Reviews

Wars of the future.

Kashmir Diary : Psychology of Militancy, Major General Arjun Ray Manas Publications, New Delhi, Rs 495 ISBN 81-7-49-089-8

Biblio : A REVIEW OF BOOKS


The former US National Security Council official, Richard Haass, described Pakistan as being well on its way to becoming a "failed state", a term used for a state which has lost its authority over the its people. Even the most uncharitable will not suggest that India is anywhere close to becoming a failed state. This is despite the fact that after fifty years of independence the vision of the founding fathers of an egalitarian, enlightened and economically developed society is still far from being realized.

While the attempted transformation of India has remained wanting, the public administration apparatus has become increasingly incapable of serving or benefiting the majority of the people. On the other hand the power of the State has increased with over two million men in the armed forces and paramilitary. Nevertheless democracy has taken root and people are ever increasingly aware of their rights. The near trebling of the population in the last fifty years has also resulted in a younger and more impatient average citizen. Couple this with the changes in technology that have greatly extended the reach of print and electronic media, and an abundance of sophisticated small arms, we have the perfect conditions for low intensity warfare.

Low intensity warfare is actually intended to result in high intensity media coverage. In his book Kashmir Dairy - Psychology of Militancy, Major General Arjun Ray masterfully analyses this relatively new form of warfare. Here the challenger is not fighting a war of movement for control over territory and population but is running a movement to win the minds of the people, sow doubts in the minds of the national elite and weaken the resolve of the state. By taking to arms the enemy does expect to score a military win but to create propaganda by deed. Since the aim of the campaign is to create propaganda, effective counter-propaganda must also be the main weapon in the State's arsenal. Unfortunately the State is weakest in this area because despite its control over the electronic media its responses are cumbersome, tedious and exaggerated, thereby severely straining the credibility of the effort.

Our theorists often study Mao or Guevara to understand the intentions of the adversary. Both of them saw guerilla warfare as the preliminary step and sought final victory by transforming it into conventional warfare at an appropriate time. To understand what is happening in Kashmir and other parts of the country it would be more appropriate to understand Bakumn and Vera Zasulich who originated "propaganda by deed". To fight an insurgency in the manner of the campaign's of Sir Gerald Templar in Malaysia or Diosdados Macapagal in the Philippines is similarly incorrect. The Indian Army in Mizoram managed to somewhat replicate the "strategic hamlets" strategy of Templar to deny the insurgents access to shelter, supplies and recruits. It won't work now because the human rights of people are involved and the relentless eye of the media will be on to it in a moment. This is how it should be. We, therefore, need to evolve methods that suit our times and counter the objectives of the rebel.

The first part of the counter campaign would be to address the grievances as best as possible. Inevitably this means good governance. The challenge of a challenged State is indeed a paradoxical one. The insurgency is the result of bad government. When the insurgency gains strength the administration wilts. A good part of it even goes over. How does one provide good governance then? The essential precondition to this is to eliminate or reduce the fear and power of the insurgent, and isolate him from the people. This means disarming him and exposing him for what he actually is. Since the firearm in his hands is what confers him power often the militant will be willing to pay for it with his life. In disarming him if the State has to take his life we must not feel sorry about it. If our soldiers have to die for us, they must also kill for us. People in government understand this as do the common people. It is the intellectual and the vacuous radical chic among the urban elite who have problems comprehending this.

The ongoing battle in Kashmir is still a long way from ending. But some changes are now apparent. The cost extracted for bearing arms against the State, the realization that the insurgents are not very different from the Taliban militia nurtured in the seminaries of Pakistan, and the realization that the Indian State is not going to wilt and walk away have made most of the local insurgents give up and return to their homes. The majority of the fighters in the hills and infiltrating are now Afghans, a combination of religious fanatics and freebooters. Their primitive and violent ways are increasingly alienating them from the local population. The baffle now is clearly between a modern secular nation and religious primitivism.

Here our efforts are found somewhat wanting. The battle lines have mostly moved from the population centres to the remote mountainous and forest areas of Jammu and Kashmir. To interdict a small band of insurgents in the difficult terrain will call for the allocation of far greater resources. The Army is not without its problems. It is short of young officers. Patrols that need to be led by Captains are either led by JCO's or by Majors. If the country cannot provide the soldiers with decent equipment it must not expect miracles from them either. Just consider this. The old fashioned steel plated bullet proof vests issued to the jawans weighs 16 kgs. A new kevlar vest will weigh a fraction of that. Ajawan goes on a patrol with just three magazines of AK47 ammunition. If the army had inducted the 5.56mm basic infantry weapon, the jawan would have been able to carry twice the number of rounds thereby greatly increasing his lethality. Why we can't use helicopters for lifting troops, supplies and surveillance is hard to fathom? Particularly when the Defense Minister and his deputy have free use of military aircraft to run their sundry political errands. The willingness of our soldiers must be backed by a show of will by the politicians and bureaucrats who preside over our affairs.

Major General Ray's book is not a soldier's memoir. It has no anecdotes. It gets to the point quickly and leaves little ground uncovered. It is not just another dry manual for the wars of the future. It is an intellectual's exposition of the mind and method of the militant, and a soldier-intellectuals prescription for dealing with them. It is easy to read, full of useful insights - some startling and some just delightful. He writes, for instance, that the

Future general will not be the infantryman but an intelligence man. In another place he writes: "The social, moral and ideological values that a soldier is brought up in are often at cross purposes with those on an unconventional battlefield". That is not just the soldiers' dilemma, but ours as well.

MOHAN GURU SWAMY/ D 821 New Friends Colony! New Delhi 110065

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