Kashmir under Siege

Laden with escalated violence and intensifying geopolitical intrigue, “Protracted Kashmir conflict” remained bone of contention between two neighboring nuclear contending powers and a nightmare for perpetual peace proponents of entire region. Vindicated by the history, where at one end the unresolved dispute resulted into three major conventional wars and halted economic, security, and strategic prospects of cooperation/engagement at bilateral and multilateral level. Likewise, at the other end Indian forcible occupation also brought grim consequences to the grief-stricken Kashmiri masses. Ever since the controversial “Instrument of Accession” to “Pulwama incident fallout debacle,” the valley plugged into severe humanitarian crisis, popular insurgency, draconian law’s malpractice, gross human rights violation and perpetrated violence by Indian armed forces wreck an unprecedented havoc until date.
This perilous situation strained further in the aftermaths of the Modi regime’s “Iron Fist Approach” (Revocation of article 370, 35A, Domicile Amendment law) and new military doctrine (False Flag Operations, Hypothetical Surgical Strikes) enactment to attain multi-dimensional goals: conflict entrepreneurship, domestic political mileage, structural marginalization of native Kashmiri masses and pronouncement radical Hindutva ideological aspiration respectively.

In persuasion of such endeavors in the occupied territory, the chalked out policy encompasses curfew impositions, prolonged territorial lockdown, communication blackout, and military crackdown (tactical and operational) for detentions of political leadership, journalists, and common masses. Consequently such assertive measures leading into violence upsurge, political unrest, economic soft patch, rebellious insurgency, and fragmentation of social fabric at large. Further, on, the bilateral relations between two archrivals aggravated further due to their recent direct confrontations and mounting bellicose rhetoric shrinking space of plausible negotiations over the unsolved quagmire whilst jeopardizing regional security architecture.
With no end in sight of peaceful conflict resolution, its feuding configuration due to stalled relations drastically pushing major archrivals towards another full scale war outbreak in near future. Thus, it requires preferential treatment by revamping indigenous policy apparatus, coupled with proactive engagement of international stakeholders and great powers in compliance with sanctity of “Responsibility to Protect Doctrine (R2P)” to ensure peace building measures and crisis management.

The fallout of Pulwama incident brought a fresh wave of belligerence and coercion in Kashmir. Pretexting the incident as Pakistan sponsored terrorism act, a new counterinsurgency operation launched in the valley through increasing the number of deployed troops. Dozens of innocent people shot dead in target killings and fake encounters. The countless number of houses were demolished and public property set on fire, accusing it safe heavens of the rebellious insurgents. Peaceful protests were fire with pellet guns and bullets while women molestation and rape cases also swelled. Further, on, the agitating circumstances amid Delhi driven recent political developments put normalcy (social, economic religious affairs) at halt while pushed the valley into dark ages through caging and disconnecting it from rest of the world. Ever since the article 370 revocation, millions of Kashmiris demonized by myriad repressive measures carried out by the India to evade the probable backlash. An unprecedented lockdown, conditionally imposed curfew, communication blockade coupled with militaristic actions, normalization, and rationalization of draconian laws ensured through media, security, and intellectual cover fire. Ruthless restrictions has sieged livelihood through hitting economic soft patch, causing psychological traumatization and political strife. Likewise, education, communication, healthcare, and transportation are hard-hit sectors by the operationalized tyrant instruments particularly designed to marginalize Kashmiri populous.

Arguably, what are ontological and epistemological dimensions for such political assertions and military doctrine with reference to Kashmir Conflict? There are multifarious imperatives that explains why India opted such vicious policy tactics and they estimate their effectiveness in serving the larger interests.
All the Post Pulwama developments vis-à-vis Kashmir conflict are deceitfully engineered by xenophobic and exclusionary political mindset of ruling Indian party BJP, which being an offshoot of RSS predominantly known for breeding anti-Muslim sentiments and promotion of chauvinistic Hindutva tendencies. In recent years, false flag operations and speculative surgical strikes have emerged as significant feature of the Indian military doctrine vis-à-vis Pakistan. Keeping the earlier strategic precedents in account, Pulwama incident is another episode of indigenously designed stratagem by the policy makers in Delhi to attain far- fetched goals following the [Pathankot and Uri attacks] for which Pakistan had been accuse without definite evidences.

