Representational Image | Army jawans | Photo: Imran Nissar/ANI
Representational Image | Army jawans | Photo: Imran Nissar/ANI
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There are conflicting versions of the timing and circumstances of the encounter at Chanjimullah village, Handwara. In my view, this is not important. The Army will carry out an in-depth analysis to learn the relevant lessons because Commanding Officers are not killed in action everyday. The last time a Commanding Officer — Colonel Santosh Mahadik, 41 Rashtriya Rifles — was killed in action was in November 2015.

In the Handwara encounter, Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, Major Anuj Sood, Naik Rajesh Kumar, Lance Naik Dinesh Singh and J&K Police Sub-Inspector Shakeel Qazi had been killed in action while eliminating two terrorists who had held some civilians hostage in a house. My salute to the bravest of braves killed in action and to their families.

The Commanding Officers are the backbone of our Army. Their primary responsibility is to train and administer their units, issue orders/directions and exercise command and control in battle. It speaks volumes of their leadership that when required by the dynamics of battle, our Commanding Officers have led from the front to join combat in order to accomplish the mission at the cost of their lives.

But what is more important is for the government and the Army to review the political and military strategy to deal with the situation in J&K. This encounter and the killing of three CRPF personnel that followed on 4 May, is part of a disturbing trend that has been noticeable for the last few months.


Also Read: India to push for Pakistan’s blacklisting at FATF after Handwara & Keran terror attacks


Pakistan steps up insurgency

Buoyed by the success in Afghanistan — where the only issue left is the avatar in which Taliban will come back to power — Pakistan, true to its long-term strategy, has ended the tactical pause that followed Balakot airstrikes and the dilution of Article 370, and has resumed terrorist activity with renewed vigour. It has taken advantage of absolute alienation of the people of the Valley, lack of any kind of political initiative or dynamic economic activity and perceived continuity of draconian restriction to recruit and train more youth to join the terrorist ranks. Simultaneously it is inducting better-trained Pakistani cadres of terrorist organisations into the Valley.

A new outfit— The Resistance Front — has been created to deceive the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which was focussed on the activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Hizbul Mujahideen. The aim is to give the proxy war an indigenous flavour. This organisation is likely to be used to claim responsibility for all terrorist activity while the cadres will continue to be trained and controlled by the parent organisations that will remain incognito.

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Our intelligence agencies have been highlighting that the traditional launch pads have been activated and large number of terrorists have either infiltrated the Valley or are in the process of doing so.

While the long-term aim of Pakistan is to wear down the will of the Indian state — using its time-proven formula of Afghanistan — its immediate aim is to take advantage of the fact that India and the world are fighting Covid-19. Pakistan wants to burst the bubble of India’s ‘hard’ strategy and enhance its own prestige in the minds of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.


Also Read: 2 terrorists killed in Handwara were ‘reception party’ for group of Pakistani infiltrators


Terrorists targeting forces

The terrorists are better trained and equipped. For the first time since 2012, terrorists are seeking direct engagements with the security forces. The deteriorating ratio of security forces vis-a-vis terrorists killed is a cause of concern.

From 1 April to 4 May, 32 terrorist have been killed. In April, 10 security forces personnel were killed while in the first four days of May, eight personnel have been killed in action taking the total to 18. For the first time, the ratio has been reduced to an alarming 1: 1.8. Even more disturbing is that the ratio in the encounter in Keran on 4 April was 1:1 with five Special Forces personnel and five terrorists killed. The ratio in the encounter on night of 2 May has been 2:5 in favour of terrorists. And in the encounter with the CRPF on 4 May, we lost three personnel while the terrorists got away clean.

Increase in terrorist violence also indicates increase in infiltration. The number of encounters close to the Line of Control (LoC) and in the ‘terrorist catchment’ areas of North Kashmir proves the point.

By all indications we are likely to see a violent summer in 2020.


Also Read: Global lockdown and Covid crisis haven’t stopped Pakistan from its anti-India agenda


India’s strategic limitations

India’s strategic response to Pakistan’s proxy war is high on rhetoric and low in substance. The limitations of Bharatiya Janata Party’s ‘hard’ strategy lie exposed. Nuclear weapons foreclose the option of a decisive war where our quantitative superiority will prevail. Below this threshold, we lack the overwhelming technological military superiority to impose our will as has been proven by the ineffectiveness of surgical strikes and periodic fire assaults along the LoC. If at all we are pursuing a covert strategy, it has been effectively dealt with by Pakistan.

