India misreading signals from the Kashmir Valley

Kadayam Subramanian September 25, 2016 11:46 AM (UTC+8)
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The terrorist attack on a military base in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, was the result of India’s failure in reading, interpreting and acting on the signals coming from the Kashmir Valley which is overwhelmed by failures in governance and justice delivery. The assault was probably masterminded by discontented elements of the Kashmiri population rather than by Jaish-e-Mohammad. India should hold bilateral talks with Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute. Relevant UN agencies should also be involved in finding a solution to the decades-old problem.

The terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) was behind the September 18 attack on the military base in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, according to India’s Director General of Military Operations Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh.

Indian army soldiers carry a coffin containing the body of their fallen colleague Ravi Paul, who was killed in Sunday's attack at an Indian army base in Kashmir's Uri, during his funeral in Sarwa village
Indian army soldiers carry a coffin containing the body of their fallen colleague Ravi Paul, who was killed in Sunday’s attack at an Indian army base in Kashmir’s Uri, during his funeral in Sarwa village in Samba district, south of Jammu, September 19. REUTERS/Mukesh Gupta

But JEM claims on its website that the attack was launched by “homegrown Kashmiri Mujahedeen”.

Lt. Gen. Singh’s view was probably based on reports by the Military Intelligence or by the central Intelligence Bureau. To a former intelligence official and policy adviser in the Union Home Ministry like the present writer, official intelligence reports are often motivated and misleading or over-classified to prevent close scrutiny by receiving agencies. They are often self-serving.

An intelligence specialist cites an inspector general of the Border Security Force posted on the Kashmir frontier to the effect that a large number of militants from across the border have sneaked into the region. This supports the Modi government’s view that Pakistan is instigating violence in the Valley. But Pakistan has no need to send terrorists across the border just to throw stones at security forces. Something more sinister is to be expected from Islamabad.

An intelligence report of September 19 states that the entire intelligence process had broken down in the Valley. A “senior police officer” reportedly said that the multiagency center (MAC) in Srinagar which is meant to “fuse” counterterror intelligence from different agencies has not met since protests began in the Valley on July 9.

Another “top police officer” said no reliable figures on successful infiltration attempts could be collated since “the protests have caused a breakdown in our information network.”

A former Indian army chief said India should raise its own suicide bombers. A ruling party bigwig wants to take an “entire jaw for a tooth”. This is just political grandstanding.

The United States, on whom India depends for moral support, has been ambivalent on New Delhi’s aggressive posture on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Balochistan. A US State Department spokesperson has over the past few days distanced Washington from India’s position on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and Balochistan and Pakistan’s involvement in terrorism.

A loyal and contented local public is the best guarantor against foreign aggression, militancy and terrorism. During the 1947-48 Kashmir operations, it was not only India’s soldiers who drove away the Pakistan-sponsored “raiders” but also an enthusiastic local population — including the organized cadre of Sheikh Abdullah.

The present governments in Srinagar and New Delhi have failed to make sincere efforts to talk to all sections of the Valley’s people and hear their grievances and enlist their loyalty.

The Pakistan Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif’s, address at the current UN General Assembly session (September 21) on Indo-Pak relations and recent developments in the Kashmir Valley was factual, verifiable and persuasive. His description of Burhan Wani as a leader and freedom and call for self-determination must be appreciated in their proper context.

Sharif did not refer to human rights violations in Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) because Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken advantage of these in his Independence Day address on August 15.

Sharif expressed willingness to hold unconditional talks with India but New Delhi responded to it with a big brother attitude.

In fact composite dialogue processes were set in motion during 2004-2008. As confidence-building measures were put in place across the line of control and the international border and the hugely popular bus services between the two countries resumed, border trade increased significantly. But the dialogue process was suspended on the initiative of India.

Narendra Modi began well as Prime Minister in May 2014 by initiating steps to improve relations with Pakistan despite that country’s stated position that the people of Kashmir were a party to the Indo-Pak dispute. But Modi’s government did not want the All Party Hurriyat Conference to be involved in the dialogue.

Ideally, a parallel engagement between New Delhi and Islamabad is needed along with an engagement between New Delhi and Srinagar, which however has not occurred. The improvement in relations between India and Pakistan has always led to a peaceful situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Hurriyat Conference feels India has been taking contradictory positions on Kashmir. According to Hurriyat, to global players, India says Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. To Pakistanis, India says Kashmir is an internal matter and to Hurriyat, it says Kashmir is an integral part of India. Hurriyat, on its part, wants India to accept Kashmir as a disputed territory between the two countries.

Following the 2008 terror attack on Mumbai, India has put in place an impressive counterterrorism setup. Four National Security Guard (NSG) units have come into existence in Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad. A fifth one is being set up in Randesan in Gujarat. An integrated intelligence network called NATGRID is still being talked about as being in a ‘nascent stage’. Further, a National Counter Terrorism Centre has come up. A Multi-Agency Centre unifying the several operational units is supposed to be functioning in all the states.

Although Modi continues to be popular in India, a Pew Survey recently found that just 22 percent of the Indian public approves of Modi’s management of India’s volatile relationship with Pakistan. Half of them disapprove.

The writer is a former Director General of Police in India and author of several books including ‘Political Violence and the Police in India, Sage, 2007 and ‘State, Policy and Conflicts in Northeast India, Routledge, 2016

The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Asia Times.

Kadayam Subramanian
Kadayam Subramanian is former Director, Research and Policy Division, Union Home Ministry, Government of India, and former Director General of Police in Northeast India. He is the author, among others, of Political Violence and the Police in India, Sage, 2007, and State, Policy and Conflicts in Northeast India, Routledge, 2016
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