Tuesday, 21 May 2019


Gratis advice for the next National Security Adviser

The right wing’s information warriors that comprise self-selected nationalists, former spooks, unwary denizens of the strategic community, ruling party inclined hacks and paid-up members of the bhakt brigade, are having their last hurrah. Having manipulated opinion polls, they have extended ‘acche din’ by a week. Even so the nation awaits the electoral verdict with bated breath, to learn if it is possible – as the information warriors believe – to fool all the people all the time.
The last bit of pulling wool over peoples’ eyes was in the information operations surrounding the Balakot-Naushera episode. The narrative was that India came out on top, delivering a mortal blow to Jaish at its labyrinth within mainland Pakistan, bringing down an F-16 with a Mig-21, and scaring the living daylights out of Imran Khan, forcing him to hand back the captured Indian Mig-21 pilot.
The unfortunate part of this was that the target was not so much Pakistan - itself a target of the Pakistani Inter-Services Public Relations’ General Asif Ghafoor – as much as the Indian electorate. The electorate needed diverting from naysayers looking for dirt in Gross Domestic Product numbers, unemployment figures, demonetization effects, suicides by farmers etc. Alongside, for good measure, some ten such contrarians were locked up for being urban Naxals out to ‘get Modi’, making others similarly-inspired more circumspect.
The nation awaits the electoral verdict if this strategy of buoying the national morale with tales from the Pakistan front worked. The opinion polls have it that it has done wonders. But this amounts to the information warrior brigade writing-up its final confidential report on its showing over the year. That it has done a creditable job of what it was put to is without question.
There is nary a word on the possibility that the Pulwama terror attack may have been a black operation. The antecedents of Pulwama bomber, Adil Ahmad Dar, who was constantly in and out of police stations as much as in and out of tanzeems, needs probing further, especially the cryptic report in this publication that he was once whisked away from the site of an encounter in which two Hizb compatriots died. That such suspicion can legitimately be entertained is clear from the immaculate timing of the episode, enabling the response to Pulwama enough time to play out and be taken advantage of electorally by the ruling party.
That the information warriors have carried the day is also clear from the absence of a round of missile exchanges even though India went down in the psychological-ascendance game after the Pakistani Naushera riposte to its over-hyped Balakot aerial strike. Strategising and war-gaming would have reckoned with following up to even the score. Instead, information war was resorted to, to paper over the loss of high ground.
This restraint makes sense only in terms of domestic politics. The uncertainty that attends escalation – such as an untimely Diwali - is something the political head could have done without in elections run up. So it made sense to wrap up early, with the pickings magnified by information war: 300 jihadis dead, one F-16 downed, Imran the Khan pleading for peace etc. The reasoning is perhaps that the score can be evened in killing some more Kashmiri armed youth – the score has long crossed 600 over the last three years of Operation All Out, with 87 killed this year of which 9 were killed last week. This spike since end of polls in Kashmir suggests a certain desperation to get even before being boarded out of power.
The desperation was in evidence as the rounds of polls progressed. Information warriors not only manage perceptions, but also keep tags on the information space. So it was within their ken to feel the electoral pulse through the rounds. The feedback perhaps explains the desperation that culminated in the nomination as the ruling party’s parliamentary candidate of the terrorist, Pragya Singh Thakur, even as the breathtaking spin put out by no less than the prime minister was that she was the epitome of a five thousand year old Hindu civilization.
That no Hindu could be a terrorist implies that all terror India has been subject to over the past fifteen years has been Muslim-perpetrated. (The violence in the north east and in central India is attributed to insurgency not counting as terrorism.) In one instance, this writer heard a former foreign secretary opine in an open forum that the Hindu terror angle needs to be mellowed down lest it impact India’s Pakistan strategy cornering it over terror. The opinion polls suggest that the nation has bought into this line. That this line has been in evidence over the past decade and half implies ownership by some amorphous entity.
Information war of the order surrounding the elections as depicted here bespeaks of an organization behind it rather than a set of non-governmental information warriors under a right wing umbrella. In an earlier column in this publication (23 March 2018), the possibility of an Indian ‘deep state’, based on its intelligence agencies subscribing to the cultural nationalist philosophy and participating in its project, had been mooted. The buck in the shadowy intelligence world stops at the door of the national security-cum-intelligence czar’s door.
It is self-evident that the reins of the governmental complex that unwarily participated in the field operations connected with the electoral information war are National Security Adviser (NSA), Ajit Doval, controlled. It can be reasonably surmised – from the hagiographies put out on Doval and breathless tracts on the Modi-Doval doctrine – that he holds the reins also of the non-governmental side, with former spooks owing him allegiance bridging the two. There is also the Amit Shah controlled apparatus comprising ruling party trolls, which more than likely defers to the larger intelligence project of returning Modi to power. Modi’s two Man-Fridays – one managing the governmental side and the other the non-governmental – have timed beautifully. That politics is outside an NSA job description indicates the extent of rollback pending.
Operation Elections - the information war project that has surrounded it - has shot its bolt. The Election Commission can yet retrieve is down-in-the-dumps credibility in case it keeps election voting machines sacrosanct over the coming days. In case the Election Commission redeems itself, what should be the national security agenda of the next NSA?
The objective in this rather-extended introduction has been to present the extent of the problem. The next NSA has his task cut out: to identify, contain and dismantle the ‘deep state’. This would not be easy since those self-selecting to the deep state are impassioned by the belief in their cause of midwife-ing religious majortarianism. If the gullible voters need perception management to this end, then manipulating democracy and subverting institutions is small price to pay. An awareness of the iceberg below the water surface is a good start point for an incoming NSA.
Obviously, this cannot be done unless the political class bottles-up Hindutva: religious majoritarianism masquerading as cultural nationalism. Merely wresting the national discourse back from the ideology’s grasp does not make India safe. The NSA can help retrieve the state from right wing formations that made instrumental use of the ideology for state capture. A state duly freed from right wing infiltration and penetration can assert its space, emboldening throwing away of ideological blinkers by society at large. A resulting virtuous cycle can over time undo the damage of the last thirty years to polity, society and institutions.
Is there a (wo)man for the job? To acknowledge that the intelligence community is outsized is passé. Two NSAs in quick succession from within its ranks have revealed its limitations and dangers. The foreign service provided three head honchos. The first was over-extended, overseeing the governmental apparatus alongside as principal secretary; the second could not withstand the demands physically; and the third, though right-minded, was light-weight. The steel frame abdicated, allowing NSA Doval to take headship of the strategic policy group. Yet another policeman cannot be risked. This leaves the military, its credentials burnished since dismantling the iceberg requires moral fiber that only a military life can impart. (There is civil society to also be vetted as site for candidates, but space prevents going into this here.)  
Some candidates with demonstrated intellectual capital, professional stature and moral strength are easy to spot, to wit, Admiral Arun Prakash and retired lieutenant generals Rustom Nanavatty, HS Panag and Prakash Menon. One needs look no further than General DS Hooda, presciently picked by the Congress to upbraid its national security credentials. He courageously put out a well-regarded blueprint that informed the fairly forward-looking security paragraphs in the manifesto of the Congress party. The agenda is spot-on in its intent to bring the NSA appointment to parliamentary heel, a constitutional-empowering of the appointment as necessary first step in the rollback of the deep state.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Firing from others’ shoulders
By Ali Ahmed
eBook XI – Compilation of book reviews

