Change perceptions in J&K

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Kashmir conflict

  • The suspension of operations in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has been called off by the government.
  • The next phase of ‘Operation All Out’ will begin.
  • But, in seeking answers to Kashmir conflict, we have to consider both the external and internal facets of the conflict.

 

External facets of the conflict

Role of Pakistan:

  • Pakistan plays a key role in keeping the conflict alive; its Army gives unstinted support to terror groups.

Pressure at LoC can be deterrence:

  • In the absence of any incentive, and an almost complete breakdown of diplomacy between the two countries, the best option probably tp to deter Pakistan is to keep up military pressure along the Line of Control (LoC).

But there is ceasefire agreement:

  • However, the government has taken the position that the 2003 ceasefire must be respected.

But this will not ensure peace till Pakistan does more:

  • Unfortunately, the 2003 agreement was only verbal, so there is no “letter and spirit” to it.
  • For the ceasefire to succeed, it must be based on some strong principles that promote confidence between the two armies.
  • As long as infiltration continues, forward patrols are attacked by groups from across the border, and soldiers killed, there can be no peace among troops facing off on the LoC.

 

Achieving peace along LoC

DGMOs need to come to an agreement on border peace:

  • It is essential that the two DGMOs meet and formalise an agreement in which Pakistan agrees to do more to seal off its border to prevent terrorists from entering India.
  • Pakistan will be reluctant to do this, but it must be put on the spot or exposed for the whole world to see.

Greater interaction between the local commanders:

  • There must also be greater interaction between the local commanders of the two armies — for instance, flag meetings can be held along the border.
  • Often it is local dynamics that trigger firing, which then escalates and spreads to other areas.
  • If confidence can be built between local officers, it will enhance peace.
  • An example can be taken from Ladakh where regular border meetings with Chinese officers have been instrumental in keeping the border calm.

 

Internal facets of the conflict

A multipronged approach

  • Looking at the internal situation in J&K, it is obvious that a multipronged approach involving both use of force and population-centric measures is required.
  1. Dealing with terrorists:
  • The one straightforward aspect is the need to target the terrorists who have vitiated the atmosphere in the State.
  • The security forces are confident and capable of dealing with this threat — 250-300 terrorists in the State can carry out a few high-profile terror attacks but are simply incapable of forcing any revolutionary change.
  1. Dealing with stone-pelting mobs:
  • A little more complicated is the law and order situation in dealing with stone-pelting mobs.
  • The injuries and deaths which inevitably follow these clashes lead to a repeated cycle of violence.
  • However, there is no option but to check this with a firm hand.
  • If the writ of the state is seen as weak, the population will distance itself from the government.

 

  1. Long-term conflict resolution:
  • The government must look at meeting the aspirations of the larger population with a view towards long-term conflict resolution.
  • This is the most complex task, with many competing narratives being offered as solutions.
  • To move towards resolution, it is sometimes helpful to go back to understanding why ethnic conflicts often defy solutions.

Why ethnic conflicts often defy solutions?

According to Irit Keynan, ethnic and national conflicts entail two major aspects:

  • A socio-political aspect:
    • The socio-psychological aspect pertains to a wide range of issues relating to the community, including a community’s sense of identity and self-perceptions, its fears and sense of collective threats, perceived past, and portrayal of its role in the conflict.
  • A socio-psychological aspect:
    • The socio-political aspect involves issues such as land, natural resources, economic and political dominance.

Socio-psychological aspect dominates in intractable conflict:

  • In situations of intractable conflict, the socio-psychological aspect, as well as history, dominates the relationship between the involved adversaries.
  • This aspect plays a central role in interpreting and fuelling persistent animosity.
  • Societies in conflict areas evolve distorted collective memories:
    • According to Israeli scholar Daniel Bar-Tal, in prolonged and violent conflicts, the involved societies evolve a culture of conflict.
    • The dominant parts of such culture are societal beliefs of collective memories and of ethos of conflict, as well as collective emotional orientation.
    • These narratives are selective, biased and distorted as their major function is to satisfy the societal needs rather than provide an objective account of reality.

Case of Kashmir:

  • A similar situation as explained above is evident in J&K with regards to the socio-psychological aspect.
  • In Kashmir, perceptions have been generated of a government being at war with its people.

We have been weak in this aspect:

  • Addressing the socio-psychological aspects has been a key weakness in our approach.
  • The separatists, along with some politicians, have made the situation worse by continuously exploiting existing societal beliefs and collective memory, rather than pointing to their dangers.

Measures must address the socio-psychological aspects:

  • To deal with the perception against the government, good governance and development need to be accompanied importantly by measures that address the socio-psychological aspects of the people of all regions of the State.
  • The government also needs to embark on a strong perception-changing programme that challenges the existing narratives.
  • It needs to bring out the horrific cost of conflict to the people and the benefits of peace and cooperative relations.

 

Conclusion:

  • The conflict in J&K defies simple solutions.
  • Among the many actions required to be taken on the military, economic, political and social fronts, dealing with the psychological aspects of affected communities is critical.
  • Memories and perceptions are perhaps the biggest hindrances to reconciliation and must be addressed by showing greater empathy.

 

Importance:

GS Paper III: Security Issues

 

Related question:

Apart from the the military and political action, any resolution of Kashmir conflict needs to involve dealing with the psychological aspects of affected communities. Discuss.

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