Seminar Report

Conflict Early Warning: Contemporary Regional Environment & Implications for J&K

13 Jan, 2014    ·   4258

Ayesha Khanyari reports on the discussion in Jammu in December 2013

Session I: Conflict Early Warning - Regional Security Environment
Chair: PR Chari, Visiting Professor, IPCS

Iran Nuclear Deal and Regional Security
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Former Indian Ambassador to Oman

The interim nuclear agreement is a direct consequence of the dramatic change in the interaction and relationship between Iran and the US; it is now known that Oman mediated backstage contacts between Iran and the US for the past many months in Muscat. It simply could not have happened had both sides not been extremely keen to do it. Though the follow up first meeting of experts concluded prematurely, both sides issued very hopeful and encouraging statements and dates for another round have been set. Significantly, President Obama has made it publicly clear that he is against the imposition of fresh sanctions against Iran and could even veto any Congressional resolution calling for sanctions.

Though superficially it would appear farfetched that recent developments in Iran could have any bearing upon the regional security environment affecting Jammu and Kashmir, the reality is that there is a linkage; Afghanistan is the source of it. Potentially the most important strategic issue for India in 2014 will be the regional and security consequences of the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan. Both India and Iran have a vital strategic interest in whatever happens in Afghanistan as it will have profound consequences for national security, internal and external of both the countries.

If Iran and the US do not work against each other or at cross purposes in Afghanistan, then the evolving regional security environment for India and for the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in particular, is unlikely to be affected adversely by changes that could take place in Afghanistan in 2014.

Afghanistan after 2014 and Regional Security
D Suba Chandran
Director, IPCS

There is relative good news, but whether its impact is good or bad for J&K, only time will tell.

There have been many positive developments in the past one and half years; ANSF is better trained and the Taliban is in a poor situation. This helps predict that a civil war is not a likely outcome for the next two years. Taliban will not repeat what it did in the 1990s and the US will not leave completely. Furthermore the international community is not going to sit back and let Taliban do what it did in 1990.

Is the situation good for Pakistan? The understanding is that Pakistan would want a friendly regime if not a puppet regime in Afghanistan. Pakistan is extremely residual in terms of drone attacks. They will prefer a government that will not give space to the US to carry out the attacks. There have been some positive developments too; all four countries have reached an agreement on the TAPI pipeline.

Will FATA remain volatile or stable? If there is friendly regime in Kabul, things may subside. However if FATA remains volatile it may further have repercussions. Will this affect Punjabi Taliban? Would they begin to fight anywhere else? While this might be difficult to answer, it can be agreed that they will not come to J&K; fighters will be trapped in Afghanistan and hence the region will have a semblance of stability. Nevertheless their support base will remain within Pakistan.

New Army Chief, TTP and Regional Security
Sushant Sareen
Senior Fellow, Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF)

The regional security situation does not seem so bright, and there is looming uncertainty. There is likely to be an inevitable spill over of destabilisation in Afghanistan to the rest of the region. The Afghan army has reaffirmed that the day the Americans leave, things will unwind. Post the two year period of uncertainty, in 2016, things will become clearer. The situation in Afghanistan will remain fragile; the security situation in Pakistan is worse than what it is in Afghanistan. It is difficult to distinguish who the enemy is and where the threat comes from.

Strategic depth is an outdated concept for the Pakistani army. The focus for Pakistan remains India. Statements made by Pakistan at the time of Soviet withdrawal are more or less same then as they are now; Pakistan backed one group against another even after signing the Geneva accord then and is likely to act in the same manner now. Strategic depth is fairly valid as far as Pakistan sees it; the basic policy is to support radical and reactionary elements in Pakistan. They do not know where to draw the balance.

The role of the new army chief has to be evaluated in this context. What could the new army chief manage to do? Individuals do make a difference. He was not a go-getter, and did not occupy a very high position in the army. From such a leader one cannot really accept a shift in doctrine and a change in the orientation of the army. Internal security threat remains the main challenge for Pakistan’s army. However it is too early to say which way he will swing, or whether he will continue to play a double game.

Session II: Conflict Early Warning – J&K Internal Security
Dr S S Bloeria, Vice Chancellor, University of Jammu

Future Internal Security Challenges in J&K
Dr Ashok Bhan
Former Director General of Police, Jammu and Kashmir

As far the situation on the ground is concerned, the last couple of years, the nature of violence has changed; beheading of soldiers, attack on army and CRPF camps, the Sambha and Hira Nagar incidents, indicate some change in strategy. Infiltration has also increased. The causality figure of terrorists was much more in 2012 and 2013. Incidents of ceasefire violations have increased post 2008 after Musharaf left. Separatists have also had more encouraged recently.

What are the future challenges? The past few years have of missed opportunities; there has been a lack of political initiative in addressing internal dimensions, reports of interlocutors/working groups, engaging separatists, AFSPA, regional aspirations , rehabilitation  of migrants, empowering  Panchayats etc. There is no change in the situation as we approach the next elections in J&K. Three issues related to what needs to be done to meet the challenges are:
• Holding of free and fair elections
• Border management would be very important. Security forces have been targeted. Collateral damage cannot be tolerated
• Funding of terrorists and separatists. Strict action has to be taken to stop this
• Bring the separatists to the poll process.

Political Challenges in J&K
Rekha Chowdhary
Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Jammu

2014 is a crucial year with the upcoming Lok Sabha and state elections. In the past ten years, 2002-2003 was the period of hope. There was a paradigm shift for internal politics of J&K; fair elections that had a sense of credibility took place and undid what the 1987 elections had done. Things were moving forward. Within J&K, democracy started taking root. Separatist politics also started changing. Protests replaced armed conflict.

Kashmir is addressed only in periods of crises. There have not been any protests since 2010. What is the meaning of this silence? With elections approaching, will boycott politics succeed? There are grey areas; Kishtwar is an indication that there are sore points. The situation has been managed but not addressed politically.

Political Challenges Ahead in J&K
Dr Shujat Bukhari
Editor, Rising Kashmir

After a long time, there is a resurgence of in violence in J&K. An important dimension to militancy in the past few years has been that educated youth are joining militant ranks, not by force or compulsion but by a new wave of thinking. During the past three years, due to the absence of initiatives, the space for hardliners has been created. 

Kashmir is in transition. There might be a decline in militancy but there is an increase in protests. In February, Afzal Guru’s hanging was the biggest setback to the Kashmiris, and message was very clear - close the door on the people. The answer to the entire problem is a revival of the peace processes within both regions. There have to be measures to push forward and occupy the spaces left for others, such as the hardliners/separatists.