History suggests that identity driven irregular wars have been the toughest to handle. These can potentially shore mass emotions to an extent that can destroy space for rationality and reasonableness in actions and thoughts of people in the theatre of conflict. Pakistani military establishment, having obstructed prosperity and dignity of its own people, may be least bothered about the actual plight of Kashmiris, whom it has treated nothing more than a tool to pursue its own larger agenda.
It is well known that security counter measures inevitably curtail civil liberties, making alienation of local population a natural outcome. The challenge becomes serious as the war prolongs. Possibility of alienation of local population increases further, when the state forces on the front-line of such war are not entirely local. In this context, Indian army has done a better job than probably all its compatriots, almost anywhere in the world. Providing a comprehensive security cover in such theatres of conflict, as well as retaining or regaining trust of the local population, probably requires such herculean efforts that exceeds capacity of most forces, especially if the local context is too adverse.
Much of the West or even the West Asia continues to treat covert war in Kashmir as a territorial dispute between a Hindu majority India and a Muslim Pakistan. Hence, the moment Pakistan expresses concern at the plight of Muslims in the valley, it has an anchoring impact notwithstanding the fact that the same country has denied dignity, liberty and even security to vast majority of its own people. As late as on May 10, 2019, Washington Post carried an article on India and Pakistan, which states: “partition of British India in 1947, …was largely driven by religion: Pakistan became primarily Muslim while India remained mostly Hindu”. This is outrageous not only to secular credentials of India but hints at so-called in-congruence of Muslim majority areas being part of India.
Diplomatic offensives abroad without serious governance reforms at home shall be inadequate for this purpose. Watali case confirms that if money laundering and crime networks are allowed to flourish even in the mainland India, there will be no shortage of funds and logistics for the proxy war in the valley or for that matter anywhere else in the country.
Hence, there is need to go beyond stereotypes of cosmetic Western strategies like “hearts and minds” to institute a sturdier people-centric credible governance, with near zero space for subversion. Probably this is a necessity and not a prerogative if we aspire a decisive and permanent victory in a war that has prolonged far too much, draining our resources and destroying precious lives of our soldiers and citizens. The process may take more than a decade even if efforts are sustained and strategy is strong. Patience, determination, flexibility, and - most importantly – overall ‘integrity of approach’ shall be critical for this purpose.
For better appreciation of the subject, researchers and security practitioners may access author's concept paper on Effective Counter-Insurgency Strategy on website: www.wemakesociety.com;