989, this mindset remains unchanged. The Pakistani propaganda machine, charged and led by the Pakistani Kashmir Media Services and ably supported by the ISPR, has been working overtime to convince its people that the jehadis have been effective in countering the Indian Army’s might and that victory, meaning thereby, the annexation of J&K, is close by. The stridency of the fundamentalist right wing in Pakistan and the increasing inability of successive regimes, including the current military dictatorship, to contain them, have made Pakistan’s body politic venomous. This explains the phenomenal rise of madrassas (religious schools) as the "supply lines of jihad"62 and the increasing ‘Talibanization’ of certain sections of society, which must be a cause of concern not only for India, but for Pakistan itself.
On Kashmir and India, the quintessential hard-line Islamist interpretation of, and propaganda on, events in J&K is expressed by Lt. Gen. Javed Nasir, former Director-General of the ISI:
The Jammu based Medical Commission which examined the patients admitted in the military hospitals has warned the Indian authorities that if the Indian troops are not taken out of this perpetual state, majority of them will turn into psychos or commit suicide… Indian military high command was extremely worried that in case the Indian soldiers were not provided with immediate relief through cease-fire or pulled out of Kashmir, Indian army as a fighting machine may completely collapse… The Kashmiri Mujahideen did not miss the lesson that if a genuine military super power could be humiliated, why not a phony and fake self-proclaimed regional power could be defeated by them… The mujahideen in the last twelve years in general and those of the Fidayeen (Shaheedi groups) in last two years in particular have turned the Indians totally on the defensive… These operations have proved the most lethal weapon in the hands of the Mujahideen and have completely sunk the morale of the Indian rank and file and have forced the Indian leadership to sue for peace. It is, therefore, from the position of grave weakness and on the advice of the Indian Military High Command that the Indian government has initiated the ongoing cease-fire and peace parleys.63
On the other side of the spectrum are perceptions of certain Pakistani intellectuals and political analysts. Dawn, a Pakistani daily, in an editorial opined that the UN resolutions on J&K
…have little relevance in the changed situation of today. Moreover they may not even resolve the conflict because they offer only two choices to the people – of accession to India or Pakistan. They do not provide for a third option of independence, autonomy, condominium status or even temporary UN trusteeship. It is time both sides along with the leaders in Kashmir explored other options as well.64
In a similar vein, Syed Nooruzzaman opines,
If India’s army chief says that the Kashmir problem demands a political settlement it does not mean that the armed forces have lost their will to tame the militants trained in Pakistan or Afghanistan. It would be foolish to see in the statement any sight of weakness.65
AR Siddiqi adds a further note of caution,
While comparison with Afghanistan may be unwarranted, even odious, the prospect of replay of a divided jehad in Kashmir cannot be completely ruled out. Such a jehad tends to turn inwards and develop with inter feuding. No effort should be spared, therefore, to rein in the Kashmiri mujahideen groups before they become a challenge to Islamabad’s authority.66
Similarly, Anees Jilani observes,
The freedom fighters have not been able to accomplish much in terms of liberating territory which perhaps was never their aim; they have definitely succeeded in bleeding the Indians but Pakistan in the process has reached the life-support system… Talibanization of Pakistan may appear to many of them a much more attractive, practical and feasible preposition than liberating Kashmir or putting the house in order in Afghanistan.67
Ayaz Amir, in a well reasoned analysis takes an overview of the current situation as seen from the Pakistani perspective, and reaches the following conclusion,
India clearly stands to gain from this (peace) process. What its army in Kashmir has been unable to win, its diplomatic overtures will achieve… Even if Pakistan knows that India is beating about the bush and has no interest in a just solution of the Kashmir dispute, it should still go for the illusion of peace because no other choice lies before it. The stark truth is that jihad has no future in Kashmir… A continuation of insurgency can bleed India, as it has done with creditable results over the past decade, damage Indian prestige and keep the Valley unsettled. But it cannot secure the liberation of the State… What the Pakistan army has failed to secure in full-fledged battle, the jehadis cannot hope to achieve with their hit and run tactics…The jihadi organizations… cannot wrest Kashmir from Indian hands but their growing presence is coloring the political waters in Pakistan. The political parties stand discredited. The army is in the process of discrediting itself. The religious parties think they alone remain to be tested and that their hour has arrived.68
No reference to Pakistani perceptions would be valid or complete without taking into consideration the current military regime’s understanding of issues that have a bearing upon its posture towards India. It would be useful, consequently, to recapitulate a few important facets of the military regime’s perspectives over the last two years. While Gen. Musharraf was the Chief of Army Staff, he propounded a security doctrine that had a number of components. There is no reason to believe that any change has occurred in these perceptions. The significant aspects of this doctrine are:
However, the ascendant fundamentalist forces within Pakistan pose a critical challenge to its military regime. The General and his administration have, on a number of occasions, tried to curb the activities of the sectarian outfits, but have been forced to beat a hasty retreat. The failure of the military regime to counter the sectarian groupings will be a major factor in formulating any strategy with respect to Pakistan and its military rulers.
Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s own constituency, the Army, has thus far not been a cause for concern. He has effectively kept the Army under his own control, continuing to preside over the Corps Commanders meetings frequently and visiting formations. He has also managed to make changes at the higher levels, including the supercession of certain senior officers. The General clearly indicated that he has no intention of retiring on the completion of his ‘term’ in October 2001. Nevertheless, it is important to note that Islamic fundamentalist elements, who were inducted at the officer-level by Zia-ul-Haq in the later half of the 1970s, are currently at responsible middle and senior levels in the Army, and, consequently, a factor to be reckoned with. The fact that Qazi Hussain, Chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, felt emboldened to issue a call to the Pakistani Army to remove Gen. Musharraf during January 2001 is not an insignificant or unrelated development.70
The Options for Peace
For the peace initiative to succeed against the larger canvas of strife-torn J&K, India has to follow policies aimed at effectively thwarting Pakistan’s capacity to generate terrorism, as also to address the actual and perceived sense of alienation among the people of the State. The Union and the State governments, while acting within the parameters of clearly worked out long-term and short-term strategies must work in tandem to achieve the desired results. In a democratic polity like India, particularly keeping in view the political developments in the country during the last two decades, the rule of any single party at the national level, is highly unlikely. In a multi-party coalition structure, there is a greater need to evolve a national consensus on the Kashmir issue, across the political spectrum. Such a consensus would not only lend continuity to the Kashmir policy, but would also enable and encourage Pakistan to frame its responses on the presumption that the Kashmir policy would not undergo changes with a change in regime.
Pakistan’s role in fuelling militancy in India, particularly in J&K, and its role as a frontline state exporting Islamic terror is gradually being recognized by the international community. Changes in the attitudes of key western as also some Islamic countries towards India’s point of view have been discernible and are in direct proportion to their perception of Pakistan’s involvement in the spread of terrorism. A deliberate policy, the contours of which are currently perceptible, needs to be pursued to isolate Pakistan internationally. Policy makers at the Pakistani Foreign Ministry have, in the past, been eminently successful in projecting the image of that country in accordance with the requirements of its national policy on the Kashmir issue. It is only in the recent past that this establishment has failed to generate the desired impact on international opinion, and the initiative, for the first time, has passed on to the Indian side. Such positional advantages should be capitalized on. In the recently released Patterns of Global Terrorism 2000,71 a State Department report, the US criticized Pakistan for aiding and abetting terrorist outfits operating in J&K. However, from India’s point of view, the report still stops short of suggesting appropriate action against Pakistan, or even declaring jehadi outfits like the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen as terrorist outfits.
