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THE STRATEGIC DIMENSIONS OF THE ABROGATION OF ARTICLE 370
8/12/2020 11:44:38 PM

Maroof Raza

The first year after the abrogation of Article 370 and the restrictions imposed in the Kashmir Valley, is a good benchmark as any, to examine the impact. And even though there has been considerable pressure on the Union Government from various quarters to remove the restrictions placed on the Kashmiris - specially by its critics in the print media - from 5th August last year, few have admitted that these very restrictions have also had a positive impact on the ongoing efforts of our security forces to counter terrorism and militants sponsored by Pakistan, with the help of sympathisers in the Valley. Admittedly, this clampdown wasn’t meant to be the magic wand to put an end to Pakistan’s proxy war efforts, but these restrictions have at least freed the security forces from the harassment of pro-militant mobs, to enforce an effective counter-terrorism operation. A look at the official figures shows that there has been a visible fall in youngsters recruited by militant groups (based on what’s known to the police) and there’s a clear rise in militants eliminated, compared to the previous year.
Moreover, the existing restrictions have curtailed the flow of funds - either through the Banks or the ‘hawala’ methods - to those who have in the past financed the stone throwing protestors. Although stone throwing had been a tradition in the Valley well before the insurgency had started in 1990, this did gather momentum after their Pakistani minders encouraged the masses in the Valley, to follow the Palestinian ‘íntafada’ model of hitting back at the Israeli forces.
The critics of the clampdown have been visibly silent on the relief to the security forces, following these restrictions that have given respite largely to the CRPF who had faced the brunt of stone throwing mobs and had a few thousand casualties also from stone injuries. Freedom of expression cannot mean the stoning of para-military policemen, who are there to do a job. They’ve been sent in to save the Valley from being taken over by Pakistan and their lackeys, if it was left to the local leaders. The role of many local politicians cannot be ignored either. The police and paramilitary men are also Indian citizens, and have been sent out to bring peace to a land that is the mess that it is, because its politicians have benefitted in keeping things on the boil. In fact, Kashmir had become an ‘industry’ for its elites.
Restrictions on the movement of people and the lack of adequate internet services in this day and age can be stifling. But, anyone familiar with internal security duties would confirm that it is easier to ensure that patrolling and searches are effectively done when there is relative calm and security forces aren’t distracted by anti-national stone-throwing or howling mobs. Those who’ve served in the security forces in the Valley have also confirmed that good social media connectivity allows mobs to gather in a few minutes whenever the security forces were sighted, especially in a cordon and search operation.
Hence the continuing restriction on the revival of a 4G network in the Valley. And while this comes in regularly for criticism, those who object to it should be advised to give some better ideas that they may have, in countering the use of social media services by the militants and their minders, who exploit the efficient internet services, when they can. Besides, better internet connectivity - that is used effectively by the Pakistani ‘deep state’ for constant anti-India propaganda. Would giving Pakistan a free run with better internet services be preferable to those asking for restoration of 4G services, or would the complete lockdown that has to be enforced, each time there is another terrorist attack, faciliated by good internet services? There has to be a trade off somewhere.
Furthermore, those who have argued that had it not been for the abrogation of Article 370, Pakistan and China wouldn’t have stepped up their hostile actions, are either myopic or unaware of the strategic aims of both our hostile neighbours. Pakistan’s politicians and its military men would be left rudderless without their anti-Indian assertions. It helps their politicians to counter questions about their inability to address the multiple challenges of governing Pakistan; and for their military men, their enmity with India allows them to eat the lion’s share of Pakistan’s budgets. But it is China that is clearly the bigger challenge for India - with their intrusions and a military build up on the LAC - that has clearly stumped the Indian government. It has been argued that Beijing’s back went up, with India having created a Union Territory of Ladakh and its put out maps to reassert its claims on the Chinese held territories in Aksai Chin and the Shaksgam Valley in POK, and it s publicly joined Pakistan’s in its anti India initiatives.
There is now a clear China –Pakistan combine that is openly pitted against India over the territories of the erstwhile kingdom of Kashmir. Though Pakistan, has almost institutionalised its terrorism industry – to control both Kashmir and Afghanistan – it cannot do much more on its own against India, other than launching militants and drumbeating about ázadi’ for Kashmir, which is cannot guarantee. But when combined with China, then its diplomatic and military assertions carry a different level of leverage. To that effect, as it has tried in every way to raise the pitch against India’s alleged human rights abuses, but has had few takers, overseas, despite China’s support at the UN.
But what should have alerted the Indian establishment was the post August 5th 2019 air exercises by the Pakistani PAF and the Chinese PLAAF, called ‘ Shaheen VIII’, in the Chinese city of Hotan in Xinjiang, close to the Sino-Indian frontier in the state. Both air forces had also used the Skardu airbase in Gilgit- Baltistan, which is a part of POK. This was well before the Chinese build up and intrusions in Aksai Chin near Ladakh. A major focus area for the PAF during these exercises was to extensively evaluate the operational capability of their fighter aircraft fleets and practice close combat and beyond visual range air melees with these aircraft. And thereafter, in early January 2020, China and Pakistan executed a nine day naval exercise called Sea Guardian VI. Were they preparing the ground for a conflict over Kashmir?
For Pakistan, its best hope for achieving its claim on Kashmir – and its control over POK- beyond the proxy war and its anti-India chants, is with the help of China, that has built up Pakistan since their pact of 1963, that not only gave China the glacier rich Shaksgam Valley in POK, but China also gave them their nuclear arsenal. With Chinese troops firmly in place along the LAC after their territorial incursion east of Ladakh, Beijing is now ready to achieve its ambitions of controlling the waters in that region.
As global warming and glacial melt accelerates in the western Himalayas and the Karakoram ranges (which run through Aksai Chin), it is going to cause an increase in the waters surging through the Galwan River, the Shyok River, the Chang Chemo River and the Nubra River river that ultimately merge with the Indus, in Ladakh. Also China wants to harness the 242 glaciers in the Shaksgam valley in POK, for both its hi-tech requirements of silicon wafers and for hydro-power and irrigation.
The Chinese plan to take advantage of this surge and are constructing the Bunji and Diamer Bhasha dams at Skardu and Gilgit in PoK at a cost of nearly $14 billion dollars. They want to enforce a secure solution to ensure unmolested flow of this surge of water to these dams. In effect, they want territorial jurisdiction over the parts of Ladakh where these rivers flow. In fact, it is the waters of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir ( and now the UT of Ladkah) that could become a major reason for a future conflict. It is for this reason that an agreed formal demarcation of our boundaries with China in particular – and not just claims based on maps we publish – that should become the goal for any future agreement that India embarks on, at least with China.
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