SEPTEMBER 14, 2016
India’s Kashmir Valley has been the scene of a Pakistan-backed insurgency since the 1990s. The Indian army and its associated security forces have been engaged in fighting this insurgency and assisting the civil administration in maintaining law and order. On July 8, the Pakistani terrorist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen’s commander in Kashmir,Burhan Wani, was killed in an encounter with security forces in Kashmir’s Anantnag district. Wani’s death plunged the state into deep turmoil, pitting Indian security forces against a large number of disenfranchised Kashmiri youth sympathetic to Wani’s anti-India resistance movement and calls for jihad. A full-blown confrontation between incensed youth and Indian security forces followed that resulted in 68 civilian deaths and over 2000 injured protestors, leaving an embarrassed Indian state facing a crisis of governance with no clear plan to prevent escalating violence. Exposing the fragility of the Indian state further, the Indian military publicly declared its frustration with political directives. In an unprecedented step, a strict curfew imposed in the Kashmir valley during Eid celebrationshas renewed a fresh cycle of violence between protestors and security force, killing two protestors and injuring several more. New Delhi appears to be running out of options to de-escalate levels of violence.
This precarious turn of events and the cyclical waves of violence affecting the Kashmiri state indicate that the Indian counterinsurgency approach in Kashmir is failing. New Delhi must conduct a fundamental reappraisal of its counterinsurgency strategy in Kashmir, as a predominantly military approach is unlikely to mitigate future violence. To prevent Kashmiri youth from becoming easy tools of radicalization by the Pakistani state, India should reduce its military presence in the valley, clearly separate the roles of its police and military, reformulate its military laws, and develop a robust political strategy that grants Kashmiris more autonomy and favors engagement over detachment.
Seeds of Unrest