For Major General (Retired) Dipankar Banerjee
In gratitude

This ebook compilation comprises book reviews written 2008 onwards. The book is aptly titled, Firing from others’ shoulders, since it discusses ideas thrown up by authors in respective books. The books were prominent contributions to the literature, mostly in the field of strategic studies. Some have been agenda setting and many discussed ideas already in the national security discourse. Between them, they illuminate vast stretches of South Asia, its happenings and times over the past decade. Many of the points made have been referred to by me in my writings, collected in the earlier ten compilations. The strategic studies field has been greatly advantaged by the swirl.
The ebook traces the intellectual ferment in strategic, security and peace studies. The books covered touch topics ranging from nuclear doctrine to terrorism. In discussing the books - and adding my two pennies worth - the attempt has been to deepen thinking on regional and national security. I believe the mainstream can do with some stirring. It is far too statist, cloistered in realism and – worse - made vapid over the period by the ideological contamination of ascendant cultural nationalism. Swimming against the current has been challenging, but made interesting on that account all the same. It can hopefully be seen on these pages from choice of books to review and the particular idea to highlight, thrash out or trash.  
I am grateful to editors who have given space in their publications, in particular the prominent journal, The Book Review India. I must mention Adnan Farooqui in this breath. I have not included the reviews that were carried in service journals in the period and prior to 2008. In the nineties, I was an avid contributor of book reviews to the United Services Institution Journal, where some 30 reviews were published, albeit with a few being merely a paragraph long. All told, I have crossed the 100 book reviews mark. Not only have I enjoyed the reading, but also the thinking that went into taking the work further to sets of readers, both within and outside uniform. The book would interest students and academics, besides helping narrow the reading lists of practitioners constantly short of time. The books appear chronologically, making it easier for lay readers to follow the developments from the global to the local.
I dedicate the book to General Dipankar Banerjee, who I have had the privilege of knowing all through my time on the strategic circuit and who has constantly had an encouraging – and at times life defining - word all along.
As with all other Preface write ups in my ebook compilations, I end this one with a word of thanks for my family, who have patiently allowed me to disappear from time to time behind book covers and then proceed right away to bang away at the keyboard. My excuse has been that the output might be worth something. Since I fire from others’ shoulders in this book, I am certain this time round it would not be a lame excuse.

Happymon Jacob, Line on Fire: Ceasefire violations and India-Pakistan escalation dynamics, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2019
Srinath Raghavan, The Most Dangerous Place: A History Of The United States In South Asia, 2019, Penguin Random House, Gurgaon, India
Saifuddin Soz, Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the story of Struggle, Rupa Publications India, 2018
Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, Pshycho-nationalism: Global Thought, Iranian Imaginations, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018, pp.170, ISBN – 978-1-108-43570-3.

Chris Ogden, Indian National Security, New Delhi: Oxford University Press (Oxford India Short Introductions), 2017; ISBN 0-19-946647-5, pp. 152; Rs. 295/-
Chris Ogden (ed.), New South Asian Security: Six Core Relations Underpinning Regional Security, New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan, 2016, pp. 183, ISBN 978 81 250 62615
Avinash Paliwal, My Enemy's Enemy: India in Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion to the US withdrawal, HarperCollins; 1 edition, 2017
Kaushik Roy and Sourish Saha, Armed Forces and Insurgents in Modern Asia, Routledge, 2016

TV Paul (ed.), Accommodating Rising Powers: Past, Present and Future, Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2016, pp. 326, ISBN – 978-1-316-63394-6

Sumit Ganguly, Deadly Impasse: Indo-Pakistani Relations At The Dawn Of The New Century,  Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2016, 188, 395

Ikram Sehgal, Escape from Oblivion: The Story of a Pakistani Prisoner of War in India, Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 138, Rs. (Pak) 695/-, ISBN – 978-0-19-906607-0

Vivek ChadhaIndian Army’s Approach to Counter Insurgency Operations: A Perspective on Human Rights, Occasional Paper 2, IDSA, New Delhi, 2016, pp. 40

Nandini Sundar and Aparna Sundar (eds.), Civil Wars In South Asia: State, Sovereignty, Development, Sage Publications, Delhi, 2014, pp. 273, Rs. 850.00

Rajesh Rajagopalan  and Atul Mishra Nuclear South Asia: Keywords And Concepts,
Routledge, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 306, Rs. 850.00

Christopher S. Chivvis, Toppling Gaddafi: Libya And The Limits Of Liberal Intervention,
Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 249, Rs. 495.00

Taj Hashmi,  Global Jihad And America: The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq And Afghanistan, Sage Publications, Delhi, 2014, pp. 322, Rs. 995.00

Ahmed S. Hashim, When Counterinsurgency Wins: Sri Lanka’s Defeat Of The Tamil Tigers ,
Foundation Books, Delhi, 2013, pp. 267, Rs. 850.00

Hy Rothstein and John Arquilla (eds.), Afghan Endgames: Strategy And Policy Choices For America’s Longest War, Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 229

Feroz Hassan Khan, Eating Grass: The Making Of The Pakistani Bomb, Foundation Books, Delhi, 2013, pp. 520

V.R. Raghavan (ed.), Internal Conflicts Military Perspectives, Vij Books, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 324,`1250.00

Sumit Ganguly and William R. Thompson (eds.) Asian Rivalries: Conflict, Escalation, And Limitations On Two-Level Games, Foundation Books, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 259.

D. Suba Chandran and P.R. Chari (eds.), Armed Conflicts In South Asia 2011: The Promise And Threat Of Transformation, Routledge, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 297, `795.00

Ali S. Awadh Asseri, Combating Terrorism: Saudi Arabias Role In The War On Terror, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2009, pp. 196, Rs 450.00

Bharat Karnad, India’s Nuclear Policy, Pentagon Press, Westport (CT), 2008,
pp. 221, Rs. 795,  ISBN 978-0-275-99945-2

K.S. Sheoran, Human Rights and Armed Forces in Low Intensity Conflict, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi: Knowledge World, 2010, pp. 88, ISBN 978-93-80502-24-3, Rs 225. 

