Even as a full-blown war of words has begun between the opposition parties - the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) - about the nature of the cross-border operations and the number of terrorists killed in the process, the army under such circumstances has very prudently stepped aside to allow the political parties to score their brownie points.
A closer study of the operation raises a few questions which are certainly not beyond the capacity of the army to answer. For example, how is it that when the para-commandos crossed the LoC, albeit to a short distance between 500 metres-2 kms from this side, they were not detected by the Pakistan Army personnel patrolling along the LOC.
Maj Gen (R) Sanjay Bhide who spent most of his time with the 4 Paras, one of the two formations from which commando teams are drawn, said that the terrain of the region – stretching for about 200 kms from Poonch to Kupwara - is mountainous and heavily forested. As a result, it is easy to cross from some of these areas undetected, especially small teams of 20 in which the troops were grouped.
Where did the information about the launch pads come from? Bhide, the specialist, explained that since these were “known” locations they are usually kept under routine surveillance. But a firefight lasting five hours did not get the attention of Pakistan Army or other forces of the western neighbour! The general of the paras (though Bhide made it clear that he did not command 4 Paras) said that the firefight was not constant: they attrited in bursts.
Also in some cases, the Indian special force personnel may have got in “close” and “dealt” with “silently.” Finally, the good General mentions two important elements: one, it is not prudent to make public the helmet-mounted cameras and the drone pictures because that could reveal operational details, and of course the tactical positional play; and two, “do not suspect our capability.” Said like a true soldier.
But even if he seems satisfactory in his response, there are some larger questions that still do not seem to go away. Indeed, this is the first time, the government can rightfully claim that it applied “comprehensive national power” of the country on a mission that was designed to naturally attract the attention of the countries involved and also the world.
However, there are some strategic aspects that seem to swirl and weave in and around even now. Is there a sense of finality that after the military (while Pakistan still denies, thereby redefining its pain threshold) and diplomatic setbacks, the Kashmir issue will be solved soon? As per a news report that appeared only a few days after the operation comes to my mind. It had addressed the public of the state to be with the armed forces in these tense times, and allow them to function as they are trained to.
Even though the Kashmir agitation continues to simmer after more than three months, it did not fade away entirely in the wake of the crucial operation. Only more conversations related to how the state government of Mehbooba Mufti and the BJP alliance are trying to use force to subdue the raging youth of the state. One had read about the pellet guns - these are number nine shotguns that fire pellets. This is the reason so many people have been maimed and this has only added fuel to the fire.
The government of the state and the Centre say that they don’t have anyone to talk to about these popular agitations that has engulfed Srinagar and the surrounding areas. True. For, the Hurriyat, which had led the 2010 “intifada”-like agitation is no longer a credible force.
Arguably, it can be said that some of the youth in the agitation are on the indirect payroll of the ISI; while some others may actually be Hizbul Mujaheedin over-ground workers. But a large body of them are not affiliated with any one group or the other that could be managed through the process of negotiation and co-option.
In this sense, a solution to the current problem and the almost unsolvable problem need unconventional methods. Here is a list: (a) There must be dialogues with some of the virulent varieties of separatist leaders that lived and operated in the valley while still in jail. Can’t they now be infused into the present situation?
People like Asiya Andrabi and her husband, Dr. Ashiq Hasan Fakhtoo love their homeland. They surely could be made to see the reason that brings peace. Prosperity will follow. (b) Withdraw the Rashtriya Rifles from the hinterland, and also the CRPF because of its mainland sensibilities. Let the J&K Police make the play for their place under the sun, but remember: Kashmir does not need a KPS Gill but a Julio Ribeiro as the head of the police.
Can Narendra Modi, the lion-hearted one take the plunge?
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)