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HVK Archives: Hostage to misrule

Hostage to misrule - The Hindustan Times

Ved Marwah ()
July 15, 1998

Title: Hostage to misrule
Author: Ved Marwah
Publication: The Hindustan Times
Date: July 15, 1998

Why is Pakistan so desperate to internationalise the Kashmir
issue? Third party mediation will not deliver to it what it could
not achieve through three wars and a proxy war. The Nawaz Sharif
government cannot be under any illusion that any Indian
government, not even the more than generous Gujral government,
can be coerced through external pressure to surrender Kashmir.
With the present BJP government in India, such a policy has
absolutely no possibility of making any headway. Nor can this
belligerence of the Pakistani leadership on Indo-Pak bilateral
talks be explained by their compulsions of internal politics.

It is the Indian leadership, and not Pakistani, that suffers from
illusions. Let us make no mistake, all the political parties in
Pakistan are one when it comes to Kashmir. Nor is the ruling
Pakistani "troika", comprising the Chief of the Army Staff, the
President and the Prime Minister, divided over this issue.
Unlike India, Pakistan is united in its Kashmir policy. There is
nothing new in its attempt to internationalise the issue. In its
overall strategy, internationalisation of the issue helps. But
this is not the central point of its strategy. Pakistani hopes
of annexing Kashmir rest primarily on the pro-Pakistan lobby
inside J&K, which it has so assiduously cultivated all these
years. Its diplomatic and military strategy is designed primarily
to strengthen this lobby.

Pro-Pak elements in the state have suffered major reverses in the
last three-four years. Military and terrorism are on retreat. The
people in the State are getting sick and tired of violence. They
are disillusioned with both militants and Pakistan. The situation
today is very different from the early days of militancy in 1989-
90 when anti-India sentiments were at their peak. During those
days, it was not unusual to see Pakistani flags flying at some
places in the Valley. The political scene has since undergone a
sea-change. For obvious reasons, Pakistan cannot allow this
trend to continue. That could mean an end to Pakistan's Kashmir
ambitions. Hence this desperate bid to internationalise the
issue. Its efforts are primarily meant to raise the sagging
morale of its sympathisers.

One thing the history of the last fifty years clearly shows:
Pakistan has gained some success only when we have bungled.
External pressure hurts more when the internal situation gets out
of control. The nuclear explosions do provide a new opportunity
to Pakistan to keep the issue alive. But its anti-India campaign
will not be fruitful unless the ground situation in the state
deteriorates once again. It tried the same tactics earlier also
when it made the issue of human rights violations the main plank
of its anti-India propaganda. It did enjoy some initial success,
but it collapsed when the internal situation in the state showed
signs of improvement.

The key to the Kashmir problems lies in controlling its internal
situation. Unfortunately, instead of learning from our past
mistakes, we appear to be making the same mistakes again. The
situation in the Valley could not have taken such a serious turn
since 1989 had the government handled militancy more effectively
in its earlier stages. Even before the onset of the current phase
of militancy and terrorism in the state, the policy makers in
India knew of the Pakistani plans. The details of the Pakistani
plan were given in "Operation Topaz", published in one of the
issues of the India Defence Review in 1988.

The plan was put into operation in stages. At each stage it
tested government's will and preparedness to fight it. First, a
number of explosions, without causing much damage, took place in
Srinagar. This was followed by attacks on police stations and
selected killings to terrorise the people. The three main
objectives before the militants were: (i) to demoralise the state
police by targeting those officers who dared to take action
against them; (ii) to drive out the Kashmiri Pandits from the
Valley; and (iii) to create a communal divide between Hindus and

The problem in the Valley got out of hand not because we did not
follow proactive policies, but because the government chose to
wish away the problem and not follow even the reactive policies.
The same thing is happening again. Hard-pressed in the Valley,
the militants have been wanting to extend their activities to the
Jammu region for the last five years. Demoralising the local
administration and ethnic cleansing are once again high on their
agenda. Their strategy is the repeat of what they earlier did in
the Valley in 1989-90.

The brutal killings at Prankot in May were preceded by a number
of murders of the so-called "government agents" in Rajouri,
Poonch and Doda. A number of police stations in these areas were
attacked to demoralise the police. Soft minority community
targets, including women and children, were picked up for brutal
killings. The situation could not have deteriorated to such an
extent had the administration reacted in a more determined manner
and not allowed the militants to spread their tentacles. It is
only after the administration exposed itself as weak and
ineffective that the fence-sitters decided to support the

In the twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri, militant
strikes with regularity have become a painful reality. The latest
in the series is the strike at Phagla village in Surankot tehsil
on the night of June 10. The militants shot dead four members of
a family, including a woman, after being branded as "informers"
of the security forces. The Surankot-Bafliaz-Mandi belt in Poonch
district and the Dahral-Kandi belt in Rajouri have been
particularly active for the last few months. This could not
happen earlier when the militancy was in full swing in the Valley
because of the alertness of the then administration. All earlier
Pakistani attempts to create communal divide in these areas were
frustrated through the combined efforts of the government and the
local politicians. The local population had consistently resisted
these attempts. But this is not the case today. Frustrated
politicians and an indifferent administration have given an
opening to the militant groups.

The advocacy of proactive methods should not mean that reactive
methods have failed. The tragedy is that we have once again
failed to read the signals and adequately react in time. The
option of using proactive methods is always open, and can be
considered if need be. But there are obvious risks in following
such a policy. The decision requires a cold and calculated
assessment of the tisks involved. It is not a decision that
should be taken in anger or a spirit of retaliation. The overall
situation in the state is improving even if the spread of
terrorism to the Jammu region is something to be concerned about.

Pakistan's claim to J&K rests on only one plank, that it is a
Muslim-majority state. For the Pakistani leaders, it is the
"unfinished task of Partition". Increasing communal divide
between the Hindus and the Muslims is, therefore, an essential
component of the Pakistani game-plan. Rise of fundamentalism and
the divisive nature of state politics have encouraged
communalism. More than one political party has unashamedly played
the communal card. The demand for regional autonomy has developed
communal overtones. It has predictably led to a demand for sub-
regional autonomy for Rajouri and Poonch. Such a development
eminently suits Pakistani designs. India has a perfectly strong
case and Indian diplomacy is competent to explain it to the
international community. But it will be more difficult to
convince it if the ground situation in the state is allowed to
deteriorate once again.

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