MODI, ARMED FORCES AND J&K
By PG Kamath
It was Nehru who was very suspicious of the armed forces fearing a revolt.** One can excuse him that he did not comprehend the power play in international politics, till a year and a half before his death. By the time, it was too late! *He was humiliated by the Chinese; died repentant with broken dreams and shattered ego.**
(** fearing his own assassination by a Soldier or a Sikh. The soldiers are DUTY BOUND to kill anyone capturing the LAND they are supposed to defend, and the Sikhs. The Sikhs' homeland, West Punjab around LAHORE and NANKANA SAHIB, had been unconditionally surrendered to fundamentalist ISLAMIC Pakistan by Pandit NEHRU that resulted in mass murders, rape and migration of Sikhs (and Hindus) from West Punjab and elsewhere in 1947!)
Tales have been told and innumerable articles have been written about his strategic naivety and his unmatched foolhardiness and there is nothing more to be told. *He has left behind a ‘case study’ as to how a head of the state can fall from grace for ‘undermining the Armed Forces’ and ‘incomprehension of geopolitical power games in the international arena’.* I heard somewhere that we should not flog a dead horse; so, let it be with Nehru.
Now comes our current PM Modi. *He is a shrewd politician and understands the domestic intrigues and international shenanigans played by great and small powers. He knows how to coalesce his domestic audience by calling on their patriotism and national pride.* He has projected himself as a leader who is heads and shoulders above his former office-bearers. There is little doubt in it as we really do not find anyone materially as selfless as him and he has no parallels in sheer audacity to take bold decisions. How successful was the Demonetisation is a different story, however, the very sagacity in the decision made the people vote for him overwhelmingly? At last, the county has a PM who is bold and takes hard decisions for the benefit of the country and whips up the national pride to forge national unity.
*However, in spite of all his sterling qualities, he shares with Nehru the same antipathy towards the armed forces. Visiting army units on each Deepawali is a good thing to show to the people as to how he cares for them. Stuffing sweets in the mouths of senior officers is a good public display for civilian consumption but the victim really does not know where to hide, thereafter.* However, when it comes to giving them monetary relief, appointing them to senior positions in their second innings the PM avoids them like plague.*
Of the 11 Union Territories and 27 states, there are only two officers from Armed Forces as Governor/Lt Governor. Both the NSA and Dy NSA are police officers; as if there is no external threat to the nation? The two-front threat to India from China and Pakistan is an internal matter for the PM and will be tackled by these two policemen by pepper spray and pellet guns. Remember; what Nehru had told Gen Robert Lockhart when he sought his approval for the strategic defence policy of the country; Nehru had exploded “Rubbish! Total rubbish! We don't need a defence plan. Our policy is ahimsa (non-violence). We foresee no military threats. Scrap the army! The police are good enough to meet our security needs". Not unlike Nehru; PM Modi also feels the there is no external threat to the country and police advisers are sufficient for him to visualise the external threat if any?
*The Indian Army would never pardon Doval for advising the PM to appoint an Army Chief, who was third in seniority? In one stroke he ensured that the subservient police culture was brought into the otherwise apolitical and proud Indian Army.*
*Thereafter a string of events ensured the marginalisation of the once gallant and proud armed forces. Their pride was undermined, their swagger was mocked, their cantonments were opened up, their disability pensions were taxed, their sacrifices were belittled, FIRs were lodged for doing their legitimate duties, their AFTs were downgraded and under posted to only 2 of the 17 benches thus denying them justice, anomalies of the past several pay commissions were not addressed, they were singled out from all other central government services for denial of NFU and their veterans were given a truncated OROP. Their seniority and equivalence was played around by pitching them with Group B Services; Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Services and deprived the Colonels of invitation to R Day parade, who are actually the workhorses of the Armed Forces. The veterans were lathi-charged from Jantar Mantar and were humiliated.*
*Their difficult area allowances were a pittance when compared to other civil services and the Central Armed Police Forces. No wonder; the PM has to have both the NSA and Dy NSA from the police. They all believe that Siachen is more comfortable than Shillong; and then why not? When someone else is serving there!*
However, when it comes to canvassing for the 2019 elections a strong and resolute PM who carries out ‘Surgical Strike’, ‘Balakot Strike’ and his tenacious standoff at Dokalam is highlighted to get votes and win the elections with a massive mandate.
