Tag Archives: Indian Army

To salvage Kashmir, Modi needs three strategies plus an end to the brashness

Emerging from the foothills of the Pir Panjal range in Jammu and Kashmir, river Jhelum is known for the speed and ferocity with which it barges into Srinagar before entering Pakistan.

Yet when seen against the rapid developments in the state in the last fortnight, Jhelum appears to have been outpaced.

mufti
Former CM Mehbooba Mufti addressing the press following the day’s developments on June 19 in Srinagar. Image Courtesy: Hindustan Times

The experiment of the BJP aligning with the PDP, termed as the coming together of two poles, now lies buried.

Yet that is not the subject of this essay.

In Lucknow on May 29, on the eve of the Narendra Modi government completing four years, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh offered a one-liner when it came to speaking about his ministry’s achievements in Jammu and Kashmir. He said, “Our Government has successfully eliminated 619 terrorists in four years, compared to 413 terrorists killed during four years of UPA Government for the period 2010-13”. http://www.pib.nic.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1533815#.Ww1iKItJck4.twitter

Matters on the ground however are hardly as simple.

DSC_2384
Scenes from the aftermath of the floods in Kashmir in 2014. The author was witness to the massive exercise launched to rescue everyone stranded, whether tourists or locals. This one was taken at Srinagar airfield.

From the summer of 2014, when New Delhi deployed its might towards pulling ordinary Kashmiris out of harm’s way during the floods and the Prime Minister’s subsequent Diwali in Srinagar to a historic voter turnout and the coming together of the BJP and PDP to form the state government.

From the peaks of optimism of a ‘development-oriented’ agenda for alliance to the depths of darkness in eruption of public anger following the killing of militant Burhan Wani and the 7 per cent voter turnout for Lok Sabha bypoll last year.

From the ‘jubilation’ over the retaliatory surgical strikes and the killing of over 200 militants in a single year by the security forces (213 in 2017) to the subsequent announcement of the Ramzan ceasefire.

From the death of that ceasefire to the death locally elected governance in one of India’s most troubled states.

Things have been anything but simple, anything but predictable.

The only constant has been the intent of the Pakistani state, consistently accused by India of fomenting trouble in the state.

How is it to live in a literal state of flux?

IMG_20160922_074537
Image from my visit to the valley in 2016. This was the scene in north Kashmir’s Handwara town.

Muneeb Mir, a businessman based out of Pampore in the volatile region of south Kashmir told me, “On the ground, there is only confusion and chaos, with no one seemingly in control. We all want something to cling to, something to hope from but there is nothing. We are rapidly going back to how bad the situation was when militancy first erupted in the 90s”. One of the residents told me they spend days wondering where next has violence erupted and at which moment the government would suspend internet services.

With the state set to witness the Governor’s rule, what is the hope they have from the centre? “A further hardening of stance at least till 2019 elections,” Muneeb added.

Another resident of the state who I spoke said even before the collapse of the state government, governance had all but stalled. Elected representatives are no longer able to as much as address their constituents forget about getting work executed.

Within the society, many say, the space for conversation has shrunk. Tempers run high and divergence is not liked. A young freelance journalist from south Kashmir said, “The sentiment of alienation has never been addressed. Woh sentiment zinda hai (that sentiment is alive) and the grouse erupts in different ways. I have seen people losing it, sometimes some demand azaadi even when they face a traffic problem in Srinagar!”

The deterioration of sentiments came along with that of the security scenario. Levels (http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/states/jandk/data_sheets/annual_casualties.htm), whether in terms of civilians, soldiers or militants killed in 2017-18 have regressed, they today mirror what was seen nearly a decade ago.

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Though taken in 2014 in the RS Pura sector on Jammu region, matters have only worsened thereafter. Courtesy: Indian Express

Coming to the population along the state’s border, whether the Line of Control (LoC) or the International Border (IB), data shows their plight has seldom been as bad after India and Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire in 2003. Violations of the ceasefire agreement, as recorded by India, have seen a massive spike in 2017-18. While there were four civilians who died out of these violations between 2004 to 2013, in the period thereafter, 67 deaths have been recorded. Similarly, whether it is the Army or the Border Security Force (BSF), if 35 fatalities were recorded from 2004 to 2013, the number has shot up to 94 as on February 2018. (http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/states/jandk/data_sheets/CFAViolationsoffical.htm)Ever since the state election in 2014, the BJP has been actively involved in the governance of both, the state and the centre.

What has been its strategy?