The state of the Pakistani economy, gradually but consistently deteriorating over the past decade, has assumed alarming proportions following the Chagai nuclear tests in May 1998 and the consequential economic sanctions imposed by Western countries and Japan. The economic base is currently sustained largely through the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) support system, and driblets of monitory transfusions from the World Bank.72 This may, therefore, be an appropriate time for Indian policy planners to take the state of the Pakistani economy into account as one of the relevant factors in their strategies to deal with that country’s acts of covert warfare. Furthermore, there has been a tendency in Pakistan, over the decades, to match India’s armed might and acquisition of military hardware. The increased defence allocations in the Indian budget during the last two years have created a sense of alarm among Pakistani analysts, and some of them firmly believe that it is no more possible for their country to continue in this race with India.73 Some see a parallel between the collapse of the erstwhile Soviet Union, induced by the US strategy that engaged its adversary in an unaffordable arms race, and what is currently happening between India and Pakistan.
In a country where the fruits of development and the largesse distributed by the Federal government accrue largely to Punjab, discontentment of the remaining three provinces, the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Baluchistan and Sindh, is a natural outcome. In fact, at the time of the creation of Pakistan, these three provinces had shown the least inclination towards the creation of Pakistan and India’s Partition. Amplifying these historical sentiments is the seething discontent among the Mohajir population, sectarian violence between the Shias and Sunnis, the pitiable condition of minorities, including the Ahmadiyas, the pressures generated by large-scale Afghan migration into Pakistan, and a history of restiveness among the Baluchis and Pakhtoons in the NWFP. Any policy aimed at generating or intensifying centrifugal forces within Pakistan would seriously undermine its capacity to continue creating problems for India.
Given the intractability of the conflict, the necessity is to undertake a soul-searching and dispassionate analysis of the wrongdoings of the Indian state, and also to identify the reasons for the disenchantment that exists among certain sections of the Kashmiri populace. Certain parts of the State, especially the Valley, have over the years been afflicted by an acute sense of real and perceived grievances. The fraternity that existed in the early period after Independence has undergone considerable dilution due to this sentiment of injury. A broad spectrum of opinion in the State holds the view that these grievances would need to be addressed before a permanent solution to the Kashmir issue can be arrived at.
As Muchkund Dubey expresses it,
The only way to make Pakistan stop cross border terrorism and accept what India regards as a realistic solution to the Kashmir problem is to bring out a change in its perception that India is losing fast in Kashmir and that Pakistan can carry on its proxy war with impunity. This change can be brought about only by winning over the Kashmiri people to India’s side. The climate created by cease-fire must be used to start a broad-based dialogue with the Kashmiri people.74
Lamenting the follies of the Indian state, Ayaz Amir observes from the other side of the border,
Great sub-continental folly is being enacted by India in Kashmir. India had fifty years to win over the Kashmiris, but it failed even to satisfy Sheikh Abdullah whose sympathies lay with India not Pakistan. From 1972 to 1989 Pakistan just forgot about Kashmir. First, because it had the loss of East Pakistan to come to terms with. Secondly, because Zia was embroiled in Afghanistan. Were not 18 years long enough to woo the Kashmiris and bind them to mother India? They would have been, if Indian policy had been driven by statesmanship rather than by a search for petty and short term advantages.75
A more impassioned appeal to take a fresh look at the policies being followed in respect of the people of J&K would be difficult to find. The broad secular outlook of the people of J&K, particularly those in the Valley, has, in the recent times, been poisoned by an element of exclusionary fundamentalism. This phenomenon preceded the onset of terrorism by more than a decade. Pakistani operatives utilized the fundamentalist element within the State to further their policies. The Jamaat-e-Islami of J&K, a pernicious and pro-Pak fundamentalist organization propagating the Islamization of society, runs over 250 madrassas (religious schools)76 where the younger generation of Muslims are fed a distorted view of history that provoke anti-Hindu and anti-India sentiments. With the Imams in a majority of Sunni mosques in the State under its influence and control, the JEI carries out a virulent propaganda and disinformation campaign regarding the conditions of Muslims in the rest of India. The JEI leadership’s recent efforts to move away from the terrorist leadership and project a moderate image should correctly be recognized as a ploy to secure a reprieve and gain time for a process of regrouping and reorganization.
