By Lt Gen PR Shankar (R)
This is an extension of my article The Road Beyond 370
The Views Across
Abrogation of Article 370 and associated actions have given us tremendous initiative and has shocked Pakistani thinkers and establishment. The rug has been pulled from under their feet. For Pakistan the issue is not Kashmir. It is about Pakistani revenge on India in which Kashmir and its people are only pawns. Their reactions and views, though predictably anti India and pro Pakistan/ Kashmir are balanced and realistic to their situation as they see it. There is unanimity on issues….. Pakistan is facing one of its toughest challenges which it will find hard to meet if it remains stuck in its traditional mode of thinking on Kashmir…. Pakistani options are limited…. War is no option…. Promoting Jihad could ensure that the FATF sword falls on them…. The economy is in distress zone…. No one is waiting with garlands in UNSC for the Pakistani complaint. But… If it had been US or China which had done this to them, they would have reconciled or rationalised about it. They might have even kept quiet like they are – over treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang. However, in their perception… since it is Modi, it is Hindutva and it is India who have dealt a body blow to Pakistan, it is unacceptable and must be revenged. Make no mistake. The convoluted psyche of Pakistan will not permit them to sit back and watch India walk away with the cake. Pakistan is an inventive nation in such matters. We must therefore prepare for the unexpected. Pakistan will generate options and put them into play, even if they are suicidal.
Most Indian analyses touch on all the above issues and opine that we must focus on the people, provide a healing touch, close out Pakistani actions, generate political solutions, maintain security etc. All that is fine. However, our actions while promoting our line of thought should endeavour to stymie the Pakistani lines of action and keep them off balance. The abrogation of Article 370 has complicated the ground situation. The middle ground could literally vanish. We still must tackle the external dimension from Pakistan and the internal one from a section of people in the Valley; a generation of which will never reconcile to the change. However, I am presently focusing on the external Pakistan driven dimension and how will we have to deal with it? As I write this, Pakistan is enacting some of these lines of action.
The Lines of Action
The external dimensions are surprisingly well laid out by Pakistani thinkers and opinion makers. The lines of action which are to be expected from Pakistan have been culled out from opinion pieces and are reproduced as quotes below. The references from Pakistan are at the end for further detailed reading. There would be more complimentary lines of action opening as days progress and the situation evolves. I have no doubt. However, ignoring these lines of Pakistani action will deprive us of the initiative and shift the balance back to the other side of the LoC.
Centre of Gravity
“The centre of gravity of our national power lies in our armed forces”
There is no doubt the Deep State is the Centre Of Gravity of Pakistan. Attack it and discredit it before it undertakes any maverick action. A major line of action should be to show to Pakistan that its Army was incapable of protecting its core values when the time came. All our actions must focus on the impact which they will have on the Deep State.
“Difficult to keep the escalation of tension at the LoC and Working Boundary to manageable levels”
We must expect an active LoC. Infiltration will increase. A preemptive and provocative action should be expected at the LoC to raise the stakes. Pakistan will endeavour to provoke us in a manner to force us to initiate military action and then go to the world proclaiming that India is attacking them. Such hype is already been put into motion. Strengthen the LoC, stand firm and inflict damage on Pakistan through non-contact warfare. That should be our main line of action.
“All Pakistan must do is exercise “strategic patience”
The emerging new Pakistani mantra is ‘Strategic Patience’. The view is that Pakistan should not blunder into a situation but bide time and wait for its opportunity. The opportunity will present itself sooner than later. The perception is that India can occupy Kashmir but cannot break its people. The struggle will force a misstep from India and the next Burhan Wani will arrive. For that to happen create a situation or precipitate one so that Kashmir is in flames. That is what we need to look out for – Icons. Identify and destroy icons before they are formed. In my opinion “strategic patience” can be defeated by “tactical restraint”. Tactical restraint must be thoroughly debated and practiced by everyone at all levels as a ‘whole of the nation’ approach. Do not get provoked. Do not lose your cool or nerve.
“The only reason there is any concern over the issue is the fact that both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers”
Pakistan will play the nuclear card shamelessly and without remorse. Its idea will be to precipitate a situation, force Indian military action and play the nuclear card at the drop of the hat. Their PM has already adopted this line – talking of war and Indian military offensive hype. The thinking is that international attention and opinion will weigh in better when the nuclear card is on the table. It is not new; however, the difference is that the calls will be shrill. Prepare for heightened nuclear blackmail. Our line should be to allow Pakistan to keep crying for wolf till the international community gets fed up. Long Term Goal – think as to how we can defang Pakistan.
