Is India planning an operation in POK?

The Modi government is methodically trying to resolve the Kashmir issue, which is lingering since the partition of the Subcontinent in 1947. India and Pakistan have already fought three wars, including the Kargil conflict of 1999, on Kashmir, writes Jai Kumar Verma for South Asia Monitor 

Jai Kumar Verma May 12, 2020
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Ajit Doval, the National Security Advisor, who was posted in Pakistan and countered the anti-India operations of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), visited Kashmir on May 9 to review the overall security situation. He chaired a high-level meeting, which continued for more than five hours and was attended by the top brass of the security forces.

The meeting gave special stress on the curbing of cross-border terrorist incursions and the need for assets that can inform about the infiltrators. The NSA also emphasised the need to strengthen counter-insurgency operation in Kashmir so that terrorists can be eliminated. He appreciated the killing of more than 76 terrorists in 2020, including Reyaz Naikoo, a top commander of Hizbul Mujahedeen (HM) on March 6. However, in the last month, about 22 security force personnel were killed, including an army colonel in different firefights in the valley.  According to intelligence reports, ISI assisted Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) is planning suicide attacks on security forces in the state.

In the meeting, it was also discussed that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has enhanced its activities on India’s western borders. Recently. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan stated that India is planning a false-flag operation against Pakistan. False-flag operation is a covert operation designed to deceive the other party. Here Imran Khan means that India may plan an attack on itself and will publicise that the attack was done by Pakistan. It indicates the sinister motive of Pakistan that after carrying out some major terrorist activity in India, it will allege that it was organised by Indian security forces.  

Recently ISI has also created two more terrorist outfits, including The Resistance Front (TRF) and JK Pir Panjal Peace Forum to increase terrorist activities in the valley. TRF is supported by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). In March, security officials arrested six TRF activists and seized a large cache of arms and ammunition, including hand grenades, AK rifles, pistols, detonators, fuses and lot of ammunition. 

Meanwhile, the Modi government asked television channels to include Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) - what Pakistan calls 'Azad Kashmir' -  and Gilgit-Baltistan areas also in national weather forecasts. The move is significant as now everyday India media will profess that POK, Gilgit-Baltistan are part of India and Pakistan has illegally captured these areas. Indian TV channels will show the map of India, which will include these areas too.  

Indian Army Chief, General Manoj Mukund Naravane, also said on January 11, 2020 that, if the government orders, Indian Army can take the requisite steps to seize POK. The parliamentary resolution of 1994 clearly reiterates that whole of POK is an "integral part of India". 

The Modi government is methodically trying to resolve the Kashmir issue, which is lingering since the partition of the Subcontinent in 1947. India and Pakistan have already fought three wars, including the Kargil conflict of 1999, on Kashmir. First of all, security forces are eliminating terrorists in Kashmir under Operation All Out (OAO). The number of terrorists, both local and foreigners, are considerably reduced, and the average life of terrorists is reduced to a few months. The number of terror incidents has also been reduced and there are full cooperation and coordination between all the security forces. There may be some exceptions where unwanted comments were made by a specific officer but, by and large, there is complete teamwork among the security forces. 

The defanging of Article 370, abrogation of Article 35A, and splitting of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into two union territories were significant moves. The Pakistan-abetted separatists were claiming that they will merge J&K with Pakistan but after defanging of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, that possibility is over. 

Now the government should make the conditions conducive so that Kashmiri Pandits can go back to their native villages. Besides them, the people who migrated from Pakistan and living as stateless people in J&K and elsewhere should also be rehabilitated in the valley. If need be land should be allotted on the India-Pakistan border to ex-servicemen as well as to retired personnel of central police organisations so they can settle in those areas. 

Once peace and tranquility are established tourism will also pick up and unemployment will go down. Sincere efforts should be made to curb radicalisation and efforts should be made to deradicalise the youth. The imams of the mosques in Kashmir who preach terrorism should be given exemplary punishment.

Once peace is restored attempts should be made to get back POK as well as Gilgit-Baltistan from Pakistan. The residents of POK are dissatisfied with the federal government of Islamabad as there has been little development in the region. The residents of Gilgit and Baltistan are Shia Muslims and they do not feel safe in a Sunni Muslim-dominated Pakistan. They are also against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as they feel that China will exploit their mineral resources and Islamabad has no interest in their welfare.

However, China which claims itself as ‘all-weather’ friend of Pakistan will not like India occupying these areas as CPEC, which is a prime project of Chinese President Xi Jinping, passes through this area. Secondly, it will weaken Pakistan, which is not in the interest of China, as Beijing is using Islamabad as a strategic tool against India. Hence it is a sensitive operation and India must proceed cautiously. Nevertheless, India must make sincere efforts to reclaim the areas that have been an integral part of the country. NSA Doval and his team are moving in the right direction.     

(The author is a New Delhi-based strategic analyst and member of USI and IDSA. The views expressed are personal and not necessarily shared by the editors of South Asia Monitor. He can be contacted at jai_pushpa@hotmail.com)

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