Sumit Ganguly and S. Paul Kapur, Nuclear Proliferation in South Asia: Crisis
Behaviour and the Bomb, Routledge, New York, 2009, pp. 251, $126, Rs 795, ISBN

Jaideep Saikia and Ekaterina Stepanova (eds.), Terrorism: Patterns of Internationalisation, Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2009, pp. 266, Rs. 695, ISBN 978-81-7829951-8 (Hardback)

Harsh V. Pant, Contemporary Debates in Indian Foreign and Security Policy: India Negotiates Its Rise in the International System, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2008, pp. 202, ISBN 0-230-60458-7

M.J. Akbar, Tinderbox: The Past and Future of Pakistan, Harper Collins, New Delhi, 2011, 343 pp., Rs 499, ISBN 978-93-5029-039-2

Gurmeet Kanwal, Indian Army: Vision 2020, New Delhi, Harper Collins, 2008, pp. 342, Rs. 495/-, ISBN 13: 978-81-7223-732-5
Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, A Metahistory of the Clash of Civilisations: Us and Them Beyond Orientalism, Hurst and Company, London, 2011, $45, 338 pp., ISBN 978-184904-097-6
Talmiz Ahmad, Children of Abraham at War: Clash of Messianic Militarisms, Delhi: Aakar Books, 2010, pp. 475/-, Rs 1250/-, ISBN 978-93-5002-080-7
Suba Chandran, D., “Limited War: Revisiting Kargil in the Indo Pak Conflict”; India Research Press, New Delhi, 2005; pp. 161, Rs. 495/-
Praveen Swami, India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad: The Covert War in Kashmir, 1947–2004 (New York: Routledge, 2007, Pp. 258. Price: Rs 495. ISBN 978-0-415-40459-4

Carey Schofield, Inside the Pakistan Army: A Woman’s Experience on the Frontline of the War on Terror, Pentagon Press; 2012 

Astri Sukhre, When More Is Less: The International Project In Afghanistan 
Hurst & Co, London, 2011, pp. 293, £ 25.00

D. Caldwell, Vortex Of Conflict: US Policy Toward Afghanistan, Pakistan And Iraq, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2011 (First South Asian Edition 2012),

Stephen P. Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta, Arming without Aiming: India’s Military Modernisation, New Delhi: PenguinViking, 2010

Priyanjali Malik, India’s Nuclear Debate: Exceptionalism and the Bomb, New Delhi: Routledge, 2010, ISBN 978-0-415-56312-3, pp. 344, Rs. 795/-

Ayesha Jalal, Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia; Ranikhet, Orient Longman Pvt Ltd; pp. 373, Rs. 695/-; ISBN 81-7824-231-1

Karnad, B., ‘Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy: New Delhi, MacMillan, 2002; pp. 724, Rs. 795/-

Rajagopalan, Rajesh, Fighting Like a Guerilla: The Indian Army and Counterinsurgency, 2008, Routledge, New Delhi

Manpreet Sethi, Nuclear Strategy: India’s March Towards Credible Deterrence, New Dehi: Knowledge World, 2009, pp. 395, Rs. 880/-, ISBN 978-81-87966-70-8

Thursday, 16 May 2019


The bogey of the Islamic State in Kashmir

The resurfacing of Al Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (IS), when he took credit for the worst terror attacks in South Asia, the Easter Day attacks in Sri Lanka, is indicative that though United States’ (US) President Donald Trump declared victory over the IS in end-February, the terror entity is not quite history as yet.
It is unlikely to be defeated with finality any time soon since it finds conflict zones are fertile grounds for thriving in and such zones are aplenty in the region ever since the US chose to deploy the extremist philosophy of Saudi origin, Wahabbism, as a mobilization tool to entrap the Soviet Bear in Afghanistan. Current day, Afghanistan is site for pockets of IS presence, confined by the Taliban’s ethnic-nationalist, rather than pan-Islamist, insurgency in Afghanistan.
Even as close-at-hand Kashmir continues as a conflict zone, this does not amount to IS being at India’s doorstep. As a conflict zone, Kashmir can be expected to attract the IS’ sympathetic and self-serving attention and in turn its once-ascendant star may have attracted disaffected Kashmiris youth surfing social media, its recruiting ground. But that is as far as the IS has gotten to yet.
Over the past five years there have been over-blown reports of IS activity in Kashmir. Black flags made an appearance in some street demonstrations. Terror mastermind, Zakir Musa, currently with an Al-Qaeda inspired outfit, once advocated the caliphate. For his pains, he was roundly criticized for weakening the political dimensions of the Kashmir problem and expelled from his position as leader of the local group, the Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen.
Over the turn of the year, masked youth appeared Srinagar’s historic Jamia Masjid after the Friday prayers waving IS flags, prompting a rally the following Friday by the separatist conglomerate, the Hurriyet, against what they claimed was an attempt by unspecified forces to way-lay their ‘indigenous’ movement for ‘self-determination’. For its part, the Pakistan-sponsored Lashkar-e-Toiba pointed to ‘Indian agents’ being behind the incident.
The latest instance of IS rising its head is in its designating Kashmir as Wilaya-e-Hind, a province of a to-be caliphate. Earlier, Kashmir was on the radar of the IS-affiliate overseeing its supposed Khorasan province that includes Afghanistan.
The claim was made in immediate wake of the killing by security forces of the last known surviving member of the group, IS in Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK). The ISJK had only a handful of self-proclaimed cadre to begin with and no links with West Asia. It was wiped out in successive operations over the past two year, while two alleged associates were caught in the mainland.
The police has thus rightly characterized the IS announcement as propaganda, since there are no IS remnants in Kashmir. The claim is transparent as a bid to break out of its current status as a virtual threat confined to cyber space.
Not having made inroads in Kashmir even when at its height and when the post-Burhan Wani phase was at its peak, a return of the IS under improved conditions of today is unlikely.
Besides, the last IS-affiliated terrorist was also known for tanzeem hopping, having signed up to terrorism after reportedly being tortured by security forces. Another fighter was reportedly disgruntled at losing a cousin in police firing. This indicates motives other than radicalism, pointing to a magnification of radicalization as threat.
The Kashmir police was apt in rejecting the allegation by the Sri Lankan army chief that the Easter Day terrorists had visited Kashmir, there being no record of the visit. The image of Kashmir as a hot-bed of radicalism does not square with the politics of Kashmir rooted as they are in an inter-state territorial dispute
Hyping of any IS mention in the media appears in Kashmir as motivated attempts to tarnish the ‘movement’. Likewise, strategic commentary taking IS’ claims at face-value betrays a confirmation bias, useful as it is for points-scoring against Pakistan. Electoral dividend is also sought by motivated political forces feeding into an anti-Muslim discourse as part of a rightwing project of Othering Muslims. There is danger of reports of IS being manipulated to continue with a militarized status quo. Placing it in perspective is necessary. 
Even so, it takes merely a handful of terrorists to perpetrate horrendous outrages such as the Easter Day attacks and Mumbai 26/11. Vigilance is inescapable. It would be denial to believe that the politics and insurgencies in India provide no opportunity for attention of nefarious forces. Alongside, therefore, ‘root causes’ must be addressed.
The United Nations plan of action for prevention of violent extremism provides a comprehensive framework of response. The report says, ‘Urgent measures must be taken to resolve protracted conflicts.’
This underscores the necessity to bring back a political track to complement the military prong of strategy in Kashmir. Ending the status of Kashmir as a conflict zone can best preserve it from the proverbial evil eye.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019


The Five Years Of Mr Ajit Doval
Toting up Ajit Doval’s final score card

In wake of the ultimate piece of evidence on decision making prowess and process of the Modi regime – Modi’s reasoning that clouds hampered radar that under-gird his decision on the Balakot aerial strike – the long-suspected dysfunctionality at the heart of India’s national security system is by now amply clear.

