India’s intelligence agencies have played a controversial role in reporting on the nature of the current unrest in Kashmir. By blaming Pakistan for instigating trouble in the Valley, they have failed to address the genuine problems of the people on the ground, which the younger generation of Kashmiris are agitated about including the negative role of the security forces. Prime Minister Narendra Modi should reject spurious analysis which encourages confrontation with Pakistan, visit the Valley urgently and engage the people in concrete and constructive ways about their genuine problems. Failure to do so will only drive the Kashmiri people into irretrievable alienation from the rest of India further fueling separatist tendencies.
Over the years, India’s Intelligence Bureau (IB) has played a crucial role in sustaining central government’s control over Kashmir affairs.
The first comprehensive official analysis of the Kashmir problem was produced by BN Mullik, Director of the IB (1950-64) under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (1972). A more recent and critical assessment was provided by Dulat (2015).
However, despite such critical analysis, things kept falling apart, the Center often lost hold and anarchy was loosed upon Kashmir valley. The restive region is on the boil again and incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to divert public attention from the current unrest there by highlighting human rights violations in the conflict-torn Baluchistan province in Pakistan and Pak-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
What led to the indigenous mass upsurge in Kashmir Valley was the recent killing of a young Kashmiri militant Burhan Muzaffar Wani, 22, by security forces on July 8. Instead of examining the causes that led to the new phase of violence, Modi, based on the inputs given by intelligence agencies, is blaming Pakistan for the violence in the Valley.
Police response to the disturbances was appalling. After public outrage and wide media coverage, the Central Armed Paramilitary Force (CAPF) finally confessed to having used 1.3 million pellets in 32 days from the day Wani was killed.
Till August 18, 65 people were killed, several hundred were blinded and many seriously injured by pellet guns.
Pakistan seized the opportunity to discredit India by showing that the violence is Kashmir is a domestic issue and not one created by Islamabad.
Cornered, Modi counter-attacked by highlighting Pakistan’s abysmal human rights record in Baluchistan province while ignoring India’s human rights abuses in Kashmir.
Though Modi paid lip service to those killed and injured in Kashmir, he never bothered to visit the Valley to offer sympathies or punish the guilty. His cold response to the incidents was reminiscent of his passive role during the 2002 carnage in Gujarat during his tenure as the state’s chief minister.
But how come Modi grabbed the Baluchistan stick to beat Pakistan to cover up his own vulnerability in the Kashmir Valley?
The answer is Ajit Kumar Doval, the national security adviser (NSA) to the Prime Minister and former Director of IB.
In a lecture delivered in 2014, Doval, while referring to hostile bilateral relations between India and Pakistan, stressed the need for India to exploit Pakistan’s ‘vulnerabilities’ and render unaffordable any Pakistani effort to mount terrorist attacks on India.
He used the famous phrase ‘you may do one Mumbai; you may lose Baluchistan’, implying that any Pakistani terrorist attempt on India like the one on Mumbai in 2008 would be met with a counterattack by India which may ultimately lead to the secession of Baluchistan from Pakistan like Bangladesh in 1971.
Doval argued that Pakistan should be allowed to ‘bleed with the Taliban’ and prevented from using terrorism as an instrument of state policy. Further, he said, India should use high technology to carry out “intelligence-driven covert operations” in Baluchistan.
This is precisely what the then army Chief VK Singh (now a minister in the Modi cabinet) did in 2015 when his Technical Services Division undertook several “intelligence-driven covert operations” in Baluchistan.
The Baluchistan Liberation Organization (BLO) was allowed to open its office in New Delhi in 2009. Indian officials felt that both Baluchistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) could be easily targeted.
Indian intelligence agencies had worked on these possibilities previously as well. A section of the ruling BJP was aware of this. Pakistan too had come to know of this as revealed by the then prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani at Sharm-el-Sharif.
In 2016, Kulbhushan Yadav, a suspected agent of the India’s Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), was arrested by Pakistani authorities at the Iran-Baluchistan border.
Modi’s reference to human rights violations in Baluchistan and PoK in his Independence Day address on August 15 is thus quite understandable.
Till the establishment of the institution of NSA in the 1990s, the Director of the Intelligence Bureau (DIB), BN Mullik was the virtual NSA for Nehru. He was a confidant of Nehru from 1950 to 1964.
Prime Minister India Gandhi set up R&AW for external intelligence collection in 1968. The agency was directed by Ramji Nath Kao, a Kashmiri close to Indira.
Mullik, in his autobiographical work My Years with Nehru (1971-72), provided insights into his intelligence operations during his years with Nehru.
One of his murky operations in 1953 was the arrest and detention, on charges of sedition of the Kashmiri leader Sheikh Abdullah. Although the Kashmiri leader remained in custody for over 20 years, the charges of sedition against him were never proved as admitted by Mullik himself in his work.
The unfair treatment meted out to Abdullah was perhaps a factor for the alienation of Kashmiri people which, in a way, contributed to the emergence of insurgency in the Kashmir Valley in the late 1980s.
Dulat (2015) thinks that if Abdullah had not been so badly treated, the separatist mind-set would not have been taken roots in Kashmiri politics and the question of retention or deletion of Article 370 of the Constitution of India, protecting autonomy of Kashmir, would not have become controversial.
The allegation that the current upsurge in Kashmir was instigated by Pakistan is rejected by Omar Abdullah, former chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir. Abdullah thinks that the current struggle in Kashmir is indigenous in origin. According to him, Modi’s advocacy of ‘development’ as a solution is not enough.
Two of the five NSAs since 1999 have been senior policemen including the present one. Their mind-set is conditioned by the national security perspective and unaffected by human security considerations.
Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jamaat-ud-Daawa (JuD), two Pakistan-based Islamist militant organizations, are reportedly inclined to send 2,000 fighters to the Kashmir Valley and challenge the might of the Indian state. There is also threat from agencies that recruit Kashmiri youth for Islamic State. This would lead to further militarization of the region.
The Pakistani army and the Inter-Services-Intelligence (ISI) would be pleased if a Palestinian-Intifada type movement develops in Kashmir. Differences between Islamabad and Kabul, US and Pakistan’s concern over Afghanistan’s future and India’s efforts to raise the human rights abuses in Baluchistan are likely to raise tension in South Asia.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah has warned that India’s refusal to recognize the gravity of the situation in Kashmir would lead to the “unimaginable risk of alienating the people of Kashmir in an irrevocable and irreparable manner.”
India seems reluctant to note that while Kashmir is an international bilateral dispute between two countries recognized by the United Nations, Baluchistan (population 7 million) is a local problem in Pakistan.
- Dulat, Amarjit Singh, 2015 Vajpayee: the Kashmir Years (1998-2004) Harper Collins, New Delhi
- Mullik, BN, 1972, My Years with Nehru, Volume II on ‘Kashmir’, Allied Publishers, New Delhi.
- Noorani, 2015 ‘Doval Doctrine, 2016 November 13, Frontline, New Delhi, consulted August, 18.
- Subramanian KS 2007 ‘Political Violence and the Police in India’ Sage 2007
- Siddiqa, Ayesha, 2016, Sorry, India, this is not the way to help the people of Balochistan’, thewire.in consulted on August 20.
The writer was Director of the Research and Policy Division of the Union Home Ministry in India. He was Director General of Police in Northeast India. He is the author of ‘Political Violence and the Police in India’, Sage 2007 and ‘State Policy and Conflicts in Northeast India, Routledge’ 2016.