Kashmir-Relaxation of AFSPA, its pros and cons

Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah has indicated that the much hated security laws The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Disturbed Areas Act (DAA) will be relaxed in various parts of the Valley.

These laws have been termed as widely hated laws and the relaxation of these laws have evoked mixed reactions. What the administration in Jammu and Kashmir feels is that this could win the hearts of the public and there would be peace in Kashmir. While this is one part of the argument there is also the fear that this could be largely misused by our not so friendly neighbours who could pump up the infiltration.

C D Sahay, former RAW Chief feels that this is a good step and the Kashmir process could move forward due to such a move. There are key irritants in Kashmir which the Chief Minister wanted to remove and he seems to have the support of the government of India in such a move.

Why I would say this is a step forward is because there will be some accountability now. Each time a person goes missing one cannot put a militant tag on him and end the matter. However one needs to determine very critically is whether the problem in Kashmir today is as bad as what it used to be 10 years back.

I am sure that the Chief Minister has an idea of the situation over there. Law and order remains a state subject and if the government in the Valley is confident that the army can secure the border and prevent infiltration then it is a step taken in the right direction.

When I spoke about critical analysis of the situation I meant we must take into account various aspects. Is Pakistan down and out at the moment? I can say with confidence that the Hizbul Mujahideen is down and out today. They have people but the question is whether they have the capacity to keep infiltrating. I recollect that a couple of years back they used to infiltrate at least 3000 people every year and today it is a trickle. This would show that they are down. However we also need to look at the capabilities of the Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Lashkar-e-Tayiba who according to me are still very strong. All these aspects need to be analysed.

I personally am in favour of the relaxations of these laws. However I am sure that the army would not like to go into the areas where the laws are relaxed without the cover of these laws. Hence it is important that civil administration is imposed fully in such areas. There is an urgent need to test the new pattern and there is no harm in doing so.

I agree there is some discontentment about the law being relaxed selectively. All of us would like these laws completely, but the better thing would be to do it in a selective manner. The only time that we can relax these laws fully is when we have a statement from Pakistan. They need to assure us that they will not indulge in violence and if they can make this commitment then it is alright or else it could be dangerous to suddenly withdraw these laws.

Looking at this process, I feel that the CM should have followed more procedure while making such an announcement. We do have reasons to believe that things are better at the Valley. Instead of making a public announcement I feel he should have placed it before the Home Ministry had them discuss the issue and then gone ahead with it.

Prof S A R Geelani, from the Delhi University who was acquitted by the Supreme Court in the Parliament attack case feels this is a sham. It could be considered to be a positive step only if it was relaxed completely. They are only talking about withdrawing it in selective areas and this does not good. We are fully aware that this would be twisted. They will still pick up people from areas where the law is relaxed and in paper would show the person to be from the area where the law exist.

This is a draconian law and my question is why should this law be there in the first place when there is a democratically elected government. On one hand you call it the largest democracy in the world and on the other you have such laws.

Such laws need to be relaxed in full and not in part as it always can be misused. Why should you give a soldier a right to kill a person without reason and on the basis of suspicion? We have enough laws to deal with the real terrorists and there is no need for a special law. Having such special laws have never done the country any good and in the long run innocents have suffered.

An Intelligence Bureau official pointed out that the situation in Kashmir is better today. The very tight vigil along the borders have managed to keep infiltration at bay to a large extent and there are only stray incidents that are reported today. We would not say that the problem is completely solved and the group to watch out is the Lashkar since they have been taking various other paths to continue this fight. They today realise the problems in infiltrating through the Pakistan border. In the past couple of months they have been trying to infiltrate in through the Bangladesh border. There is also a lot of movement from within the country and they are attempting to train youth from India to fight the Kashmir battle. Hence looking at this scenario it would be foolish to withdraw these laws in toto and hence needs to be done in a phased manner with a lot of care.

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Can India undertake Osama like operation?

Photo courtesy: tntmagazine.com
The killing of Osama Bin Laden has raised one primary question- will India which is one of the biggest victims of Pakistan sponsored terrorism be able to undertake an operation of this magnitude and bring to justice the likes of Hafiz Saeed and Dawood Ibrahim.

Although Al-Qaeda has never been much of a concern for India, it is the Lashkar-e-Tayiba whose growth and reach which worries our country.

We speak to former boss of the Research and Analysis, C D Sahay and expert on matters pertaining to the Lashkar, Stephen Tankel to find out more on this.

C D Sahay was the chief of Research and Analysis Wing – India’s external intelligence agency – from April 1, 2003 – January 31, 2005:

Can India undertake such an attack?