*To the PMO all are welcome but having a serving or veteran member of the armed forces is a taboo. Of the 46 officers in the PMO, not one is from the Armed forces or a veteran. The sole advice he gets for the disastrous policy on J&K is from his National Security Adviser. Now let us see some statistics as to how the state has been utterly mismanaged during his first tenure?*
In the Assembly elections in Dec 2014, the polling percentage in the State of J&K was 65%. There were long serpentine queues in the Vale of Kashmir defying the boycott calls given by separatists. So far fine; it only goes to show that the people of J&K were amenable to democracy and voted overwhelmingly in 2014. There was a groundswell to support democratic processes. In the run-up for the Assembly elections, the PM gets the pliant senior officers of the Army to punish an officer and few men who had done their legitimate duty by firing and killing persons in a vehicle who gate-crashed through the army barrier.
PM boasted at the election rally that for the first time in 30 years that we have punished the army persons for doing their duty; the last four words are my own as they are implicit in the boast. It was the grand strategy of NSA that it would be a voting catching masterstroke. For all the ‘Strategy of undermining Indian Army’ by the Indian PM, the total votes polled in the valley in favour of BJP was less 2.2 per cent? So, the very theme was unworkable. Just see how the other sheep in the cabinet flock ape the PM; four years later Seetharaman gives permission to Mufti to lodge an FIR against an officer for doing his legitimate duty? So, blunt the sword that defends the nation has been the credo; after all the police is good enough?
In the 2014 General Election, the overall polling percentage for the state of J&K was 49.52%, however, there was a slight dip in the General Elections of 2019 to 46.21%. The real crunch indicator is the polling percentage in the valley: For the three seats in the valley the polling percentage in 2019 vis-à-vis 2014 General Elections dropped significantly; Baramulla by 5%, Srinagar by 12 % and Anantnag by over 21 %. Just look at the state of affairs now. *Thanks to the genius or lack of it by NSA and PMO.*
NSA going to downtown Srinagar with unseen armed guards protecting him on 07 Aug, two days after the Art 370 was rescinded is considered a masterstroke to bring peace in the Union Territory. The bold NSA personally assessing the situation in J&K and gives a soothing touch to the restive state; make good headlines. We can go about parading our skills in drinking tea with the locals in Srinagar to please some wide-eyed teenagers but it is high time that we have to look beyond the headlines.
I am not suggesting for a moment that the Abrogation of Article 370 and 35A was a wrong step. It was indeed a bold step which any of the earlier government neither had guts nor acumen to take. The entire nation was proud of the PM and supported him steadfastly.
*Then, what went wrong? I can only say the NSA and the PMO did not anticipate that the ‘Strategy of Fear’ would subsume the whole valley. A few terrorists have held the entire state to ransom and hinder the early return to normalcy. Now, after three months the entire world is looking at us seeking our explanation for happenings there? We should be clear that a problem of seven decades cannot be sorted out in three months. It is indeed a long haul and everyone should be prepared for it and also our MEA should create international awareness that the normalisation process will take some time.*
*The follow-up planning was poor as alternative plans had not been drawn. The abrogation of the article should have been followed up with a timebound concrete plan to employ youths. No contingencies were planned to relentlessly exploit the sagacious strategic decision and bring peace and normalcy in the state. It is like a General, who has just planned his first phase of operations and after that, he really does not know as to how to consummate it into a victory? He waits for the enemy reaction and then loses the initiative and is confused and dumbfounded. That is the exact state in J&K now.*
The Governor has been rightly sacked as he did not foresee how the scenario in the state would unfold? He has been made a scapegoat for the blunders committed by the NSA and PMO.
Then someone in the PMO gets a hare-brained idea to get some rightist MPs from EU to visit the restive state. It backfired so badly those MPs who thought the situation was improving before their visit was now thoroughly convinced that the situation was beyond redemption in the foreseeable future. Except four of them who did not want to visit when they were told that they cannot meet people, the others out of sheer embarrassment of accepting the hospitality gave a statement that it was an internal matter of India; for which we do not need their certificate. More so, if it was an internal matter pray; why did they come there in the first place? Can anyone enlighten on this issue? The NSA carried out a briefing and the also the top brass at the Srinagar Corps Headquarters. They were given a ride on Dal Lake. The police and senior bureaucrats also met them. All in vain; we came out red-faced. Will someone sack the person, who mooted this disastrous marketing gimmick.
*What is being done in J&K? The outlived Governor is literally cooling his heels in the Arabian Sea. The new Governor; who was once PM’s Principal Secretary when he was the CM of Gujarat has been brought in his place. I really hope he succeeds for the sake of our country. The PM will not venture out to nominate any veteran army officer, who has immensely succeeded in the valley. They do not inspire confidence in him; however, any faceless politician or bureaucrat is worth a try.*
Now; Mr Doval; please tell the country; what is your Macro strategy in J&K and how do you get normalcy there? How many more times you will have tea in the streets of Srinagar and entertain us with your public relations exercise? You have already done it twice and have not been able to cut a centimetre of ice.