US dependence on Pakistan in Afghanistan, the latter’s alliance with China and religious affiliation with Islamic countries, aided by our domestic communal rhetoric, has also exposed the limits of our diplomacy.

Internally political activity is at a standstill and we have made no headway in winning the hearts and minds of the alienated masses. At this juncture, one can conclude that the government has resigned to let the Army to continue keeping the situation under control as it has done for the last three decades.


Also Read: India lodges protest with Pakistan after ceasefire violation kills youth in Poonch


The solution

It would be prudent for the government to shed the ideological fantasies and face the strategic reality. It must put the ‘hard’ strategy on the back burner until we have created overwhelming technological military superiority.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi must use his political acumen to reach out to the alienated people of Kashmir to win their hearts and minds. Elections should be held in Kashmir and the Central government must assist any party that comes to power to focus on the agenda of development. If this is done, Pakistan will become irrelevant.

I urge the military hierarchy to forcefully apprise the government of the strategic limitations to carry out a review instead of behaving like the children of Hamelin — getting seduced by the music of political pipes to organise military spectacles — showering health workers with flower petals, flypasts and band displays. Ironically, this spectacle was happening at exactly the same time when the news of the bravest of braves being killed in action was being officially confirmed.

Views are personal

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20 Comments Share Your Views

20 COMMENTS

  1. Author assumes that all Kashmiris can’t Google and find out that treacherous peace proposed by Hindus is only for winning time to achieve overwhelming military superiority and Hindus’ “hard approach” is only put on back-burner.

    • Treacherous ? Muslims are born treacherous. Anyways you are fourth grade convert. I would say we have soft, if we start the religious reversion game, it is end of the problem. Just civilian govt needs to take the initiative.

  2. These articles by Hs Panag are ridiculous.He keeps criticising without giving any viable solution

    He says BJP’s hard diplomacy wont work.
    Before BJP ,for 70 years there has only been soft diplomacy.
    Hard way is the only way Pakistan understands:
    Either recapture POK & Gilgit-Baltistan militarily.Call Pak’s bluff of nuclear weapons.They cant and wont use them unless we attack Mainland Pakistan
    or drag them to ICJ first to set the records straight that it is not a disputed territorry.Then take back the request at UNSC.Then ,capture our parts

  3. Panag lacks credibility and has no concrete solutions to present. His write-ups are the outcome of a mind that is detached from the ground realities, but he is nevertheless a darling of the media, because of his pro-Pakistan mindset. His narratives should be dismissed or taken with a pinch of salt. Calling veterans names is the last resort of frustrated generals like Panag.

  4. Hasn’t Gen Panag’s suggested approach has been followed for last 70 years? An open and un-hidden Islamic state agenda being perpetuated. What does general has to say about forcing out valley of Pandits? What does Genera has to say on that? General Panag’s narrative gives oxygen to terrorists. It looks so obvious that “Kashmir issue” is a smoke screen for achieving Islamic state Kashmir/ India.

  5. After all the admonition s against the Hard Policy of the Indian Government, he offers no solution other than “winning the hearts” of Kashmiri’s. Several decades of appeasements and enormous subsidies to Kashmir haven’t achieved the change of heart. What do you do with people who have sold themselves to the religion and possess exclusivist mind set?

  6. India is always about symbolism that strengthens “Government” among the uneducated, semi literate masses and never about rational, scientific, citizen centric Governance. This is visible in all walks of life.

    Republic day, funeral and passing out parades, fly pasts and fleet reviews rather than a military designed to win and thereby keeps the peace for India and keeps Communism (China) and Islam (Pakistan) at bay without having to fire a single bullet

    Gaudy Turbans to cover up the absence of intellect and education,

    Decorations from foreign Governments rather than strong alliances that intimidate India’s enemies into good behaviour.

    Clapping hands, lighting lamps and fly pasts rather than mobilizing India’s resources (such as the Pasteur Institue, Coonoor established 1907! Albeit rendered moribund by 73 years of non stop Mal Governance) to obtain an effective vaccine.

