BJP-PDP fallout allows Centre to flush out terrorists, secure Amarnath route and target financing networks

The collapse of the BJP-PDP government in Jammu and Kashmir has brought the troubled state's political turbulence to the fore. The state's uncertain future has been linked with larger political narrative in an election season, giving rise to a deluge of debates that runs the risk of masking a deeper crisis — one that concerns the Valley's security situation. It is calamitous and in need of urgent and decisive intervention.

BJP's pullout has created a political vacuum but it is the right decision that should have been taken much sooner. The civilian administration under the ruling coalition was so fraught with conflicting currents that it was making it easier for Pakistan and its deep state to execute its subversive activities.

In the hands of Governor NN Vohra, a seasoned administrator with a decade of experience in dealing with Kashmir (he has also served as a government interlocutor), the focus should shift from the political tamasha to the perilous situation in the Valley, where the secessionist movement is riding pillion on Islamist radicalism. Action is needed on multiple fronts but it must be prioritised and cannot be bulldozed through.

 BJP-PDP fallout allows Centre to flush out terrorists, secure Amarnath route and target financing networks

Representational image. PTI

One of the first tasks facing Vohra is to reestablish the state's writ over the Valley. It has spread so thin under the hands of an administration that put political survival ahead of its primary responsibilities that ordinary Kashmiris, who want nothing more than a semblance of peace to carry on with their lives, saw more security in siding with terrorists whose writ run stronger.

Reversing this trend will be difficult and slow but achievable if the security forces are given a free hand. What the forces need is a direct line of command that is insured from ground-level political interference. One of the biggest impediments to bringing stability in the Valley was internal. In their pursuit of intelligence-gathering, flushing out terrorists, launching combat operations and going after the terror financing network, the forces had to overcome considerable resistance from the political establishment.

"The PDP cadre has a strong component of Jamat-e-Islami, the pro-Pakistan socio-political organization whose armed offshoot is the Hizbul Mujahideen terror group," write Aarti Tikoo Singh and M Saleem Pandit in The Times of India. It naturally interpreted the search-and-cordon operations as an assault on its constituency and struggled to contain the repercussions. Non-initiation of combat operations (NICO), that eventually led to the coalition's demise, was a PDP demand that BJP acceded to.

Quoting a senior central official, Bharti Jain writes in another article in The Times of India that the J&K police, which was actively involved in these operations, "was allegedly being forced by local politicians to adopt a soft approach towards separatists… (and) can now be expected to act more independently."

A similar sentiment was expressed by top cop SP Vaid, who told NDTV that it is "much easier" to work under governor's rule. In an interview, the DGP of Jammu and Kashmir Police said: "Operations will continue. Only thing was in between, during this (ceasefire) period, the operations were stopped. They were going on earlier also, but we will intensify these operations in the days to come. And it would be, I think, much easier to work."

With the Centre taking over the reins of the state, there should be a greater synchronization between political and strategic will. This should, in turn, facilitate a tougher security policy consisting of domination operations and relentless search-and-cordon offensives. There is an urgent need for resumption of these operations because the terrorists have been able to regroup and reorganise, utilizing the breather offered by NICO.

As Vaid told NDTV during the interview, "The orders were to maintain high-alert in the camps so that if camps were attacked, we are able to retaliate effectively. But, one could not launch operations even when there was specific intelligence about the presence of terrorists. So, that obviously was an advantageous to the terrorists."

To an extent, the divorce allows both BJP and PDP to lick their wounds and go back to nursing their radically different constituencies. For the BJP, nothing is more important than to see a peaceful and uneventful Amarnath Yatra. Freed of coalition compulsions, it may now order the forces to launch proactive operations to sanitize the pilgrimage route and prevent a recurrence of 2017. There have been inputs of an impending terror attack and the Centre cannot afford to take any chances.

As Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd) writes in The Tribune, to sanitise and throw a security perimeter around the Amarnath Yatra route, there needs to be "preparation through relentless domination operations. Such domination involves sanitisation of the upper reaches from Pahalgam which does not affect the population. It is the second element of sanitisation, from Ramban, on to Anantnag and Pahalgam, which involves densely populated areas that have been in the throes of militancy…"

COAS Bipin Rawat has reiterated that operations will continue and governor's rule won't be an impediment to their strategy.

The army chief had made it clear on earlier occasions that "azaadi" is a mirage that Kashmiri youth should best avoid running after because it will never materialise. This isn't arrogance of power but a realist statement made in all honesty.

The 21st century world has lesser and lesser appetite for an armed resistance or intifada to achieve political goals. India isn't a repressive state such as Pakistan or China where insurgencies are silently crushed but even so, beyond a point, it cannot allow its sovereignty to be taken hostage by a terrorist movement that is fueled and funded by an Islamist state to satisfy its vengeance.

The violent movement for a separate Kashmir carved out of India falls between the twin stools of terrorism and a neighbour's expansionism, and therefore, it shall never have any moral legitimacy. Conversely, fatigue against terrorism and a nation's inalienable right to safeguard its sovereignty are impulses that find greater takers. Regardless of politically biased UN reports that no one takes seriously, India enjoys both moral and legal right in battling the insurgency movement, and this makes all the difference.

The final area where collapse of the coalition is likely to have a positive effect is the terror financing networks.

Pakistan is pumping in a lot of money through different conduits and simultaneously trying to engineer socio-political changes. In its chargesheet in a terror funding case, the National Investigation Agency has related how a "triangular nexus" is at work involving the "terrorists, the Hurriyat and the Pakistan establishment". These "three vertices are ostensibly patronising the Kashmir students in order to prepare a generation of doctors and technocrats in Kashmir who will have leanings towards Pakistan”.

An important part of this network is the group of influential Kashmiris who have deep political ties with the establishment and Pakistani deep state such as businessman Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali. For instance, a Hurriyat leader was quoted as saying by Aasha Khosa in her 2017 piece for Governance Now how the outfit is being funded by the ISI. “I was getting about Rs 8-10 lakh per month. The money would come from the ISI and was delivered to me in cash by Zahoor,” he said.

This is also the reason why "talks" with the Hurriyat carries little sense. There is an urgent need to dismantle these networks, and strangle the source of terror funding, failing which terrorism will remain a festering sore. Political will is the first step in that direction. Let's hope the die has been cast at long last.

Updated Date: Jun 20, 2018 22:23:21 IST