An IDC Analysis 


New Delhi, 27 March 2003

Mohan Guruswamy makes a forthright and forceful case for single point Security Leadership in the fight against terrorists and militants in Kashmir

Time to go Mr. Advani!

By Mohan Guruswamy


It seems like many serial killers, politicians too like to visit the scene of their crimes. The Deputy Prime Minister, our iron man and the Second Sardar, has made quite a practice of it. He just called on the families of the 24 Kashmiri Pandits killed in Nadimarg on Monday night. Like he did before at Akhshardam where Islamic terrorists killed similarly in cold blood or at the Ansal Plaza where police terrorists staged an encounter or in Jammu or…. In the years since he became the Second Sardar, LK Advani has traveled quite a bit on such mournful missions, so much so that he can easily qualify to be the nations top rudali, or professional mourner

In 1998, soon after terrorists attacked a marriage party in Doda and killed over a dozen including the bridegroom, LK Advani, then just Home Minister, expressed a strong desire to resign. I was among the many who called on him and advised him to desist, arguing that this is precisely what the country’s enemies wanted him to do. Advani was not grandstanding either. He genuinely felt that he had failed to make a difference and that under the circumstances it was just the right thing to do. I like many others argued that it was much too early in the day to come to that conclusion and he needed some more time to do just that. I was wrong.

In mid 1994 a senior serving general of the Indian Army met LK Advani at my residence to brief him about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. The meeting was arranged at the initiative of the then Army Chief who strongly felt that the situation in Kashmir was not at all good and that the government of the day was drifting with the current rather than shaping events with policy. He wanted the head of the main opposition party and then conceivably the next Prime Minister to be fully in the know of things. The main problem seemed to be the lack of a coordinated and therefore effective campaign to combat the insurgency. Despite the state still being under central rule, the various security forces deployed were pulling in different directions and caught in a vicious turf war. The Indian Army strongly felt the need for a single command to direct the campaign and had mooted the setting up of a Unified Command.

The general, a thoughtful person, patiently explained to Advani the problems involved in tackling an insurgency, particularly under the watchful eye of the media in general and human rights activists in particular. He also explained to the Sardar in waiting that nowhere in the world was an insurgency successfully combated without the dynamic leadership of a single commander. Whether it was in Malaya where Gen. Gerald Templar was the supreme commander or in the Philippines where it was the charismatic Ramon Magsaysay or even in Punjab where KPS Gill had become the supremo, it was always a single leader who provided the dynamic and charismatic leadership to drive the forces deployed to make a supreme effort to beat back the adversary. The security forces deployed in J&K each reported to its immediate master and were more hung up about protocol and turf rather than the problem on hand. The general readily conceded that in Punjab, KPS Gill a mere DG of Police and hence not ranking more than a Corps Commander, by dint of his personality and with the full support of the Chief Minister had managed to even co-opt the Indian Army in a subsidiary role. It was probably a mere coincidence that the GOC of the 11 Corps, Lt.Gen. BKN Chibber became the Governor of Punjab immediately after retirement? The point was that an anti-insurgency campaign required a single commander willing to take the responsibility and make major decisions, rather than a warring bureaucracy more intent on shifting the blame and passing the buck. Advani listened intently, made notes and even took the matter up with the then Prime Minister who in his typical manner preferred not to make a decision.

It was not just that. That the state government was corrupt and inefficient was bad enough. The central forces too seemed too caught up in it. Under the circumstances deliberate human rights violations were inevitable only to stoke another cycle of alienation and anger. The general repeatedly emphasized that deploying more armed forces was not the solution. The solution lay in providing the state with a caring administration and effective security management. The military could do only so much and it was for the government to ensure that it was put to the best use. Advani seemed to understand what was needed, and unlike the loudmouths in his party like Madanlal Khurana and Murli Manohar Joshi, seldom spoke of abrogating Article 370 and putting the state under military control. Thus when Advani took charge in North Block many of us felt that he would make a difference. We were wrong.

