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The Rediff Special/ Colonel (retd) Anil Athale

Miles to go for a durable peace!

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There has been much optimism about peace in Kashmir of late. The Government of India's move to talk to the Hurriyat (freedom) leaders a month ago was followed by an offer of ceasefire by the Hizbul Mujahideen, by far the largest militant group (in terms of numbers if not effectiveness) in the valley. Farooq Abdullah's ruling National Conference party has jumped into the fray with its demand for autonomy. All this while, the military ruler of Pakistan with the incredible title of chief executive, continues to offer talks with India on Kashmir.

Right at the outset it must be admitted that the central government's offer to talk to the Hurriyat or to the Hizb is a logical step in the right direction. Many analysts of the Kashmir issue have been puzzled at the earlier stand that while India talked to Pakistan or even the US on Kashmir, it refused to have any dialogue with its own people.

But having said that, it must be clear that unlike the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front which wanted an 'independent' Kashmir, the Hizb is all for merger of the state into Pakistan. There is no indication that it has given up or even softened its stance. This clearly shows that behind the Hizb's offer of a ceasefire, it is Pakistan that is calling the shots. That Hizb chief Syed Salaluddin continues to stay in Pakistan further reinforces this feeling.

Possible Motivation

Farooq Abdullah's autonomy resolution and exertions are clearly motivated by electoral considerations. An assembly election is due next year. It is also an attempt by the NC to hoodwink people and divert their attention from the lack of development and good governance. Farooq got an excellent chance to do some good but has blown it. The central government's overtures to the Hurriyat only increased his insecurity.

The Hizb's, and by extension Pakistani motivations, are a little more complex. Certainly, this move will put increasing pressure on Vajpayee to hold talks with Musharraf when they are in the US in September. Also, the IMF is to review the Pakistani request for debt rescheduling next month. It is not unlikely that the US is using the economic stick to force Pakistan into a conciliatory approach to India and Kashmir.

But by far the biggest motivation appears to be to save the Hizb from the Indian army's relentless offensive. The Hizb may well have feared it will meet the same fate as the JKLF. If one is to even glance at the statistics of encounters in Kashmir, the Hizb has been losing on an average 10 men a day. No insurgent outfit with a strength of not more than 3,000 can take these kind of casualties for much longer than three months without suffering from a loss of morale. The visible distancing of the US from its pro-Pakistani stand has also had had its fallout.

It is true that the Indian army has also been losing lives. But while a regular army can and does replace the losses, it is much more difficult for an insurgent group to do so. The induction of a new recruit to take the place of a fallen guerrilla is a time consuming process at the best of times. When the borders are active, it becomes even more difficult.

The ceasefire may well have been the Hizb's tactic to get a breather. With the international opinion favouring peace, it must have calculated that the Indian government could not afford to reject this offer. On his way to visit the US, Prime Minister Vajpayee would also like to present an image of reasonableness.

Understanding the insurgency

Insurgency warfare using tactics of guerrilla war is thus a low cost, low risk option for a weaker power like Pakistan to change the territorial status quo. In addition, in the post Cold War world, protection of human rights has emerged as an issue of global concern.

Since the guerrillas operate with the support of the masses, it is often impossible to distinguish between an innocent and a guerrilla fighter. In the era of instant media coverage and omnipresent television, counter insurgency forces are at a distinct disadvantage as they cannot clearly identify the guerrilla while the guerrilla can identify them. Often, the guerrillas can provoke a fire fight in a crowded area and virtually paralyse the reaction capability of the security forces.

Mao Zedong, undoubtedly the greatest theoretician of this form of warfare, divided it into three distinct phases. The first phase is the creation of organisation and infrastructure, the second phase consists of military actions like ambushes and raids.

After successful completion of the second phase and when the guerrillas have obtained sufficient strength, the revolutionaries are organised into orthodox units and resort to open fights and are ready to give a decisive blow. This phase can be a protracted one followed by a series of negotiations.

Mao is clear that the purpose of these negotiations is to merely gain time and wear down the enemy. The purpose of the revolutionary war does not lend itself to compromise.

Possible outcome

Mao's Pakistani pupils seem to have learnt their lesson well and used the ceasefire as a part of their tactic to weaken Indian resolve and also gain international exposure and support.

The struggle in Kashmir is not over territory. It is an ideological struggle between the two-nation theory of Pakistan that asserts that Muslims of the subcontinent are a 'nation' and Pakistan is their homeland. This is opposed by India which believes in secularism and in a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-linguistic identity. Any compromise on this principle will invite 'Bosniaisation' of the Indian subcontinent.

In 1947, India ought to have fought a civil war to preserve unity. All the world's great powers have done so, US under Lincoln, the British (King vs Cromwell) , the French, the Russians and the Chinese (Communists vs Kuomintang). Kashmir is the continuation of the civil war of 1947. For the sake of future generations we ought fight this one to the finish. Any compromise would spell doom for India as we know it.

With the battle lines drawn thus, it is unlikely that peace will return to Kashmir so easily.

The author is coordinator of the Pune-based Inpad -- Initiative for Peace and Disarmament.

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