This was expected, but it happened earlier than expected. During the past two years, Pakistan’s efforts to revive its gamble in Jammu and Kashmir were dependent on how its mission in its western region went.
Pakistan took advantage of the full US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Taliban 2.0’s takeover, and their restoration as the key state in charge of the situation there to experiment on how to regain its relevance in J&K where Indian decisions on August 5 have largely marginalized Pakistan.
A Strong Security And Social Campaign
All things in J&K remain seasonal. The three core components to remain relevant, radical ideology, terror, and separatism, would have been pushed to the following summer with a delay beyond October 2021. The current Indian government is prone to responding to big terror acts across the Line of Control. There is a planning and resource activation phase even in Fidayeen-type suicide actions. Thus, the options were limited to low-risk, high-dividend actions against the softest possible targets, which were either minorities or reservists and policemen on leave.
As part of the latter group, two soldiers were kidnapped and killed in 2017-18. Our nation has also witnessed targeted killings of minorities over the years, following the Kashmiri Pandit holocaust in January 1990. In this case, migrant labor exiting at a rapid pace presents a threat to non-Kashmiris of all faiths. In this new phase of Pakistani strategy, too much has been said about the reasons for the killings but not enough about countering them. The counter-campaign has both an internal and an external element.
Several domains, including the social, political, and security domains, must be activated. Over-the-ground workers are picked up and interrogated, and high-energy dominance maneuvers must be conducted. Because of terrorists’ methods, there are many challenges facing security organizations. The use of pistols can hide terrorists within the public and enable them to blend in. The intelligence agencies have a lot of work to do in this case.
The majority of migrants left the valley, but those still present may be confined together in camps under escort after a certain time of the day/evening – essentially a defensive move to curtail freedom and cause more discomfort. When the threats do not hold for long periods, this is possible. In Kashmir, there has been a trend that lasts for a year or two, but reemerges when it starts paying off. That is what is happening now.
Since the proxy conflict is hybrid, the political and social domains also provide indirect security. A small group of members of the majority community who are members of civil society has put on display their disgust. The condemnations have been inadequate, despite voices like those of Junaid Mattoo, the Mayor of Srinagar, and Sajjad Lone calling the atrocities into question.
The Kashmiri Muslim majority should project its inclusive, non-obscurantist faith. Anti-national ideologies and radical thinking need to be taught to children. It is necessary to offer reassurances from the rest of India to Kashmiris; in turn, the young nationalists who are risking their lives should be supported locally.
A societal movement must be created to marginalize those who act against minorities and migrant workers, but there are few leaders in that direction. Political activity in Kashmir has remained stagnant, and the old-world leadership has become impassioned in its calls for talks with Pakistan.
Youth leaders can lack the political savvy it takes to make a difference, and it can be difficult for them. Many people are still on the fence about Kashmir, so it is hard to encourage them positively to move forward unless sustaining support is possible for them. This campaign cannot be carried out in Delhi. The Kashmiri Muslim community must take ownership and lead the efforts to defeat the obscurantists. This cannot be done if no one leads.
Building International Pressure
Pakistan had an edge over us on the international stage for many years with its comparative narratives. As a result of the August 5th decision, India’s narrative gained some traction in important nations of the Islamic world, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. There has been little interference by western governments, which are more concerned with the freedom and rights of people. We have not been given much support by the international media with influence in important capitals around the world.
There were to be ‘a thousand cuts’ waged against India in retaliation for Pakistan’s loss of its eastern territories (now Bangladesh) and the use of obscurantist Islamic ideology by Pakistan to oppress the secular values of J&K. The world hasn’t fully comprehended Pakistan’s intentions due to two reasons. First, Pakistan occupies an advantageous location from a geostrategic standpoint, which makes it an important market to invest in. Second, Pakistan devotes significant efforts to public relations and influence operations.
Despite its enhanced importance after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, India is likely to use this advantage to gain a competitive edge over it. Pakistan should be isolated and identified as the core center of global terrorism, so India must adopt a multilateral approach. To achieve this, India will need to develop policies for influencing the big and middle powers.
The emerging deep involvement of China in J&K is somewhat limiting India’s options since it is normally viewed as a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. A large portion of transnational terrorism has been sponsored by terror financing in the last few years.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), operated under the aegis of the United Nations, has played an important role in monitoring Pakistan and it has frequently been docked to the grey list. By getting a clean certification from FATF, a nation will be considered positively for financial assistance from international financial institutions. Western countries such as the US and many others can help Pakistan change its behavior in this area. Despite this, China is Pakistan’s strongest supporter. India may have to take a more proactive approach in this diplomatic game than previously.
Time To Revisit Old Standpoints
It may be necessary to reconsider another issue in the near future. Throughout the Simla Agreement, we have stressed that J&K is a bilateral issue. Our government pays no attention to this and we follow it implicitly, thereby acting as a block to gaining influence in third countries. This needs to be adjusted. No third party should interfere, but we are free to project our positions internationally and build influence internationally.
US soft-pedaling on Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism must be addressed squarely. Pakistan’s strategic shenanigans are tolerated by the US due to geostrategic reasons. Those actions must demonstrate India’s US value as a strategic partner. Terror activity has been on the rise recently in Jammu and Kashmir. A counter-strategy requires dividing these issues into several implementable pieces with clear owners.
The Army must lead the joint strategy with the J&K Police and the NIA, infusing confidence in the target communities and creating conditions that severely limit the space for terrorist groups in J&K. Despite the negative results in operations south of the Pir Panjal, we should not alter our strategy.
For these operations to succeed, patience and technology are needed, with no rush for results. Additionally, questions have been raised about the ceasefire on the LoC. According to my opinion, abrogating the ceasefire would not offer us any clear advantage. However, this is not the perception shared by everyone.