Slow path to peace in J&K

Source– The post is based on the article “Slow path to peace in J&K” published in The Indian Express on 25th February 2023.

Syllabus: GS3- Security

Relevance: Security issues related to J&K

News- Union government is discussing a “proposal to withdraw the Indian Army completely from the Valley hinterland.

Why is the Union government considering the proposal to withdraw the Army from the Valley?

The levels of violence in J&K are decreasing since the August 5, 2019 decisions. It should lead to a reduction in the number of security forces deployed for internal security roles.

The Army is also facing manpower pressures. The two-year freeze on recruitment during Covid-19 has led to a shortage of around 1,20,000 soldiers. The enhanced deployment of troops along the LAC has exacerbated the problem.

Any reduction in internal security duties gives the Army an opportunity to right-size its force structure.

How should the proposal be implemented?

The manner of execution, in terms of timing and phasing, will be the key to success.

Timing– Assessing normalcy requires us to look at external and internal factors impacting the situation in J&K.

The external factor has been weakened. Pakistan’s ability to support the terror activities today stands diminished. This is due to India’s strong response to terrorist acts and weak political, economic, and internal security scenario in Pakistan.

The internal factors need to be addressed. These include bringing the security situation under control, tackling radicalisation, meeting the aspirations of the people, bringing economic development, and resumption of political activity.

The security situation today is stable. But, it would be prudent to take some more time to tackle the underlying causes comprehensively.

Phasing– Handing over areas to the CRPF should be done in a phased manner. The start could be made in the Jammu region. Here, the CRPF can take over the complete responsibility for counter-terror operations. A few RR units could be kept as a reserve for any contingency that may arise.

After the stabilisation of the CRPF deployment in the Jammu region, the second phase could be the handover of the Kashmir hinterland to the CRPF. Bulk of RR units can be disbanded, except for a few that could act as reserves.

However, handing over some districts in Kashmir on an experimental basis is not recommended. It would create problems of operational integrity, intelligence collection, and command and control issues with neighbouring forces operating under different ministries.

Phasing is being suggested for two primary reasons. Today, the Army, CRPF, and J&K police work in synergy.

The Army possess highly trained soldiers, logistics, communication, engineering, and medical support. In the absence of the Army, this capability void would need to be filled up.

The initial deployment of CRPF in the Jammu region could provide valuable lessons in this regard before they take up responsibility in the Kashmir valley.

The phased deployment would also ensure that the complete RR is not quickly disbanded. This is India’s most experienced counter-terrorism force for J&K. It would be prudent to ensure that the situation is stabilised before we lose this capability.

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