T h e

K a s h m i r

T  e  l  e  g  r  a  p  h

Vol I Issue XII

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

April 2003

I N S I D E


Spotlight 

Deepak Lokhande

 

Editorial     

 

Column     

Yashwant Sinha     

                   

View Point      

Sushil Vakil

 

On Track     

M V Kamath 

         

Opinion

M K Dhar

 

Analysis

Sawraj Singh

 

State Craft

Ram Puniyani

 

Perspective

K G Joglekar

 

Last Word

V Sundaram 

 

                            


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O P I N I O N

Meeting internal security challenges

M K Dhar


Given the external factor in India’s internal security, it is by no means an easy task for a government at the Centre to ensure complete peace and security throughout the country even with the wholehearted cooperation of the States. Over the decades, Pakistan has become the evil force disturbing peace in India in pursuit of its fundamentalist agenda aimed at internally destabilizing its neighbour. The terrorism sponsored by it is today the prime factor in disturbing law and order in the States, which are battling it with all the resources at their command and assistance in the shape of military and para-military forces provided by the Union Government.

Whether in Jammu and Kashmir or in the North-Eastern States and Punjab earlier, Pakistan’s disruptive hand is clearly visible. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) operatives have mustered confidence enough to sponsor terrorist missions through its agents in other States as well, such as Maharashtra and Gujarat. Where Pakistan cannot operate directly, it arms and finances local insurgent groups like the Maoists in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. The Government led by the Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who has just completed five eventful years in office, has had to bear the brunt of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in several parts of the country and devote considerable attention and energy to maintaining peace. Even though the security agencies have been strengthened and modernized to cope better with the continuing threats to internal security, they do not expect any respite from the onslaught of terrorism so long as Pakistan chooses to persist with its nefarious game.

Terrorism has emerged as the main threat to India’s internal security and the fight against it will be a prolonged one. Other problems related to the maintenance of law and order and keeping the communal situation under control are within the competence of the Government to handle. But it finds it difficult to effectively deal with the external factor which has been duly identified and internationally isolated. Given the factor of Pakistan’s proxy war and massive mobilization of resources, the Government is doing its best to ensure orderly governance and protect the lives of the citizens from criminals, terrorists, drug pushers and the mafia. Sectarian, caste and linguistic tensions are an inescapable feature of a composite society like India, as are periodic outbursts of emotions caused by social and economic inequities, deprivation and denial of opportunities. A Government’s success is judged by the extent to which it succeeds in keeping outpourings of discontent and democratic dissent under control and does not allow any section of the society to disturb the cultural, religious and linguistic harmony.

Approach

Prime Minister Vajpayee has attempted a three-pronged approach to neutralise threats to internal security. If the initiatives taken by him recently succeed, some of the difficult law and order-related problems facing the country for a long time are expected to be resolved in the foreseeable future. He has demonstrated a degree of skill in addressing these problems and has not hesitated to sit across the table with insurgents who have not yet given up their separatist agenda. In the first place, the Government has made strenuous efforts to alert the world to the dangerous role played by Pakistan in promoting terrorism in India and other parts of the world. Islamabad has done so by giving official support, finance and arms to secessionist groups in Jammu and Kashmir and in the North-Eastern States. It has provided refuge to the Al Qaeda terrorists led by Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban after they were thrown out of Afghanistan and has permitted them to restart training camps for terrorists. Many of the foreign mercenaries trained and armed by Pakistan have surfaced in Kashmir also and are battling the Indian security forces there.

Unfortunately, this threat to internal security has not yet been neutralised. Although the United States and other western countries have asked Pakistan to stop sending terrorists across the Line of Control into Jammu and Kashmir, Gen. Musharraf has paid no heed to them and continues to pursue his anti-India agenda more vigorously than ever. The patronage extended to Pakistan by the United States which continues to use it to further its own strategic agenda in this part of the world, is the main factor responsible for emboldening Islamabad to continue its proxy war. Even the massive deployment of troops under "Operation Parakram" has not deterred Pakistan from sponsoring and promoting terrorism due to the tacit encouragement it continues to receive from Washington, contrary to the official US stand and the repeated assurances to the Indian leaders. Shri Vajpayee has time and again assured the nation that the security forces are gradually getting the grip of the problem, are better prepared to meet the situation and will ultimately neutralise this threat to internal as well as external security of the nation.

