Ceasing counter-terrorism operations is positively loony

After negotiations with their sponsors, it is now down to negotiating with terrorists themselves

After negotiations with their sponsors, it is now down to negotiating with terrorists themselves

High after smoking the peace-pipe, the Indian government’s favourite foreign policy expert, C Raja Mohan floats the latest weather balloon — that India must now cease counter-terrorist operations in Jammu & Kashmir, and begin negotiations with the ‘militant’ groups.

The ceasefire along the Indo-Pak divide should have been matched by an end to confrontation with the militants inside the state. But the security establishment has put up a variety of arguments against such an internal ceasefire. One is that the Indian security forces are doing well against the militants — in terms of kill rates, etc — and it is unwise to stop now. The other is that a ceasefire might allow the militants to regroup and fight even better another day.

These are typical arguments from any security bureaucracy dealing with a difficult situation. The refrain always is, “Let us do the same thing for a little longer and we will be on top of the situation.” But no insurgency has been defeated in the past through exclusively military means.

Without a pause in military operations and a dialogue on the underlying political issues, no peace process is going to succeed. [IE]

In recent weeks, attempts have been made to bring jihadi groups into the political fold — even Syed Ali Geelani, a hardline separatist, called for the inclusion of the Pakistan-based United Jihad Council (UJC) into talks over Kashmir. Marginalised as he is within the ‘moderate’ Hurriyat, directly championing the cause of the jihadi groups gives him a new political constituency.

A ceasefire would involve an Indian decision to stop operations against the militants in Kashmir and a commitment by major militant organisations to stop their attacks. Musharraf has often said he will encourage the militants to give up violence if the dialogue with India on Kashmir moves ahead.

It is interesting that the Pakistan-based commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, Syed Salahuddin, has told an Indian TV channel on the eve of Musharraf’s visit, that he will be prepared to put the gun down if “military operations are stopped, rebels are released from jails and an atmosphere of goodwill is created.”[IE]

In spite of all the good intentions of jihadi terrorist leaders and their sponsors, as many as four terrorist groups claimed responsibility for the attack on the Srinagar bus terminal. And even as Musharraf’s plane touched down in New Delhi, four senior terrorists were killed in Kashmir after a gunbattle with security forces. Politically, it makes a lot of sense for Musharraf and Syed Salahuddin engage terrorist-bureaucracies like the UJC in dialogue, while their newly-minted counterparts remain engaged in violence.

Raja Mohan gets the sequence wrong. Until Musharraf shuts down those terrorist camps for good and until his ISI calls off its training programmes, mere promises carry little meaning. As for the UJC, it would be a great leap of faith to take its word — nothing short of an unconditional offer to stop terrorist attacks will suffice. Even then, the Indian government should continue counter-terrorist operations against others who remain engaged in terrorism.

One has only to look at the sorry state of the Andhra Pradesh government and its failed strategy to engage Naxalites to realise the dangers of going soft prematurely.

6 thoughts on “Ceasing counter-terrorism operations is positively loony”

  1. Yes, it’s an astounding proposal. What has gotten into Mr. Mohan these days? His transformation from resolute and clear-headed analyst (especially post-Parliament attack) to woolly-headed promoter of the ‘peace process’ is a bit of a mystery to me. Too much Track-II bonhomie, perhaps 😉

    Just for the record, I too count myself as one who is a supporter of peace b/wn Pakistan and India. But a durable peace won’t be won by such tactical blunders, for the reasons you’ve outlined.

    Mr. Mohan has been trying to float this particular balloon for some time. I seem to recall that he proffered such advice to Mr. Vajpayee as well.

    Kumar
    P.S., How influential is Mr. Mohan these days, anyway? Have his columns been important in the current initiative of the GOI ?

  2. Kumar,

    Raja Mohan was involved in organising some track II (or III) initiatives; if I remember correctly, he did have a hand in the last Pugwash.

  3. The Financial Times in an editorial on April 18th suggested haste on the part of Manmohan singh and others in the Indian government in using the word “irreversible”. they were merely suggesting that history offers a different outcome for such unbridled optimism. those comments could not be more appropos. Raja Mohan seems to have lost his marbles on this one.

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