The proxy war is far from over

Crucially, there are things that can be done today which are not being done

Praveen Swami provides a grim reminder that the war against jihadi terrorists in Kashmir is far from over. Using the numbers and ratios of body-bags as a benchmark, Swami points out that while the absolute number of security forces’ fatalities has increased, the corresponding ratio of terrorist fatalities has fallen since 1996. He suggests that all the political rhetoric and activity is drawing attention away from an urgent need to rethink India’s counter-terrorist strategy in Kashmir.

Crucially, there are things that can be done today which are not being done. Admitting one has a problem is a necessary precondition for doing something about it. Historically, Indian politicians and bureaucrats have been loath to do this. Responses to crisis have changed little since the Mughal period, consisting essentially of throwing bribes at local chieftains and despatching an army if the trouble really gets out of hand. Underlying this is the assumption that time is on India’s side. Given the direction in which the United States’ policy on Pakistan is likely to develop, driven increasingly by the Iraq quagmire, this assumption may not remain valid for long. [Outlook]

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in Kashmir has shown that it is not above making deals with terrorists like the Hizbul Mujahideen to suit its political ends, and Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference was openly wooing jihadi elements in this years’ elections. While this process arguably brings terrorist elements back into the political fold – a long shot – the security forces must not be complacent to the threat they pose.