The country was unlucky too. The previous assembly elections in J&K saw the National Conference under Farooq Abdullah returning to power. Even though Abdullah had a somewhat dubious mandate, he had the country’s support and best wishes. Instead of improving the quality of government he led it into new depths of corruption and depravity. The Abdullah family and a small coterie of bureaucrats mostly partied and made a bundle for themselves not caring one whit of providing a half decent government. To make matters worse the National Conference was a part of the ruling NDA and could mostly get its own way. Farooq Abdullah even managed to keep his favorite bureaucrat, the Chief Secretary, Ashok Jaitley on after retirement despite the Government of India’s known reservations about him. Jaitley, who was Farooq’s companion of choice for nightly revelry, often seemed to carry this spirit well into the next day. Not surprisingly he frequently clashed with the Indian Army’s Northern Command and a straight talking Army Commander had to tell him off at-least once in a formal meeting.

Instead of stepping in to set right the situation, Advani let control of the state’s affairs pass into the hands of the PMO where the Prime Minister’s lethargy, Brijesh Mishra’s inefficiency and the durbar’s social habits meshed perfectly with Farooq Abdullah’s temperament and proclivities. The disarray on the ground seemed matched by the disarray in New Delhi. Instead of setting about to retrieve lost ground Advani took to bombast and would keep threatening hot pursuit, cross-border raids, and pro-active steps. Nothing happened. The terrorists struck at will and still do so giving the Deputy Prime Minister plenty of opportunity to mourn and indulge in public hand wringing.

The nations security apparatus has long been in the doldrums. The security agencies had enough intelligence to tell them that an attack on Parliament in December 2001 was imminent. The Delhi Police too was so informed. Despite this a handful of terrorists drove into the main compound of the Parliament in a white Ambassador with a crudely homemade Home Ministry sticker and played havoc. In the popular outrage that followed the supine stupidity of the police was turned into an act of great heroism. We even threatened a war on Pakistan and resorted to a hugely expensive military mobilization. Instead of finding out why this happened and punishing the slothful bureaucrats, a whole conspiracy was cooked up with some pretty dubiously obtained evidence. Mercifully the Delhi High Court has seen through this and has disallowed such evidence. But the trial judge was not to be denied. He just denied the High Court jurisdiction and went about his business.

It needs little intelligence to recognize that national security can be best assured only by better management of our security resources. The state of the police nationwide is well known. In his five years in the North Block LK Advani has showed little inclination to reform it’s functioning. Much increased corruption, growing inter and intra cadre animosities, short tenures at the top, and the politicization of the Intelligence Bureau are some of the many problems which blight the nations police forces. The single biggest lesson he has not been able to internalize is that by merely making the provisions of the law more draconian and less respectful of individual rights and basic norms of justice, you cannot combat terrorism. This is only further down the well-traveled road of state lawlessness. It only begets more of what it sets out to cure and blurs the distinction between the state and the terrorists. The only antidote to terrorism is to deal with it with more professionalism and greater coordination of the various arms of government.

This is a slow and laborious road and sadly there are no alternatives to it.

When LK Advani went to Srinagar on his way back from Nadimarg, Lt.Gen. R.Nanavathy, GOC in C, Northern Command, flew in from Udhampur to meet the Deputy Prime Minister. Nanavathy, who commanded the 19 Division headquartered at Baramula in the early 1990’s, is a straight talking Gurkha officer thus knows what there is to know about insurgency in the state. And what did Rustum Nanavathy tell Advani? He told him just what another general told him in my house nine years ago. He eloquently pleaded for “greater interaction between the ministries of Defence and Home Affairs.” In other words he was confirming that little had changed in the Advani era either. It is pretty obvious that the military and paramilitary are still in competition with each other rather than in co-operation. Quite clearly LK Advani has failed. It is time he went. But he is now not offering to resign.

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