The centers of gravity in this issue are

 the Kashmiri people and the Pakistani army.
Preserve the first and destroy the second
The Pulwama bombing has happened when winds of global change are blowing – a shift from Globalization to Isolation, USA vacating Afghanistan, a bankrupt Pakistan seeking strategic space in Afghanistan, a cooling Chinese economy and a fast-growing India amidst a hyped-up General Election. While the Government action plan in response to the incident is unfolding, many opinions have been aired. In fact, many opinions and solutions on J&K have not worked for 70 years due to inconsistent policies, political flip-flops and piecemeal approaches. What we need is a “Whole of the Nation Approach” where our options are in consonance with the emerging environment. We need to take a step back, stabilize the situation, think coolly, take informed decisions and act deliberately for a long-lasting resolution of the problem. Without second guessing the Government, this analysis aims to generate a broad range of options with the following underpinnings.
India comes first. All other interests are subordinate to that.
We are on our own. We must fight our own battles. Let’s do that. 
Environmental Scan
Historically we have messed up J&K. We missed opportunities to settle the issue in 1971 (after Bangladesh War), 2004-5 (Man Mohan – Musharraf initiatives) and 2012-13 (when insurgency was fatigued) . All our PMs have made the mistake of pursuing peace with Pakistan and have failed. Currently the situation is in total limbo – governors rule, election rhetoric, increasing alienation, no talks with Pakistan and a revived insurgency. So, let us see what the overall environment is telling us.
J & K.  The core demands of separatists and insurgents – Azadi, Self Determination, Referendum have hardened. The mainstream political parties in the state – NC, PDP, BJP and Cong are selfishly seeking power. There is a gulf between opinion at the center and the state.  The Separatists are strengthening umbilical links with Pakistan. Militant hardliners are replacing old leadership. A generation of youth has grown seeing military operations at their doorsteps. They are influenced by an international Islamist wave; propagated through numerous madrassas funded by gulf states. The new wave of militants is home grown, educated and modeled on Intifada, Hamas, ISIS, Al Qaeda and others. Even the educated youth outside J&K harbor a sense of alienation. A blog illuminating this was brought to notice by my students (( The concept of Sufism is dead. The local industry is virtually destroyed and relocated to outside the Valley. State subsidies, developmental funds and funding from Pakistan have resulted in a lack of incentive to earn. Typical case of empty mind is a devil’s workshop. Targeting SF personnel from J&K is a new worrisome trend. The situation in J&K is at the bottom of many troughs of the past seven decades. This trough is far different from the previous ones. We need to recognize that.
Pakistani Army.  The unfinished Kashmir agenda of this Army with a nation is revenge for 1971 and water security. In this business ISI, JEM, LET, HUM and HM are its sword arms. With the impending withdrawal of USA from Afghanistan it is seeking strategic space there. It will manipulate the international community to put Taliban in pole position there. It believes that it has engineered defeat of two superpowers (USSR & USA). India is next on the cards. The Army is fully in control of Pakistani nuclear assets. China and Saudi Arabia have invested substantially in it and are interested parties. Its dependence on China is growing geometrically. However, Pakistan is bankrupt with debt at 86% of its GDP. Unemployment and a rising population is a major weakness. Major fault lines in Baluchistan and Northern areas are widening. CPEC, its proclaimed game changer is its third vulnerable front as analysed extensively earlier. ( ( (
China. Pakistan’s all-weather friend has invested heavily in CPEC. Pakistan is its cats-paw against India. It seeks Afghanistan’s mineral potential with Pakistani abetment. The long-term Chinese plan could be linking Demchok and Turtok to get an all-weather alternative to the Karakoram Highway in a future Pakistan controlled Kashmir. However, a cooling economy, push back on BRI and a military in transformation dampens Chinese ability. Tibet and Xinjang are its major vulnerabilities. In all cases, it will endeavor to tie us down with Pakistan so that it can expand its IOR footprint. China will play Mutt and Jeff on Kashmir.  Expect no quarters since Chinese Superpower ambitions are at stake.
Iran. Iran has a Shia – Sunni problem with Pakistan. It suffers Pakistan sponsored terrorism like us, in Sistan Baluchistan. On 16 Feb in a suicide attack almost identical to Pulwama, Iran lost 27 soldiers of its Army. It will also seek space in a post USA dispensation in Afghanistan. Chabahar port, oil diplomacy and a congruence of interests in Afghanistan opens space for a constructive partnership. The connectivity beyond Chabahar port is already challenging the CPEC unobtrusively. (
Others. Once USA vacates Afghanistan, doors for our military options open. Saudi Arabia will try to balance issues since it has invested heavily in Pakistan. It will also continue to spread Wahabi Islam as a state policy. Hence radicalization will continue if left unchecked. Others are largely neutral and majorly fear a nuclear catastrophe.
Options for a Solution 
