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Kashmir – The Perception Management War

September 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Analysis, internal security

Fueling the Fire

The dynamics of Kashmir have now shaken the sub continent for more than two decades. Pakistan, emboldened by Indian inaction has continued to feed the insurgency through decades by launching trained, motivated and indoctrinated Jihadis to fulfil Pakistani agenda of Op Topac and now Gwaza i Hind. The aim has been to destabilise India through whatever means possible. The various fundamentalist groups found enough cannon fodder in the poverty stricken areas of POK including Khyber Pashtunwala.  This distracted their attention from Kashmir, but only temporarily. Their tactics ranged from employing sleeper cells and their cronies for creating unrest in India through communal “wars”, terror strikes and promoting separatist movements in the valley and elsewhere.

The terror factories of Pakistan mushroomed all over these areas till they got consumed by the War on Terror. This warranted a change in tactics to keep the pot boiling in Kashmir. True to its credibility, the ISI manufactured a new recipe with a larger game plan – initiate “popular uprisings” or “Intifada” rather than direct militant action to burn the valley through internal discord. They also added intellectual flavour to their effort by politicising the issue through various opposition numbers and the separatists. The recent findings of Security forces and Central intelligence agencies who are interrogating Shabir Ahmed Wani, arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir police on Friday, have reportedly found that certain separatist leaders in the state are in direct touch with top officials of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The incumbent governments in Srinagar and Delhi unwittingly went along with this idea and added fuel to the fire by responding with force. The “Cycle of Violence” thus unrolled, washed away all the gains made by the military in bringing militancy to manageable levels. This suited Pakistan well, who having seen the politiking on the issue by main stream political parties, engaged in fanning fires of political discord and separatism.

The powers that be in Delhi and Srinagar suitably obliged by their inflexibility to this new approach of warfare. Thus started the war of perception management and information operation in projecting deaths of young Kashmiri stone pelting youth as the Kashmiri “intifada”negating the sacrifices of scores of military men who were killed or maimed by the terrorists. This shot separatists to fame and discredited the democratic alliance.The Perception Management War now began in true earnest with media and political parties projecting this as the defining “indigenous movement for freedom”. This largely from “experts” from India presenting their set of solutions to the problem in Pakistan Media.

Finding the situation ripe and unable to approach Indian MSM for fear of outright rejection, AG Noorani,an Indian lawyer publishes an article in Dawn insisting  Indian leadership talk to Geelani. He has an

AG Noorani

absurd formula that defies all logic but appears to be pleasing to the ears – if you are a Pakistani. His assertion is, “Two steps are urgently called for. New Delhi’s invitation to Geelani “Sahib” for talks and resumption of talks between India and Pakistan on Kashmir before long. New Delhi has a track record of spurning overtures from Kashmiris and thus undermining moderates. The Mir Waiz is one of the victims of its shortsighted policies. It would be a pity if the opportunity presented by his five-point proposal is missed by New Delhi”. Amazing lawyer batting for separatists against Indian stand. A very respected voice commented on this article

He (Noorani) calls Geelani a highly respected leader and in  a position to deliver. Ask the mainstream Kashmiris what they think of him and the Mirwaiz; you don’t have to ask Masrat Alam or the stone throwers.

He wants the UN to monitor troop withdrawals thus  going against India’s basic stance since 1971…. bilateralism. He wants us to believe that there is consensus that AFSPA is a draconian law but does not want to state that  because of it that India remains a Union that it was designed to be. He wants India to punish the killers of the 65 or so civilians. Let us ask him about the thousands of other civilians killed by the terrorists at the behest of the Hurriyatthrough acts of violence supported by it.

Lastly he calls the Mirwaiz a moderate face. To my mind the Mirwaiz is the most fundamentalist of the lot and draws his strength from the string of Maulvis who are today instigating the movement. He should be just be ignored and kept out of parleys, if at all.

Pakistan today is proud to be the epicentre of terror as it extracts adequate mileage from US in fighting two sides of the war on terror, where it is using terror as a strategic weapon.  However this has stretched its resources to conduct serious terror operations in Kashmir and India.

Notwithstanding Noorani’s absurd assertions, there is a growing realisation that the first round of the perception management battle may have gone the Pakistani way. The word “Intifada” has gained currency in relation to the Kashmir imbroglio much to the delight of Pakistan. There is a larger game being played here as articulated in a post with similar name last month. With Kashmiri youth as the cannon fodder, Pakistan has a low cost option with maximum payoffs. It would be foolish to do anything else.

As events unfold it appears that the political process in the valley is losing steam and falling prey to Pakistan and al Qaeda‘s larger aim of achieving objectives of Ghazwa-e-Hind operations. The operations then will spread through rest of India. At the cost of repetition this mandates inclusion here to provide a clearer perspective to the Pakistani plans:

“As per Asia Times Online, two militant organizations – al-Badr led by Bakht Zameen Khan and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, whose resources were largely depleted up until 2008 – are involved in the unrest. They have sent people across the Line of Control that separates the Pakistan-administered and Indian-administered Kashmirs. According to them, al-Qaeda sees the unrest in Kashmir as a “god-gifted” opportunity to steal the Kashmiri insurgency from its Pakistani handlers and use it for its Ghazwa-e-Hind operations. These sources say the next operation will be in the Indian capital New Delhi in October during the Commonwealth Games.”