The occurrence of incident right before the general Indian elections suggest that BJP vowed to gain massive domestic political mileage. Evidently, this particular attack and direct confrontation with neighboring state assisted Modi regime to drive an anti- Pakistan campaign (largely a successful move in Indian political culture) which not only undermined its probable electoral vulnerabilities but it secured victory in elections with big majority.
It is also pertinent to highlight that prior to the incident; new government of Imran Khan in Pakistan was highly enthusiastic for rapprochement and re-engagement with India for crisis mitigation. Its policy initiative for the Karptarpur Corridor opening was heap phrase globally by Sikh community. it also regarded as major diplomatic triumph for Islamabad by the policy experts which raised grave apprehensions and disillusionments for Modi government at home because to an extent it dented its major scoring policy options and further engagement with Pakistan would have bring massive domestic resentment from fanatic Hindus, costing considerable political deficits and hampering its covert agendas regarding Kashmir. Thus, [fabricated attack] provided a safe passage to BJP to avert domestic pressure and paved path for misleading notion of detachment with Pakistan. Notably, accusing Islamabad by Delhi for the Pluwama incident during a time when it had strain ties with Washington and was facing an arduous task for the meeting Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations are presumably a tactical move to exert maximum diplomatic pressure on Islamabad. While inside Kashmir, with a pre-emtive strategy, detentions of prominent political leaders were carried out and two prominent pro-freedom parties, Jammu and Kashmir liberation Front (JKLF) and Jammat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir banned by the government to prevent potential reaction of forcible imposition of new political laws. In view of regional geopolitical dynamics and manufactured hostile configurations set stage for political onslaught on the rights of native Kashmiris.

Realistically, scraping article 370 and introducing new domicile law is projection of the Iron Fist approach to dispossess and disempower the Kashmiri masses through inflicting saffron nationalism agendas. Those political gambits through introducing draconian laws with reference to political future of Kashmir suggests that BJP government is fully determined to bring demographic changes by altering the Muslim majority region into minority as per the Israel policy framework model of West Bank which seems a gamble to existence of state. The rise of Hindu community in the valley would spark ethnic conflict, while the ongoing quagmire configuration would become more complex and hostile in near future. The Hindu-Muslim confrontation in Kashmir will have indefinite domino effect into rest of the country and it would bring entire state on to the knees because currently there are nineteen on going separatist movements that poses intimidating challenges to the ethnically polarized Indian state sovereignty. The controversial citizenship amendment act would also serve as catalyst to amplify the ideological and culture fragmentation.

Amid of entire political and conflictual developments, unprovoked firing and LOC violations by the India drastically increased while its media apparatus at home and abroad repeatedly indulged propaganda against Pakistan and fraudulently prove itself innocent in global arena. Such tactic orients from two aspects. First, LOC violations remained a consistent tool of Indian turbulent polices and its geographic complexities rescinds plausibility of figuring out the actual perpetrator. Second, escalated hostility with Pakistan at boarders, it tend to deviate the attention of global world from the current situation of Kashmir, significantly the illegitimate changes made in political milieu.

The chronology of events and antagonistic policies suggest that Delhi play with full deck to draw zero-sum preposition over the Kashmir Crisis and securing stable domestic political posture. However, it becomes a wild goose chase in dark, lessons can be drawn from malpractice of rigged elections of the year 1987 which set the tone for embroiling turmoil and Delhi seemingly failed to curb the resistance shown by the Kashmiri masses till date.