The dysfunction owes to the wrong choice of national security adviser (NSA) in first place. For this the hagiography by bhakts in the media fattened on intelligence handouts that heightened expectations on Ajit Doval’s taking over of the appointment as Modi’s first act in office is not alone to blame. All of Doval’s operational expertise could not redeem his record in office.

He started off matching his Agent Vinot image, with a finger in every pie:

- He was all over Burdwan, covering up the tracks of the Hindutva terrorists who had blown themselves up accidentally making bombs so as to implicate Muslims in bombings.

-In Delhi, he inquired after the Uber rape case.

-He dashed off to Mumbai to oversee arrangements on the hanging of Yacub Memon.

-He skipped the prime ministerial trip to Bangladesh to oversee the surgical strikes into Myanmar, though the army chief was also on hand.

-He undercut the foreign ministry by going to Myanmar to placate their ruffled feathers.

-He jumped off the prime minister’s plane on a trip to Central Asia in order to make an unscheduled trip to Dubai and arrange the prime minister’s West Asian outreach.

-He oversaw the supersession of traditional succession in the military and the foreign ministry. It is widely acknowledged he botched the Pathankot anti-terror operation by over-supervision, which - in this author’s view - was to cover up any Indian fingerprints over this possibly ‘black’ operation. (The view owes to a cryptic paragraph in a gushy account of Parrikar’s defence minister tenure in which the author refers to the strange case of a police officer escaping the clutches of the terror squad that infiltrated to carry out the attack.)

-He oversaw articulation and implementation of the Doval doctrine – variously called the Modi doctrine or Modi-Doval doctrine by bhakts in academia and the strategic community. The doctrine is a shift from India’s traditional strategic doctrine of strategic restraint to an offensive one, which Doval in a pre-accession lecture at Sastra University dubbed erroneously as ‘defensive offense’.

There is no such thing in strategic lexicon as defensive offense (ask Uncle Google). Presumably he meant to say ‘offensive defence’, taking a leaf out of the Pakistani characterization of its strategic doctrine. Given this confusion at the conception stage, it explains a description of its implementation in one characterization as ‘pirouettes’ in foreign policy, particularly in respect of Pakistan.

As for his elevation to displace the Defence Minister (in retrospect not such a bad idea in light of the defence minister’s inability to outgrow her ruling party spokesperson role) in his heading of the Defence Planning Committee and the Cabinet Secretary in taking over the reins of the strategic policy group, the outcomes speak for themselves.

There is no articulation of strategic doctrine. The nuclear doctrine remains static. The army’s latest doctrinal publication was put out surreptitiously. The air force rued missing Rafale aircraft during its response to Pakistan’s counter at Naushera to Modi’s Balakot caper.

The standing up to China at Doklam was accompanied by some eighteen rounds of talks to de-escalate the incident. That these were in Beijing tells a story. These were followed up the following year with Modi proceeding to Wuhan, the abject optics of which the so-called Wuhan spirit could not obscure. That India remains outside the nuclear suppliers group thanks to China speaks more than India having finally pushed Masood Azhar into a corner.

To be sure, it would be unfair to judge Doval in areas he has little expertise of. He should instead be appraised for his showing on the Pakistan-Kashmir front, where he reputedly did a seven years stint (‘undercover’ as hagiographers have it). The Pulwama-Balakot-Naushera episode has been presented by his boss, the Prime Minister, all through the elections as India’s arrival finally as a strategically-minded regional power capable of deploying hard power in the national interest.

Firstly, Doval’s persisting with the hardline in Kashmir set the conditions for the Pulwama episode. There was an intelligence lapse and no khaki heads rolled for convoy mismanagement. That the episode provided a political opportunity is no reason for not following up with accountability.

However, Doval is answerable for the key question as to why was Pulwama not deterred in first place. The conditions that can set up a spiral continue – Operation All Out and military alert - compounded by bans redolent of vendetta against the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and the Jamaat. The election figures from Kashmir of mere 20 per cent turnout bust India’s case against plebiscite as it is has extended democracy to Kashmir.

Secondly, as for the boldness on display in the Balakot operation, there was never a case that such a response was ever precluded by Pakistan’s nuclear threshold. For the Prime Minister to imply as much in his political gimmickry drawing a connection between nuclear weapons and Diwali implies that he is either ill-served by advisers or self-serving in appropriating a military achievement.

As former Pakistani foreign minister Mehmood Kasuri’s memoir’s mention, the Indians had apparently thought of targeting Muridke after 26/11, but in the event better strategic sense prevailed.

The option was discussed widely as far back as 2010 when the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry discussed it. Upping the ante against Pakistan was not exercised thereafter since there was no terror attack worth risking escalation, other than the one at Uri that was followed by surgical strikes.

Even if the military operations branch disavowed from any such strikes prior to September 2016, that surgical strikes were part of the repertoire of responses has been made crystal clear by the Congress owning up to six strikes. In any case, Pakistan’s response put the surgical strikes in better perspective than the eponymous super-hit movie that had a Doval look-alike and political affiliate assaying his character in the movie.

Third, from the hyperactivity of Baluch freedom fighters, there appears to be a fillip to intelligence operations, as Doval had outlined in his Sastra University addressed. This is understandable if the pressure point so created could provide dividend elsewhere. However, Doval busted his opportunity to network with the Pakistani deep state in his discussions, reportedly over six plus meetings.

The Pakistani NSA’s trip to Delhi was cancelled early on in mid 2015. Their military’s replacement of the NSA with a military man to provide Doval with a credible interlocutor also did not help any. Finally, the Pakistanis have done away with the position itself. Their positive feelers – to the extent of postponing their support for the Kashmir insurgency – have been rejected. Doval is handing over a rather empty file.

Last but not least is internal security. Lynchings apart, there is the designation of Hindu terrorists as India’s ‘good terrorists’, never mind the implications for India’s long standing advocacy for an international convention on international terrorism. Perhaps the convention keeps domestic terrorism outside its scope and restricts itself to Islamist terror. This is the long term damage Doval will be remembered for.

In short, national security has been ill-served. That information war has been deployed to paper this over and instead to project national security mindedness of this government as its USP amounts to yet another hoax, jumla in plainspeak. While national security does have political impulse behind it in genearl, Doval’s has politicized national security inordinately by allowing ideology to contaminate strategy, handing ovr his successor a ready start point – de-toxification.

