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February 22, 2000

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Varsha Bhosle

Angrez gaye, aulaad chhad ke

Today, six days before the end of the extended 'non-initiation of combat operations' by the Indian security forces, I thought of Mannu Mudalaiyar, whose 32-year-old son Dhanasekhar was among the hostages of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane. On December 30, 1999, Mudalaiyar had said: "Dhanasekhar's wife has been ailing and his mother very upset about the hijacking... [but] the government should not yield to the unreasonable demands and blackmailing of the hijackers though I fully realise that any untoward incident in the aircraft could be at the cost of my dear son." Supporting him was R P Rajagopalan, whose brother was also aboard the aircraft: "I fully agree that the hijackers should not be able to get away with demands detriment to the country's security." However, the very next day, the worst that could have been done to sap the morale of our security forces and to endanger the lives of people living not only in Kashmir but also in Tripura, Delhi or Cochin, was executed by the halwai of Race Course Road.

Umm... no, I retract that. The release of Masood Azhar is not the worst event in modern Indian history; that prize must go to the unilateral cease-fire in J&K (puh-lease, don't even think that I considered the obliteration of the disputed structure). Azhar's manoeuvres could still have been contained IF the men who are responsible for the security of India knew exactly what their role is, and, if they had the self-confidence to react as a situation demanded. They don't anymore. And I'm not talking about the top brass. The thing to remember is, in any pyramid organisation, only those who are politically adept -- those who have "people skills," "communication skills," etc -- rise to top management positions. These are also those who stop facing the bullets and start worrying about the flak. And so we have Lt Gen J R Mukherjee's public demonstration of remorse over the firing incidents at Haigam and Maisuma, virtually admitting to a mistake, which, if it was indeed one, has yet to be established by the court of inquiry.

I'm talking about the foot-soldier engaged in counter-insurgency operations -- the one who has become cannon fodder, the one who's regarded as a necessary but expendable ingredient that makes our sick system and may make the cease-fire work. He's the ordinary lad from Gurdaspur or Kolhapur who more often doesn't know a word of English; the one who depends entirely on his more-educated platoon leader, who, in turn, must believe that he receives a focused Intelligence preparation of the battlefield (haha!). The jawan, captain, major or lieutenant involved in CI ops, whether of the army or the paramilitary, has a fairly decent chance of survival if he's blessed with a decentralised execution (eg, no orders from people who travel to Kupwara only in choppers for occasional photo ops); can engage in an aggressive, *continuous* reconnaissance; can have flexible plans, both logistic and operational. For those in the killing fields, defensive does not work. Because, in a CI environment, the terrorist has the advantage of the initiative. It is the terrorist who decides when, where and how, while the soldier's at the receiving end. The only way to negate this disadvantage is by the soldier's being -- and thanks to Putty Man Advani, I've come to puke at this word -- pro-active, quick-reacting and *unpredictable*.

CI ops are a deadly game of wits. A soldier has to alarm the terrorist before the latter unnerves him. Fast and lighting reactions are required wherever and whenever there's a shadow of doubt. Even if the result is zero, at least the quick action helps in unsettling the enemy, which also leads to the enemy's not taking the security forces for granted. Secondly, since the terrorist is almost always hiding amongst the common people, treating *everyone* with suspicion keeps the soldier on his toes. That may cause harassment/inconvenience to the public but it's the price one has to pay when the security forces are fighting an invisible enemy. A delay of a fraction of a second could result in a soldier's losing his life -- a price too high to pay for mere convenience of citizens (who could be terrorist sympathisers, anyway).

Time is not on the side of the soldier. He lives only if he a. reacts swiftly when the hair on his nape bristle and, b. prevents situations where the hair on his nape would bristle. The first situation is, of course, beyond his control, but the latter can be contained and entails cordon-and-search and search-and-destroy missions -- which form the backbone of CI ops. The five essential elements that compose the substance of any CI strategy on a day-to-day basis are: identify the enemy and its reasons for existence; co-ordinate the resources and personnel of all sections of the establishment against it; contain the enemy and wear it down tactically; isolate and frustrate it in every way, politically and militarily; and, finally, destroy it. "Identifying," "co-ordinating," "isolating," etc, are *continuous* processes -- finished only when the soldier has "destroyed." To be successful, CI needs to be a political/military strategy co-ordinating governmental, judicial, economic, social and psychological agencies and dimensions. And therein lies the rub.

At this point, I want an answer from those who cheer on the exalted halwai of Raisina Hills:

  • What have been the gains of the Indian security forces vis--vis the losses of the Islamic terrorists since the day Prime Minister Hajpayee announced the unilateral cease-fire in the erstwhile Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir? (The Times of India had already declared J&K independent till an online campaign forced a retraction; in its report of January 31 -- titled "Nations sending relief to quake victims" -- between "Japan" and "Kuwait" appeared: "Kashmir: The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Kashmir's main pro-independence group, has said it would send 100 pints of blood to the state".)
  • What have been the gains of those domiciled in J&K since the implementation of the cease-fire?
  • What has been the gain of India -- actual administrative, social, security-related gains, as opposed to the futile lip-flapping by the international community?