Strategy

The second component of Shri Vajpayee’s strategy is to explore the causes of unrest among the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the North-Eastern States and apply remedies so that they are not prone to exploitation by Pakistan and other external agencies. In Jammu and Kashmir, the Government positively responded to the demand of the people for free and fair election held in October 2002 which saw the exit of Dr. Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference government. Even though the Pakistan-sponsored secessionist outfits boycotted the election, the people of the State defied the terrorists’ threats and bullets and turned up in large numbers to cast their vote for their favoured candidates. The installation of the PDP-Congress government led by Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has inspired confidence among the people and brought about a visible change in the atmosphere. The last Assembly by-election from Pampore constituency witnessed even a bigger voter turnout and the PDP candidate won by a massive 12,000-vote margin.

The people now expect that their grievances will be redressed and concrete economic steps taken to counter militancy by weaning the unemployed youth from the evil influence of the externally-sponsored fundamentalist forces. No doubt, incidents of terrorism sponsored by Pakistan will continue to occur, but the State will elicit better cooperation from the people in rooting out militancy if it gives a clean and honest administration, implements job-oriented and infrastructure-development schemes and ensures that the funds allocated by the Centre are actually spent and the benefit goes to those for whose these are meant.

Simultaneously with this, the Prime Minister has appointed a former Home Secretary, Shri N. N. Vorha, as the Centre’s interlocutor to hold talks with the elected representatives of the people, as also the separatist groups like the Hurriyat Conference and others to solicit their cooperation in putting an end to the militancy which has plagued the State for over a decade and prevented its economic progress. Shri Vajpayee’s initiative has been hailed by all sections of political opinion and the militant groups have shown an inclination to exchange views with Shri Vohra. The ground situation in the State is improving, the people are fed up with militancy and long for peace and security. There is disarray in the separatists’ camp also, with many opposed to foreign terrorists’ sponsorship of Pakistan and the sufferings caused to innocent people during their encounters with the security forces.

The two-pronged approach, as suggested by Mufti Sayeed, is fighting terrorism with determination and, at the same time, applying the healing touch to soothe ruffled feelings. Mufti Sayeed’s decision to release some militants, who had been in detention for long periods, was criticised at first. But subsequently, after discussions with the Centre the criteria of reviewing the cases of the detainees have been evolved so that only those people whose release will not complicate the law and order situation and who have served terms longer than their prison sentences if convicted are set free.

North-East

Another noteworthy development is initiating talks with the leaders of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (I-M) T. Muivah and Isaak Chishi Swu in order to bring to an end the decades-old insurgency in Nagaland. Their meeting with the Prime Minister, the first of its kind in 36 years, is being flagged as a milestone towards finding a solution to the longest secessionist movement that India has seen. The Naga leaders have agreed to stop fighting and create an atmosphere conducive to a settlement of their demands. According to Shri Muivah, a good beginning had been made and that "there is a better understanding now with the Government acknowledging the unique history and circumstances of Nagaland. If things went along this path, we can talk and reach a meeting point". Shri Swu found the Prime Minister and the leadership of India very open. They were trying to solve the problem according to the history of the people. "The earlier talks were not mature on both sides and so we could not solve the problem. But this time the leadership is mature and wants to tackle the problem realistically", he said. There was agreement to continue the formal talks until a lasting settlement is reached. The scope of the negotiations, which have been unconditional, covers all matters contained in their proposal of September 2001, including the unification of the Naga areas in the continuous States. Although this is a controversial demand, it can be discussed with the affected States once prospects are held out for complete peace and normalcy in Nagaland. The optimistic pro-peace statements by the Naga leaders came at a time when temperatures are rising in certain parts of the North-East, particularly in the Manipur Valley and its surroundings hills dominated by non-Naga tribes and communities. It will require a delicate handling of the talks by the Centre to consolidate the trust and goodwill built over the past five years since the cease-fire with NSCN(IM) came into being and has now been extended.