Friday, 10 May 2019


Kashmir: Radicalisation and what to do about it

The Sri Lankan army chief has thrown the cat among the pigeons. He indicated to the press that some Sri Lankan bombers visited Kashmir, Kerala and Bangaluru. The assumption is that they may have picked up their knowhow, wares or extremism from their visit. The initial response of the Kashmir police was that there is no record of such a visit to Kashmir.
Even so, it is apparent how easily Kashmir figures in the imagination as a ‘go to’ place for would-be terrorists. This should be troubling, especially since the shift to radicalization in Kashmir has found mention through this decade. Evidence touted is the Islamist affiliation of leading terrorist Zakir Musa and his attempt at wresting of the political direction of the movement; the appearance of black flags symbolizing extremism on the streets; the recent fracas by a group within the precincts of Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid after Friday prayers; the inclusion of Kashmir in the invective of the Islamic State (IS) stalwarts assigned as minders to the region; the proximity of IS affiliated outfits close at hand in Afghanistan etc.
The ascent of the IS in Iraq and Syria mid-decade witnessed eddies in the region. However, the IS influence has been greatly exaggerated, particularly as the temporary ascendance of the IS was speedily tamped down by reaction of the great powers and their local partners, such as the Kurds, in West Asia. The IS has ceased to exist as a territory holding entity, but the resurfacing of Al Baghdadi, its leader, in taking ownership of the Sri Lankan mayhem, suggests that it continues as a ideological threat-in-being. This is of a piece with the Al Qaeda, which, though considerably whittled, exists as a lodestar for radicals, not least because the geopolitical critique it propounds of the global and regional order is not about to change. In effect, both IS and Al Qaeda will not disappear till the ‘root causes’ that give rise to their line of thinking – such as (in their view) the energy security related grip of the US-led West over core Arab regimes and the suppression of the Palestinians - are not appropriately addressed.
The major point, missed in the western media mediated information on the IS, is that politics and civil society being largely absent in Arab states, in particular Saudi Arabia (remember the Khashoggi case), the opposition to the reactionary regimes there takes a perverse form. It comprises ultra-right extremist religion-based organizations, aiming to outflank rightist and feudal sheikhdoms. Wahabbism – ultra orthodox, sharia-based Islam - that is the ideology of the regimes is sought to be outflanked by Salafism, an obscurantist version. The competitive religiosity leads to offshoots of sectarianism and extremism, such as the takfiris. The United Nations Security Council has set up a mission to report back on the IS depredations when it was in power.
Added to the doctrinal differences is the political aspect, political Islam. Political Islam has a component that critiques the world order in which the ‘Middle East’ is under sway of ‘Western’ hegemony. The Europeans who flocked to the IS were mostly swayed by this. This facet of the IS has been blocked from view by the media and think tanks that selectively transmit the worst of IS messaging in their translations of largely Arabic literature put out by these organisations. Some think tanks, such as MEMRI which is relied on for information is reportedly being funded partially by Zionist interests.
There is military presence of the United States in the region. The Americans last week sailed an aircraft carrier into the Mediterranean to frighten Iran. This politico-military grip has an energetic discursive counter. The Arab Spring was a manifestation of sorts in its bid for a democratic turn, but as seen over through the decade, it was either nipped in the bud or its outcome upturned for a return to conservatism. The latest instance is in Sudan, where the military regime that took over from Al Bashir is applying the brakes, with the help of the Saudis, Egypt and United Arab Emirates, against the civilian led uprising. The political backlash such retrograde action prompts is constricted, leaving political Islam as opposition and much in evidence in badlands and conflict zones now spread across the Arab lands from Iraq to Libya. This context to Islamist radicalization finds little mention.
As for the linkage of the IS with India, the potential for its minority to be radicalized has been over-hyped and deliberately so. This columnist has argued here and elsewhere that the Islamist threat and the susceptibility of Indians to it has been a Hindutva project, put forward to a degree by similarly motivated members of the intelligence and strategic communities and those bent on points scoring over Pakistan. There are stooges in the media to carry forward and amplify the fake news that IS is at the doorstep. Little else can be inferred from the din over the past five years over the numbers in a mere middle double digits of Indians in the IS fold. Most of these were from the Indian diaspora living in the Gulf region. Though it does not take more than a handful to perpetrate mayhem, the column inches were less to deter than to marginalize and ghettoize.
Admittedly, Indian immunity to IS overtures – due to a sufistic-snycretic ethos of Indian Islam, India’s democratic traditions and positive economic trajectory - has found mention in the same breath. This is routinely trotted out, but more as a sweetner to the minority, even as in doing so – such as on occasion by the home minister – the message is on the graciousness of the majority community rather than good sense of the minority.
The ruling party has campaigned on the plank that its tenure has not witnessed any home grown terror. Pulwama was Jaish instigated. This only goes to prove that the Hindutva terrorists who are at root to some 17 bomb blasts across India (according to Ananty Patwardhan’s latest documentary, Reason) in the tenure of the previous government have been put to pasture by this one, since it did not need them anymore. In fact, it has gone on to rehabilitate all of them, one with a ticket to parliament and another back in uniform, in the secular, apolitical army. ‘Sadhvi’ Praya Thakur’s bad mouthing national hero, Hemant Karkare, served as backdrop to a new book by a former Inspector General of Maharashtra police, Mushrif, which argues that there is more to the Mumbai 26/11 terror episode and killing of the Anti Terror Squad head, Karkare.
Radicalization in the national context is not related to India’s Muslims. It is instead related to Hindutvavadis and the affiliated extremist groups such as Abhinav Bharat and Sanatan Sansthan. This in-the-face feature is elided rather dexterously in the strategic discourse. Even a change in government may not be enough to expel the majoritarian virus, given that the bombings attributed to Muslim terrorists but undertaken by Hindutva terrorists as part of black operations took place on the watch of the previous Congress-led government. The national security adviser then, an intelligence chief in his time, in his two op-ed articles for The Hindu (3 April, 20 December) on terrorism had not a single word on Hindutva terrorism. Such silence shouts out a hidden truth.
Given this rather extensive – if contrarian – background, one needs being wary of reports of radicalization in Kashmir. As with the case in Arabian countries, where there is an absence of politics, any radicalization can only be attributed to the limitation of political space in Kashmir. The space for voicing their interpretation of Azadi is constricted, since the government has gone out of its way to ignore the subject.
Its so-called interlocutor certainly draws a salary, but on what count is a state secret. On taking over his assignment he had referred to one agenda area being radicalization of the youth. The social media networked youth, seen as more susceptible to radical discourse, are sufficiently disaffected from the Indian state – seen from their stone throwing propensity - to be fertile ground for such ideologies.
Such political neglect opens up space for radicalization as a political strategy of elements in Kashmir’s rebellion. Even separatists, who once took out a march after the episode of radicals’ sudden appearance of Srinagar’s historic Jamia Masjid, have implied as much, arguing that the territorial and political problem appears to be headed southwards into radical hands. This may be tactical, to stampede the state into taking them seriously as a preventive measure. This downgrading of the radicalization thesis is not denial – as the doyen of South Asian international relations scholars Mohammad Ayoob woud have it in his column in The Hindu - as much as putting it in perspective.
That said, the potential for radicalization needs addressing. This cannot be in the form the state has adopted, such as in the recent banning of the Jamaat i Islami. The action misses the difference between orthodoxy and radicalism. There is also no call for suppression in the form of the custodial killing by torture of a Jamaat linked school teacher. Further, there is sufficient experience in south Indian police forces for methods of prevention and de-radicalisation that can be tapped for best practice. An early decision on the lead agency can preempt turf battles since other security agencies may elbow in on the action on the latest buzzword. Kashmir police is the best bet. It can create a special cell to take this head on. The army and the Rashtriya Rifles have their military task cut out and need not expand into this operational area to legitimise their continued presence in civilian spaces in Kashmir.
There is no escaping the fact that bringing back politics is the only recourse, prevention being better than cure. The radical threat has been elevated since it helped the government to keep off interfacing politically with the Kashmir issue. It legitimised the hardline in Kashmir. It helped the ruling party gain votes in the cow dust belt for being strong on security. The radicalization gimmick helped India interface supportively with Gulf regimes, enabling the prime minister to nab the highest national honour from both the Saudis and the UAE. Consequently, the purposes having been met, the radicalization line and the hardline can be abandoned by Modi if returned to power. If another government, it must upturn the Kashmir legacy of its predecessor and watch the threat of radicalization vanish in a puff.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019