The current political course of action would become ineffectual due to the growing internal strength and international recognition of Kashmir movement. For the past six years, homegrown resistance took a leap forward with rise of fresh wave of militancy, particularly in the aftermaths of martyrdom of insurgent Burhan Wani. One of the key innovation is fascination of educated youth towards Jihad culture. “Kashmir has one solution Gun solution Gun Solution” has become the hallmark slogan of popular rebellious insurgency. This certain development made the Indian status Quo and security establishment highly apprehensive which forced them to use their trump card at this stage. It also highlights that Delhi somehow surrendered and convinced for a probable plebiscite in future, given the condition of demographic changes whilst signposting a last challenge to the freedom struggle to halt this last political development and bring their success further closer to reality.

In broader spectrum, After the Pulwama incident, Indian posture over Kashmir crisis suffered with major jolts on the global geopolitical chessboard. The political pitfalls regarding Kashmir also put India in hot waters as the UNSC for first time in five decades convened sessions to discuss the unsettled crisis. Moreover, the Amnesty international and the UN recent report accounting human rights assessment highlighted substantial evidences of Indian heinous crimes committed in the valley and urged to probe into the matter with serious considerations. Likewise, OIC successively denounced the Indian incongruous approach and its political outrage towards Kashmir rejected. Pakistan also abled to gain favorable support from the China, Turkey, and Malaysia over its stance regarding the conflict. Likewise, intensifying crisis caught attention of print, electronic, and social media all across the world that not only further enhance the impetus of global recognition of Kashmir movement, but to an extent, it exposed the Modi’s noxious totalitarian regime. Thus, such responses from international community refuted Delhi’s rhetoric whilst endorsed Islamabad’s narrative: “Kashmir an international dispute” between India and Pakistan.
The Iron Fist approach created vacuum for the resurfacing of indigenous insurgency. Kashmir political turf has lost the zip with imposition of silenced culture and prevailing controlled narrative politics. Evidently, the ban of pro- freedom parties under Modi regime whilst two other major political groups: People Democratic Party (PDP) and Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (JKNC) largely lost social acceptance due to aforementioned tendencies. Therefore the with scant political options, the indigenous Kashmir struggle retracing its feet in rebellious militancy which predominantly challenged Indian conventional approach of over reliance on militarization and brute force to suppress the enduring struggle.

Considering the effectiveness of fifth generation warfare tools, Media took as key actor in contemplating the entire script crafted by the Policy makers in Delhi. Soon after the Pulwama incident propagandist channels furiously kept baying for the blood through baseless revenge, setting frequency for escalating hostility by broadcasting falsehood. Being mouthpieces of political elites and security establishment, selling lies policy formation of majority media channels remained consistent throughout Balakot intrusion and Operation Swift Retort. Likewise, it also played a handful role in portraying the “normalization in Kashmir during Iron Fist approach implementation, however it was expose by the presence of international media and news agencies coverage by portraying the on ground situation of Kashmir valley.

The complete blackout of internet services and social media apparatus apparently has nothing to do with the laws or security vulnerabilities. There are two certain reasons of adopting this kind of stringent measures. Firstly, with technological evaluation over the years, social media applications (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram) have become effective tool of promoting the freedom of struggle by the indigenous masses and its diaspora across the world through sharing personal views, videos of alleged injustice and simultaneously promoted mobilization of masses through innovative means (stories, poetry, documentaries, songs ) by exposing Indian autocracies. To restrain the criticism by the masses internet suspension was impose in occupied territory. Secondly, from Indian perspective masses interconnectivity disengagement became essentially vital as it also plays handful role in mobilizing the protests and strikes, therefore fearing the massive revolt due to changing political landscape the government snapped modes of communication.

Balakot intrusion pitfall and aerial combat inadvertently exposed military strategic/operational deficiencies while Pakistan depicted effective military preparedness thus Modi government tend to seek redemption in revamping the political status of Kashmir with a cynical approach, irrespective of gruesome consequences which may going to hunt India posture and stability.