    Building an Iron Statue of India instead of establishing a unified India with equality under law and rule of law.

    Building a bullet train rather than address India’s railway safety, efficiency, adequacy, economy and reliability.

    Passing laws to send Neta-Babus abroad for medical treatment rather than addressing India’s broken medical and higher education system

    Bringing out a voluminous and nonsensical Education Policy which does not diagnose what India is doing wrong or even specify the objectives of education and the need for an education policy.

    Creating an “Anti Corruption” Law which criminalizes the victims of extortion by Government employees (the so called “bribe giver”) so that no victim of the State’s unaccountable employees dare complain.

    Claiming to be a Government without fixing the responsibility, accountability and penalties for non performance on the many bed bugs and leeches it employs with scant regard to economy or Citizen welfare in an obscene “For Government, By Government, To Government” Model reminiscent of Czarist Russia, the Japanese Tokugawa Bakufate or the France of Louis XVI th!.

    I could go on, but you get the picture.

  7. I notice that our heroes died without any protective armor. On the other hand, the exercise of showering flower petals from aircraft cost the country rupees 700 crores. That money could have been better used to equip our forces with bullet proof jackets, helmets, etc

  8. The only solution is sustained peace talks between India, Pakistan and Kashmiris…………….If in 70 years Pakistan has not become irrelevant to Kashmir issue….it never will !!!!

    • No more talks with the Enemy.Just allow our forces to use both rubber and live rounds.That is the methos that Muslim’s will understand.

  9. The General is a straight shooter – even paid the price for it while serving as Northern Army Commander – but this piece is disappointing.

    First, his assumption that army will learn lessons from the heavy cost it paid in the Handwara op is not borne out by any evidence on the ground. Needless loss of life will be glorified, tears will be shed, and no improvements made. While the terrorists have constantly innovated both tactically and strategically, the way the security forces counter insurgency grid works and the way RR units employ tactics has remained largely unchanged. For a person of his insight he should be holding army top brass accountable for lack of improvements in training, tactics and equipment at the very least.

    Second. strategically, of course the “hard” strategy was never going to work, and whatever soft power and goodwill was earned through the winning hearts and minds approach has been damaged irrevocably by the idiotic abrogation of Art 370 – which had been diluted to the point of no real relevance already. But again veterans like him and Gen Hooda who also has been critical of this hard approach need to get other like minded veterans with a brain – to first neutralize the jingoistic and in many cases deeply bigoted fellow veterans who not only have been cheerleaders of this govts blunders but also tried to demonize the entire Kashmiri population and play the communal card whenever true patriots question what is being done in Kashmir in the name.of national security.

    The national security discussion in this country has been hijacked by people lacking both competence and basic constitutional values. Reclaiming that is a first step, nothing will improve in Kashmir till that happens.

    • What do you mean soft strategy ? Pandering to jihadists. We are just paying the price of Cong stupidity. Hard strategy will work if it is backed ultimate solution, which is ending the dominance of green religion in valley

  10. What do you expect if army has to do battle by rules set by lawyers in SC? Peace in Kashmir will come only if India become a Islamic nation. There is no other cause for alienation but religion. Just as creation of Pakistan. What is at stake here is just not Kashmir but West Bengal and Kerala and other parts of India. Remember, India is not US in Afganistan. Pakistan cannot wear out India. India will wear out Pakistan. India’s greatest enemies are within India.

  11. An article which needs to be read by the powers that be. Clear in thought and expression.
    Demagogry aside, the Govt & Specifically our respected PM need to realise that Diplomacy alone cannot reign in Pakistan & her nefarious designs.
    Acts which lower the image and morale of the Armed Forces are not helpful either.
    We talk of taking back POK,of Giligit & Baltistan without a proper military strategy , the logistics alone will render it impractical.
    Knee jerk reactions like Balakot will not work.
    Time to buckle up, inject money where your mouth is & build the desired military responses as exemplified by Israel.
    We are in for a long haul .

  12. Every time i read article of hs Panag , i suspected he is one of the congress puppets ,,,, his solution are also ridiculous…… How many times government talks to kashmir,,,, how many times we are flag bearer of secularism….. It’s totally bull of shit.

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