Kashmir: A first cut analysis of the just-concluded parliamentary elections

National security was catapulted into being the primary election issue for the first time with the car bombing in Pulwama in mid February and its aftermath in an aerial confrontation between India and Pakistan in the Balakot-Naushera episode.
The strong-on-defence plank of the ruling party has at its core the demonstrated decision making credentials of the prime minister, which the surgical strikes of September 2016, the Balakot aerial strike and the anti-satellite test serve to buttress.
However, such self-projection by the ruling party serves to obscure the deterioration of the situation in Kashmir over its tenure, best illustrated by the polling percentages across the Valley.
In the first phase of polling in Kashmir, people stayed away from 172 polling stations in Srinagar constituency that witnessed 15 per cent voting, a fall by half from the figure of about 25 per cent in 2014.
In the Srinagar by-poll earlier in 2017, triggered by the defection of the sitting parliamentarian, the figure was a mere 7 per cent, accompanied by some 8 civilians killed. The by-poll showing had prompted the postponing of a similar by-poll in Anantnag constituency, the vacated seat of Mehbooba Mufti who moved as chief minister in 2016.
This time round, the polls in Anantnag constituency, epicenter of Kashmiri disaffection in south Kashmir, witnessed about 9 per cent turnout. Despite an unprecedented three-phased poll in the constituency, the last day was hallmarked by two grenade attacks.
Although voting percentages were higher in north Kashmir - the figure for Kupwara district being 51 per cent – this owed to the turnout of largely Pahadi people inhabiting the areas along the Line of Control. Baramula district though declared by the police as terrorist free early this year had 25 per cent polling.
The meager figures cast a cloud over the tacitly-held Indian position that the plebiscite - promised to Kashmiris at accession time - has been provisioned by the extension of Indian democracy to the state.
Evidently, Kashmiris are unimpressed. The panchayat polls in December last year had seen the two major regional parties – the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party – staying away, resulting in 41 per cent participation, albeit a marked improvement over the municipal polls in October that featured a 4 per cent turnout. 
The low percentages did not quite need the election boycott call by separatists and militants. In the run up to the polls, the government appeared to be leaving no stone unturned for off-putting Kashmiris.
It banned the Jamaat-i-Islami that has a strong-hold in south Kashmir, and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front. It lifted the security cover of some 900 people, as it turned out temporarily for some 400 of them. In the event, one BJP politician was shot in south Kashmir.
Using election security preparedness as excuse, its ban till end May on use of the national highway on two das was upheld when challenged by the Supreme Court. It suspended the decade old confidence building measure of trading at the two points with Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
Full-throated military operations continued, even as it did not let down its guard on the Pakistan front. Midway between the polls, the figure for terrorists killed upped to 69, their number crossing the Pulwama martyrs’ figure with that of Jaish terrorists killed – an outfit to which the Pulwama car bomber belonged – pegged at 25.
Amplified by a media favouring the Bhartiya Janata Party’s (BJP) nationalism plank, these hardline actions appeared to be designed to fetch votes nationally. In the Jammu belt, resulting regional polarization, most recently deepened by the riot-like targeting Kashmiris post-Pulwama, has long been an asset for the BJP.
Importantly, for the future - that is to see the state go to polls in autumn - is the BJP president, Amit Shah, showing of the red-rag - included in its manifesto - on ridding the Constitution of Articles 35A and 370. The BJP’s Kashmir pointsman, Ram Madhav, watered this down while on poll visit to Anantnag, arguing for a developmental agenda instead.
The threat can be taken as election time posturing by the BJP, since a return by it to power will only be being sans its hitherto majority, the threat is unlikely materialize.
The good part is that the political consensus on the inviolability of the two Articles between the mainstream regional parties will prompt wider participation in the forthcoming assembly elections to ensure a viable front against any tampering.
An indicator of their sense of purpose is in their coming together briefly in November last year to bid for governing, that in turn had prompted the governor to dissolve the assembly that had been in suspended animation since June.
In short, the message from the parliamentary elections is of Kashmiri alienation, even if the bright side is that with the message having been conveyed, a wider participation can be expected in the assembly elections. The caveat is whether the next government – to be known on 23 May – carries forward the legacy of the last five years or overturns it.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Scholar Warrior, CLAWS, Spring 2019
Options for addressing the Kashmir issue

