Dhaka, Bangladesh
Peace along the border is not a one-way process, says Lt. Gen. DS Hooda

Peace along the border is not a one-way process, says Lt. Gen. DS Hooda

By Dinakar Peri and Josy Joseph

(From yesterday's issue) We keep going back to 2015. Was it something to do with the Indian political situation - we had a new Central government which was talking in a more muscular language - or was it because ofa long period of radicalisation? There were many factors and among these we should not discount the Pakistani hand. In 2015, the infiltration was bare minimum with only about 31 successful infiltrations and therefore there was a deliberate attempt to mobilise the locals. There were social media campaigns emanating from Pakistan aimed at vitiating the atmosphere. We were also seeing signs of growing radicalisation. As far as the political situation is concerned, when the PDP-BJP coalition was formed, we were all very hopeful because it was very representative of all sections of the people of the State. However, it is also true that there was some dissatisfaction among certain groups in the Valley with this coalition. Do you think Pakistan's role in fomenting violence has gone down or does it continue to be influential? I closely saw the situation in J&K from 2012 till the end of 2016. 2012 is considered the most peaceful year in the insurgency. This changed in 2013 and the Pakistan Army became more directly involved. 2013 was also the year of Pakistan elections, and it was clear that Nawaz Sharif was likely to win. He was making all kinds of conciliatory statements and talking of growing economic cooperation with India. That somehow spooked [the] Pak[istan] Army. Things on the border heated up almost simultaneously with the announcement of Pakistan's election results. There was a spike in ceasefire violations in Jammu, the killing of five soldiers in Poonch sector in August and a series of infiltrations and attacks across the IB sector in Jammu. This has continued with terrorist teams being sent from Pakistan to target military garrisons. These are clear and direct indicators of Pakistan's involvement in the proxy war in J&K. And we don't see any change in attitude. We are going back to the old days. Over 1,000 people were evacuated on Sunday along the Line of Control. How do we bring down the temperature? In our local flag meetings with the Pakistan Army, we have always made it clear that the major step to calming things down on the border is for Pakistan to stop sending terrorists from their territory. I don't think a unilateral approach by India to cool things is going to help. Frankly, if you are going to have terrorists coming from across the Line of Control targeting patrols, mutilating bodies and attacking garrisons, I honestly can't see how things can improve. The Indian Army has to respond to these provocations and they should exercise all their options. The recent beheading of two soldiers was a huge escalation. Coming a day after the Pakistan Army chief had visited the same sector, there are only two plausible explanations. First, the orders to carry out this gruesome act were given by the chief. Second, the Pak. Army is so incompetent that they were unable to prevent an action that they knew would be directly linked to the chief's visit. Either way they are culpable. Peace along the border is not a one-way process and the ball is firmly in [the] Pakistan Army's court. Do you fear a potential all-out flare-up? I don't think so. In the current context, an all-out flare-up is a far-fetched scenario. And we should not let these fears restrict our options to respond to acts of terrorism. How does one cool tempers in the Kashmir Valley? Frankly, there are no easy answers, and no silver bullet which will give us an immediate solution. Let us start with a comprehensive look at the problem. There are many perspectives to be looked at. Somehow, there is excessive focus on the political issue. While this is not unimportant, there are also other key areas to be addressed - radicalisation, unemployment, development, youth engagement, the sense of alienation and the battle for the narrative. Along with this, law and order has to be restored and terrorism neutralised. Today the narrative in the Valley is centred around the theme that the government is unconcerned about their genuine grievances. This may or may not be true, but this is the perception. This narrative can only be countered by a visible outreach and engagement to show that the government is concerned. This engagement does not have to be with the separatists but with a cross-section of society - youth, student leaders, teachers, traders and prominent members of the civil society. Economic and development schemes targeted at employment generation and improving infrastructure in tourism, education and roads will benefit all three regions. Countering radicalisation and strengthening the government narrative are two other important areas. Internal conflicts are often the result of fear of being marginalised or the loss of identity. These are exacerbated by a breakdown in credible communications. The government must send a clear signal to the people of J&K that it cares.

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