The drift in the valley

H S Panag

Military strategy is contingent on political direction, which has been sorely missing in Kashmir.

There has been a volatile reaction within the strategic community both for and against Shekhar Gupta's views in his article 'Disarming Kashmir' (National Interest, IE, December 7). The article focuses on the need for change in political and military strategy to break the current impasse in Jammu and Kashmir; politically through proactive engagement, emotional healing and empowerment of the people, and militarily by the removal of the AFSPA and reduction of military presence in the hinterland. Interestingly, Gupta makes change in the political strategy and commencement of the political process contingent upon a change in military strategy. But the armed forces cannot be blamed for the failure of the political process and poor governance. It is to their credit that they have performed despite the government never having defined strategic political aims and contingent strategic military objectives, and in so doing may, by default, have partly assumed the role of the government, leading to fears of status quo ante in the event of a "pullout" or major redeployment.

In this context, Clausewitz's quote on the relationship between political aims and military means is pertinent: "War is simply the continuation of political intercourse with addition of other means. We deliberately use the phrase, 'with the addition of other means' because we also want to make it clear that war in itself does not suspend political intercourse or change it into something entirely different. In essentials that intercourse continues, irrespective of the means it employs. The main lines along which military events progress, and to which they are restricted, are political lines that continue throughout the war into the subsequent peace." Thus it is the government that must formulate the political strategy on which military strategy is contingent, and commit and de-commit its armed forces to war or counter-insurgency (CI).The absence of this process is the bane of strategic decision-making in India. The government never clearly defines its political objectives or approves contingent military objectives, leading to a situation of continuous strategic drift.

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