Narendra Modi is implementing the Doval doctrine in Kashmir

The Modi government’s hardline strategy in Kashmir is a straight lift from the approach suggested by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval in 2010.

Speaking about protests that year he told policymakers not to overreact and give in. He said the crisis will pass off, “It looks big in the midst of it, they cannot sustain it beyond a point and even if they do there is a price they have to pay.” As an assimilationist strategy it has certain astute aspects but it will eventually harm India and damage Kashmir irreparably.
Kashmir is bracing itself for another crackdown. The Narendra Modi government has made it clear that it wants to take back control of the streets from stone-pelting youth. A security official told the Business Standard “Sooner or later, we will have to retake control in South Kashmir. The longer we wait, the more emboldened the protesters become, the more force will be required to deal with them”.
What is bewildering analysts is the persistence of Delhi’s hardline strategy. More than 80 civilians have been shot dead, many blinded and over 10,000 reportedly injured. There is no attempt to scale back the response of security forces. Indian governments have brutally put down unrest before such as in 2010 when 120 youth were killed – but this time Delhi’s reaction seems to be crafted for larger purposes.
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To establish that this flows from a well-thought strategy one needs to see a candid 2010 lecture on Kashmir by India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and discern the continuity between the approach he commended then and Delhi’s policy now.

The lecture, available on YouTube, offers a fascinating insight into how Doval and the Modi government view the Kashmir question.
Troubling mindsets
Speaking at an NGO event in Hyderabad when he was not in government, Doval characterised the Kashmir problem as the product of the “dysfunctional mindset” of three parties: India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri separatists.
India’s mistake, according to Doval, was to follow a policy of appeasement since 1947. Instead of making Pakistani troops vacate Jammu and Kashmir, India went to the United Nations; Kashmir was internationalised and Article 370 was a product of such appeasement. “Once you accepted …they were different, you sowed the seeds of separatism”.
Doval argues that India has trouble in exercising power, in setting the agenda and changing realities in its favour. Pakistan, instead, decided the timing and terms of engaging India in war or peace, India restricted itself to defensive defence, not defensive offence.
Pakistan’s (and Kashmiri) mindset, he reckons, is that “India is weak, it is a nation of brahmins and banias…they are no fighters, [on the contrary] “we are great fighters, we have a great religion …that teaches us self-sacrifice…jihad and therefore India can be balkanised by them”. The Kashmiri separatists assume that international opinion is in their favour and they have great faith in Pakistan even though it does not have the capacity nor the intent to liberate Kashmir.
His doctrine is thus essentially predicated on three assumptions: India is traditionally reluctant to embrace power, Pakistan is driven by a desire to destroy India and Kashmiris are complicit in the latter’s project.
Power as Justice

A masked Kashmiri protester throws a stone at security forces during a protest in Srinagar, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. (AP)

Doval argues that the situation will change and that Kashmir will have a solution if one of the three players changes their mindset.

Delhi should give up on the high moral ground as an antidote to Pakistan’s misadventures and embrace the exercise of power. “In the game of power the ultimate justice lies with the one who is strong”.
This framework leads Doval to understand the 2010 protests through a particular lens that has a read across to the policies pursued by the government now. The protests, he argues, were not a spontaneous uprising by civil society but were part of a well-orchestrated plan by the ISI in league with Kashmiri separatists. Pakistan instructed people where they should congregate, where to collect stones. There would be calls from mosques as well. He said the protests were not peaceful, the type of damage stones can do was “totally murderous” and therefore the security forces “were totally justified in using the force they did”. He said those resorting to indiscriminate force against innocents must be punished but stressed that it is a blunder to undermine the rule of law.
Doval then made policy recommendations about the 2010 protests that chime with Delhi’s handling of the current situation.
His advice to policymakers then was: “Don’t overreact, don’t give in, don’t follow appeasement, it [the crisis] will pass off. It looks big in the midst of it, they cannot sustain it beyond a point and even if they do there is a price that they have to pay.” The policy should send a message to Pakistan that “paying some youth” to wage an “armed violent uprising” will not change government policy. “It won’t”.
Doval believes that if India exercises power, then Pakistan and the Kashmiris will fall in line. Islamabad must be made to understand that it cannot take on the Indian establishment. Islamabad’s mindset “is unlikely to change unless India gives a decisive blow to Pakistan”. This would also make the separatists change their minds and renounce links with Pakistan.

Posted by on September 16, 2016. Filed under State. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.