Security Scan: ‘Comprehensive Kashmir Policy indispensable for peace’: Kuldeep Khoda

“Radicalization is revolt against insensitive political, media voices from mainland India”

Kashmir Magazine

Kuldeep Khoda, a 1974 batch IPS officer, ace security expert on Jammu and Kashmir who has been the state intelligence chief before soaring to the apex rank of Director General of Police (DGP), in an inclusive interview with the senior correspondent of Kashmir Magazine, Hamid Rather, has provided a comprehensive analysis of the ongoing security apparatus, security challenges, new-age militancy, radicalization and alienation and Pakistan involvement escalating the militant activities in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Mr. Khoda who is widely acclaimed for security innovations like ‘Village Defence Committee’ (VDC) and ‘Special Police Officers’ (SPOs) system with the objectives of intelligence collection and translating that into operations in the militancy-affected areas, and won many awards, including President's Police Medal for Meritorious Services in 1993 and President's Police Medal for Distinguished Services in 1999 and Operation Vijay (Kargil) medal in 2004, is opining that comprehensive Kashmir policy is indispensable for peace in the state.
Here are the excerpts from the interview:

With US Donald President Trump’s decision of withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan, the apprehensions are rife that IS may emerge in Jammu and Kashmir as the radicalization and alienation of youth are offering fertile grounds for such global militant outfits. What are your views on the possible impact of US forces withdrawal from Afghanistan on Kashmir?

The withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan is voluntary unlike forced withdrawal of Soviet forces. United States along with Pakistan assistance compelled Soviet Union to withdraw forces from Afghanistan in 1988. After then Taliban took control of the hilly-turbulent country. The Taliban and the militant activities stretched to middle-east and eventually hit American Twin Towers of World Trade Centre on 11 September, 2001. In retaliation, America along with NATO powers started ‘War on Terror’ and besieged Afghanistan.
Even in US there are different viewpoints regarding the issue. According to President Trump’s security assessment it is safe to exit now as he is satisfied that militancy in the form of IS and Taliban will not re-emerge in Afghanistan as Afghan forces’ deterrence and capacity has increased to neutralize it. US Defence secretary, James Mattis, resigned as he was against the withdrawal of the forces from Afghanistan as he views it ‘premature’ for US withdrawal. However, this voluntary withdrawal will not be taken non-seriously. If militant activities in Afghanistan and Syria spiked it will be largely by the organisations of Taliban and IS which may have a fringe effect on the outfits affiliated with them in Kashmir. IS is decimated and its revival and re-groping is very least in Syria as President Assad’s forces have taken control of vast areas occupied by IS. Pertinently, there is no large presence of IS and Taliban in Kashmir. Only militant group that is affiliated with IS is ‘Ansar Ghazwat-ul Hind’ led by Zakir Musa which has less strength and whose six militants were recently killed in Tral. This exit may encourage this outfit to recruit more radicalized youngsters to its fold. Another factor should be kept in mind that the militancy in Jammu and Kashmir is Pakistan-sponsored and its calibration and control is in the hands of ISI, Pakistan intelligence agency. Pakistan will never like that the control and calibration of militancy in Kashmir is transferred to other organisations like IS which is not under the control of Pakistan Army or ISI.

Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) are the three militant outfits in Kashmir and they have no coordination with IS and Taliban. Also IS does not enjoy popular support in Jammu and Kashmir so the emergence of IS after the US forces exit from Afghanistan is least possible.

We have to watch how middle-east behaves after the US army exit and only then we can frame a clear opinion on the possible impacts on militancy in Jammu and Kashmir



The attitude of government of India towards Kashmir has not been sincere. They have adopted hit and trial methods to deal with militancy, radicalization and alienation in youth. What are your views?

There has been no comprehensive Kashmir policy framed by the central government dealing with both internal and external factors that act stimulators and catalysts to the militancy and radicalization. There is urgent need of a framework on which the security apparatus in Kashmir must work. The internal factors include local militancy, radicalization and alienation of youth, unemployment and corruption and the external factors include the Pakistan involvement that controls and calibrates the militancy in Kashmir. So this comprehensive policy must include ‘Kashmir policy’ and ‘Pakistan policy’ in it as they are inter-twined to improve the security situation in Kashmir. Unless and until we will not include all these factors into a constructive and comprehensive policy our efforts towards peace-making will be largely unsuccessful.


We are running our security affairs in the state by ‘hit and trial’ methods. Sometimes we decide let us walk the talk and sometimes we shun the talks until Pakistan agrees that no militancy emanates from its territory. Sometimes clamour for ceasefire and sometimes chant ‘Operation All-Out’. When some incidents happen we get alerted and when no untoward incidents take place we make noise of peace coming in valley. This is not the right approach to deal with the militancy.

