For most secessionists in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the presence of troops is more than an eyesore. The army goes a long way in maintaining order in that state and also defeating the nefarious designs of terrorists and anti-national elements. So, in a somewhat surprising announcement last week, Union home secretary G.K. Pillai mentioned a possible troop cut of 25% in J&K.
Pillai’s rationale for troop reductions hinges on its serving as a “confidence”-building measure. He was soon contradicted by the chief of the army staff Gen. V.K. Singh, who said the army does not feel the need to reduce its numbers in J&K.
At the moment, it is not clear as to who would gain “confidence” if the numbers were brought down. Pakistan surely would welcome the move, so would the terrorists supported by it. As to the secessionist leaders of J&K, they, too, would be happy. What is not clear is how this would go about bringing peace in the state.
It has been said that after a draw down, soldiers would man the borders and ensure that large-scale infiltration does not take place. What is forgotten is that given such a large border, some level of infiltration is unavoidable. The presence of troops in interior and remote areas of the state, where very often police presence is either very thin or non-existent, helps keep a check on terrorist activities. Minus these troops, chances are that terrorists will build safe havens and “no go” areas in these areas. Once that happens, and it has in the past, security forces have a difficult task to clean these areas of terrorist presence.
That danger is not appreciated at the moment. But once matters move in that direction, the cost of restoring order in terms of manpower losses will be high. Think of the soldiers who will die and the families they will leave behind. Talking of “confidence” building while terrorists regroup to strike is reckless at best.
The presence of troops in J&K is an unhappy development. If Pakistan were not to fuel terrorism there, there would be no reason to deploy a large number of soldiers there. Islamabad is unlikely to do anything to build our confidence in J&K and the Hurriyat’s promises are not worth the paper they’re written on. Until a better time, there is no reason to take decisions premised on questionable logic.
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