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Kashmir: A future reflection

It is utopian to think that Kashmir can exist as an independent country between three nuclear powers—India, China and Pakistan. It does not have the political, geographic or economic resources, abilities or capabilities to exist as an independent nation.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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It has been more than a year since the abrogation of Article 370. A lot has been said in this time. Commentaries commemorating the anniversary abound: some experts painted deterioration; some painted no change, while some expressed hope in the incremental change. Other major events have also occurred in the bygone year. One: the onset of the Wuhan virus, which turned the world upside down. Two: Chinese aggression in Eastern Ladakh. Three: Pakistan’s economy has fallen off the cliff. A few fundamental truths have also emerged. The UT of Ladakh is contended and will not likely go back to status quo ante. The opinion in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir is mixed. Jammuites miss the privileges of Article 370. However, they also do not want to go back to the old order. It is only some in the Valley who harp that things have not improved.  Some of them still dream of ‘azadi’. Let us put things in perspective. The issue is no more of the entire erstwhile state. It is only of the Kashmir Valley. The options for people in the Valley are fourfold: continue to seek azadi, join Pakistan, join China, or amalgamate with India in all respect.

 It is utopian to think that Kashmir can exist as an independent country between three nuclear powers. It does not have the political, geographic or economic resources, abilities or capabilities to exist as an independent nation. Comparisons can be drawn with Switzerland. However, such comparisons are superfluous. It is comparing oranges with apples. Even if Kashmir attains independence by some imaginary stretch, one of the other powers – China or Pakistan – will gobble it up. India will only be forced to let go of Kashmir either due to a major military defeat or due to the deterioration of the situation in the Valley beyond redemption. That is a ‘dream in a dream’ situation. Not going to happen. Overall, the ‘azadi’ option is ruled out. The faster Kashmir realises this, the better it is for the people. Realistic choices are that they might be part of Pakistan, China or continue to be part of India. We shall examine each of them.

For 70 years, Pakistan sold a canard of supporting the self-determination and ‘azadi’ aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. They instigated youth to pick up arms. They infused radicalised Islam into the area. They ruined people’s lives. Pakistan’s true intent has always been to annexe Kashmir to ensure its water security and wreak revenge on India. Pakistan has now confirmed this by publishing a new map in which Jammu and Kashmir is part of its territory.

Pakistan will never allow Jammu and Kashmir to be independent. For argument’s sake let us assume that Kashmir becomes part of Pakistan. The entire lifestyle of Kashmir will have a downward revision. A joint Indo-Pak management institute study report on conditions on both sides of the divide clearly brought out that people in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region are way better off than those people who are living in PoK. Besides this, the original inhabitants of PoK have been depopulated from the area by Pakistan. Many of them are refugees in other countries. A demographic inversion has occurred with many Punjabis inducted into the area. Kashmiris should, therefore, be prepared to be ejected from the Valley when the Pakistani Punjabis move in to exploit them and strip them of their resources. Pakistan and China will exploit the water resources of the area and build dams. This will result in a second wave of displacement. It will also result in ecological disasters. This is happening in Gilgit Baltistan where the Diamer Bhasha Dam is being built. My guess is that within a matter of five years the ‘Kashmiri’ will be in a minority in the Valley. Kashmiris will be the new wandering tribe like the Palestinians were. The difference is that there will be no closure. The bankrupt state of Pakistan and the rich Deep State will economically exploit the Kashmir Valley mercilessly. The recent incident outside the India House in the UK where pro-Pakistani supporters bore down violently on ‘azadi seekers’ is a precursor of events to come. If and when Kashmir becomes part of Pakistan, the ‘azadi seekers’ will turn to India for ‘azadi’!

When China started its aggressive actions in Eastern Ladakh there were some reports that a few Kashmiris were supportive of Chinese actions. Let us assume that China inflicts a major military defeat and forces India out of the Valley. Kashmiris opt to join China with great hope that CPEC will change their fortunes. Firstly, PLA and Chinese political commissars will move in with their form of severe censorship. Secondly, ‘azadi seekers’ and the ‘stone pelting brigade’ will be sent off to re-education centres along with other Uighurs. Thirdly – ah, I almost forgot! – Kashmiri girls will be exported as part of bride trafficking for eligible Chinese bachelors. Why? Because the Chinese still practise female infanticide. Their one-child policy and gender gap clearly point to this practice. Fourthly, sterilisation drives will be the norm. Fifthly, many mosques will be razed and converted into public toilets. All their Pakistani friends – including Mr Imran Khan, the self-professed ambassador of Kashmiris -will keep mum as he is doing now. He could not care a damn if a million Uighurs are being persecuted. Incidentally, even joining Pakistan places Kashmir under the Chinese eventually. After all Pakistan is already a vassal of China. Kashmiris will, therefore, become vassals of a vassal of China.

