The new chief of the Indian Army, General Bipin Rawat, has pointed towards a new Counter Insurgency (COIN) strategy towards Kashmir. General Rawat, drawing contrast with Naxalism, stated that “unlike Naxalism, in which locals are joining due to a feeling of deprivation, it is not the case in Kashmir which has been under siege from Pakistan-backed insurgency since the late 1980s”.
The General also emphasised that “false propaganda and developments in the Middle East affected some local youth which explained the joining of educated youth into militant ranks”. While the General’s military credentials are robust but it would appear that the COIN approach that he is propounding flounders on the rocks of reality. Undoubtedly, the motivating premise of Kashmiri youth who join militant ranks is neither poverty nor is it a matter of Marxist or neo–Marxist ideological underpinnings – the ideology and material conditions- that motivate Naxals but a cardinal mistake in understanding the wellsprings of militancy in Kashmir lies in attributing the phenomenon to Pakistan. Even if we may countenance the hypothesis for a moment that Pakistan supports militancy in Kashmir, it can only do so if structural and politico-emotional conditions in Kashmir permit this. The issue then pertains to and resides within; not without as the General believes or propounds. The General’s diagnosis and the nature of his remedial action are erroneous. The fundamental error in this thinking and approach lies not merely in misattribution but in superimposing ingress of extraneous factors on an objective reality that obtains in Kashmir. The fact is that there is conflict in and over Kashmir. Obviating this conflict calls for a sober and prudent conflict resolution paradigm where diplomacy and conflict resolution that redound to the benefit of all stakeholders are elevated over confrontation and conflict. A Counter Insurgency approach, whether it is the “old” or “new” variety, by according primacy to the military dimension of the conflict, deprecates the non-military and politico-diplomatic approaches. What has— historically and contemporarily— militarised the conflict in and over Kashmir is the structuring context in Kashmir. This context, to repeat, is the conflict in and over Kashmir. Peace in Kashmir and within and without then calls for a holistic and integrative approach that engenders a paradigm that resolves the conflict for good. Viewing Counter Insurgency, regardless of its form or shape as the be all and end all way of dealing with conflict in and over Kashmir is a bad and faulty starting point.