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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

“Kashmir 2014: A Review and Prognosis”

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The Internal Security Centre at IDSA conducted a talk by Lieutenant General Syed Ata Hasnain (retd) 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 agency has the strength and capacity to pursue the agenda of simultaneously preventing terrorist revival and stabilization. However, the Army’s presence and lead status will always be exploited by inimical elements to question the Government’s intent and resolve to integrate Kashmir. Continuing antipathy towards the Indian establishment, disappointment in governance, unresolved issues of thousands of surrendered terrorists, failure to take stock of the youth, and most importantly the growth of radicalization in Jammu and Kashmir, will continue to add to the negativity surrounding the transition.

Therefore, it may be wrong to assume that the role of the Army is over. While the Army’s place at the remote LoC is well accepted its continuing presence in the urban hinterland is hotly contested by local political parties, ideologues, separatists, intellectuals and human rights activists. In this context, Gen Hasnain conveyed his perception that the Rashtriya Rifles (RR) (which largely manages the hinterland) was raised not only for a militaristic purpose but also for a larger national aim of integrating the Kashmiris with India politically, socially, economically and most importantly, psychologically. The demand for a drawdown of the RR is likely to gather strength in the near future but must not be accepted until completion of the full integration process is completed. He stated that thus far the Army has done its work well; however, it has been successful in eliminating the terrorists but not terrorism in J&K.

Further, while talking about Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Hasnain prompted at certain conditions that had first demanded its creation – Pakistan sponsored terrorism, protection of all communities (for instance the Kashmiri Pandits) and symbols of national pride. Highlighting the fact that most of these conditions have still not been met he did not see the logic of getting rid of AFSPA. Moreover, even the army can only expect its soldiers to function best once it guarantees legal protection in case of inadvertent mistakes and empowerment to co-conduct operations without reference. As far as the human rights issues are concerned, it would be important to keep in mind that in an active Counter Insurgency environment, a good number of cases can fall prey to manipulation, which only puts immense pressure on the Army, diverting its attention.

What should be done necessarily to avoid falling for these manipulative triggers? To begin with, the answer most importantly lies in perception management. The army needs to get its perceptions correct. It has to change its narrative and show every Kashmiri that the army is not the enemy of the people. Operation Sadbhavana has to move forward to build a more people-oriented approach where dignity and self-esteem of the average Kashmiri is accentuated. And this can be done, for instance, by managing the force ethos and keeping in mind the cultural sensitivities of the people. The Army therefore needs to pay much more attention towards cultural training of its rank and file so as to respect the sensitivities of the local population.

Overall, for Gen Hasnain, militarily the situation is under control. It is unlikely that 2014 will be a template similar to 1989 (when the Soviet Army withdrew from Afghanistan), and ISAF withdrawal is unlikely to lead to a major influx of foreign terrorists; the security forces just need to ensure that the overall terrorist counts do not rise. What is perhaps more dangerous is that there still is a potential for violence, which is constantly being fuelled by anti-India sentiments and cries of separatist radicalism amongst the people. However, the state can take stock of this situation, mainly by outreach and a greater connectivity between Delhi and Srinagar. True victory will only be achieved when every Kashmiri will start considering himself as an Indian.

Key points that were raised during the discussions:

One of the major factors furthering conflict in Kashmir is the huge amount of financial assistance from outside India for various radical and fundamentalist purposes.

More often major focus from the security, political and development discourses have always been concentrated on Kashmir valley whereas the areas like Jammu and Ladakh are hardly attended. There is a need to address the issues in these areas as well.

Points were raised regarding the status of Kashmir Pandits and their return to the valley. This aspect necessarily puts a question mark on the inclusiveness of the Kashmiri society these days.

It has been felt that there rules a sense of victimization among the Kashmiris by the state of India in general and by the Army in particular. This perception, most of the time, over rules all the good intentions of the state establishment.

Many outside Kashmir have a feeling that the problem in Kashmir is a self-created one. There are vested interests of the power elite in the state, which as believed by many, tries to keep the conflict in continuity.

[Report Prepared by Husanjot Chahal]

Originally published by Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (www.idsa.in)here.

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DEFENCE-SECURITY

Army Foils Attack on J&K Air Force Station

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An attempt by two-three militants to attack a Water Pump House outside Air Force Station at Awantipora in Pulwama District was foiled by alert guards on February 20.

“2-3 (militants) fired and lobbed a grenade at the Air Force Water Pump House Malangpora located outside Air Force Station Awantipora at around 1730 hours today [February 20]. The fire was effectively retaliated by alert sentries,” a Defence Ministry spokesman said.

“The (militants) fled. There is no loss of life or property (in the incident),” the spokesman said, adding searches have been launched to trace the attackers. “The search operation is underway,” the spokesman said.

A Police officer said that Army and Police cordoned off area but militants managed to escape. “No arrests were made so far,” the officer said.

Police and 55 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) of Army cordoned off Narbal village of Pulwama District after reports about the presence of militants in the village on February 20 evening.

As the Security Forces (SFs) laid the cordon, people of the village came out and pelted stones at the SFs who fired in the air to disperse them. They also fired tear smoke to disperse the protesters. The cordon was, however, on when last reports came in.