Ever since Article 370 has been abrogated there has been no great progress. On the other hand, there has been no deterioration of the situation either. There has been no exodus or ingress of people from or into the Valley as was feared. No one has been exploited. The situation has been generally stable. Pakistan has been kept at bay. There have been some customary terrorist attacks. Terrorists continue to be eliminated. Pakistan has endeavoured to convert the proxy war into a homegrown insurgency. No one is fooled. There has been no great upheaval. All the leaders of Kashmir who were kept out of circulation were not missed. In their absence, normal life could resume. The underprivileged and marginal communities have got their rights. Those who have been hijacking the overall agenda have been sidelined and the silent majority are getting a voice. The people of Kashmir are deriving the benefit of central laws. Their effect will take some time to manifest. At the grassroots level, people realise it. Kashmir is experiencing the pleasure and pangs of being a normal state after all these years. Internationally, after the initial hue and cry, things have settled down. The world has moved on except Pakistan and China. No one is bothered about Article 370 or the status of Kashmir. That is amply clear. High expectations and dire predictions have been belied on both sides. We need to realise that a problem which has been festering for 70 years cannot get resolved in one year.

 Is the situation rosy? Definitely not. There is a lot of room for governmental action. Firstly, political activity must resume. New leaders have to be thrown up by the people, for the people and of the people. Secondly, the presence of security personnel must be reduced. There is already a move to reduce Central Armed Police Forces personnel from the Valley. That is welcome. It is also time to revisit the presence of the Indian Army in the hinterland. Restricting the Indian Army to counterinfiltration and management of the LOC will go a long way. It will convey a big message to the people and also contribute to reducing its manpower, which will lead to the modernisation of the Army. Thirdly, the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir needs to be restored. This will reinforce the pride of the people and faith in the Government of India. But most importantly, any government can only do so much. Ultimately, it is the people who will get what they want. That is democracy after all. If Kashmiris continue with India, what they get is the guarantee of democracy. Some good, some bad.

There will be many Kashmiris who will doubt if democracy really works in India. The answer to that lies in Tamil Nadu. The state exhibited secessionist tendencies once. Today it is an industrialised and developed state. It was done by the people for themselves with their leaders. They realised that their best interests were within the Indian Constitution. So a turnaround is quite possible if the Kashmiris want it. On the other hand, the Government of India will not let Kashmir go to Pakistan or China. We know that Kashmir cannot exist on its own. Indians realise that the fate of Kashmiris will be worse off if they are part of either Pakistan or China. We will do whatever it takes to keep our brethren in Kashmir as part of us. Pakistan and China can take a walk. We also realise that the time has come when both these countries must realise that if they continue to meddle in our internal affairs, we will do the same to them. It is a matter of time.

 Finally, the Valley cannot be independent. If Kashmiris seek ‘azadi’ in amalgamating with Pakistan, they will be exploited and displaced. If they seek ‘azadi’ in China, they might end up in a concentration camp alongside the Uighurs or have more public urinals than mosques. If they continue to be in India, they will struggle like all of us, but be free. However, for that to happen, they have to make a self-commitment.

 Lt Gen PR Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on his blog www. gunnersshot.com.

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Defence

‘ARMY CAN MEET ANY CHALLENGE TO SAFEGUARD COUNTRY’

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The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.

Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.

On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”

He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”

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Defence

SOUTHERN NAVAL COMMAND OBSERVES INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEAN-UP DAY IN KOCHI

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The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.

Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.

Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.

Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.

Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.

During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.

To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.

Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.

With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.

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Defence

IAF TO HOLD AIR SHOW OVER DAL LAKE IN SRINAGAR ON 26 SEPT

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An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.

The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.

The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.

More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.

During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.

Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the

IAF, he said. 

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Defence

ARMY ORGANISES EXHIBITION IN JAIPUR TO COMMEMORATE INDIA’S VICTORY IN 1971 WAR

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JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.

Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.  

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BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit

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The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.

BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.

According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.

“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”

As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.

Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.

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Defence

IN FIRST FOREIGN VISIT AFTER TAKING OVER AS CDS, GEN BIPIN RAWAT TO VISIT RUSSIA, US

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In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.

Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.

The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.

The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.

The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.

The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.

The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services. 

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