Good governance is thought to be one of the most effective ways of securing the confidence of the people. An administration, which is responsive to the needs of the people and succeeds in addressing their problems, can hardly be in an adversarial relationship with the governed. As Amitabh Mattoo observes,
The battle, therefore, to win back the hearts and minds of Kashmiri people is today seen as being critical not just for recovery of the ideals that inspired Indian nationhood, but central to the war against obscurantism and fundamentalism, especially of the Islamic variety… there is a realization that Kashmir must no longer be dealt with the kind of political ineptitude and bureaucratic inertia that has often characterized New Delhi’s policies towards many other states over the last decades.77
With a steady increase in the level of expectations of the people, the Union as well as the State governments must undertake a sustained effort to ensure an administration which is not only people-friendly, but is also perceived to be so.
The Way Ahead
Jessica Stern has most appropriately described the conditions currently prevailing in Pakistan,
Pakistan is a weak state, and government policies are making it weaker still. Its disastrous economy, exacerbated by a series of corrupt leaders, is at the root of many of its problems. Yet despite its poverty, Pakistan is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on weapons instead of schools and public health. Ironically, the government’s "cost-saving" measures are even more troubling. In trying to save money in the short run by using irregulars in Kashmir and relying on Madrassas to educate its youth, Pakistan is pursuing a path that is likely to be disastrous in the long run, allowing a culture of violence to take root… Most important, Pakistan must recognize the militant groups for what they are: dangerous gangs whose resources and reach continue to grow, threatening to destabilize the entire region. Pakistan’s continued support of religious militant groups suggests that it does not recognize its own susceptibility to the culture of violence it has helped create.78
However, despite a host of problems that Pakistan is facing today, including internal instability, a precarious economic situation, the lack or collapse of nation building institutions, etc., it is clear that the Pakistani state is not likely to ‘go under’ in the foreseeable future. Policies and strategies that are based on the presumption of Pakistan’s disintegration are hazardous. Any dialogue or peace process with Pakistan must, consequently, take into account the abiding status and power of the Pakistani Army and must also accommodate the fact that this status and power is, in turn, dependent upon a continuation of the conflict in Kashmir. This seemingly contradictory requirement and impasse can only be broken if the Pakistani Army is made to realize that, contrary to its belief, the cost of its continued involvement in fostering terrorism in J&K would be prohibitive. Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Satish Nambiar articulates a more aggressive version of such a strategy:
The proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir has crossed the limits of tolerance. Pakistan must be made to pay a price for it. Any overt violation of LOC or border must be used as an opportunity to hit at the militant bases and training camps inside Pakistan and POK with whatever weaponry is considered necessary including the Airforce. This may result in escalation to a full-fledged war and we should be prepared for it. If the Pakistan military leadership, wants war, let them have it. It would be preferable to fight that war than bleed slowly as in the present proxy war.79
Commencing with instigating and inspiring local terrorists during the early phases of the movement in J&K, Pakistan worked itself up to the creation of anti-Indian terrorist outfits within Pakistan. These jehadis are educated, groomed and moulded in the madrassas of Pakistan, which have mushroomed across the country during the last two decades. From a modest number of 137 in 1947, their number grew phenomenally to 8000 in the year 1998. Their current strength is estimated in the region of 40,000 and 50,000.80 The support that a significant part of the lower middle class and poorer sections of the Pakistani society provide to the ‘supply lines for jihad’ has lent a certain ‘legitimacy’ to the tide of religious fundamentalism currently sweeping Pakistan. A leading Pakistani daily Nawa-e-Waqt underscores this, observing that, "India is frightened of Jehad and is now trying to mislead the world by declaring unilateral cease-fire. Pakistan should not deviate from jehad as it is a religious binding on us." 81
A significant development relating to the proliferation of the ‘schools of hate’ is the autonomous character that these madrassas are widely perceived to have acquired. Although the roots of the proliferation of madrassas and creation of jehadi outfits are traced to Zia-ul-Haq’s vigorous use of Islam for state legitimization, these vitriolic outfits have broken progressively free of the constraints of their sponsoring agencies. The principal-agent character of the ‘schools of hate’ is witnessing considerable uncertainty, with many analysts indicating that the interests and alignments of the two are increasingly ambivalent.82 Moreover, the capacity of the jehad factories to churn out terrorists is certainly well above the level of attrition that the Indian security apparatus has been able to inflict. Thus, counter-insurgency measures ought not to fall victim to the numbers game, as a few hundred additional jehadis killed over a particular period of time is not an appropriate indicator – particularly of the non-Kashmiri terrorists – of the strength of the jehadi structure.