There must be a “Whole of the Nation Approach” with a comprehensive range of strategic options placed on the table; much akin to an orchestra where every instrument plays its part in the tune being played. There are external and internal lines of action to be pursued. However, it must be recognized that the displaced Center of Gravity in J&K are its people. A political key must unlock the problem. Hence the approach to J&K must be balanced and not uni-dimensional or ham-handed. In all cases the military solution is the last option. This is against the emotional outpouring in some sections that there is a military solution to the problem. It is not there. With Pakistan we need to adopt a hard line. With China it must be a nuanced approach. With others it must be consultative and informative.
External Lines of Action
Pakistani Army and its Nation.  Pakistani Army must be focused upon and dealt with very methodically. Military options against it include cross LOC strikes/ ops and limited war within nuclear threshold. These must be telling. They must be combined with anti-drug ops. Diplomatic and economic efforts to isolate Pakistan must continue. Besides scrapping MFN status, a tighter visa control for work permits, medical tourism, sports, cultural activities and businesses are on the table. Efforts should be made to shift Pakistan into FATF black status. Commonwealth can be approached. We could even snap or downgrade diplomatic ties with them. Over flights could be banned. Talks with Pakistan must be with a loaded gun whether they are Track 1 or 2. Less than war options in Baluchistan, Northern Areas and even leadership elimination is on the cards. Highlight Pakistani Army’s atrocities in Baluchistan, and Northern Areas in a media campaign. The Indus Water Treaty has lot of scope without scrapping it. A cyber war effort can be mounted. Can we break Pakistan up internally? More options can be generated.  While in all cases tactical advantage is feasible and emotional needs are satisfied, the strategic outcome had to be ensured.  
China.  China must be persuaded to change course. They should be shown an unambiguous mirror in Tibet and Xinjiang. Taking steps to hurt their economic interests in India, increase in tariff on Made in China goods, nationwide Jan Jagran moves for boycott of Chinese goods will pay dividends. Strengthen Andaman and Nicobar Command and foray into South China Sea. The Chinese will get the message. Unrestricted war with China is the order of the day (
Others. USA’s help can be sought on issues of mutual benefit including surveillance and intelligence under the strategic partnership umbrella. Focus on Iran. Forge an IRAN- INDIA – AFGHANISTAN axis to hem in Pakistan. We should use our goodwill in Afghanistan to good effect. While we may not be able to diplomatically isolate Pakistan, we can get others to understand our actions better through diplomacy. We must ensure that Pakistan is denied fissile material so that its nuclear program is dented. 
Internal Lines of Action
Internally we have a lot of ground to cover. There must be a national resolve to solve the J&K crisis. This must be a deep-rooted commitment beyond election rhetoric. The plan must be implemented at National and State levels seamlessly. People should be enabled to change voluntarily. The past needs to be analysed so that the mistakes are not repeated. A new path of integration is a must. 
National Level Options. At the outset, a national consensus on a political path must be formulated and taken forward irrespective of the party in power. It could be examined as to how we can integrate the people of India as ONE despite the provisions of Article 370 and Article 35A. We need to have a long-term plan and sustained action. Conventional capabilities must be strengthened so that the Pakistan Army fears a credible and immediate military retaliation. Hence force modernization with adequate budgets is critical. We should invest and strive for thorium technology on priority. With highest deposits of thorium in the world, many equations will turn when we master this technology. We need to develop a comprehensive intelligence capability through a national approach. Presently we are more competitive between center and state, between various departments and agencies. The center needs to support the J& K state fully in this mission.
State Level. At state level the key is people – de-alienation and integration. Start at the basics. Good governance will do half the trick. Unless the people feel that they have a shared vision with the rest of India we will go nowhere. Simple things will do well. For instance – a teacher exchange program at primary school level where teachers from J&K teach in outside states and an equal number from outside teach in J&K. It will change mentalities. It is of course easier said than done. Many ideas can be generated which are informal, fun filled and mind changing with a little imagination. Beyond that, formal steps can be taken in various spheres. Some, (but not all) are outlined below. 
Human, Social and Economic Activities.  Trust generation is all pervasive. Integrate not polarize. Stop hype through media, studio and social wars. Revive local industry. Revive tourism. Cleanse, rejuvenate and modernize education. Propagate youth clubs, sports leagues, adventure activities et al. Revive Sufism – the hallmark of Kashmir to counter radicalism.
Political Steps. Kashmir needs its political messiah beyond the gun. In the meantime, can ‘azadi’ be found within the Constitution of India? Will talking to all groups including separatists help? How can displaced Kashmiri Pandits be reverted? How can transparent elections be facilitated? At every turn the Kashmiri citizen has spoken loudly.  He has not boycotted elections despite calls to the contrary. If separatism is the only prevalent sentiment, elections would have been boycotted long back. Is there a case for banning separatists or is it worth speaking to them?  How about credible inter-locution? Ultimately a political solution must be worked out.

