Northern Region: Policy Planning and Security Concerns

By Dr. K.N. Pandit

Our country has 7,683 kilometre-long coastlines; its economic zone is over 2 million square kilometres in size and we have 15,000 kilometres of border with seven countries.

For a population o f 1.12 billion souls our total defence budget is 3 billion US dollars. The US, with a population almost one fourth of ours only one department connected with the security of the country namely FBI, has the annual budget of 7.1 billion dollars, two and a half times larger than our total defence budget.

The US spends 4.1 % of GDP on defence, China spends 4.3 %, Pakistan 3 % and our country spends 2 %.

After terrorists attacks increased, UK installed 10,000 video surveillance units in London with a population of 4 million people which means one unit for every 14 people. In our country, six especially trained Pakistani terrorists equipped with most modern assault weaponry pierced the coast-guard defence line imperceptibly, changed their boat, came ashore under the eye of the guards, opened their roadmaps, headed towards earmarked targets and held at gun point the great economic metropolitan of Mumbai with nearly a 100 million population for sixty hours. During the execution of the assault, terrorists were conversing with, and receiving strategically crucial instructions from their Pakistan-based mentors on mobiles who formulated them on the basis of telecasts of our national TV channels.

The N.N. Vohra Committee Report of 1999 on Internal Security has been either consigned to its labyrinthine trash bin in Home and Defence Ministries or safely passed on by the to moles willing to sell their soul to Mephistopheles.

In the State of Jammu and Kashmir, our security perceptions encompass four areas, viz.:

  • I: Maintaining territorial integrity of the Indian State.
  • II: Countering internal subversion.
  • III: Integrating the State into national mainstream, and
  • IV: Restructuring foreign policy to offset Kashmir-centric pressures.

Benchmark for each area of concern has to be as follows:

Area No. I:

This comprises physical and mechanical surveillance of border viz.
(i) 942 km long LoC with Pakistan (Kashmir 460 km, Jammu 205 km and Siachin, Ladakh 336 km.)
(ii) 365 km long border with China in Ladakh sector
(iii) 465 km long border with China
This is not only an enormously long border but also a forbidding terrain with eastern Himalayan/Karakorum ranges of sub-zero temperature and tortuous topography.

Insulating LoC against infiltration and subversion is normally tackled by armed forces. But complementary measures like evacuation of civilian population from vulnerable spots all along the live border, and with the collaboration of civilian authorities, their re-location in safer zones nearby, combined civilian and military administration of the vacated areas, formation of Civilian Intelligence Input Groups (CIIG) in which each group of 10 to 15 alert civilians will be led by a Coordinator accountable to MI stratum, upgrading of logistical backup like means of communication and transportation, installing surveillance gadgets including night visions, tunnelling of crucial and strategic military and observation post, intermittent aerial surveys, and rapid assault strategy are among the suggested measures.

Area No II:

Internal subversion has two components: (a) militancy over-ground and under-ground. Though operating in their specific style, the elements converge on identical destination. Their tentacles are spread in the valley, three Muslim dominated districts in Jammu region and Kargil district. Underground subversion is extensive and has made moles in various segments of civil society, bureaucracy, sections of police force, local intelligence apparatus and vast secretarial and administrative staff.

Second component of internal subversion is of counterfeit political class, the unsuspected adepts in double speak who can lead or mislead the masses as the situation demands. They are secularists and nationalists abroad but rabid Islamists at home. Six years is too long a period for the electorate to wait and see them out through democratic process. A mechanism is needed to remedy this malaise. Their constituency dissenters need to be given space and reasonable credence.

Internal subversion may not be successfully countered unless an extensive, effective and sustained endeavour is made to educate masses of people in theoreticl and practical facets of secular democracy. Indian secularist- democratic concept has to reach the toiling masses, the labourer, peasant, bread earner and street vendor. They cannot be left to the haranguing of either the pseudo-secularists political leader on a public platform or the rhetoric-exuding clergy in the prayer house. This endeavour should not preclude nation-wide promotion of NGOs’-sponsored study-room culture to strengthen our patent political philosophy. These study circles will not only curb divisive or exclusivist tendencies but will also and perhaps more significantly provide space for nationalist and inclusive approach to our problems and political behaviour.

Area No. III:

Integrating the State into national mainstream is of vital importance. Why do voices like “alienation of Kashmiris” or “discrimination against Kashmir” etc. rise when J&K State receives the largest grants from New Delhi so much so that the GDP per annum computes to Rs. 9,754.00 per capita, the highest in the country? Why the cries of “starving” the State when J&K Bank, the State owned bank, recorded gross income of rupees 1,849 crores in 2005? Vaishnov Devi yatra inject 475 crore rupees annually into the state’s economy. Why are there demands for “greater autonomy” when the population of the Sate increased from 5.9 million in 1981 to 7.72 million in 2008 of which 67 % are Muslims?

Obviously, there is a formidable roadblock somewhere obstructing camaraderie between the giver and the taker.

The builder of Article 370 once, commenting on the provision had made a laconic remark: “ghiste ghiste ghis jaega”. What happened is the revise; it has become a juggernaut. Visionaries in early fifties had feared in it a threat to territorial integrity and national sovereignty. They stand vindicated.

Good deal of water has flowed down the river. Without diluting the spirit of this Article, a workable mechanism needs to be devised through serious contemplative and constructive process so that the gains from the spirit of integration of the State into national mainstream overflow those which might be obtained from rigid and inflexible adherence to the letter of the Article but not its spirit. The large-heartedness of Indian civil society deserves appreciation for welcoming Kashmiris to be the new settlers if they like on the plains of India. Enrolment of hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri students in country’s higher, technical and professional institutes erodes negative presumption of Article 370.