Suggested Strategy in J&K
It would be wrong just to criticise and not offer suggestions; isn’t it? I have tried to pen down a few suggestions which could be incorporated as and when it shapes up.
Open an effective Joint Operations Room and all security forces should be under command of the Corps Commander Srinagar. No inter-ministerial rivalry should be tolerated. All antiterrorists’ operations should be conducted under the command and control of the Army.
Armed forces, CAPF and State Police should conduct operations for ruthless elimination of terrorists. Assure the Armed Forces that their interest would be looked into and Armed Forces Special Power Act would be respected. Please also commit that Seetharaman would never ever be appointed as the RM again and all the anti-armed forces measures instituted by her is revoked. Mr PM, we all know that when the PMO wants to take the reins of any Ministry, she is appointed as cabinet minister of that ministry. Just, look at the great muddle in the Finance Ministry. Please read my article entitled ‘Somersaults by the Finance Minister (Playing with the lives of a Billion People)’.
The bureaucrats have ruled the roost for the past seven decades and all they have brought to the troubled state is misery and violence. Please, PM, stop reinforcing the failure. A separate Administrative Cadre to provide good governance to the state should be formulated. It should comprise officers from all services and strict accountability norms need to be instituted. Otherwise, the group loyalties and parochialism would mar their efficiency.
Raise 20 Environment Battalions from 20,000 youths from the Union Territory and deploy them in other states. Get the recruiting done and send them for basic training to different army regimental centres across the country with specialised training by the Ministry of Environment and Forest Research Institute. After the training, deploy them in different states. Eligible recruiting age should be relaxed to recruit candidates between the ages from 20 to 30 years. Bar the persons who have been charged for stone pelting or any other anti-national activities should be banned from such recruitments.
Immediately incentivise software companies to come and establish their call centres in the Valley. Till such time the infrastructure is set up, they should be recruited and sent for training in different parts of the country and employed. This should take care of the educated unemployed. As and when the infrastructure is set up, they should be posted back to the valley. Alternatively, encourage them to settle at their workplaces in different parts of the country.
Invest in colleges and education centres in Union Territory and bring in the best of teachers and scholars. More IITs and IIMs be opened.
Open a sports academy in the Union Territory to encourage sports and pick up talent. Open a Mountaineering Institute and encourage mountaineering as a sport. Attract tourists for Mountain Sports, skiing, hiking, ice skating and mountaineering and make it a worldwide sports tourist destination.
Tourism would have the highest potential for employment. An academy for tourist guides should be set up that trains qualified youth for employment in the tourism industry.
Release all the politicians who are spent force as it is. They have only enriched themselves at the cost of the public. All government bungalows to be vacated by those not holding government offices. No protection whatsoever should be provided to them.
All people and the separatists should be given the option to remain in India or go to Pakistan. Any separatists or any other persons who want to migrate to Pakistan should be given free air tickets and right of one-way passage to Pakistan. Let us see how many will leave? I presume, not more than 100 would leave J&K. Let me see if they want to live in a ‘Jannat’ called Pakistan?
Frankly, PM, you have wasted your first tenure in J&K, and the people of India have given you a second chance. Please do not waste it. First, accept the ‘J&K’ policy in your first tenure has been a disaster. The Panchayat elections were party successful and you have empowered functionaries at the grass-root level, however, a fear psychosis has set in the Union Territory that forces them to be passive pons of terrorists. It was a monumental decision to revoke Art 370 and 35A at the beginning of your second tenure. Now the security forces and civil administration have to fight to eliminate the terrorists and to create an environment to enable people to exercise their free will.
Give a fresh look at the whole issue once again. Restore the pride of the Armed Forces as they alone will ensure your victory in 2024 and also ensure the integrity of our great country. It is the Armed Forces that give you the strength and stature to hold your head high on your foreign jaunts. Revitalise your economy; it needs better handling than the ‘yes woman’ you have placed. The state elections have not been encouraging as you would have liked. However, it still shows the nation’s will is for you. Never let go of this opportunity and bash on regardless. Go against the corrupt. Somehow, I derived vicarious pleasure to see the ‘mock grin’ on the face of Chidambaram; the head of the greediest family on the surface of the earth. More such people need to account for their misdeeds and anti-national activities. Good Luck to You!
MODI, ARMED FORCES AND J&K