The nation has reason to be up in arms. Two incidents in Jammu and Kashmir on 1 May could significantly change the complexity and nature of threats in the
28-year Pakistan-sponsored proxy war in Kashmir, demanding an appropriate response.
The first incident was at Krishna Ghati in the Poonch sector, a location famously known in the Army for its frequent cross-LoC exchanges.
A Border Action Team (or BAT, a term with which India is quite familiar) from Pakistan comprising Special Forces and highly trained Pakistani terrorists created a local concentration and targeted a segment of the Krishna Ghati defences, focusing on an LoC patrol.
It may still have been acceptable, up to that point, because LoC actions by both sides are not dictated by any rationale. However, the BAT proceeded to mutilate the bodies of the two Indian personnel killed before fleeing across the LoC.
This, too, is not new, but it’s the first time in 2017. Also, this is the first time under General Qamar Bajwa, the Pakistan Army Chief who was expected to bring more sanity to the Pakistan Army’s attitude, relating to its obsession with Kashmir.
However, nothing has changed. It is obvious that a day after General Bajwa’s visit to Haji Pir near the LoC in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, this is a message being delivered to India.
Nawaz Sharif’s Back-room Activity
The cleavage between the military and the civilian government in Pakistan has manifested many times, in major differences in the handling of relations with India-J&K in particular.
It is obvious that there was some form of back-room activity by Nawaz Sharif’s civilian government, with Sajjan Jindal – an Indian businessman reportedly close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi – meeting the Pakistan Prime Minister at Murree.
The Pakistan Army and its cohorts do not usually wait long if they sense there are some potentially positive political moves afoot.
The Pathankot attack occurred within a week of PM Modi’s grand initiative of an impromptu visit to Lahore on 25 December 2015.
Krishna Ghati, a Wake-Up Call to Erdogan’s Words on the J&K Issue?
Now Krishna Ghati has taken place. Some link to the presence of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in New Delhi could also exist, but it is too early to conclude that.
Erdogan is known to have expressed the need for "multilateral dialogue" on Kashmir and offered his services in mediating. This is anathema to New Delhi but has been Pakistan’s long-standing position.
Was Krishna Ghati, therefore, a symbolic reminder that Erdogan’s words need to be heeded to avoid such acts of violence on the LoC?
Before further analysis, it is important to take stock of the other event on 1 May, the Kulgam incident, so that the joint impact of the two events can be assessed.
Sources in Kashmir stated that there was general happiness about the loss of five local policemen and two local bank security guards in an ambush on a bank van returning after distributing cash to the branches.
This response from the Kashmiris is quite different to that of a local soldier’s (from the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry) death in an ambush in the Shopian area in February 2017.
There was a huge and respectful turnout for the soldier’s funeral. That is as far as the Valley is known to have gone.
Alienation in the Valley
Supporting the killing of local policemen and security guards is a new low for the Kashmiri people, and is reflective of the alienation we are facing in the Valley.
It is not even known whether the perpetrators were foreign or local terrorists. If local, then it will change the nature of proxy internal conflict, making the confrontation with security forces that much more vicious.
Commanders of the Army are known to follow a less stringent campaign against locals, to allow them to come on board through surrenders, unless they are known to be more than hardcore.
Tougher Times Ahead for J&K?
The two events are not in synchronisation, but if read together, appear to indicate that 2017 and beyond will probably be difficult years in all domains of J&K.
It appears to stem from a distinct increase in Pakistan’s strategic confidence; a series of perceived foreign policy successes, which can be very temporary in nature.
Pakistani diplomats are speaking of five percent growth in Pakistan’s economy and expect a spurt in the near future. It is perception more than reality that drives such policy.
The other perception Pakistan appears to be drawing much solace from, is what it feels is an emerging victory in J&K. Is Indian media responsible for this idea?
Security for the People, Above All Else
Whatever it may be, the central and state governments and the security establishments have much to consider in terms of stabilising the Valley.
It is security first, and the people along with that, that has to be the focus.
Engagement with separatists or Pakistan will probably be far from anyone’s mind. Engaging the people can always be done without engaging the separatists. It has been successfully done in the past and once people are in engagement mode, the degree of antipathy and alienation does dilute.
No restrictions should be placed on the Army, which should shun a high media profile and quietly do what it needs to do.
No one has to tell the Army what it needs to do and it does not have to announce anything from the hills and rooftops.
(The writer is a veteran Lieutenant General, who commanded the Srinagar based 15 Corps. He is now associated with Vivekanand International Foundation and the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. The views expressed above are of the author’s own and The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)