    Let's see now... Rahul Bedi wrote in The Asian Age: "Sustaining the cease-fire in Kashmir is straining the endurance of the security forces, who have lost over 50 personnel since it came into effect a month ago. 'If the present rate of casualties continue, the morale of the security forces, already at a low ebb, will take a further beating,' an Army commander said... Army officers in Srinagar were privately furious to have become 'target practice dummies' for Pakistan-backed militant groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad... 'Orders not to retaliate against the militants are frustrating the soldiers, especially as many of their comrades are being regularly killed,' an officer said."

    That was on December 29. Since then, we've had 8 policemen killed in a single swoop on the control room in Batamaloo; 15 members of three VDC volunteers' families burnt alive in Rajouri district; an Indo-Tibetan Border Police camp attacked and 3 soldiers killed in an ambush; the cease-fire extension rejected by Hizb and Lashkar with a mine blast; army troops threatened by Syed Salahuddin that their families would be targeted by Hizb; 6 Sikhs massacred at Mehjoor Nagar, etc, etc...

    I'm not interested in the casualties anymore. A government spokesman stated that terrorists have killed 242 people in Kashmir since the cease-fire, while 154 were killed in the 78 days prior to it; and, the security forces had suffered fewer casualties during the cease-fire, with 54 troops killed during the period, as against 94 killed before. Ya right... But even if true, what does it matter? The factor which IS worrying the army is the sheer impunity with which the Pakis launch attacks against Indian security forces. Fact is, the terrorists, and Pakistan, have lost ALL fear of reprisal from India.

    The most ridiculous aspect of this cease-fire is that everybody believes it to be a novel experiment dreamt up by the dhoti-clad rocket scientist. Angrez gaye, aulaad chhad ke: The "peace process" in J&K is nothing more than the British CI strategy centring around the 1985 Hillsborough Treaty and the Brooks Talks, which was based on a "balancing act," an attempt to balance all anti-revolutionary forces in Northern Ireland and used to isolate and crush the republican (pro-Ireland) opposition. Hillsborough was conceived and initiated because there had long been an acceptance amongst military strategists that the IRA could not be defeated militarily; it was felt that unless the government moved the situation would no longer be containable. However, where halwais differ from people who shape economies of Third World countries is this: The British never abandoned the day-to-day working strategies of CI experts like Brigadier Frank Kitson, author of the British Army's CI bible, Low Intensity Operations. The concept of psychological warfare was something that Kitson pioneered and later taught all British officers as "psych-ops." Kitson was brought to Northern Ireland in 1970 with a dual brief: to structure a CI response and to gain experience of the relatively new CI strategy.

    Psych-ops was in essence a military strategy with political and psychological dimensions. Its central plank was to convince people that peace was returning and that there was no need for war, that the terrorists were the only ones who didn't want peace. If they could turn the nationalist community against the insurgents, they could isolate the insurgent. Millions of pounds were pumped in to give the impression of growing prosperity and fairness. New housing went up in nationalist areas; factories and industry appeared to be booming; community centres grew up out of nowhere. Everywhere things appeared to be getting better. "If only the terrorists would stop all could be rosy." "They were less effective than they had been, the arrest and conviction rates were up and the nationalist community were informing on them." Sounds familiar...? These were all common propaganda lines of the day -- in Northern Ireland.

    The differences are these:

  • The Republic of Ireland is not Pakistan; the government of Ireland never did a Kargil.
  • There is no sea between Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.
  • The terrorism in Northern Ireland is a war mainly between *private* militant groups -- the minority community which wants a reunification with Ireland (eg, the IRA), and the loyalist pro-British groups (eg, Ulster Volunteer Force).
  • All the militants in Northern Ireland are natives.
  • On August 31, 1994, the IRA announced a complete cessation of military operations; on October 13, 1994, the Loyalist Military Command (an umbrella group for the loyalist militants) announced a ceasefire; and only then -- on November 17 -- did the British army make a first troop cut.

    But where did all this lead to?

  • On December 1, 1999, Northern Ireland got its own government.
  • On February 6, 2000, a bomb exploded at a hotel in County Fermanagh. The next day the Continuity IRA claimed responsibility, saying it would continue its "war effort" until Britain agrees to end its rule of the province.
  • On February 8, Britain laid the groundwork in parliament to restore direct rule over Northern Ireland.
  • On February 11, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson suspended the Northern Ireland assembly.

    Today, February 21, 2001, David Trimble said the peace process is moving towards a review; that republicans need to make hard decisions to break the deadlock over policing, demilitarisation and IRA decommissioning; that a review of the Good Friday Agreement is needed if progress cannot be made...

    Given the entity called Pakistan, what will happen to the borders of India if the dorks in Delhi still adhere to failed strategies...?

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