The leaders of terrorist groups, both underground as well as over ground, must be considered and dealt with as terrorists and criminals, since "to appease them is to reward terror…. on each occasion when a legitimate, democratically elected regime seems to negotiate with terrorists or with their front organizations, it undermines the basic edifice and viability of the democratic order, not only in its own region, but across the world."83 As the Geneva Conventions are not applicable to such armed conflicts, state retribution must be particularly stringent and should appear to be so to the target groups.
Further, the state’s quest to win the hearts and minds of the populace has encouraged fundamentalist organizations to jostle for and optimize space for themselves, and be recognized as the ‘true representatives’ of the Kashmiris. This is a pitfall which needs be avoided and dialogue or discussions ought to be initiated with parties and groups that have established their credentials as representatives of the people in real terms or have demonstrated credibility and leverage to influence the activities of the terrorists in the State.
On the Indian side, it should be understood that peace can only be achieved from a position of strength, and such strength must be demonstrable and demonstrated. No adversary, particularly of the jehadi kind, will negotiate for peace when it perceives itself to be in a stronger position – an illusion that is currently dominant amongst the terrorist outfits. Moreover, an over-emphasis on the credence and faith of the international community and the hope that Pakistan will mend its ways under diplomatic pressure or economic burden brought to bear upon her is ill-founded. Pakistan has been impervious to such pressures in the past, a stance unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.
One of the oft-repeated solutions put forth to the Kashmir issue is the conversion of the LoC into an International border. Certain political establishments of the State have consistently followed this line of thought ever since 1947, and continue to pursue such an agenda. A dispassionate evaluation, however, exposes serious pitfalls and the irreparable damage to the national interests that could be done if this course is adopted. Hypothetically, even if the LOC does become the international border, this in itself does not guarantee an end to the problems in J&K, and would still leave intact the demands for autonomy, as also the possibility that such a ‘concession’ may well encourage extremists to adopt and pursue a more ambitious agenda. Furthermore, the internal dimensions of the problem would remain unattended and may even be exacerbated. Such a course of action is also fraught with certain geo-strategic dimensions that impinge upon India’s security. Accepting the current border as a permanent dividing line between the two countries, in effect, would mean the renunciation of India’s claims to the territories comprising not only Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) but also the entire Northern Area,84 regarded as areas of "vital importance."85
Peace is not only a desirable objective, but is a necessary goal in the context of the current situation in J&K. However, peace should not be pursued through compromises on vital issues of national interest and ideology. The Indian strategy should, rather, follow two-pronged imperatives: effective counter-insurgency measures combined with purposeful efforts and programmes to redress the legitimate grievances of the people through good governance. The current peace initiative in J&K has been a unidirectional attempt and a probing mission. It has been aptly described as not being ‘reality based’ in any meaningful sense, and lacking in any concrete strategic foundations. "It is, by and large, in the nature of a ‘fishing expedition’: in the absence of a consistent or coherent policy to force a breakthrough in J&K… a random element has been introduced to destabilize established equations in the hope that it may set in motion a positive chain that could, in the uncertain future, produce desired results. This is not a plan; it is a gamble. And it is destined to fail for far too many reasons."86
The Indian state will have to devise a set of strategies far more coherent and effective than such a gamble, if it is to thwart Pakistan’s designs and murderous proxies in J&K.