Without being Indo-Pak specific, any professional security outfit should be able to carry out such tasks. One would, of course, need accurate and actionable intelligence on all aspects of the target, an operationally fit and trained team of commandos, state of the art logistic support, real time electronic monitoring to update intelligence and totally secure communication link between the Command Center and the operational team. The list of course is not exhaustive. Great deal of careful planning and rehearsals under near identical scenario will facilitate quick and surgical strike.

The impact of Osama’s death on India:

Bin Lahden and Al-Qaeda did not have direct role in execution of terrorist related violence in India. It’s affiliates and entities sponsored and promoted by the ISI, like the LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammad etc. have been largely responsible for major acts of terrorism in India. The role of Indian Mujahideen have also been significant. Therefore, the pattern and intensity of terrorist violence in India is unlikely to witness any significant change. However, the intelligence and security apparatus would need to exercise extra vigilance to deal with any back-lash of the event in the immediate context. Osama is gone but the culture of violence, the philosophy of Islamic Jihad, the network of global terrorism established over the years, would not disappear so easily. I do not think that the world is any safer today than it was a few days earlier. However, bin Laden’s extraction through and immaculately planned and executed operation is a huge boost to the US-led war and terror and should cause some anxious moments, sleepless nights to the Pak security/Intelligence machinery that continues to provide support and sanctuary to a large number of ‘wanted’ men, including all of India’s most wanted.

Is it the end of Al-Qaeda after Laden?

The question has been partly answered under the previous heading. The short answer is that Al Qaeda had not ended with Osama’s killing. Over the last many years, he was not playing any direct role in guiding Al-Qaeda’s operations. Most of the regional and affiliated networks where operating under a decentralized system. This would continue with the regional units playing more assertive and independent roles. The succession issue in Al-Qaeda will hugely impact the future course of the movement. Indeed, in the short term perceptive, there would revenge attacks particularly in Pakistan, parts of Afghanistan and against softer US targets worldwide.

Should the photos have been released?

To my mind this is not really and important issue. No one doubts the death of Osama, and, despite some initial contradictions in the operational details, a fairly clear picture had emerged on the kind of operation carried out leading to Osama’s killing. The US has, perhaps, done the right thing by not releasing the photographs, which would have surely inflamed anger amongst bin-Laden’s followers and supporters.

What should India do now?

It’s rather strange that every time an event takes place, the strategic expert’s community and the media tend to go ballistic on Indo-Pak issues. There is need to delink this debate from the US operations in Abbottabad. There is qualitative difference between US-Pak and Indo-Pak relations. The situations are incomparable. Our friends across the border may not like this but Pakistan has, over the years, reduced itself a ‘client state’ role vis-a-vie the US, surviving on it;s economic largess and doing it’s biding, although in a typically dubious Pakistani style and character, they continue to follow the policy of running with the hare and hunting with the hound as far as it’s role as the key US ally in the war on terror is concerned. And the manner in which the US deals with Pakistan’s protestations is amply reelected in the continuing drone attacks after Osama’s extraction despite Pakistan’s warnings of serious consequences!

What we tend to forget is the fact that India has never followed the policy of deep penetration operations inside other countries to eliminate terrorist operating from their territories. India has not done so, despite decade of terrorist violence inflicted on us by Pakistan. India has not done so against militant camps in Bangladesh and Myanmar. It would be a surprise if the Osama operation were to lead to a total change in our national policy approach on this matter. Having said this, I must add that the recent outbursts of the Pak Army Chief and Foreign Secretary, warning India of all kinds of consequences, is rather immature and unwarrented. It emanates from the deep embarresment and humiliation that Pakistan has suffered and are only trying to divert the focus by raising India bogey once again. They need to instead, while licking their wounded pride, do some deep soul searching and evolve a new vision of their future role and place as a responsible member of the world community.

Stephen Tankel on the growing threat of the Lashkar post Laden:

In its present incarnation Lashkar-e-Taiba is unlikely to supplant al-Qaeda. The two are very different organizations, with different strengths and weaknesses. That said, LeT is viewed as posing a growing global threat, in particular because of its training apparatus in Pakistan and its trasnational networks. These networks stretch across several continents and enable LeT to provide facilitation and support for terrorist plots overseas. This type of coordination may not make headlines, but it is an important component of the global nature posed by the jihadist movement today.

A number of former soldiers joined LeT beginning in the late 1990s and early part of the 2000s. Some still remain with the group, while others have left to join competing outfits in Pakistan or to strike out on their own as freelancers.