Military Action. Military action has held the state and people together on one hand. It has also alienated some people on the other. The way forward is – stabilize the situation and regain control. Once the political process takes root, reduce uniformed presence.  Basic prophylactic and int based ops will continue for some time. Paramilitary forces must be trained and led better.  As of now they are cannon fodder to well-trained militants. Our political leaders are doing a great disservice to our paramilitary forces by providing them poor leadership. We can not have losses due to poor tactics.   

Any solution to the Kashmir lies with its people. We need to win them back. They are our people. We need to have a ‘Whole of India’ approach for this. Most of us talk that the Pakistani Army is an Army with the nation. It needs to be sorted out one way and the other by focusing on it. It is a two-point formula. Difficult though. The lines of action and options outlined are not finite. In fact, more are welcome and should be generated. However, it is important to put all these cards on the table and play them out as per the situation. Ultimately, we need  peace to prevail in J&K.   

India needs to be externally hard and internally soft. 
The general view is that we are the other way around. 
Let us reverse it.

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  1. Very well analysed with logical and practical solutions. Sir ur insight and depth of knowledge is truly commendable

  2. Sir good Verbose English with vague and nebulous ideas/ options.Be specific .IAS Babus are good in beating around the bush on Kashmir .As Foot Infantry fauji with long Ground experiences in Kashmir , I am saddened to read this article expressing wishful thinking and utopian Approach On Kashmir and the ways to deal with Pakistan .Sir, do Visit Kashmir NOW beyond Srinagar Cantt .

  3. Very well written.The time is opportune to take strong long awaited steps. Making of 3 states /UTs of Kashmir,Jammu and Laddakh. Governors rule and nations sentiments may make it the right time.Make the cost of proxy equally expensive. Start posturing akin to Parakram and force Pakistan to deploy it's forces in heightened state of readiness. Their economy will not be able to take it.

  4. Well thought out article sir , there is only one thing which unites Pakistan and that is hatred for India . It is a very divided and violent society . So strong covert action is better option . I have been a captain if cricket team with 5-6 Pakistanis ( I was in Kuwait for 5 years ) . Punjabi’s dominate and others openly resent . ( I have witnessed it myself) . Mohajirs are not yet fully integrated . Extremely corrupt society hiding under religion . Shia- Sunni divide is big and must be exploited with the help Iran. My two cents . Best…………this is a view I got from someone in the Gulf.

  5. Very well written sir ,Just a point to add sir , In digital world where war are fought & are based on perceptions . Building up perception can be included in part of solution. As half of time provocation in rest of India is akin to propaganda on whatsapp so the case in jnk would be vast than rest of India. Some measure has to be taken to stop flow of propaganda and to ensure promotion of pro India views.

  6. That's a great analysis. But remember that Kashmir valley represents only 15 % of J&K. Our solutions lie in being aggressive in the valley. Take off our gloves and be ruthless. Cut all subsidies and come down on internal militancy. We must somehow get industry going and jobs back. The message must be hard action. And to retain Presidents rule till normalcy comes.

  7. A very erudite reply from one of my course matesRecruitment at Baramulla yesterday, we had 2400 guys appearing for tests to join our army. Compare this with minuscule youths joining extremism. Who says youths or kashmiri are disillusioned , had this been the case , the same figure wud hv been lining up in front of various tanzeems to pick up arms against India. This is no propaganda , the facts are visible when one hears the candidates willing to join army for protecting our country. With acts of few lets not condemn Kashmiri' s and neither spread hatred against them in faraway places where they have come to study or for business / work. Our hatred will turn the young youths hostile for no fault of theirs. We need to cultivate uninitiated and go after militants. No knee jerk and no soft approach like punishment to ROP and curse army like after burhan wani incident

  8. Good article sir I strongly agree with the option of teacher exchange program…and also student exchange program will be good ..if the students there come out of valley and visit the rest of India, they ll get a taste of development and will want to have the same at Kashmir which was is being hindered all these years due to extremism. Then these children themselves who r the future youth of Kashmir will resolve to solve the problem.And yes we have to dispell their feeling of alienation.

  9. Kudos Sir for the various ideas spelt out for bringing to bear a ” whole nation approach” to “integrate” Kashmir & Kashmiris into India. The start point of this, however, i feel, ha to be the striking down of articles 35A & 370, both of which do not have the Parliament's sanction.Secondly whatever be the colour or shade of the ruling political dispensation in Pskistan, it has to b accepted, albeit grudgingly, that the Army hold the strings on the political power. Hence, as reiterated by Ambassador Hussein Haqqani to Vir Sanghvi in his interview to cnn18, opening strategic & diplomatic dialogues with the Pak Army on track 2 initially may b attempted. Though, a radical approach, later these dislogues can b scaled up to Government level too!!

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