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The looming danger

  • Published at 05:38 pm February 18th, 2019
Neither country needs another war REUTERS

The Pulwama incident in Kashmir could have catastrophic consequences 

The definition of “terror” appears to have changed in recent time. In the past, attacks on ordinary civilians used to be considered as a terror attack. Nowadays, some term even an attack on the security forces in an insurgency zone by the insurgents as a terror attack. 

The term has been repeated by Indians and many others in the context of the very recent attack by a Kashmiri militant on a paramilitary convoy in Pulwama of the southern part Kashmir valley that killed more than 40 soldiers. Within three days of it, four more Indian army personnel, including an officer, died while they were trying to clear insurgents in the same area. 

No formal renaming has been done though of the killing of militant and civilians by the security forces in the insurgency zone. Some tried to coin the term “state terrorism.” In the same south Kashmir in recent times, about 130 civilians and militants were killed by Indian security forces. All these signify the escalation of violence in Kashmir.

One report talks about the dramatic increase in the number of clashes between Kashmiri militants and Indian security forces -- resulting in increased casualties on both sides -- since the BJP took over in New Delhi in 2014. Most of the security forces, ie the Indian Army corps, paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) etc, are controlled by New Delhi. The Kashmir valley is among the most militarized patch of land on Earth, with Indian security forces deployed at every corner in high density. 

To understand the Kashmiri insurgency and its evolution, one needs to understand the political and conflict-related propriety and moralities. If the majority people from a region consistently crave for more political power and space for their cultural expression, it is within the moral boundaries of democratic norms and collective political behaviour. Hence, the Kashmiri demand -- going by the general mode of the valley and certain surveys by Western sources -- for independence appears to be their free choice, which is supposed to be honoured. 

In the classic sense, insurgency occurs when an oppressive authority closes all formal non-violent channels for popular collective political expressions and their materialization. Popular insurgents live and thrive, generally being inferior in material strength that the security forces of the belligerent authority, within their population, with their support, like a fish in the water. 

However, the expansion of insurgency and insurgents getting stronger also depends on the strength of the security forces operating against them, and the weaponry and logistics supplies the insurgents receive from the locals or from outside.

The next stage of a successful insurgency in civil war is when the insurgents are strong enough to physically occupy some significant parts of the land. Further success means freeing the entire target region from the hostile security forces leading to full independence. Successful negotiation between or among the conflicting parties at different stages of the course often result in negotiated independence or autonomy of varying degrees. Often this cycle or part of it is repeated over and over. 

The moral deficiency of the Indian authority is that they aren’t willing to give a choice to Kashmiris about the future like the UK did about Scotland recently, despite India’s doubtful political legitimacy or acceptance. Even the incumbent Hindu right-wing government often talks about scrapping Kashmir’s special status from 1948.

However, the Kashmiri insurgents and their non-militant supporters or sympathizers have some serious practical and moral lacking too. There are several groups often competing with each other. Some are for independence based on secular “Kashmiriyat,” and some want a merger with Pakistan as per the “two nation theory,” while some want independent Islamic theocracy. 

The second deficiency of many of the militant groups and the political outfits is that they failed to ensure safety and security of the minority communities of the valley, eg Kashmiri Sikhs, and have no progressive or inclusive ideology. With global Islamic terrorism very much the hot topic of the time, hardly any support from any powerful global player is available given the increasing Islamization of the armed struggle by the radical elements of these rebel groups.

Pakistan, for the last few decades, has become the trans-regional hub for Islamist radicalism and terrorism for various bizarre and complex historical reasons. The international backlash already made it partially isolated in the international community. The country itself is also suffering from terrorism and militancy. But, the new tactic of Indian politicians and media in blaming Pakistan for anything and everything violent in Kashmir is childish and manipulative 

Also, it appears that this mindless Pulwama Jihadi has given a lifeline, for the next forthcoming election, to the poorly performing Modi government. Some conspiracy theories are doing the rounds on social media that the Indian authority has deliberately allowed the attack to take place just before the immensely important Lok Sabha election to reap the benefits of the resultant hyper nationalism.

Indian right-wing media is already making relentless battle cries for hard action against Pakistan by directly linking the Pulwama attack to Pakistan, regardless of the lack of concrete evidence. They tend to be oblivious of the fact that the Pakistani right wing is more insane than them. Any disproportionate Indian action might evoke a similar retaliation from the other side, and all these might even ignite a chain of actions and reactions leading up to a war.

In any greater escalation, other players like China might step in. The Pulwama incident certainly does not warrant a full-scale war, the consequence of which would be grave for both countries. Prevalence of sanity among the decision makers is what is desperately needed now. 

Sarwar Jahan Chowdhury is an opinion contributor to Dhaka Tribune.

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