In the backdrop of Kashmir conundrum, Delhi directed Post Pulwama political and security developments, spawned fresh hurdles as the future of conflict now looks elusively grim whilst its extended hostile configuration eminently unfolding intimidating security crisis which convulsing the entire South Asian region. From Indian policy context, embolden by the radical Hindutva ideological mindset, imprudent political aspirations and domestic constraint compulsions, Modi regime hasten offensive shortsighted zero-sum policies could only bring fewer domestic accomplishments. For instance, earlier accusing Pakistan for Pulwama incident, followed by Balakot strike and aerial combat events, it somehow managed to ensure electoral victory through deviously driving anti- Pakistan rhetoric by assistance of security establishment and media tools propaganda. However, its political forays (revocation of article 370 and domicile amendment) under the shadow of brutal forces to maintain status-quo through structural marginalization of native masses facing massive criticism and squandered its claims of a profound secular democratic state. This unrealistic image further tarnished by its egregious human rights violations and clamp fundamental freedom in the disputed territory. Likewise, current policy caucus of military doctrine and Iron Fist Approach – (lockdown, illegal detentions of masses, controlling narratives, and communication blockade) imprints the fascist regime governance patterns.

As far as the effectiveness of rigorous strategic imperatives in attainment of end goals are concerned, it failed to contain the freedom of struggle who predominantly repowered through indigenous militancy provocation and it is unlike to stray or relinquish from given parameters of power resistance against the establishing order. Realistically, so far staunch response from the Kashmiris left India with minimal options to draw considerable outcome. The actual response from inside the valley yet come once India decides to normalize the things through lifting the lockdown and allowing communication but security cautious approach entails that it already sensed the danger of retaliation which would hard to contain.

From Pakistan’s perspective, domestic fault lines remained a major point of concern. After Pulwama incident, its foremost challenge was to disassociate from accusing state sponsored terrorism rhetoric that was handle through vivid, pragmatic diplomatic responses. Further, on, it manage post Balakot and aerial combat crisis with a win-win equation. Nevertheless, political developments regarding the Kashmir conflict raised grave apprehensions that brought major shift in its policies preferences with India from rapprochements to detachment. Its position over the crisis potentially necessitated serious considerations and it managed to reengage international community through operationalizing coherent diplomatic imperatives. Albeit, responsive measures partially drawn favorable outcomes but a sustainable roadmap for the future in terms of its reshaping domestic policies, dynamics of relations with India, and gaging level of negotiations over the crisis yet to establish.

One of the dismaying factors is dubious role of great powers due to divergent interests in the region. Similarly, international community largely remained nominal during the Indo-Pak direct confrontation and inconclusive in convincing the adversaries to adhere the UN declaration of conflict resolution pertaining to the settlement. Notably, with recent global outbreak of Corona pandemic their preferences would spotlight combating the economic woes and regional geopolitical intrigue rather dealing the protracted conflicts.

With unfavorable external imperatives, ignorance of global stake holders, persistency of Kashmir freedom movement and zero-sum prepositions of the contending actors, the conflict likely to intensify and security of the region would further deteriorate. Conflict entrepreneurship seemingly take center stage where engaging actors would attain divergent interests- seeking political mileages, deflecting the attentions from the catastrophes of poor governance whereas the sufferings of native masses would prolong. Thus, there is dire need to revamping the zero-sum prepositions to positive sum gains, myopic approach to holistic view and biasedness with prudent rationalization to ensure the peace restoration in larger benefit of preventing humanitarian crisis and averting the jeopardizing of already fragile regional security architecture.

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About Mushahid Hussain Naqvi 14 Articles
The author is the Digital Editor at The Asian Telegraph and sub-Editor at Melange International Magazine and Research Associate at COPAIR with academic expertise in International Relations.