Thus spoke the Generals

…no gains from armed conflict

Dr. Javid Iqbal
Srinagar, Publish Date: Apr 20 2018 10:18PM | Updated Date: Apr 20 2018 10:18PM
Thus spoke the GeneralsFile Photo

They are in the midst of it and they have spoken. Across the Indo-Pak divide, the generals holding command of armies have spoken their heart out. There is going to be no gain from an armed conflict. First it was Gen. Qamar Javid Bajwa, commanding the Pakistan army. He said, “Road to peaceful solutions of Pak-India disputes runs through meaningful dialogue.’’ Gen. Bajwa was followed by Gen. Bipin Rawat, commanding the Indian army. On a tour of Kashmir to mark the  70th foundation day of Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry Regiment, Gen. Rawat stated unequivocally that, “neither forces nor militants will achieve their goal in Kashmir.’’ What the generals stated forthrightly should prompt a rethink in the political circles. The political executives across the divide can no more afford to be complacent in taking a decision on a sustained dialogue. And, in the words of Gen. Bajwa, a meaningful one to settle disputes, Kashmir tops the list, it remains the core issue.

Gen. Bipin Rawat, on taking over the command of Indian army, was taken to be a hawk. His image fitted with the ‘Doval Doctrine’ advocating a hard-line approach vis-à-vis Kashmir. Gen. Rawat was preferred over his seniors. He pursued the tough line—a muscular militaristic response to widening militancy. The militancy carried a different hue from what it was in the past. Locally grown and locally based, it was becoming increasingly hard to call it sponsored or a label often applied—cross border militancy. The militancy was mostly South Kashmir based, far removed from LoC. And, it started gaining public support to the extent of local population coming to the aid of trapped militants at one encounter site after another. Thus, apart from militant casualties, increasing number of civilian deaths gave rise to heightening worries. The mass funerals, with thousands attending, and militants presenting gun salutes to the departed men in arms, became an ever increasing phenomenon.

All said and done, the armed conflict between forces is grossly disproportionate. The militant number reported has hardly crossed 300; some call it an exaggerated figure. The militants are raged against vast resources of the state, and security forces armed to teeth. However, even with all the forces under his command, Gen. Rawat feels compelled to state that his forces cannot achieve their goal. His assessment, it seems, goes beyond the gross disproportion between the vast numbers he commands, and the miniscule number of militants. In the South Kashmir scenario, it is not taking on merely the militants, but vast population groups. This could be a nightmare for any commander, even with large forces in command. The feedback that Gen. Rawat might be getting from his men in the field could hardly be an encouraging one.  This could possibly have prompted him to conclude that given the circumstances, his forces cannot achieve their goal. This is getting on to be fight; armed forces are not trained to indulge in, unless they account for increasing number of civilians, along with militants. 

Gen. Qamar Javid Bajwa’s predicament is no less than Gen.Rawat’s. Apart from being pressed on the eastern frontier, given the sordid state of relations with India, he has to take care of the western front with Afghanistan. Pak-Afghan relations are rocky, though lately there has been some encouraging diplomatic interaction. Pakistan has backed Ashraf Ghani’s push for talks with Afghan Taliban. The Afghan President is ready to provide Af-Taliban political status, perhaps a power sharing agreement, and needs Pakistan’s support. Nevertheless, Pak-Afghan relationship is mostly patchy, with both countries off and on accusing one another of aiding and abetting militancy in their respective countries.  Pakistan still faces sporadic militancy, in spite of successes in anti-militancy operations—Zarb-e-Azab and Radd-ul-Fasad. Pakistan also faces hostile relations with US, in spite of some positive diplomatic engagement in recent past. And, with Donald Trump as US leader, Pakistan could hardly afford to be complacent. There are already signs of gradual change in Pakistan’s foreign policy. Along with steady relations with China, Pakistan has been courting Russia to put its foreign policy on an even kneel. 

Indian military planners apart from western front with Pakistan have to take care of northern front with Chinese. The task becomes daunting because of Sino-Pak nexus. Lately, India has been making efforts to even out relations with China. Chinese on their part are conscious of developing Indo-US relations. There is a lot of posturing going on, with the China responding positively to Indian overtures, given the benefits to be reaped from India’s trade and market potential. The changing influx in the subcontinent might have provided the incentive for the two generals to develop constituencies for peace. The generals across the sub-continental divide having laid their cards on the table have provided food for thought for the political leadership of India and Pakistan. It is for the leadership to take the call. With the leadership across the divide politically engaged in an election year, nothing spectacular may be expected in near future. However, it would be in the fitness of things to scale down the level of attrition in Kashmir.

To tone down attrition, opening up the space for political operatives is imperative. This could be positive investment in future.Choked space for peaceful resistance in Kashmir fosters militancy, with resultant violence, as the state responds disproportionately. Peaceful political engagement, sustained structured, result-oriented dialogue between main stake-holders—the parties to the dispute is imperative, given that military leadership across the divide has ruled out any gains from an armed conflict.  

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]


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