New Delhi: Politico-military subtlety is lost on the Narendra Modi regime whose muscular policies in Jammu and Kashmir have resulted in the Phulwama massacre. Television channels are screaming retribution but this is the worst time of any to act in haste and without thinking. Clearly, the Pakistan deep state, conceivably without the knowledge of the Imran Khan government, has instigated the Jaish-e-Mohammed suicide bombing of a large military-CRPF convoy and the Pakistan army would be fully alert for another “surgical strike” even as the first one of 28-29 September 2016 has failed to impart salutary lessons to the adversary. The United States’ impending withdrawal from Afghanistan and the new union of Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban for taking over the reins of the state have been foreshadowed by the Phulwama outrage. Chest-thumping and pseudo-nationalism which are second nature to the Narendra Modi regime are not answers for Pakistan’s asymmetric warfare which needs multi-layered counterinsurgency and counterterrorism planning.

Jammu and Kashmir police analyses reveal a marked rise in local youth as young as sixteen to twenty joining militant organizations and the security heat on Hizbul Mujahideen and the Lashkar-e-Toiba has allowed the rise of the Jaish-e-Mohammed whose founder, Masood Azhar’s two nephews were recently killed providing the cause and impetus for the Phulwama suicide bombing. It is noteworthy that the suicide bomber was a local youth of twenty-two apparently influenced, according to media reports, by a Jaish veteran of the Afghan civil war. As long as locals predominate Kashmir insurgency/ terrorism over foreigners (Pakistanis, Afghans, etc), Pakistan has relative deniability in the troubles in Jammu and Kashmir which needs redress on the Indian side. Muscular policies of the Modi regime spearheaded by the national security advisor, Ajit Doval, with a powerful chorus of one provided by the blowhard Indian Army chief, General Bipin Rawat, have thoroughly alienated Kashmiri citizens of this country as never before in the history of insurgency in the state. Without the active and universal cooperation of Kashmiris, it is difficult to lower the threshold of violence in the state, and this is not only critical for the peaceful conduct of general elections in the state and elsewhere but also for long-term assimilation of J and K into the mainstream.

The annals of war repeatedly reinforce the point that winning hearts and minds is nearly as important as winning campaigns because the first indubitably assists the second. This is starkly brought out in the final weeks of the Second World War when Adolf Hitler was livid at the abnormally high surrender rate of German armies on the Western Front as opposed to the Eastern Front where troops mostly fought to the bitter end. The American and British armies were punctilious about observing Geneva conventions in respect of surrendering troops and the Germans could not resist the temptation to raise the white flag knowing that their cause was lost and that they would be treated fairly as POWs. Surrenders on the Eastern Front to the Soviet Red Army, on the other hand, led to brutal punishments including long and hard prison terms and even torture. The Soviets were repaying the Germans in the same coin. When the beautiful city of Dresden was bombed in February 1945, Hitler was so deranged with grief as to contemplate shooting dead American and British POWs hoping for similar reprisals from the Western Front. The Wehrmacht leadership dissuaded him from the madness but to this way of thinking, it was the only sane way to instil fortitude in German troops. The moral of the story is that hard muscular policies produce hard muscular responses from the opposing side. To break the cycle of violence of which Phulwama is the worst manifestation, the troubles of Jammu and Kashmir need a multi-dimensional approach. A domestic political solution to the troubles has to rank first in the priorities of the Centre for J and K peace but its exposition has to await another piece; while this one concerns itself with counterterrorism and counterinsurgency policies conceived and put into force with consummate sophistication.

J and K violence must be broadly divided into violence and bloodshed from terrorism and disturbances from insurgency. It is absolutely essential to differentiate insurgency from terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir with insurgency defined as local in origin and arising from indigenous grievances and terrorism covering all foreign and cross-border violence. This neat division may not work in the beginning because the Pakistan deep state would want insurgency subsumed under terrorism so that it has total control over the violence but Indian state policy on J and K must persist with the separation. Once Kashmiris are convinced of the separation and witness insurgency being handled on an altogether different plane from terrorism, things will slowly but surely fall into place. For that, it is also essential that hard talk from the Indian side at all levels, from the prime minister down to army commanders, is eschewed, terrorism and insurgency neutralizations are afforded only the most minimum publicity to meet democratic and constitutional requirements, and chest-thumping and glory-hunting are shunned.

With the United States in final preparation to leave Afghanistan, the long war in the state will metastasize to surrounding regions, including Jammu and Kashmir. Nuanced counterterrorism and counterinsurgency policies will provide space to India to creatively target Pakistan for proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir. When the likes of Masood Azhar find themselves threatened in their own beds in Pakistan, the Indian counterterrorism programme would have come of age. It will take time, perseverance and patience to build such capacities. Nevertheless, as they say in the pictures, revenge is a dish which tastes best when cold.

Editor’s Note: According to press reports, the Indian Army has still to get Rs 1487 crore sanctioned for perimeter security of camps and installations after terrorist attacks in September 2016 in Uri and Jammu’s Sunjuwan camp last February. On the other hand, an RTI reply admits that the Narendra Modi government “spent over Rs 2374 crore on publicity in the electronic media and another Rs 670 crore on outdoor publicity in the past five years”. What do you say about a regime which splurges on self-promotion but cannot fund basic security needs of frontline army camps?