The logic behind the change of guard in Srinagar is far from clear. Mr Girish Saxena had done and was doing an excellent job as governor in an extremely difficult situation. Indeed, things were beginning to turn around. Intelligence had clearly improved, enabling security forces to nab important terrorists. Ordinary people were getting disgusted as more and more women came out tell stories of how they had been gang-raped by terrorists.
This was surely not the time to engage in adventurism which is what Mr Saxena’s replacement amounts to. As in Mr Jagmohan’s case in 1990, another dedicated and able officer has been denied the opportunity to complete his task and the recognition due to him.
Mr Saxena has, of course, not been dismissed, as Mr Jagmohan was. But the difference is superficial. Mr Jagmohan was asked to ‘resign’; Mr Saxena was shrewd enough to anticipate that a similar fate awaited him and was quick to submit his resignation. Dr Farooq Abdullah’s visit to Srinagar, the importance attached to him once again in New Delhi and his pronouncements – on record and off record – remarkable for their inconsistency and lack of substance could leave no room for doubt in Mr Saxena’s mind that his role was over.
General Krishna Rao is back in Srinagar as governor, the office he held in January 1990 when an insurrection exploded and it looked as if the valley was all but lost to the union. In all probability it would have, if he had not been packed off. Mr Jagmohan has detailed in his book My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir the situation he faced when he took over from the General.
An elected government headed by Dr Abdullah was in office when Gen Rao was governor. As such, it can be argued that he was not responsible for what had happened – introduction by Pakistan of weapons sufficient to arm an infantry division and more, movement of hundreds of Kashmiri youth across the ceasefire line and mobilization of the populace on anti-Indian, pro-independence and pro-Pakistani slogans.
But some questions must nag citizens who are concerned with the country’s integrity. Was the General aware of what was happening? If not, why not? Did he not regard it his duty to keep himself informed about possible threats to the country’s security in the state? If he was aware, did he take up the issue in a meaningful way with Dr Abdullah? Did he keep New Delhi posted?
The General is for all practical purposes Dr Abdullah’s appointee; the Prime Minister has clearly gone by the latter’s strong preference for the General over other candidates. This means that the relations between the two were of the best when the General was governor and Dr Abdullah chief minister. It would not be too wide off the mark to interpret this to mean that both were equally oblivious of, and indifferent to, preparations for the insurrection.
The Prime Minister has said that other major changes will be made soon in the state set-up. These can be anticipated by anyone who is aware of behind-the-scene manoeuvres and the role played by different individuals, including those who signed the infamous memorandum to the UN. But that would be unnecessary, as in the final analysis, the responsibility is of the Prime Minister and not of behind-the-scene operators.
The impression has spread has spread that home minister S B Chavan, the cabinet secretary and the home secretary have not been involved in the formulation of the new ‘policy’. The implication is that the Prime Minister has kept his own counsel and that he has chosen minister of state for internal security Rajesh Pilot as his aide for implementing the new ‘policy’. The Prime Minister is, however, not known to act impetuously. If anything, he has the reputation of being indecisive.
It follows that he must have good reason or reasons to do what he is attempting to do in J&K. Since these moves do not make much sense, the inference must be that he is under pressure.
One compulsion is obvious enough. Washington and London are pushing him. Neither has made much secret of the fact that they want India to concede ‘greater autonomy’ to the state, a euphemism for virtual independence. In return, they are putting pressure on Islamabad to stop or at least reduce arming and training Kashmiri terrorists. Perhaps they have also played a role in the JKLF leadership’s assertion of independence vis-à-vis Islamabad.
It is premature to say how far Mr Rao intends to go in response to US and British pressures and how he proposes to sell ‘greater autonomy’ for J&K to the people. Indeed, it is possible that the plans, such as they were, have already begun to come unstuck and that Dr Abdullah may be having second thoughts on what he is said to have agreed to earlier.
Even so, a couple of points can be made regarding Washington. Contrary to what some well-meaning Americans may want us to believe, the reality is that Washington’s leverage on Islamabad is also strictly limited. It should not be necessary to make this point seeing how President Zia-ul-Haq duped Reagan and Bush on Pakistan’s N-weapons capability for a whole decade.
We are told that the reason for US acquiescent in Pakistan’s acquisition of N-weapons was the former’s need for the latter’s support in the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. If that was the case then, America has now even stronger reasons not to push Pakistan. The former Soviet Central Asia is in ferment; even more important, fundamentalists are active in Saudi Arabia; and in addition to Algeria, they have come to constitute a serious threat in Egypt. Meanwhile, Iran has begun to worry Washington both as a source of aid for fundamentalists all over West Asia and as a potential military power.
All this must give Pakistan enormous importance in Washington’s view. Even otherwise, Pakistan has been quite smart. At the suggestion of its friends in the Pentagon, it has sent 5,000 soldiers to Somalia and made nonsense of the state department’s warning that it might be named for sponsoring terrorism. The February issue of The Herald,Karachi, says that this strategy had been worked out between the US Central Command and the then Pakistan chief of army staff, Gen Asif Nawaz, last autumn; that Islamabad knew of President Bush’s decision to send 30,000 troops to Somalia weeks, if not months, in advance.
Moreover, The Herald informs us, Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif has ‘privatised’ the aid programme for Kashmiri terrorists “by edging out the ISI and the Intelligence Bureau from running the training camps” and “allowing the Jamaat-i-Islami, retired ISI officers and other groups” to take over. He can now claim that his government is not assisting Kashmiri terrorists.
The Observer of Business and Politics, 16 March 1993