NSG in J&K: Stop Scaremongering As No Military Rampage In Sight

The NSG is not going to storm across J&K, inflicting its ‘muscle’ on all and sundry.

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As a tenuous government, whose survival for over two years was itself incredible, falls in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), strident, divisive and increasingly militarist commentary has dominated the public discourse. This, despite the fact that not a single statement from state or central authorities speaks of any ‘free hand’ to the security forces (SFs), or of any abruptly ‘muscular approach’.

In effect, both supporters of this hardline, and those who seek to create fear and panic in the Kashmir Valley – and this appears to include the erstwhile Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti – are essentially constructing a straw man and then using it to flog their own partisan political agendas. Worse, as in any period of escalating tension in J&K – especially if an election is approaching (and one almost always is) – divisive issues, Article 370 [J&K’s ‘autonomous status’], and 35A [special provisions for ‘permanent residents’ of the State], increasingly consume the polarized discourse.


Crisis and Scaremongering

Crucially, it is abundantly clear that nothing is even possible in the foreseeable future with regard to altering these constitutional provisions, but this does not prevent their cyclical harnessing by manipulative politicians, both in the Valley and in Jammu, as well as, increasingly, by many in New Delhi.

Saner voices – few and far between – have made it abundantly clear that there is going to be no military rampage across Kashmir. The restoration of SF-initiated operations certainly returns the situation to a pre-ceasefire phase, but, if anything, the operational environment is one of even greater restraints on the SFs, particularly with regard to their often-fraught interface with civilians, than was the case in the past.

Any ‘freedom’ they may be given relates only to narrowly targeted, intelligence-based operations against armed terrorists – and this is a sine qua non of counter-insurgency best practices.

NSG To Not Inflict ‘Muscle’ on All & Sundry

The deployment of National Security Guard (NSG) units does not alter this operational posture. Indeed, better trained and equipped forces – and as a specialized counter-terrorism force, this is what NSG is expected to bring to J&K – act with an even greater and exclusive focus on terrorists.

As a small ‘outside’ Force, newly deployed and lacking in access to any large flows of their own intelligence, their deployments would be specifically targeted against known locations where terrorists are present, and their operations would be quick, special weapons and tactics assaults.

The NSG is not going to storm across J&K, inflicting its ‘muscle’ on all and sundry.

Some disorder and confusion is natural in the wake of the fall of a State Government, but one of the most encouraging aspects of the present episode in J&K has been the sense of calm and of a controlled transition that has been communicated by the Governor, N.N. Vohra.

Crucially, Vohra has been particularly emphatic that there must be “no more civilian tragedies” in CI operations. Indeed, Vohra’s presence in the State at this (and earlier) times of crisis has been extraordinarily stabilizing. There have, of course, been a number of motivated plants in the media underlining the imminent end of Vohra’s tenure as Governor and his replacement by one or other General, but such a transition at the present juncture would not only be bad optics, it would be an act of unmitigated folly on the Centre’s part.


Not An End Of Politics

Another recurrent theme in the more frenzied streams of discourse is the ‘end of politics’ that comes with the fall of the Mufti government. This is nonsense. Just because minority parties can’t cobble together a dysfunctional and administratively incompetent coalition, this does not mean that politics has gone into limbo in J&K.

The Governor’s initiative in calling an all party meet within days of the fall of the Mufti government was a visible demonstration that the political process continues.

Indeed, the coalition of opposites in J&K was ‘politics’; its end is ‘politics’; and governor’s rule will see its own variety of ‘politics’ till, inevitably, another electoral process (or another opportunistic and untenable alliance) inflicts another species of politics in the State.

Till then, it can only be hoped that the sagacity and maturity that has guided events in the first days of governor’s rule will continue to prevail and the jingoists and polarisers on both sides, despite the noise they make, are not allowed to influence any significant decisions of administration.


Amarnath Yatra and Other Challenges

A number of acute challenges currently loom over J&K. The most immediate and demanding is the efficient management of the Amarnath Yatra, which commences on June 28, and which is a natural magnet for terrorists seeking communal polarization in the State.

Governor’s rule in J&K is likely to achieve a higher degree of efficiency in administration as compared to the deeply flawed Mehbooba Mufti regime. Nevertheless, much will depend on the degree to which the naturally polarizing politics of establishment parties in the State (and every major political formation there has toyed with hate politics) is constrained – hopefully voluntarily.

Initial manifestations are not encouraging, and as the 2019 elections approach, disruption and communal belligerence are likely to find widening spaces in the political discourse.

It remains to be seen whether the Centre and its representative in the State are able to contain these anti-national elements and trends.

There is much preposterous and contra-factual talk about a “return to the 1990s” in J&K. It would be useful for commentators who re-dedicate themselves to this position after each significant incident or development in J&K to have at least a rudimentary familiarity with the trends in the State, instead of inventing falsehoods to promote their divergent ideological agendas.

(The writer is Founding Member & Executive Director of the Institute for Conflict Management. He can be reached @SATPICM . This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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