In this battle of perception management, Omar Abdullah and the central leadership seem to have lost out big time to the Pakistani designers of this round of Kashmiri unrest. They are adopting the softer options of defanging the Armed Forces in dealing with the terrorists by watering down AFSPA – an activity at the centre of the current battle of perception management. Now the areas around the valley are under control because of the sacrifices of the troops on ground. Once this law is repealed, it will provide the desired shot in the arm to the terror groups and undermine the armed forces’ morale and operational efficiency.

Thus what Pakistan could not achieve in the physical domain they will achieve in the temporal domain – the perfect way to achieve psychological dislocation of the Indian security forces.

In time, the valley may subside but the surrounding areas will pick up again, duly fueled and fanned by Pakistan.

The cause of the Kashmiri people is well understood but the tactical moves in this game of perception management should not take us back to 1989.

Then there is this analysis in Indian Express outlining the recipe for disaster in Indo Pakistan relations borne out of terror. Don’t think much about it but well take a look.

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Comments

7 Responses to “Kashmir – The Perception Management War”
  1. ajay das says:

    1. Pakistan’s and ISI strategies are well known and articulated by most analysts yet, most of them seem to be too eager to recommend plethora of unrealistic and impractical solutions because they lack the intimate knowledge and understanding of the ground situation, and worse, display an unwillingness to put in efforts to do so. My observations are as under:-
    A. The Information operations launched by Pakistan is targetting two Indian communities:-
    - The largely ill-informed & ill-equipped (historically and geopolitically) politico-bureaucratic class to put them in state of shock and mental immobility.
    - The largely ‘outdated’ security and strategy experts who have failed to keep them updated with dynamic developments either with ground situation in Kashmir, OR geopolitics in South Asia (especially in geospatial reference to J&K). Objective has been to instigate half baked commentary and recipe for solutions from this community which either confuse or further immobolise the decision making politico-bureaucratic class.

    2. The ground situation in J&K is as under:-
    A. The Ladakh region and the Jammu region are undisputedly with the Indian Union. Attempts made (through coercion, invoking religuous solidarity, monetary inducements) to let the stone-pelting trend spill over to South of Pir Panjal (especially in Banihal-Ramban and Kishtwar-Doda) have miserably failed.
    B. Over 60% of population in Kashmir Valley, privately see a peaceful future including realisation of their individual aspirations by remaining as part of Union of India. They understand Pakistan as a failing state and do fear a long term Chinese intervention. The understand the record of Human Rights in Pakistan as well as in China.
    C. Over 80% population appreciates Army’s presence as being the key factor in enhancing their security; as promoters of development; and as catalysts for education and employment in the Valley.
    D. It is only 10-15 % of population in Kashmir Valley, mostly the un-educated or ill-educated and pampered children of Contractors/Sub-Contractors/ Sub-Sub Contractors all of who are either beneficiaries of either of the two political formations (PDP or NC) and the third one (the Hurriyat) who have been brought up to believe, ‘Whatever happens to Kasdhmir, the political and hence economic power would be weilded by them and their offsprings’ , are the ones who are prepared to lead and instigate a posse of poor immature/ gullible youth into any protest through monetary inducements (mixed with religuous overtones). Of course, the money is made available to them by their own parents (key leaders of the political formations, primarily the Hurriyat – members of NC and PDP choose to play the game depending on which Party is in Power). Parents recieve mobney for distribution from their Handlers in Pakistan.
    3. The current ‘visibly volatile situation’ has been an outcome of:-
    A. Foolish ignoring of the strategy being formulated and being put into action by Pakistan and its paid agents in Kashmir by the Stste and Central Govts despite all intelligence inputs being available to them. They chose to gloat in successful conduct od Assembly and Parliamentary Elections and took J&K off their radar in firm yet foolish belief that Paklistan was too busy managing its own affairs and affairs in Afghanistan with Uncle Sam overseeing al its moves.
    B. Putting CRPF in the hearet of all mischief making Srinagar (and other sattelite towns) replacing the BSF and Army as part of ‘foolish tokenism’. Not only rank and file of CRPF are grossly untrained to deal with complex dynamics of externally sponsored insurgency but its leadership too is grossly untrained and inexperienced in understanding the larger picture sop as to intimately supervise balanced and surgical application of minimum force combined with conduct of psychological operations, information operations (the BSF too half a decade to undestand the nuances but was pulled out just when they became competent and understood the nuances of conduct of peace operations)
    4. Recommended course of action will follow in my next post. I am here, in J&K.. have been here repeatedly since 1989.. will require a pause to articuilate (dont want to be paid columnist, in a hurry to recomment solutions to put into print next day)…

  2. Deepak Pant says:

    The situation is getting out of hand because of active participation by the separatists duly supported by Pakistan. PDP, Geelani and Mirwaiz are adding fuel to the fire. All this when Omar Abdullah sits helpless with no acumen and maturity to connect with the masses. Throwing money or goodies at the people is not the answer. The political leadership at the state and centre have to roll up their sleeves and participate with the people to resolve the impasse.

    No one understands Kashmir like the Armed Forces. Please do not defang them and include them in the participative democratic process to find a solution.

  3. Chanakya says:

    There is a larger disconnect between the national policy making apparatus and the state machinery. Thus all gains made by one agency are lost by the other.

    Ajay Das makes some interesting points about the larger malaise. There is a need for professionals to handle this vital component of governance to manage the situation. Official” spokespersons” with no knowledge of the PR world compound the problem.

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