The aggravated internal security situation in Kashmir gets into its fourth decade over the turn of the decade. Though the forty year mark is not unusual in insurgencies, particularly where proxy war and hybrid war is endemic, it is a timely juncture for reflection as to whether more needs doing and what needs doing differently. This article attempts such an exercise, assuming that a strategy for return of normalcy by mid-decade is worthwhile.
The assumption springs from the logic that India’s great power ambitions are debilitated by its commitment in Kashmir. Fallout from the protracted conflict in Kashmir is leading to India being boxed into South Asia, by being hyphenated with Pakistan serving as a cat’s paw of China. A second assumption is that a strategy for putting the Kashmir issue behind India by mid-next decade would entail an ‘all of government’ approach. The logic of this assumption is Clausewitzian: that that the political level supersedes the military. A political problem brooks for a political solution, with a military template being at best a conflict management tool that cannot substitute for conflict resolution. 
Beginning with a quick environment scan, the article first outlines strategy options along a continuum weighed at one end by a security forces-heavy approach and by a peace process at the other. The three options arising are hardline, mixed and softline. The three are not mutually exclusive.  The broad military measures in place being known, are not reiterated here. Instead, the article thereafter conducts a brief outline of a peace process and a conflict analysis to highlight the possibilities in the peace prong of strategy.
An environment scan
Operation All Out, launched to contain the outbreak of agitations after the death of Hizb ul Mujahedeen affiliated Burhan Wani, continuing into its second year has resulted in over 250 terrorist deaths.[i] This is indicative of the military returning Kashmir yet again to a level of relative stability under which a political prong of strategy can be relevant. However, owing to the demise of the ruling coalition in the state mid last year, the state has been under governor and president’s rule. The central government has also been looking at national elections. The security conditions conducive to political action have been under-utilised,[ii] with the special representative[iii] inactive and the governor attending to governance issues. The upshot has been in reports of increasing radicalism. Some 300 youth continue to be in militant ranks. This implies the security forces (SF) have their hands full over the coming year, with the immediate concern being security for the parliamentary and assembly elections.
The regional security situation is marked by the efforts towards a dignified exit from Afghanistan by the United States’ (US) led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The US has over the Trump presidency weighed on Pakistan to deliver the Taliban to the table for talks, including through some arm twisting such as withholding of funding for its military.[iv] The talks’ process is set to acquire two tracks, one between the US and Taliban and the other between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Whether this eventuates in a transitional government at Kabul or the scheduled national elections mid-year is among next steps. India has taken care to be at the table, having sent two retired foreign service officers as observers to one meeting of the renewed peace initiative.[v]
The pressure on Pakistan helped keep it in check through the year in Kashmir. It has made the best of the situation by projecting the Kashmir problem as an indigenous one. It has however kept its support alive through keeping the Line of Control (LC) active, despite an understanding reached early in the year for reverting to the ceasefire. Politically its new government has reached out to India and has used India’s understandable reticence in election year to participate in any new political outreach, to attempt upstage India.[vi] Given that Pakistan has some cards up its sleeve in relation to its partial control over the Taliban, Pakistan is well placed to refresh its nefarious activities in Kashmir in case of the Afghan peace initiative either succeeding or failing.
The three broad strategy options  
The hardline option
The option stems from the perspective that Pakistan may take time to turn round, implying that the security forces would remain at the forefront for some time. Depending on how the Afghan situation shapes up, the effort would be to turn the tables on the two-front problem that India is faced with on Pakistan. An active western front would keep Pakistan from being overly proactive in Kashmir. Besides, it would open up scope for India’s conventional deterrent to kick in, since the proactive operations Cold Start strategy is predicated on quick retribution in case of Pakistani provocations crossing India’s tolerance threshold. Over the summer the integrated battle group concept, central to the cold start strategy, is on the test bed.[vii] The resulting restructuring of the mechanized formations would enable India to resuscitate its conventional deterrent. It would also tie in better with the nuclear deterrent, in that conventional operations would be better able to stay below the Pakistani nuclear threshold while administering punitive costs on its military. Not dwelt on here are offensive intelligence operations that can suggest to Pakistan its underbelly needs bothering about more than its jugular.
The manner the option would play out in Kashmir is in two steps. The first would be in a wrapping up the militancy. Not only would Pakistani terrorist need to be wiped out but fresh infiltration stalled. This would entail a continuing of tactical aggression on the LC. As indicated by the Chief,[viii] the options in the tradition of surgical strikes are many to retain the initiative and moral ascendancy. This may require up to two campaigning seasons on Kashmir, before the conditions for a political outreach develop. In the interim, the separatist camp would require being kept pressured through undercutting their access to hawala funds and their funding of the stone throwing agitationists. Eventually, the aim would be to drop a line from a position of unassailable strength to the by then much mellowed separatists. Their weightage in the outreach would be diluted by the presence at the table of the mainstream parties, civil society organizations, groupings of displaced Kashmiri Pandits and representatives of the other regions. This can play out over the balance of tenure of the forthcoming government, making for an incentive for the governments at both the center and state to stay the course and take credit for a return of normalcy. A nationalist narrative in the hinterland can keep up the support of the majority elsewhere.
The mixed option
The option is essentially more-of-the-same as thus far. This has involved a military prong of strategy, an internal political and developmental prong and a diplomatic offensive. The military template has been in the policing of the LC in multiple tiers and people-friendly operations in the hinterland. The political prong of strategy has been in the holding of elections that have witnessed an alternation of political parties in power. The development efforts have been energized by projects in J&K.[ix] At the diplomatic level, the thrust has been in isolating Pakistan by using the leverage of India as a growing market compared to Pakistan being on the brink of a failed state status. India has succeeded in distancing the US from Pakistan and a strategy with a like end in respect of China is in the works. The repeated outreach to Pakistan has found little reciprocation, leading the government to rest its hand till Pakistan commits to its oft-repeated pledge of wrapping up support for terrorism.[x]
The outcome of the mixed strategy has been in a continuing of conflict management. This is only seemingly suboptimal. Its advantage has been that neither has the internal security situation ever been out of control and nor has the external security situation deteriorated to war. There have been episodes of terror warranting conventional retribution, but Indian grand strategy has privileged the economy in such cases. An ability through the Cold Start doctrine to keep a conflict non-nuclear continues as a deterrent threat that keeps Pakistan’s hand in Kashmir in check.
This is a strategy India is familiar with. It may be left with little option than to continue with in case of a varied coalition coming to power in the coming elections. It is a low cost option, in line with India’s war-avoidance strategy of restraint. It is aligned with counter insurgency theory predicated on the long haul. It is cognizant of peace theory which calls for creation and seizing of opportunities stemming from a ‘hurting stalemate’ (for insurgents) and ‘ripe moments’.[xi]
The softline option
India has a major tradition in its strategic thought, the Asokan tradition, which can usefully be taken advantage of.[xii] India’s liberal democracy has the creative wellsprings that can envisage accommodationist solutions. India’s Constitution is flexible and given political will, it can provide the framework for political peacemaking. There is precedent of addressing India’s ethnic problems politically, ranging from the Mizo accord and the Nagaland framework agreement. Within Kashmir, there have been a plethora of initiatives waiting to be built on. These include the papers from the five working groups of the 2000s and the report of the three interlocutors.[xiii] Out-of-the-box answers such as trifurcation of the state must figure on the talks menu. The silver lining in the conflict, such as the largely secure conduct of the Amarnath Yatra, progress of the tourist season and the residue of good will between the two Valley communities – Muslims and Pandits - need to be leveraged. Civil society groups and their activity provide a fertile ground for birthing and sustaining such initiative.
Needless to add there are issues that would come up as the peace initiative acquires traction. Talking to separatists would be inescapable. A recall of their meetings with the prime minister and home minister in the mid 2000s suggests this is not an outlandish proposition. Follow through would be dependent on security indices, for instance, a phased with-drawal of the Armed Forces Special Power’s Act may be warranted as talks head towards climax. The usual sequencing of peace processes – preliminary negotiations, negotiations, agreement, follow up arrangements, reconciliation, peacebuilding, reintegration of militants – would need thinking through, planned for, agreed on and implemented. The end state would inevitably be the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley with dignity, honour, security and full restitution. The vexed human rights issue would require investing in an innovative truth telling, remorse expression, forum for apology and reconciliation framework, headed by spiritual and legal luminaries of national stature.   
In respect of Pakistan, there is a robust precedence with engaging with that state ranging from traditional diplomacy, high level summits, quiet diplomacy on sidelines of meetings, personal initiatives, national security adviser engagement, meetings along the LC, links between heads of military operations and back channel talks. Given political will, these can be taken to their logical end. The US is on board. China’s transcontinental connectivity project also is advantaged and China can be co-opted. The prospects of détente on the subcontinent can have beneficial portents for the Afghan settlement. There is a dormant regional organization that can provide cover for the reaching out by both sides.
This is a viable pathway in either circumstance: of governmental continuity or change. In case of continuity, a right wing government is usually taken as the best bet for taking hard decisions in the national interest. The government having already proven the tough line can afford to pass out some line to test waters. In case of a change in government, the governmental policy may also be to seek a change in the Kashmir template to more of the peace process in its Kashmir strategy, if only to distance itself from the predecessor. The option can also be clubbed with the first, being the second phase of a hardline initially, followed up with a softline, to be played out respectively over two governmental terms spanning the coming decade.  
The peace prong of strategy
The proxy/hybrid war dimension implies that the peace prong of strategy would have two pegs, one relevant to the mitigation of the proxy/hybrid war directed externally and the second being internal political, both hyphenated to the degree. A feature of the subconventional operations doctrine is that the kinetic phase is to be capitalized by a talks process.[xiv] Negotiations are to advance respective interests through joint action. A conflict analysis precedes such a process identifying the positions, interests, needs and fears of parties, setting the stage  for a negotiations strategy providing a sense of the viability, direction, pace, content, sequencing, negotiation footwork, ideas and the ‘best alternative to negotiated agreement’ (BATNA) of each party. It essentially identifies interests at stake – procedural preferences, psychological needs and substantive outcomes - and a via media towards a win-win proposition for most.[xv]
There are two options for the deal making. The first is an introspective one in which India settles with its disaffected Kashmiris and the second a wider erstwhile J&K wide process. The latter was on the plate in the mid 2000s in a version of the Musharraf formula, but is not considered here any further for limit of space. It is posited here that an internal settlement is plausible and that Pakistan will fall in line as the process progresses, using the opportunity to claim credit for bringing India round to a political settlement. It can be tacitly offered the sop of an economic lifeline that it desperately needs and will fall for. The Pakistan dimension may require to be progressed secretly initially, with a diplomatic face-saver designed to get Pakistan fall in line. Operations would of course proceed against Pakistani mercenaries with a surrender-and-be-tried choice left to them.
A conflict analysis identifying the primary and subsidiary parties to the conflict would include the people, the political parties, the separatists, the internally displaced community – Kashmiri Pandits, and representatives of the other regional communities of Jammu, Ladakh and possibly Rajouri and Doda. The positions and underlying interests of each party would be outlined on each of the procedural and substantive issues at stake: political devolution, economic development, legal and constitutional aspects, human rights, resettlement, surrender and amnesty policy etc. Many creative options have already been conjured up by the interlocutors who have worked on this earlier. These will need evaluating against objective constitutional criteria of legitimacy, justice and equality so as to provide the lead negotiator a sense of the approaches. Workshops of the participants need being organized so as to empower each stakeholder and familiarize each with the procedures of the joint problem solving negotiations process.
The process itself will comprise preparatory proximity talks, opening statements, procedural guidelines and consensus on agenda and framing of issues, joint exploration and mutual appreciation of interests, collective option generation through presentation of proposals and counter proposals and evaluation of options against objective criteria. The resulting time-bound agreement would require national support and parliamentary ballast, a supervisory mechanism and forum for tackling problems as they arise in the implementation phase. This would involve coextensive perception management and transparency.
An initial challenge will be identifying of a consensus and respect commanding lead negotiator and forming of a multi-agency support team. Later it would be spoiler management of the violent, disruptionist and silent variety. A joint ceasefire management mechanism would require to be operationalised as has been done in Nagaland. There is considerable depth to the Indian experience on all of this, not only in the series of negotiated suspension of operations agreements in the north east, but also in Indians participating in peace processes in a United Nations setting.
The strategy option adopted would derive from the grand strategy of the incoming government. The first option would be likely in case the strategic doctrine of the new government is in the realist tradition. The second option of business-as-usual would be likely in case of a risk-averse coalition. The third option’s likelihood increases in case of a stable government, willing to profess a liberal doctrine. The peace prong of strategy as outlined would require complementing all three options, increasing in weightage in the third, softline, option.   

