A retired army general, who has the experience of serving in Kashmir, has come out with his suggestions for addressing Kashmir. He asserts that it is time to use soft power on long term basis in resolving the issue.
According to him the security forces have brought the overall security situation under control, but follow-up in socio-political domain seems to be lacking. The inclusive dialogue with all segments including Hurriyat Conference needs to be taken to a meaningful conclusion. He recommends the temporary suspension of charges against stone-pelters. The state should invest in Sadhbhavana on institutional basis. The recent Saudi initiative of Prince Salman in reforming Islam must be supported, recommends Mr. Singh.
“As a Colonel in North-East, I had the privilege to accompany a new and dynamic Corps Commander for his meetings with two very wise governors. The General, in his exuberance, spelt out his plans to eliminate all ultras in one year. Both governors opined that such complex problems cannot be viewed in a tenure-centric time frame. More importantly, they asked him to spare moderate ones so that there is someone to engage with as a permanent solution needs to be locally engineered. As we attempt the new approach in J&K, it is apparent that there can be no quick fix ‘jugaad’ type of solution. The essence of smart power is optimum mix of complex bevy of hard and soft power instruments. Valley experts may turn around and ask, after all – we have been doing this in our famed, ‘Iron fist in velvet glove’ policy. So, what is new in this jargon? Well, short answer is-smart power does not advocate different and new elements but seeks to apply existing elements differently in a dynamic manner with long-term commitment. It is the choice between multi-stage reconstructive surgery and incremental homeopathic doses. Once again, security forces have brought the overall security situation in J&K under control. But it is also the oft-repeated ‘deja-vu’ moment, for such missed opportunities have been created earlier and squandered for want of follow-up in socio-political domains. We seem to have temporarily strayed from our focus on ‘Awaam’ (people) as the centre of gravity. Driven by armchair strategists and TV warriors, buzz was to sort out the terrorist groups and stone-pelters. Post-mortem of frequent attacks on camps inevitably triggered frenzy to first convert camps into impregnable fortresses”.
PM’S call for engagement is reassuring:
“PM’s call on Independence Day for engagement instead of gun and abuse followed by the appointment of an interlocutor is indeed reassuring, for we seem to be re-discovering our ‘mojo’ of people-centric approach. This has been acknowledged globally. In keeping with the ongoing inclusive dialogue, contact with all segments, including Hurriyat, needs to be taken to a meaningful conclusion. Large-heartedness, particularly towards young first-time offenders, is called for. Instead of dropping charges against stone-pelters, temporary suspension of charges coupled with probation for a specified period is recommended”.
Role of Police:
“There is a call to tone down Army deployment and bring police to the fore. While this model succeeded in Punjab, it is unlikely to work at this stage in the Valley, despite demonstrated competence of J&K police. On balance, it may be better to follow the ancient Japanese wisdom of ‘hurrying slowly’ and not losing sight of consequences of premature thinning out from South Kashmir, which resulted in alarming degradation in security situation. In all security matrices, RR should remain the key enabler as it has acquired enviable domain competence and track record. The only lament is despite multiple tenures, very few officers acquire cultural and linguistic competence. Most officers and JCOs in field have superficial knowledge of Kashmiryat to engage in any meaningful dialogue with opinion makers. Indus Water Treaty is another element, where we have considerable leverages within existing treaty, however, these are yet to be applied. It is time to get our act together and execute projects in time bound manner. The current water crisis in valley can be utilized to forge consensus and push Tulbul navigation project”.
Application of Soft Power :
“Soft power has to be applied concurrently on long-term basis and not on ‘zero-sum’ format. The current norm seems to be to mix hard and soft power on a reciprocal formula. As an obligation to citizens, minimum necessary soft power has to be dispensed, specially in disturbed and remote areas, where civil administration is conspicuous by its absence or makes transient appearance. Consequently, military civic action is an inseparable component of security grid. It is time to refine and experiment with posting young and competent IAS officers as civic affairs co-ordinators in Sector and Force HQs of RR. Instead of being in skeptic mode, state should invest in ‘Sadbhavana’ on institutional basis. Soft power by its nature is slow acting yet strong cultures like ours should have confidence in co-optive effect of our beliefs and not turn off the tap at minor provocations. Hence, medical succour, sports meets, music/cultural/film/media exchanges, track two and people to people contact should continue. Already, Pak populace compares their model with ours, such exchanges will only lead to greater introspection and strengthening of moderate elements. The recent Saudi initiative by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman(MBS) in reforming Islam needs to be supported with theological collaboration by moderate strand of Indian ulema, who have considerable influence on both Deobandi and Barelvi schools. It is ironical that Kashmiris, who invoke Article 35 A to safeguard their property have allowed Salafis and Wahabbis to plunder cultural terrain, making Kashmiriyat an endangered species. Is it time to emulate MBS and attempt basic theological correctives? As country comes out of Permanently in Election Mode (PIEM) after Gujarat and HP elections, it will be a good idea to engage with political parties to share an interim feedback and build consensus around smart national response”.
[Courtesy: Times of India, New Delhi, December 03, 2017.]