The first lot of improved equipment, including weapons, is being delivered to military and paramilitary units in Jammu and Kashmir before heightened terrorist activity sets in as we advance toward the summer, leaving behind the bitter winter cold and snow, specially in high-altitude areas that impede terrorist ingress from the Pakistan side.
The new weapons are also being despatched to the Line of Control with Pakistan in the Valley, and to the international border. More than in the fight against terrorism, it’s in the skirmishes against Pakistani forces that the inadequacy of some weapons used by our forces has been profiled.
Lighter bulletproof vests, lighter guns, better communication devices, boots that can withstand the shock of improvised explosive devices, specialised night-fighting capabilities, among other equipment and weapons, have been spoken of over years. Re-equipping the troops is, of course, a continuing process.
In the context of extremism and terrorism in Kashmir, that has seen a resurgence in the past two years, it’s to be underlined that some major incidents that have occurred — in Baramulla and Jammu, but also the airbase in Pathankot (that is in Punjab, but very close to J&K) — haven’t resulted from a weapons and equipment deficit.
The culprit has been reckless disregard by the Army and the Air Force of the most rudimentary considerations of security, such as perimeter protection and defence; in short, failures relating to overlooking the first principles. Well-trained terrorists found it a cakewalk to stroll into a major defence area and attempt to create a hostage-like situation.
What’s really galling is that the three major events — of a big enough magnitude to provoke war between nations — occurred in close proximity to one another in time. This suggests criminal neglect, and a failure to take the obvious lessons by the ministry of defence. Parliament is yet to ask the right questions in this regard. The ruling establishment is of course apt to view any questioning of the functioning of the defence establishment as an anti-national, even unpatriotic, activity. If this remains the attitude, we may expect complacency, inefficiency and corruption to flourish unhindered.
While it’s good that the security forces will have better equipment, there’s no sign yet of the Centre taking steps to stop the vulnerable sections of people, specially the impressionable youth in the Kashmir Valley, from falling prey to extremism and terrorism encouraged by the jihadist elements nurtured by Pakistan.
It’s also necessary to have effective non-lethal gear — the pellet guns which blinded many in Kashmir last year does not fall into this category — for crowd control. But it’s crucial to find social and political ways to dissuade people from hindering security operations by forming crowds.