The Pulwama incident is a major intelligence and operational failure. The governor Mr Satya Pal Malik, in a first, has taken responsibility for the lapses and has assured that corrective actions would be taken. He added that after a collective review by all security forces, corrective measures would be put in place to eradicate terrorism from the state. Some experts feel that India lacks a strategic culture and we need to carry out a deep review of how we do business at strategic and tactical levels in sub conventional environment.
In a ghastly suicide attack on 14 February by a local twenty plus Kashmiri youth by smashing an explosive laden vehicle into a passenger bus of a long convoy carrying Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troops ; 44 soldiers were martyred and a large number of them are battling for their lives in army hospitals across the country. This is by far the largest loss of lives in a single attack in J&K and has been claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed ; the Pakistan based terrorist group that had lost some prominent leaders in encounters with security forces in recent years.
The deadly incident has been condemned by one and all and PM Modi has stated that the sacrifices will not go in vain. The international community has expressed its concern over this gruesome attack. Another attack by Pakistani terrorists on Iranian Revolutionary Guards left 27 Iranian soldiers dead along the border. Two days later, an Army major died in Naushera and two soldiers were injured while trying to diffuse an IED laid by Pakistani border action team. A pattern of a spurt in use of IEDs by Pakistan based terrorists is emerging which if not arrested could destabilise the security paradigm in the region.
National sentiments demand retribution from Pakistan and PM has stated that Indian Army and other security forces have been given a free hand to take necessary action. While it is clearly indicative that it is the handiwork of a Pakistan based group headed by Masood Azhar ; the fact that the attack has been carried out by a suicide Kashmiri youth in the hinterland leaves a lots of retrospection to be done and we need to chalk out a de novo approach to ensure that such deadly attacks are not repeated in the country. The suicide attack is on the lines of Palestinian terrorists and one needs to understand how Israeli Defence Forces tackle this menace.
As a first we need to take some defensive measures to ensure that our convoy movement is safe and prophylactic preventive measures are in place to thwart such designs. Simultaneously, the intelligence agencies have to trace back the chain that has been working behind the suicide bomber and dots have to be connected right upto it’s origin in Pakistan. Thereafter, while the Ministry of External Affairs would expose the Pakistani connection to the international community, the security and intelligence agencies have to surgically remove the umbicle cord between the handlers and the executors. The masterminds have to be identified and neutralised by R&WA and the assets and sleeper cells in Pakistan have to be reactivated.
In Kashmir Valley, population control measure will have to be firmly reinstituted. The security forces have to have census of all individuals residing in the area of responsibility. Search and cordon operations need to be enhanced in all suspicious areas where terrorists are likely to be harboured. The use of rubber bullets and other riot control equipment to engage stone throwers has to be reintroduced to save lynching of soldiers by errant civilians. Curfew under section 144 must be imposed in sensitive areas dynamically on need basis. These steps are really restrictive and retrograde but we do not have the luxury and capacity to absorb more losses of life.
In addition, personal security for all politicians, bureaucrats , senior police and security forces officers need to be stripped off and the resources thus available should be utised for area security. All residential areas of these officials should be grouped in one area like the cantonments and effective area security augmented with technology including BFSRs, HHTIs and unattended sensors should be deployed. On all important roads frequented by security forces, civil traffic should be regulated and picketing in addition to road opening should be resorted to.
The CRPF is a force which has no ‘Mai baap’. As the name suggests, it is a central government armed police force which is deployed to augment resources of the state police in maintaining law and order. Although organised in battalions, it is seldom deployed as such and is allocated in company lots. It is not unusual for a CRPF battalion located in Nagaland to have two to three companies deployed in J&K. There is no cohesiveness in the troops as the companies are more often than not led by inspectors and not by officers. The Commanding Officer (CO) is not in a position to affect the tactical employment of the force.
The CRPF companies come under command the state civil police and local Superintendent of Police (Operations) of a district (SP Ops) employs the CRPF. During the Punjab insurgency in the eighties, the SP(ops) used to allot the CRPF troops in penny packets and they were used to protect the local police stations ! At the higher level, the IPS officers commanding the force are removed from the tactical situation on the ground and assume only administrative duties. The Home Ministry needs to revamp command and control structures of this otherwise potent force.
The Modi Government has to take some tough decisions besides stripping Pakistan of the tag of most favoured nation status.This is perhaps the only time that the government of India would be able to push the abolition of Article 370 as political parties across the board are likely to support the government whole hog. India needs to unilaterally abrogate the Indus River Treaty and tell the world that it refuses to have any dealings with a rogue state. All cultural and sports exchange between the two countries need to be snapped permanently and homegrown talent needs to be promoted.
Division of Jammu and Kashmir into three states of Jammu, Kashmir Valley and Leh as envisaged by PM Modi, may be a good step to ensure better administration and localisation of the terrorist infested areas. This, however, may also end up in working as the chemotherapy for a malignant cancer and not a cure. The root causes of all insurgencies are political and economic in nature and must be addressed squarely to eradicate terrorism and not by barely going after the terrorists.
As Pakistan only understands the language of terror; whatever it takes to stoke separatist fires amongst Baluchi and Sindhi separatists, must be done. If Pakistan faces the threat of further balkanisation, so be it, and India should provide the catalysts.