By Mohit Sharma,
Amid reports that weapons systems used in other parts of the world have found their way into the valley, a buzz in Kashmir as a theater of global jihad is growing. But since then, the signatures that have been recovered since the encounter have further highlighted the demands for the nationalization of the insurgency rather than the interpretation of the caliphate of jihad in Kashmir. With the Taliban occupation of Afghanistan, the fear of transnational jihad in the Valley is on the minds of many. To add to that, the Islamic State of Khorasan has been vocal about the Kashmir incident. Should India be concerned about the threat of international war in Kashmir? India has a lot on the table, and the challenges have increased since the repeal of Section 370. Anti-insurgency operations in the Valley are challenging, but for now they are not the result of global jihad.
In Kashmir, the Taliban have no short-term or long-term goals. First, they are already facing challenges on all fronts, and so it is not possible for them to concentrate on Kashmir. Second and more importantly, Kashmir never dreamed of establishing their emirate. Before coming to power, the Taliban have repeatedly said that Kashmir is an integral part of India whenever rumors of Taliban influence in Kashmir were spread on their official website. After the formation of their government, they raised concerns about the Kashmiris, but whenever the problem arose, they distanced themselves from Pakistan. The Taliban, the Pashtun fundamentalists, led a successful uprising but never had global ambitions. They are not al-Qaeda or Daesh and they have always wanted to establish influence within the borders of the national border, with the exception of some areas along the Durand Line in Pakistani territory. As far as Islamic State is concerned, they often repeat the discussion about Kashmir in their published literature. Yet, their Khorasan branch did little to fuel the rebellion in the valley. It is still India’s closest neighbor and their sponsored Tanzim, responsible for all the big activities here. Although former Lashkar-e-Taiba commanders were appointed as governors of Williat Khorasan, they were not without internal opposition. IS sees the LeT as a private group within the ISI and even condemns the LeT co-founder Hafiz Saeed to the extent of calling him an “apostate” from Islam (Dabik, Issue 13). , It is safe to assume that IS is not a friend of LeT and they have always called the Pakistani government their enemy. The Indian Army has been relatively victorious against Jaish-e-Mohammed (JM) and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), but Lashkar-e-Taiba poses a new challenge to the Indian security forces, most recently their branch, The Resistance Front (TRF). The task is to tackle Pakistan’s information war which is tactical enough to portray the Kashmir coup as a patriotic effort. The only significant import from Kashmir’s global jihad scene is the skillful use of narrative building. The Pakistani-sponsored Tanzims are now asserting themselves as a socialist force, not merely religious, in an active phase through their recent transformation.
Lessons from Western failure in Afghanistan:
There are five main stakeholders in any insurgency movement – core groups, active supporters, passive supporters, who approve of the rebels’ goals but not their tactics, and non-supporters (following DG Pruitt, a prominent professor of psychology in the United States, and his five- Model of layer onion). The level of passive supporters and those who are sympathetic to their goals need to be addressed in order for their COIN operation to be successful. Coalition forces in Afghanistan have focused on fighting the core group, as well as strengthening those who were already non-supporters. If we apply the model to the valley, COIN efforts will be much more important if it is directed towards reducing the levels of passive supporters and those elite, well-educated people who do not support violence but support the ultimate goals. Once these layers have accumulated among the non-supporters, there is no fuel left for the main group and active supporters and they will eventually become extinct. But in reality the only way to make it fruitful is through a non-kinetic system where real efforts should not only be made but also seen to be done. Where the only option is dynamic, the security agency must ensure that the work is as clinical as possible with the slightest vestige of any collateral.
New normal in Kashmir:
After the repeal of Article 370, new norms are being echoed in Kashmir. Significantly, the Indian Army has made significant progress. The number of checkposts has dwindled, and ‘thank you’ signboards at all checkpoints are a good indication of the military’s perception of the valley. Attempts to infiltrate have decreased, stone-throwing activity has decreased. Since August 2019, coordination between the Army, JK Police and the CRPF has increased and they are working together to address all threats. There is more military-public interaction at the social level to win hearts and minds. It is undeniable that the valley is witnessing a relative calm, but this, however, is not a cause for complacency. While the above reasons for the current silence are credible, it would be unusual to weaken other possible causes যা which are emotional and psychogenic. The people of the valley are tired and have lost the strength to stay on the road. This, of course, does not indicate the permanence of the current system. Like any Burhan Wani, there is a possibility of renewed vigorous vigor in the panorama of rebellion. This relative silence should be seen as a limited window of opportunity where the dynamic work of the Indian administration needs to be supplemented with a non-kinetic humanitarian approach. The people of Kashmir have almost the same grievances as the residents of any other state in India, but there are certain triggers in the valley which are not found in the rest of the country. Dealing with these triggers becomes equally important with ongoing efforts by security agencies.
The latest J&K Delimitation Panel report’s suggestion to add 6 Assembly seats in Jammu and one in Kashmir can be seen as a tactical measure that provides good electoral advantage. Only time will tell whether it will help restore peace in the valley, but if we follow the COIN strategies described earlier, it will strengthen the Jammu region, which already does not support a fair amount of insurgency. If winning the heart and mind is the key to the valley, it is not certain if the move is on the same side.
There is a significant section of the population whose support for the rebellion stems from their local grievances, and therefore an alpha is needed to restore them. Complaints of local people from civil administration and state police are far from being adequately addressed. There is a clear north-south divide in the valley where south Kashmir has turned brutal in an insurgency. The northern districts, which have been quiet for a long time, are strategically rewarded by tackling their institutional problems, be it in terms of education or employment, to prevent a return to instability. There is also a need to separate the northern districts of the valley from the border areas outside the Shamsabari range, which runs parallel to the LoC. Through this distinction, the administration can conduct further development activities under the Border Area Development Program, which is confined to the valley. Successful efforts are being made from the south of the Pir Panjal Range along the International Border (IB) with a reduction in infiltration from the LOC. Thus, the need for strong border surveillance along the IB should be prioritized. Currently, the biggest problem for the security architecture of Kashmir is the hybrid militancy that is responsible for all the recent targeted killings. Such militancy is difficult to suppress because of the criminals’ ‘under the radar’ character and a secret overground worker (OGW) – the terrorist Nexus. If the idea is that Kashmir has psychological solidarity with the rest of India, then the work must be intrusive and far from mindless.
(Became the author Research Associate, Center for Air Power Studies. The opinions expressed do not reflect the official position or policy of Personal and Financial Express Online. Reproduction of this content without permission is prohibited).