PageA08—9-10-19

Ladakhi students wearing traditional costume wave Indian flags during a parade kicking off the start of the Ladakh festival in Leh, Ladakh on Sept. 1, 2019. There has been general happiness among the Ladakh population following the Indian Government's announcement to scrap Article 370 in early August resulting in Jammu and Kashmir being split into two Union territories, giving the Buddhist region its own Union territory. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir became history after Aug. 6, when the bill was passed by more than two-thirds majority in both houses of Parliament, through the laid down democratic process in consultation with Sadr-e-Riyasat vested in the governor of the erstwhile state. The gill reorganizes the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two separate Union Territories, J&K being one and Ladakh being another UT. This administrative reorganization is an internal matter of India, which was essential for inclusive growth of the erstwhile state.

This reform was long overdue, as it was seen that Articles 370 and 35A were hurting India and the common people of J&K since inclusion. These provisions were being misused by a few local politicians, separatists, elite businessmen, terrorists and their supporters, at the cost of brewing inequality, depriving legal benefits, voting rights, welfare related rights to the common people of Kashmir. It helped the agenda of Pakistan and terrorists, allowed the forcibly pushing out of some natives like Kashmiri Pandits with blatant abuse of power and left India helpless in mitigating their grievances.

No investments were possible to create jobs, hence, the terror industry bloomed. Needless to say, the people enjoying such abuse of power will continue to cry foul, along with some more trying to gain political mileage out of it, but the fact is that this decision was backed by a thumping mandate of the country through its laid down democratic process.

What are the Indian adversaries trying?

Pakistan's frustration is that declaration of J&K as UT will expose its terrorists fueling a proxy war in Kashmir, out of the umbrella of local political patronage. The separatists will be exposed to central security forces and laws, and its terror industry/infrastructure built in Kashmir over decades will start crumbling. China's disgruntlement stems from the fact that Ladakh becoming a UT weakens their false, incremental claims in that region, besides weakening Pakistan's proxy to keep Indians engaged on their behalf.

Pakistan has been waging a hybrid war with a large number of terrorists already infiltrated, along with separatists instigating violence, coupled with conventional fire at LoC in the last few decades, resulting in more than 42,000 deaths. Its efforts to re-ignite a hybrid war post abrogation of Article 370 have not met much success because of heavy deployment and alertness of Indian security forces and restrictions on mobile and internet.

Pakistan's irrational actions like lowering of diplomatic relations with India, scrapping trade ties, stopping rail communication and blocking air routes have been to its disadvantage. Pakistan and China went through diplomatic offensive by approaching UNSC for informal meeting, which also yielded no results as the world community did not find it a worthwhile to even issue any joint statement.

Information Warfare by Pakistan: Pakistan has enhanced the dimension of warfare by graduating to all out 'Information Warfare', which encompasses propaganda, fake news, threatening statements, rhetoric, manipulating social media and invisible cyber warfare. To combat this warfare it is necessary to understand the strategy of Pakistan. Their first narrative is to give religious color to its propaganda campaign, falsely projecting it as Hindu encroachment on Muslim rights, and restrictions on internet and mobile, as atrocities on Muslims. Unfortunately for them, except for members of their terror industry and their sympathizers, not very many have bought this narrative.

The second narrative is posing a fake Indian threat from India, posing helplessness, repeatedly threatening the world of its nuclear status and its irrationality to get into a nuclear exchange, blackmailing the world community to intervene and save the situation.

The third narrative is to remind the U.S., China and India of its terror potential, blackmail the U.S. for its need to quit Afghanistan in exchange of leverage on Taliban (if any?) and blackmail China for protecting its economic interests and workers in the country and doing the dirty job of containing Indian forces on their behalf. Imran Khan's acceptance of approximately 40,000 terrorists on his soil and threat to unleash his strategic assets (terrorists) for Pulwama type actions does not deter India, which anticipated such actions in its strategic calculation.

Combating Information Warfare of Pakistan: Information war by an adversary cannot be taken lightly and needs to be combated professionally. One of the best methods of combating it is to flood the global environment with hard facts, countering fake news and propaganda. India had anticipated the security challenges arising out of such decision and has done its best to quarantine the potential problem creators and flash spots with tight restrictions. The Kashmir valley has been quite peaceful as never before in so many years, after India strengthened the security force level in the terrorist threat prone areas, and restricted use of mobile and internet there to ensure the safety of its citizens.

India's priority is to save lives of innocent people; hence, it is carefully lifting restrictions in a graduated manner, resulting in delay in risky areas, causing some inconvenience to some people there. With Pakistan openly trying everything possible to re-ignite Kashmir valley through its terrorists, Indian administrators and security forces/agencies will have to strike a fine balance between relaxing restrictions or continuing it to save lives, on a daily basis, with an option to re-clamp some restrictions, if problem creators manage to pose a threat to prevailing peace.

The Indian secular fabric is strong not to fall prey to religious fundamentalism, but countering propaganda speeches in various forums may well be the need of the hour to quarantine the thought process of innocents from radicalized sleeper cells. The education system in madrassas in Kashmir will need monitoring to check the anti-national agenda of terrorists. These actions need to be backed by an inclusive growth plan rolled out simultaneously so that the people of Kashmir can visualize their bright future.

(The views expressed are the personal views of the author, who retains the copyright.)

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