Former Army chief Gen Shankar Roychowdhury said the government needs to step up outreach in Kashmir and reassure people there that India will continue to be a secular democracy as the Taliban victory in Afghanistan is likely to see a renewed offensive by Pakistan-based militants.
The retired General, who had commanded 16 corps in Kashmir at the height of militancy in that state in early 1990s, and became Army chief later in the same decade when Taliban last came to rule over Kabul, believes that Pakistan, re-enforced by the recent Taliban victory, “will make a fresh bid on Kashmir” using groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed.
He also said that India needs to reach out to both former Afghan government forces rallying around Ahmad Massoud, son of the late legendary anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, in Panjshir Valley, as well as to factions within the Taliban which are friendlier to India.
“We have to step up our outreach to Kashmiris, we also have to re-assure them that India will continue to be a secular democracy,” General Roychowdhury who currently heads a strategic think tank Research Centre for Eastern and Northeastern Studies, told PTI in an interview.
The central government had scrapped Article 370 and turned Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh into two separate union territories from being a single state, while placing most Kashmiri leaders under detention. Since then, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has tried to reach out and hold talks with Kashmir’s political leaders earlier this year.
“We need to understand that the victory in Afghanistan is being seen (by terror groups) as a Pakistani victory and an Indian defeat…. We have to organise ourselves for a renewed offensive by elements like the JeM,” said Gen Roychowdhury, a veteran of the 1965 and 1971 wars besides counter-insurgency operations within the country.
“We have to be prepared for Pakistani intentions (covert operations) supported by radical elements here,” he added.