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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

Al Qaeda Claims the Killing of a Separatist Leader in Jammu and Kashmir

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File Picture of Zakir Musa, the Head of Al Qaeda (India)

A week after two unidentified gunmen killed former militant commander and Kashmiri separatist leader, Mohammad Yusuf Rather, shooting him dead inside a passenger vehicle, the police are investigating claims made by al Qaeda’s Kashmir head, Zakir Musa, that the killing was carried out to warn Hurriyat parties against pursuing secularism.

Rather, who was associated with All Parties Hurriyat Conference-Geelani (APHC-G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani for the last 14 years, was killed by two gunmen on February 12, when he was travelling from Beerwah in Budgam to his house in the same district. Two pistol-wielding men who were sitting in the back seat of a vehicle fired at his head and later fled from the place.

League of India had reported the story here:
http://leagueofindia.com/internal-challenges/separatist-leader-shot-dead-in-jammu-and-kashmir/

Later, Zakir Musa allegedly released an audio file claiming that he ordered his men to kill the Hurriyat leader. He also said that Kashmir’s battle will not be political but in order to establish the rule of Islam. In the audio clip, he is heard saying:

“These dishonest Hurriyat leaders don’t understand. If they want to run their politics, they shouldn’t become a thorn in our way, or else we will chop off their heads and display them at Lal Chowk. This is why we had to kill Mohammad Yusuf Rather.”

In the same audio clip, Musa further added:

“Our Kashmir’s battle is for ensuring glorification of Islam and we will establish the Shariah system of Islam. My appeal to all who want to enforce religion is that it should be followed first by oneself. We should become dear to Allah and tie the rope of the Almighty with strength and not repose faith on anyone else.”

Zakir Musa is the head of al Qaeda affiliate Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, and the fresh audio release came a few months after he had accused Pakistan of ‘back-stabbing militants’, following US’ attack on Afghanistan.

In his previous audio message, he had said that even as foreign militants were fighting in Kashmir, the Pakistani government got militants killed, and even closed the training camps.

However, the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Central Kashmir Range, Ghulam Hassan Bhat, said that a case has been registered after Rather’s killing, and they are looking into the audio clip as well. “We are also going through call records of the deceased, and have questioned the driver in whose vehicle Rather was heading home,” Bhat said.

According to Police officials, two pistol-wielding persons were sitting in the back seat of a vehicle on February 12. At around 4.40 pm, they fired at Rather, killing him immediately. The police then handed over his body to Rather’s family members, after which a case was registered.

APHC-G spokesman Gulam Ahmad Gulzar said that as the general secretary of the separatist outfit Tehreke Wahadati Islami, Rather was associated with the Geelani-led faction since 2004. He said that he was the deputy chief commander of the now non-existent militant outfit Hizb-ul-Momineen in the early 1990s before he joined the separatist conglomerate. “He was an important Hurriyat (G) leader and a member of our executive council,” he said.

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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

A Day After the Killing of a NCP Leader, IED found in Meghalaya

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Security Forces (SFs) on February 20 recovered an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) at Nengmandalgre in East Garo Hills. Police suspect Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) to be behind the incident, in an attempt to sabotage the ensuing election in the state.

Earlier on February 18, a National Congress Party (NCP) leader was killed with three others in East Garo Hills in an IED explosion.

The Meghalaya Police suspect GNLA ‘chief’ Sohan D Shira to be behind the February 18 IED blast in East Garo Hills District.

Separately, Police Observer for West Garo Hills District along with General Observer reviewed the law and order situation in East Garo Hills on February 20. The Police observer stated that they were in touch with Border Security Forces with regard to the movement of militants in border areas. Moreover, the election candidates and their agents have placed their request for additional security while highlighting few sensitive polling stations in their respective constituencies.

East Garo Hills Police Superintendent of Police (SP) stated that ‘We are strongly suspect the involvement of the GNLA chief behind this IED blast since we had carried out an operation on Monday (February 19) night after receiving inputs that Sohan was a village’. However, the militant escaped following which operations have been intensified in the whole area.

Moreover, Meghalaya Director General of Police (DGP) stated that evidence to the killing of the NCP candidate points to the role of the GNLA outfit and said credible leads are being obtained.

While clearly indicating the role of GNLA, DGP also voiced concern over the presence of surrendered rebels in the company of the slain politician. He also added that they were seeking more Paramilitary Forces from the Government of India.

In addition, DGP also added that standard security procedures were allegedly not followed by the NCP candidate leading to the attack. The NCP candidate is said to have informed district authorities about his election campaign meetings for a few select villages in Samanda block. But, he reportedly overstepped his area of the political campaign by going deeper into the remote region where previous militant activities have taken place.

DGP also added that ‘It is a known fact that GNLA ‘commander-in-chief’ Sohan Shira has been targeting former members of his group who surrendered to authorities. Last year’s killing of their surrendered finance secretary Rakkam Shira and former ‘action commander’ Kamdat are examples of the outfit’s intention’.

Also, threatening posters against the NCP candidate who was killed on February 19 were found in Chimagre, Nengkhra Darimgre, Damagre, Chisobibra and Samanda Dolwagre in East Garo Hills District.

Similar posters were visible even prior to the 2013 Assembly polls in parts of Williamnagar and the role of the suspected GNLA outfit was pointed out then by the deceased candidate. According to sources, the militants, though less in number had better human intelligence network compared to police as far as the incident in Williamnagar is concerned.

Moreover, the Police and election authorities’ machinery had not expected such a violent incident since militancy was on the downslide in Garo Hills.

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