Ojaank IAS Academy




Slow Path To Peace

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Jammu and Kashmir, from 1846 until 1947, remained a princely state ruled by the Jamwal Rajput Dogra Dynasty. Like all other princely states in India then, Kashmir too enjoyed only a partial autonomy, as the real control was with the British. Hari Singh tried to negotiate with India and Pakistan to have an independent status for his state.

He offered a proposal of Standstill Agreement to both the Dominion, pending a final decision on State’s accession. On August 12, 1947, the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir sent identical communications to the Government of India and Pakistan. Pakistan accepted the offer and sent a communication to the J&K Prime Minister on August 15, 1947.

India advised the Maharaja to send his authorized representative to Delhi for further discussion on the offer. Pakistan, broke the Standstill Agreement by sponsoring a tribal militant attack in Kashmir in October 1947. India assured help on condition Hari Singh should sign the Instrument of Accession. Maharaja Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession with India (1947).

It was agreed that once the situation normalizes, the views of the people of J&K will be ascertained about their future. Army will have presence only on the Line of Control (LoC)”. The Army could be withdrawn in a phased manner, starting with a few districts in Kashmir. Responsibility for counter-terror operations being handed over to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the J&K police.

 Reduced levels of violence in J&K since the August 5, 2019 . The government claims that normalcy is returning to Kashmir. Wishes to “make it visible” by reducing the presence of the Army in the hinterland. Decreasing violence levels should lead to a reduction in the number of security forces deployed for internal security roles.

Between 2007 and 2009, two divisions were pulled out from counter-terror operations in J&K and reverted to their conventional role. Two brigades were also relocated from Kashmir to strengthen the deployment along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh. With the improving situation in the hinterland, some Rashtriya Rifles (RR) units have also been shifted from the hinterland to the LoC in the counter-infiltration role.

The Army is facing manpower pressures. The two-year freeze on recruitment during Covid-19 has led to a shortage of around 1,20,000 soldiers. The manpower problem is exacerbated by the enhanced deployment of troops along the LAC to handle the crisis that erupted in 2020 in Eastern Ladakh.  External and internal factors have kept the problem festering.

External factor- has been weakened. Pakistan has provided immense support to terror activities in J&K in the past, but its ability to influence the situation today stands diminished. India’s strong response to terrorist acts with a Pakistani signature, and the deep political, economic, and internal security mess in which Pakistan finds itself.

Internal factors that need to be addressed: Bringing the security situation under control, tackling radicalisation, meeting the aspirations of the people , bringing economic development, resumption of political activity. Handing over areas to the CRPF should be done in a phased manner. The start could be made in the Jammu region, where the CRPF takes over the complete responsibility for counter-terror operations.

A few RR units could be kept as a reserve for any contingency that may arise. After the stabilization of the CRPF deployment in the Jammu region, the second phase could be the handover of the Kashmir hinterland to the CRPF, Bulk of RR units being disbanded, except for a few that could act as reserves. The Army, CRPF, and J&K police work in synergy, with each force bringing its unique capabilities to the operations.

In the absence of the Army the capability void would need to be filled up. The initial deployment of CRPF in the Jammu region could provide valuable lessons in this regard before they take up responsibility in the Kashmir valley. The phased deployment would also ensure that the complete RR is not quickly disbanded. This is India’s most experienced counter-terrorism force for J&K. It would be prudent to ensure that the situation is stabilized before we lose this capability.

 Violence levels alone are not an indicator of normalcy. In 2012, fatalities from terror-related violence were less than half of 2022. There is a proposal to reduce the RR companies in a unit from six to four and disband some of the sector and force headquarters. Some RR units have already been sent to Eastern Ladakh and deployed along the LAC. This would lead to a significant reduction of the Army from the hinterland.

The security situation today is stable, it would be prudent to take some more time to tackle the other issues comprehensively. This would ensure that J&K remains stable, even without the presence of the Army. Handing over some districts in Kashmir on an experimental basis is not recommended as it would create problems of operational integrity, intelligence collection, and command and control issues with neighboring forces operating under different ministries.

There is merit in the government’s proposal that normalcy must be accompanied by a reduction in the force levels of the Army deployed for counter-terror operations in J&K. This would come as a relief to the Army saddled with manpower cuts even as its operational commitments have increased. The gains in J&K have come at great cost, and it would be sensible to err on the side of caution and conduct the pull out of the Army in a graduated and phased manner.

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