In September 2016, months after Burhan Wani’s killing evoked outrage which took Delhi by surprise prompting many to seek a dialogue, BJP’s General Secretary Ram Madhav had famously said ‘not talking was also a part of strategy’.

Instead of normalising ties with the society and isolating those who profess violence, where has this lack of engagement taken us?

The BJP’s professed approach in fact flies in the face of classic counter-insurgency practices.

Lieutenant General Rostum K Nanavatty who retired as the chief of the Northern Command in his book Internal Armed Conflict In India gave us a sense of where the blame lied. He wrote, “Protraction of conflict is essentially because of the government’s inability to capitalise on the successful conduct of operations by the security forces – to build civil counter-insurgency capacities within the state; to provide good governance and to arrive at a mutually acceptable political solution to the problem”.

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Former Director of the IB, Dineshwar Sharma has been meeting the stakeholders. Courtesy: NDTV

Former Director of Intelligence Bureau (DIB) Dineshwar Sharma appointed last year as Delhi’s point-person on the ground recently said, “There are historical facts about the Kashmir dispute, nobody can deny that. But the main cause of unrest today is that over the years more negative kind of influences have gone into the minds of the youth; may be this has come from the internet, social media, the way politics is played, the way people keep publically airing their views, I think that has affected”. (http://indianexpress.com/article/india/dineshwar-sharma-jammu-and-kashmir-interlocutor-militancy-dialogue-5204169/)

More than ever perhaps, Delhi needs to substitute brashness with boldness.

Bravado, as is said, may stir the crowd but courage needs no audience.

As things stand, the security set up is no longer bound by a ceasefire.

Yet three clear strategies need to be incorporated.

First must be a robust counter-radicalisation strategy that works towards ensuring that the youth do not fall prey to what they receive on the open web.

Second, the wheels of governance in the state need to move. The state alone can lend confidence to its teachers, students, doctors, traders and citizens that normalcy can and will arrive.

And at the end comes the question of trust.

basant rath
IG Traffic in J&K, Basant Rath. Courtesy: New Indian Express

Muneeb Mir from Pampore cited the example of Basant Rath, the Inspector General of Police in the state and said, “Why is he able to go to the heart of Srinagar and play cricket with the youngsters whereas no one else from the government goes there without massive security? It’s because people trust his intent. For a long time, everyone has suspected Delhi’s intent. Its actions till date have only re-affirmed this suspicion”.

 

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#StateOfPlay: Celebrating surgical strikes? No thanks.

By Jugal R Purohit

Speaking at Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded the media for its coverage of the first anniversary of the surgical strikes. These strikes were conducted in the aftermath of the Uri camp attack which led to the death of 18 army personnel on September 18 last year.

Incidentally, even as the PM was speaking, security personnel in Srinagar were responding to a boisterous attempt by three terrorists to script another Uri-like attack. They targeted the battalion headquarters of the Border Security Force (BSF) where close to 200 personnel and their families were present.

In the year gone by, several such attempts have been made by the terrorists. The surgical strikes, one can say, have neither deterred them nor their Pakistan-based handlers.

Yet none of this came in the way of ‘celebrating’ the operation.

Did anyone ask if all measures to prevent such Uri-like camp intrusions had been implemented? If yes, why are they still taking place? If they haven’t been implemented then why so?

These strikes were meant to be yet another option in deterring Pakistan from aiding and abetting terrorism in Kashmir. What are the other options? How have we implemented them? What happened to the question of delivering better governance in the state which to my mind is the biggest step in coming closer to solving quagmire?

For one, Delhi claims it has refined the counter-terror mechanism in Kashmir because of which it has achieved more terrorist kills in comparison to previous years. Adding to the argument, those on the ground insist the present year is a calmer one (167 violent incidents recorded till June 30, 2017) coming after 322 recorded incidents – highest in the last five years – in 2016. A senior officer in Srinagar reasoned, “We are controlling better, more tightly than before.”

Along the Line of Control (LoC), the surgical strikes were followed by a severe intensification of cross-LoC firing. The 449 ceasefire violations in 2016, bulk of which were recorded in the aftermath of the surgical strikes, consumed the lives of seven security personnel (not to speak of those 29,000 who had been temporarily displaced or the civilians who’ve been hit, killed or lost property). Interestingly, if you are to keep the casualties in the months of October and November of last year aside, data between April 2016 and March 2017 shows India only lost two service personnel in the firing.

But this isn’t all that happened.

