Conditions for reducing force levels in the Kashmir region

Troop redeployments can only follow an overall political settlement

Demilitarisation figures in almost every Bold Musharraf Formula for Kashmir. Unsurprisingly, it turned up in Indian drawing rooms last week when he put forth his latest four-point formula, to, well, an Indian television interviewer.

In its analysis of Musharraf’s latest episode of telepacifism, the Hindustan Times repeats a popular sentiment.

Mr Musharraf wants the region to be demilitarised. This would be great, provided the shadow of terrorism is first removed. It is not enough to say that violence and infiltration have come down. Terrorist violence works according to the principle of a single gun being able to change the political dynamics of a region. [HT]

Putting an end to cross-border terrorism, of course, is a necessary condition for demilitarisation. But it is not sufficient.

That is because the deployment of the Indian armed forces in and around the Kashmir region is linked to the overall military balance along the India-Pakistan border. Pakistan is forced to match Indian deployments with its own. This means costs. It also means that Pakistan will have so many less number of troops and military assets to deploy along other sectors of the India-Pakistan border, and indeed, in other theatres in Pakistan (Balochistan, NWFP, Northern Areas) or along the Durand line marking the disputed border with Afghanistan. It is for this reason that every Pakistani general demands that India pull troops back from the Jammu & Kashmir region.

At the same time Pakistani leaders have demonstrated an unmistakable propensity to occupy positions left vacant by Indian troops—most famously at Kargil in 1999-2000.

Indian troop deployments in the Kashmir region are an important part of the overall defensive posture that constitutes the conventional military balance with Pakistan. Demilitarisation, then, should only be carried out only when the political-strategic environment changes to the extent that it permits India to re-compose the overall balance. The upshot is that demilitarisation can only follow a political settlement that India is confident will hold.

Pakistani generals and Indian peaceniks may convince themselves that the presence of Indian troops in Kashmir prevents the very political settlement from coming about. That is not the case. If Pakistan makes good on its promise to end terrorism and then formally and unconditionally renounces its claims over Jammu & Kashmir (and not with the ifs and buts of Musharraf’s telepacifism), then it will create the conditions for the demilitarisation it seeks.

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