Brig Anil Gupta

Jammu and Kashmir State is once again on the cusp of turmoil. The state has witnessed the worst ever disaster in the living memory of its residents. The ravaging floods coupled with devastating landslides have caused unimaginable sufferings to the people and extensive damage to property and infrastructure. With the winters approaching, the people are struggling to leave behind their miseries and put together some semblance of normalcy so that they could once again stand on their feet. The economy has been crippled, health care reduced to shambles and the education system has been put on hold. Apart from desperation there is also widespread anger among the public. The cause of the anger is the totally disorganised and tardy relief and rehabilitation operation. The people are blaming the government for its inaction and inefficiency. There have also been reports of favouritism and misuse in the distribution of relief material/assistance.
While the government machinery collapsed and was paralysed in the beginning, it is now taking unduly long time to resurrect. Its inability to put in place a mechanism to allow free flow of relief material through the Lakhanpur Toll barrier has further added fuel to the fire. The mainstream political parties in the Valley were also conspicuous by their absence when the people were crying for help. This led to a vacuum and the separatists were clever enough to jump to fill this vacuum. Though their contribution to relief and rescue operations is questionable yet they were able to mobilise anti-national forces and spread canard of propaganda against the sincere efforts of the Government of India. They are now trying to cash upon this opportunity by channelising this anger to their benefit. Thus, this catastrophe has thrown some serious security challenges which need to be addressed. These challenges have both external and internal dimension. The hawks are waiting on the wings to exploit this tragedy for furtherance of their sinister designs.
We share 734 km of Line of Control (LC) and 190 km of International Border (IB) with our hostile neighbour Pakistan. An Anti-Infiltration Obstacle System popularly known as ‘Fence’ runs along the LC and IB. This has either been badly damaged or washed away at number of places, thus making it vulnerable. Also, a number of bunkers on the LC and a few posts on the IB have also been damaged beyond repairs or washed away. Though it is claimed that they have been relocated/rebuilt yet these may result in creation of gaps. A very senior commander in the Valley had recently stated that about 200 heavily armed terrorists are camping on the other side. It’s a cause for alarm. The army and BSF are working overtime to repair the damage, yet the chances of increased infiltration cannot be ruled out. The army has so far successfully thwarted these attempts but the chances of ingress exist due to rugged nature of the terrain and new avenues created due to floods. The militants also follow the tactics of gushing water, that is when confronted with opposition at a point they move left and right to find an exit.
Apart from army’s involvement in the rehabilitation phase, it also has to get involved in reconstruction of damaged habitat, infrastructure and installations. This would commit a sizeable amount of manpower that may weaken to some extent the counter insurgency grid. The sleeper cells may become more aggressive and the terrorists may descend down from their hideouts. The forces therefore should be prepared for increased levels of violence in the coming months. The separatists and anti-national elements are likely to increase their activities. Mass protests and stone pelting may resurface. A few anti- social elements may also fish in the troubled waters resulting in political killings. The security forces may be provoked to resort to firing to fan further protests. The police have also suffered losses due to the floods. Moreover, there are number of policemen who themselves have been the victim of the disaster and would be busy looking after the rehabilitation of their own families. This can have an adverse- effect on policing operations and may also hamper the intelligence gathering operations of the Police with its resultant effect on the over – all conduct of counter insurgency operations in the hinterland. While the damage in the Valley has been due to floods in the urban areas, in the South of Pir Panjal extensive damage has been caused due to land/mud slides and collapse of hill sides resulting into making these areas uninhabitable. Many people have no roof over their head and have abandoned their villages for safer places. These abandoned villages also pose a security challenge albeit of different kind. These could be converted into safe hide outs by the terrorists if not kept under surveillance by the police/security forces.
The nightmare that hounds the security analysts is the possibility of this wide spread resentment and anger against the establishment taking shape of home grown insurgency as it happened consequent to 1967 elections. The al Qaeda-ISIS-ISI combine would already be on the job to lure the disgruntled youth to Jihad. Some of the posts on the social media, display of a Pakistani Flag on Amira Kadal Bridge and display of ISIS flags at few places are the indicators that should not be taken lightly. Pakistani terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed is openly using this opportunity on the other side of the border to look for recruits for Jihad in the affected areas/ relief camps. Their obvious destination is India.
Every disaster/event has a flip side as well. The adverse effect on mobility due to nature’s fury might be tickling the brains of a few military planners/ scientists to exploit weather as a force multiplier. Imagine the effect artificial triggering of a cloud burst, a land slide or an avalanche can have on the plans of an adversary in the combat zone. Can the temperatures be altered to extremes in a desired area to minimise combat efficiency? An armoured formation can be halted in its track by bringing down heavy rain in a non-monsoon period thus surprising the enemy. Sooner or later another dimension to war-fighting ‘Environmental Warfare’ may be added.

Last but not the least, one of the major fall outs of this disaster could be the effect on the morale of the troops. An adverse morale has an overbearing effect on the operational preparedness of any combat unit. The adverse propaganda against the army unleashed by the vested interests both in print and electronic media as well as social media coupled with fatigue would definitely hit the morale of any force. The winter stocking of the forward posts and rear area logistics establishments is likely to be hampered, the relief programme of the units may be disturbed and so may be the grant of leave due to overstretched commitments. All these factors are also likely to adversely affect the morale of troops. The commanders at all level would have to use their man-management expertise to ensure that it does not happen.
In nutshell, the seething anger of the public needs to be minimised before it takes the shape of a rebellion against the authorities and provides a fertile ground to our enemies to ignite the flames of jihad. The relief must reach the right people and anybody misusing the relief for personal benefits, irrespective of the position he holds, should be dealt with an iron hand. The moot question is whether the present set-up in the State is capable of ensuring the same? The majority have lost confidence in the present political dispensation and want them to be kept out of the relief and rehabilitation phase. But in a federal structure like ours, an elected government cannot be ignored and kept out of the loop. It is a ‘Catch 22’ situation. The inaction on part of the federal government to act may adversely affect national security.