A PRS Legislative Research Jammu and Kashmir Budget analysis of 2017-18 tells us that investment in the state which amounted for Rs 4866 crore from 2009-10 to 2014-15, averaging Rs 973 crore a year, slowed down to Rs 267 crore in 2015-16. What does that mean on the ground? Rate of unemployment for persons between 18-29 years of age in the state hovered at 24.6 per cent when the national average was 13.2 per cent. Among persons between 15-17 years of age, it was at 57.7 per cent when the corresponding national average was 19.8 per cent.
(http://www.prsindia.org/administrator/uploads/general/1484568158_JK%202017-18%20Budget%20Analysis.pdf)

 

State’s Finance Minister Haseeb A Drabu, on January 11, 2017, made an insightful comment when he said, “Unemployment is a social issue of serious magnitude in the state. Even as the rate of unemployment is supposed to be very high in the state, we do not have actual figures” (http://jakfinance.nic.in/Budget17/speechEng.pdf)

 

In J&K, when comparing the average growth between 2005-10 and 2010-15, a decline is seen from 5.8 per cent to 4.5 per cent. In agriculture (which employs 64 per cent of the population and contributes 22 per cent to the economy), manufacturing (employs 11 per cent and contributes 25 per cent) and services (employs 25 per cent and contributes 53 per cent), the current levels of growth pale when compared to the growth in 2005-10. (http://www.prsindia.org/administrator/uploads/general/1464866443_Jammu%20and%20Kashmir%20Budget%20Analysis%202016-17.pdf)

 

Two recent news reports from Srinagar caught my eye.

The Indian Express reported on October 4 that ‘schools, especially higher secondary ones, have been open for a little more than hundred days throughout the 11-month session so far. It is the second consecutive year that schools in the valley have remained shut for most part of the academic session’.  Day after, Hindustan Times quoted, ‘Combined cases of drug abuse and related psychological issues also went up from more than 14,500 cases in 2014 to 33,222 in 2016, a staggering 130% increase in two years. This year till April alone, this number is 13,352’.

Did Delhi and Srinagar face any questions over this?

When I tried finding out a voice on the ground to understand the human story from these numbers, I bumped into Muneeb Mir (37), a businessman operating from Pampore. He said, “We see the iron fist of the government, we see a return to the cordon and search approach we thought we had last seen in the 90s. We understand it helps the rightist agenda of the government to be seen as muscular but what really worries us is this – earlier the narrative of the government was one thing and the narrative of the people the other. Today that line has blurred and this dominating rightist narrative worries us.”

Speaking of anniversaries, it was in October 1947 that Jammu and Kashmir’s erstwhile ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession, paving the way for the state to become a part of India. An undated letter written by Jawaharlal Nehru to Hari Singh published in Ramachandra Guha’s seminal ‘India After Gandhi’ carried the following text:

“Even if military forces held Kashmir for a while, a later consequence might be a strong reaction against this. Essentially, therefore, this is a problem of psychological approach to the mass of the people and of making them feel they will be benefited by being in the Indian Union. If the average Muslim feels that he has no safe or secure place in the Union, then obviously he will look elsewhere. Our basic policy must keep this in view, or else we fail”.

So, what happened?

THIS PIECE FIRST APPEARED ON THE SITE DAILYO:

http://www.dailyo.in/voices/surgical-stirke-uri-attack-kashmir-insurgency/story/1/19947.html

 

QUICK ANALYSIS: My two bits on the soon-to-be-signed deal for 145 M777 ULTRA LIGHT guns

ULH M777 was introduced in 2006 in Afghanistan where, its makers claim, it has fired over 40,000 rounds.
http://m.indiatoday.in/video/all-you-should-know-about-indias-rs-5000-crore-m777-howitzer-deal-with-us/1/825047.html

KAMOV-226T: An air ambulance which is now the cure for IAF & Army’s chopper woes


Report appeared in MAIL TODAY newspaper dated Oct 16, 2016

VIDEO: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/video/kamov-226-t-make-in-india-siachen/1/788099.html

READ ONLINE:

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/iaf-indian-army-helicopter-india-russia-kamov-226t-manohar-parrikar/1/787562.html

LINK: AK Antony, India’s longest-serving Defence minister gave his first interview in the last eight years. I was the lucky journalist. Watch here.

Here he gives his take on how the defence of India has been handled in the year gone by:

IN PARLIAMENT: Under 20% target achieved, deadline long over says MoD on strategic roads along China border

PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU (DEFENCE WING)

GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

*********

INCOMPLETE BORDER ROAD PROJECTS

New Delhi: Phalguna 19, 1936

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

73 roads are identified as strategic Indo- China border roads (ICBR), out of which 61 roads have been entrusted to Border Roads Organisation (BRO) with a length of 3410 km which were to be completed by 2012.