The New Intifada
“The dynamics of the insurgency in India-held Kashmir will be different this time. another intifada is on the cards in Kashmir”
Insurgency in Kashmir and some parts of Jammu will increase initially and thereafter to reduce and linger for some time. Already the street level activism is modelled on the Intifada tactics – stone pelting, women crowding and abuse, refusal to carry out last rites et al. This time around things will be different. Why? The FATF sword on Pakistan will inhibit direct support and involvement. With established separatist leadership virtually taken out of the equation a lot of coordination, communication and funding will be missing. Hence the new Intifada (as it is being called) will be uncoordinated and probably sporadic due to lack of established leadership and probably less violent. We should expect a lot of nonviolent actions and protests. The pro-independent, pro-Pakistan and ultra-radical segments who would have gone underground will regroup to form an organisation and then resort to coordinated violent actions to enhance the nonviolent activism. All in all, we must expect a new Intifada which will also encompass activation of sleeper cells, playing the Indian Muslim Card, exploiting sympathetic political opposition to the Government etc. Countering this new challenge will involve building political consensus – within the Valley and out of it. This will be a critical factor as we go along.
“The use of terms like ‘reintegration’ and ‘mainstreaming’ by India’s policymakers and political circles suggest they consider the entire J&K population to be radical. Determination of the Kashmiri people to thwart demographic change”
Pakistan’s constant attempt will be to keep Kashmiris in a permanent state of alienation. Every trick up their sleeve will be used for this line of action. The immediate action which Pakistan will take is to ensure that the moderates who dominated the middle ground walk over to the other side and start crying separation / alienation etc. The idea would be to widen the disaffected pool. Impending demographic change to swamp and drown the Kashmiri identity is a theme which will be played to enhance disaffection. There will be clear attempts to enhance radicalization. All these must be countered politically, religiously, educationally and most importantly – sensitively. Simultaneously a psywar campaign must start to discredit the Pakistani onslaught. Also, we need to take care as to how we treat our population. Not all are radical. Broad paint brushing a section of people is dangerous. There must be a well thought out plan on these emotional and sensitive issues.
“Non-state actors are also closely monitoring the situation and exploring the spaces to exploit. Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, an affiliate of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent is making inroads into the ultra-radical militant movements in Kashmir. The group is trying to convince other armed groups to form an independent jihad alliance against India.”
Non-state actors and trained fighters will be surplus to the situation once some deal is arrived at in Afghanistan. Without any doubt, they will be diverted into Kashmir. We must expect a new non-State actor to emerge who can not be traced back to the Deep State or Pakistan. It could have roots in ISIS, Taliban, Al Qaida etc. It will not be funded by Pakistan upfront. The Deep State will ensure that the situation in Kashmir is portrayed as an international Jihad in which they have no role to play since they have cleaned up their stables as per FATF wishes and scrutiny. They could even create the new Osama Bin Laden for this situation. Diplomacy and intelligence must be on board to sort this out externally and our security forces must sort things out on ground internally.
“Kashmiri diaspora in the UK and the US has a critical role to play to take the case to every human rights forum”
Pakistan will create, fund and enhance a high decibel and voluble Kashmir Diaspora. This diaspora will be used without any second thought to make maximum noise and furore at every international forum. Not a new phenomenon but it will now be in an enhanced avatar.
As much as the Pakistani writers have virtually outlined their option and lines of action, there are some vulnerabilities which they have expressed which we need to exploit. They feel that “the reality is that as a nation, we need to be more cautious and protective of what we have”. Hence those which have come up in their writings are outlined in succeeding paragraphs.
“Pakistan faces two distinct dangers: direct intervention in Azad Jammu and Kashmir or Gilgit and Baltistan or subversion in these territories and inside Pakistan.”
Pakistanis expect that India will interfere in Balochistan, Gilgit and Baltistan and PoK. They are worried about the internal situation there. Add the vulnerability of CPEC infrastructure to this. Half of Pakistan becomes vulnerable and can be brought to heel very fast. Whether we do so or not, we must reinforce this view and not disappoint them. We must do things in a calibrated manner and force Pakistan to look inwards constantly. The threat should be potent, constant and credible.
“Our politicians have no idea of the degree of Kashmir fatigue”
That there is a Kashmiri fatigue is very clear. The fact that every insurgency has a life cycle is well established. Under normal conditions the insurgency in Kashmir is well past its fatigue and life cycle stage. It is only Pakistani pumping in oxygen which has kept the fire burning. If that is cut off, the fire should die down. Our operational planners should evolve an action plan to exploit the fatigue which will set in after the initial outburst.
The Continuum Factor
“Pakistan has focused on internationalizing the Kashmir issue, while India exploits the militancy aspect.”
The differing approaches to this problem will continue and harden since both countries are on different trajectories. India on a high growth path and Pakistan inching towards failure. As the divergence between the countries increases this factor will reinforce itself. However, we will have to reinvent our line of approach with the new and changed circumstances.
It was the Duke of Wellington who famously said, “the whole art of war is guessing what is on the other side of the hill”. In this case we have changed the hill; hence we should now restart to analyse as to what lies on the other side. More importantly if we are to make a success of Abrogation of Article 370 we need to neutralise Pakistan and its antics. As said earlier, Pakistan could not care a damn as to what happens in Kashmir or what is the fate of the people there. It is only interested in wreaking revenge on India. That will not happen if we keep track of the changing shape of things from the other side in Pakistan and we stymie it.