One more significant event was the signing of an agreement with another militant outfit, the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), for the creation of a Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). This could form the basis for a lasting settlement of the crisis that has been affecting the region for over a decade. While the implementation of the accord would require the players – the political leadership in Assam and, more importantly, the leadership of the BLT- to act with a sense of purpose, the broad lines on which it has been drawn up are indeed encouraging. The provisions of the memorandum of settlement relate to the creation of an autonomous self-governing body, constitutional protection under the Sixth Schedule, fulfillment of economic, educational and linguistic aspirations and socio-cultural identity of the Bodos and speeding up development of the area. The proposed BTC will comprise 3,082 villages which will be divided into four contiguous districts after reorganisation of the existing districts of Assam within six months of the signing of the pact. A panel comprising representatives from the Centre, Assam government and the BLT will decide by consensus the inclusion of 95 more villages and areas in the Council on the basis of tribal population being not less than 50 per cent, contiguity or any other agreed relevant parameter within three months.

There is also the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), which has not only been engaged in an armed conflict with the State but also held onto the demand for a separate Bodoland. Its members have links with the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). True, the NDFB has recently climbed down to demand a separate State and in this sense sought bifurcation of Assam. By setting fire to a gasoline tank and disrupting an oil pipeline, the ULFA, which too has foreign links and is supported by Pakistan, has sent the signal that it should also be talked to. The camps operated by ULFA in Bangladesh and the assistance this outfit receives from the ISI has been a hot topic of discussion between New Delhi and Dhaka after the Deputy Prime Minister, Shri L.K. Advani, sought closure of other terrorist camps directed against India and operating from Bangladesh. According to reports the ULFA too is under tremendous pressure from the security forces and a section of its leadership favours a settlement with the Indian Government. The ULFA has created a problem for the friendly government of Bhutan by setting up training camps on the Bhutanese soil.

Experience shows whether it is in the North-East or other parts of the country, whenever there is a genuine commitment to autonomy on the part of New Delhi and the State capitals, that helps restore the confidence of the people living in such economically backward regions. The memorandum of settlement in the case of Bodo-dominated regions in Assam too will achieve its purpose only if the political leadership at all levels displays a sense of purpose and includes the people of the region in the democratic space. Similarly, the BLT leaders too will have to strive to evolve at least the influential sections within the NDFB as well as others in the BTC, rather than reduce the 46-member body to an instrument for the self-preservation of its own leaders.

The signing of the Bodo accord comes as a great relief that the Bodo problem has been sorted out through the democratic process of negotiations, with the BLT settling for autonomy. This should hopefully create a favourable precedent for talks with the Naga underground leaders, as also the separatists in Jammu and Kashmir, who are being exploited by Pakistan for its own evil purposes. The world over the autonomy formula is seen as an acceptable middle ground. In India too the Gorkhaland problem was sorted out earlier on the basis of an autonomous hill district and this arrangement has so far worked satisfactorily. The autonomous district concept, or greater devolution of powers under the Constitution in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, can be operated if the Centre and the State governments concerned show greater pragmatism and faith in one another.

Apart from law and order enforcement the use of the State’s power of reconciliation can yield lasting results in improving the general internal security environment in the country. Prime Minister Vajpayee seems to have realised the advantage of pursuing a multi-pronged approach to promoting peace and tranquillity on the domestic front and strengthening internal security. Internal conflict management is the key to the success of participative democracy, strengthening national solidity and cohesion and firming up the nation’s resolve and capability to meet any external threats to its security and territorial integrity. (PIB Features)

Author is a Senior Political Commentator and former Diplomatic Editor, The Hindustan Times

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