Out of 61 ICBRs with BRO, 19 roads of length 625 km have been completed and connectivity has been achieved on 24 roads. The revised completion schedule for 42 ICBRs is as under:

2015                 :  16 roads

2016                :  13 roads

2017                :    9 roads

2018                :    2 roads

Beyond 2018   :    2 roads

There are certain delays in execution of road projects mainly due to the following reasons:

  • Delay in Forest/ Wildlife clearance
  • Hard rock stretches.
  • Limited working season.
  • Difficulties in availability of construction material.
  • Delay in land acquisition.
  • Due to natural disaster such as flash flood of Leh 2010, J&K flood in 2014 and earthquake in Sikkim in 2011, resources are diverted.

…….2/-

:  2  :

Government has taken following measures  to expedite the pace of road projects:

  • Chief Secretaries of various State Governments have been requested to constitute Empowered Committees under their chairmanship with Secretaries of concerned departments as members to resolve issues related to land acquisition, forest/ wildlife clearance, allotment of quarries etc.
  • Ministry of Environment & Forest (MoEF) has given the General Approval under section 2 of forest (conservation) Act, 1980 for diversion of forest land required for  construction/widening of roads entrusted to BRO in the area falling within 100 kilometers aerial distance from the Line of  Actual Control (LAC) and for link roads between Border Roads in the area within 100 kilometer aerial distance from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and National Highways/ State Highways/ Other roads subject to certain conditions.
  • Outsourcing has been allowed to    augment capacity of BRO.
  • Long Term Roll On Work Plan (LTROWP) and Long Term Equipment Plan (LTEP) has been approved.
  • Enhanced financial and administrative powers have been given to the executives of BRO.

This information was given by Defence Minister Shri Manohar Parrikar in a written reply to Shri Naresh Gujral in Rajya Sabha today.

IN PARLIAMENT: MoD (finally) shares data on DRDO’s spending; Also says IAF procures max from foreign vendors & army, least

PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU (DEFENCE WING)

GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

*********

INDIGENOUS MANUFACTURING OF WEAPON SYSTEM BY DRDO

New Delhi: Phalguna 19, 1936

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

India has been importing defence equipment and parts from technologically advanced countries to meet the operational requirements of the Armed Forces.  Over the years, country has established Defence Industrial Base of Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), Ordnance Factories (OFs), Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), and private sectors, which are engaged in manufacturing of defence hardware.  The licensing procedure for defence industries has been substantially simplified.  So far, 251 Letters of Intent (LoI) / Industrial Licenses (ILs) have been issued to 150 Indian companies till January, 2015 for manufacture of a wide range of defence items such as major weapon systems, armoured vehicles, warships, aircrafts, helicopters, UAVs, Radars, electronic warfare systems, communication and surveillance systems, ammunitions, explosives etc. 49 licenses companies having 75 licenses have reported commencement of production.  Besides, the cap of FDI has been raised from 26% to 49%.

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is a Mission Mode Organisation, which is primarily engaged in design and development of strategic, complex and security sensitive systems for the Armed Forces.  DRDO has developed   a number of systems / products / technologies, a large number of   which have already been productionised.  The value of systems / products / technologies developed by DRDO and inducted into Services or in the process of induction stands at over Rs.1,78,000 Crore.  These include combat vehicles; missiles; multi-barrel rocket launcher; unmanned aerial vehicles; radars; electronic warfare systems; sonars; torpedos; bridging systems; combat aircraft; sensors; NBC technologies; parachutes; combat free fall system; propellants and explosives; detonators; communication systems; armaments systems; cyber systems, etc.

……2/-

:  2  :

Amounts spent by DRDO during the last three years is as follows:-

(Rs. in crore)

Year Actual Expenditure

 

2011-12 9893.84
2012-13 9794.80
2013-14 10859.04
2014-15 9639.66

(upto January 2015 as per CGDA compilation)

Capital acquisition orders placed on foreign vendors of defence equipment during the last three years is as follows:-

Year Air Force Navy Army

 

2011-12 15258.11 6700.91 506.07
2012-13 19220.95 6100.38 991.67
2013-14 20927.54 12653.56 1501.00

This information was given by Defence Minister Shri Manohar Parrikar in a written reply to Shri AU Singh Deo in Rajya Sabha today.

DM/NAMPI/HH/RAJ