Regional political parties definitely have an onerous role. It is truer in the case of J&K where the history of anti-monarchy movement goes to early 1930s. But to project other political parties especially of national character as anti-Kashmiri either by ideology or by policy is misuse of historical backlog. Instead of closing the windows on the mind of the masses of people, these should be left wide open to let fresh air come and pass. Religions are threatened in theocracies but not in democracies. Late Dr. Shama Prasad Mukerjee was interned because he demanded entry to and from the State free for Indian citizens. .Today the State and Central governments both rushed to open all routes along the LoC.

Planning the fortification of nationalist-secularist commitment of mainstream political groups in the State with monitored extended reach to grassroots level has to be a priority with local leadership.. In other words it means mass level involvement in nation building process along the fundamental principles of Indian nation state. It also implies devising flexibility mechanism for hitherto rigid boundaries set up by Article 370 of the Constitution of India and corresponding clauses of J&K Constitution. Gagging the mouth of dissent is not as rewarding as boosting the voice of assent. Kashmiri Muslim society is no exception to a worldwide struggle of modernist and moderate Muslims against conservatism and orthodoxy. The latter being a tide against the times can be arrested only by promoting the former.

In the context of integrating the State into national mainstream, an important ingredient is its industrialization without damaging its ecology. Free flow of industrialization activity is impeded by some constitutional constraints. State leadership has to rise to occasion, overcome the hindrances and let industrialization and modernization change the quality of life. The 2.5 billion dollar Kashmir Railway provides crucial infrastructure for the growth of industrial climate in the State. The misgiving of Kashmir political leadership about Indian industrial giants devouring Kashmir is tantamount to self-delusion. Without industrial base, neither tourism nor horticulture, the two mainstay areas of Kashmir economy, can make no headway.

Area No. IV:

Let us be candid about our mishandling of Kashmir from day one. Initially we were misled by fake nationalist-secularist aura created around the accession of the state to the Indian Union. A national freedom movement is to be differentiated from an anti-monarchy political arrangement. National freedom movements emerge from streets and squares but not from mosques, temples or churches. A national movement in truth harmonizes communal, ethnic, linguistic, cultural and other susceptibilities, but mosque-based politics create cleavages and exclusivist temperament. Special status syndrome, therefore, is more detrimental than beneficial to regional as well as national interests because it stimulates and insolates exclusionism.

We need to create conditions of inclusiveness. For weak statesmanship appeasement serves a safety valve. Vote banks are created but the cost paid is national consciousness. A prospective candidate of party wins but the nation loses.

Political pundits tell us that a country’s foreign policy is the extension of her domestic policy. Three segments of international opinion taking cue from our domestic policy, venture to be our baiters on Kashmir issue. These are Anglo-American bloc, Pakistan-prompted Islamic bloc and China-led Leftist bloc. All the three blocs have their respective moles in the structure of our policy, and our media is usually hungry of malicious expositions, at the same time taking shelter behind the clauses of civil liberty.

The Anglo-US bloc is motivated by its political and economic interests in Central and South Asian regions. The Islamic-bloc, under Saudi largesse and American-Saudi combined pressure group tactics, wants to draw mileage from weak-kneed India’s acquiescence to bash it on Kashmir and endear itself to the Americans. China is two primary motives, covet and claim more and more territory along the Sino-Indian border, and prop up the enemy of an enemy so that India does not come up as leading Asian power.

An objective and history-based study of this triangular security concern should convince us that they draw inspiration not essentially from any military weakness but from our cramped domestic policy, our loose intelligence structure, our pusillanimous political leadership, our bureaucratic labyrinthine and our inherent inability to come to grips with brass-tacks of Kashmir situation. We always called a spade by different catchwords but not by its proper name.

Do we need constitutional, legal and administrative measures to arrest the rot? Can we create national consensus on crucial issues like national security, democratic secularism as the foundation of Indian nation state, will to face challenge to national sovereignty and territorial integrity and the strength to refuse to be hoodwinked on regional and global strategic issues of far-reaching consequences.

We have energy stakes in the Gulf region, in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and the Caspian Shelf in Central Asia. We have strategic and security stakes in Myanmar, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal where China is opening her fangs. We have stakes in the Makran coastline where China has built for Pakistan the Gawadar seaport likely to challenge surveillance cruising of Indian warships in international waters. We have security stakes in Afghanistan and Tajikistan. We have stakes in the Karakorum where the China-built Karakorum Highway runs close to our borderline; we have stakes in Aksaichin where the Chinese have brought the railway link close to the illegally occupied 5,000 sq kilometres of our territory ceded to her by Pakistan in 1963, and we have stakes in Xinjiang, the eastern Chinese province especially Kashghar and Khotan close to Shahidullah Pass where Uighurs are trained, armed and made mobile by Pakistani Islamic activists. We have stakes in parts of NWFP adjoining PoK territories where Pakistan-sponsored terrorist camps are training Kashmiri militants for subversion in the valley. Keeping this political landscape in view, we shall have to throw off cumbersome and impractical baggage of self-created moral constraints for our foreign policy. The world is tired of timidity of a country holding one fourth of total human population on the globe. It beckons us to shake off our lethargy, and also something of our conventional wisdom, and when we shake the world, too, will have to shake.

Achha hai sath dil ke rahe pasban-e aql
Lekin kabhi kabhi ise tanha bhi chhor do

(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

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