[i] PTI, ‘257 terrorists killed in Jammu and Kashmir in 2018, highest in 10 yrs: DGP’, Business Standard, 31 December 2018,
[ii] HS Panag, ‘Indian Army made way for government to resolve Kashmir, but politics failed’, The Print, 6 December 2018,
[iii] PIB, “Centre Appoints Shri Dineshwar Sharma as its Representative in J&K,” Press Information Bureau, Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, October 23, 2017, viewed on November 01, http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=171866

[iv] Ashley Tellis et. al. ‘Review of President Trump’s South Asia Strategy: The Way Ahead, One Year In’, Atlantic Council, 11 December 2018, https://carnegieendowment.org/2018/12/11/review-of-president-trump-s-south-asia-strategy-way-ahead-one-year-in-pub-77939

[v] ‘In a first, India to send two former diplomats to talks that include Taliban representatives’, The Hindu, 8 November 2018,
[vi] Devirupa Mitra, ‘Peace Talks With India After 2019 Elections: Imran Khan’, The Wire, 29 November 2018,
[vii] Nitin Gokhle interviews General Bipin Rawat, ‘IBGs Will Not be Based on the Concept of One-Size Fits All, Says Gen Bipin Rawat’, bharatshakti.in, 17 December 2018,
[viii]Need another surgical strike, says Army chief Bipin Rawat’, India Today, 24 September 2018, https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/bipin-rawat-on-surgical-strikes-1347522-2018-09-24
[ix] ‘PM Modi on visit to J&K, Leh: Highlights’, The Times of India, 3 February 2019, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pm-modi-on-visit-to-jk-leh-ladakh-highlights/articleshow/67814766.cms
[x] TNN, ‘Sushma Swaraj at UN: No talks with Pakistan amid terror’, The Times of India, 30 September 2018, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/sushma-at-un-no-talks-with-pakistan-amid-terror/articleshow/66011468.cms
[xi] Peter Wallenstein, Understanding Conflict Resolution, London: Sage, 2015, pp.37-84.
[xii][xii] Ali Ahmed, ‘Indian Strategic Culture: The Pakistan Dimension’ in Kanti Bajpai et. al. (eds.), India’s Grand Strategy: History, Theory, Cases, New Delhi: Routledge, 2014, pp. 290-93.
[xiii] Radha Kumar, Paradise at War: A political history of Kashmir, New Delhi: Aleph, 2018.
[xiv] Army Training Command, Doctrine on Sub Conventional Operations, Shimla: ATRAC, 2006.
[xv] Michael Butler, International Conflict Management, New Delhi: Routledge, 2012, p. 129.