Let us try to understand in numbers. After 2001, in the absence of a comprehensive Kashmir policy, a core group of locally unified command comprising of the heads of the major security agencies in the state prepared a program and road-map to tackle militancy. We succeeded to a large extent under this framework. The security causalities came down to 15 in 2012 from 182 in 2006. There was also drastic decrease in the number of incidents from above 1600 in 2006 to 124 in 2012. The active militants flux also reduced to about 70-80 active militants in 2012. Jammu division and seven districts of Kashmir division became militant-free and these 70-80 militants were not active but hiding in the hills and upper-reaches of Kangan, Tral and Shopian. There was about 15% drop in the militant incidents in the state. This was the result of a consistent policy. However, I got the inputs that in 2013 there was weakness in the security forces coordination and as a result the deaths of security forces spiked from 15 in 2012 to 53 in 2013. After 2014 the radicalization and alienation among Kashmiri youth increased. This added a new feature to the militancy in Kashmir and lured the young and educated youth towards militancy. The emergence of Burhan Wani and Post-Burhan Wani era has given a flip to this radicalization. However, the security forces again showed signs of good coordination and got good results under ‘Operation All-Out’.

No doubt we killed large number of militants but due to radicalization that stimulated local recruitment the achievements were nullified. As a result the militants killed are being replaced by fresh recruitments and infiltration.

So the picture that comes to fore is that no doubt we kill more militants but number of militants and incidents also increase and security forces causalities also increase.
In April 2018, in a talk in Delhi, when ‘Operation All-Out’ had started, I told the gathering that 2018 will be more militant, difficult and dangerous than 2017 while considering the ground realities. The graph of militant activities was on linear path since 2012. The militant recruitment will be larger than the previous years. The ‘Operation All-Out’ with the objective of decimating militancy in Kashmir coupled with good coordination of security forces is being viewed too optimistic. When we look back on 2018 the figures of militants, incidents, and security and civilian causalities are more than the previous year’s figures. In the security establishments the majority view is that if we kill more militants it is publicized as triumph over militancy. I disagree as if the number of militants killed is replaced by equal or increased number of new militants is no longer a triumph over militancy. In 2012, about 72 militants were killed and in 2018 about 265 militants were killed.

When the figures of all the parameters come down then we can say we are winning over militancy. So unless and until there is no comprehensive Kashmir policy and Pakistan policy the militancy will not stop, there will come fluctuation here and there but can’t be eradicated.

Whenever India and Pakistan talk that ‘dialogue’ is the only way out it has been seen that the militant activities in the state and cross-border shelling and infiltration heavily come down during that period. Do you think dialogue is the only way out to solve the Kashmir conundrum?

In normal circumstances, dialogue has remained the top priority in civilized countries to solve inter-state disputes. However, the Indo-Pak relation has seen rough patches since inception. Various dialogues were initiated over Kashmir issue but to no avail. Failure of dialogue has been giving new vigour and impetus to the militancy. There must be sincerity in talks from both sides. Keeping in view all the Pakistan factors and interests in Kashmir, Government of India must come up with a comprehensive Pakistan policy in which ‘dialogue’ should be made an important constituent in addition to controlling or dismantling or neutralizing the factors in Pakistan that control and calibrate militancy in Kashmir. This policy must take a review of the track record of Pakistan in destabilizing Kashmir and importance of people to people contact and its possible impacts on militancy.


Radicalization and alienation have swept the younger generation. It has encouraged recruitment to militant ranks. You having tremendous expertise and experience as former DGP and state intelligence chief how do you view this phenomenon and what could be its after-effects?

Usually, radicalization and alienation have largely remained inter-connected. When alienation breeds it gives way to radicalization and vice-versa. Both encourage recruitment to militant ranks. Radicalization and alienation among youth in Kashmir is due to several factors. The ‘basic radicalization’ and alienation is created by Pakistan and separatists want to accelerate this radicalization by adopting the respective plans and programmes. But this factor has been there since 1990s and Pakistan wants this radicalization to spurt more and more so that they keep alive their ‘freedom movement’ narrative in Kashmir. But if we analyse the security scenario in Kashmir after 2014 and especially 2016, we saw a spurt in radicalization in youth owing its origin largely to the insensitive statements from political leaders from the mainland India and the loud-mouths of electronic media. Under such vociferous voices and political clout an average Kashmiri with fresh mind have developed a feeling that his future is not safe with the rest of India. As a reaction to such insensitive statements and media debates, the alienation and radicalization of Kashmiri youths has spiked. The ‘extra-radicalization’ and alienation is a revolt against simmering discontent against the insensitive statements and media debates from mainland India. When Kashmiris are viewed, presented and debated as anti-national, Pakistani, it is certain that the they will react as it is human psychology.


What are the tools to de-escalate the growing indignation against the rest of country in the form of radicalization and alienation?

Political leaders especially from the mainland India should work and speak to media in a way to carry the alienated youth of Kashmir with the rest of the country. They should make efforts to win back the radicalized minds and encourage them for achieving their goals. Second, electronic media must behave properly to help in the better integration of the alienated and marginalised sections and lands by weaning away from insensitive debates and violent content. Electronic media having higher TRPs also enjoy huge impacts on the viewers and the young minds are more vulnerable to graver impressions than elder generations. When a 16 or 17 year old Kashmiri youth is told that you are an anti-national and nation wants to know this, an impressions creeps in the fresh mind of youth that entire country is against him and there is no space for him. As a result, they react naturally, get radicalized and develop hatred against India.

Governments of India and Jammu and Kashmir have come up with rehabilitation and surrender policy earlier as steps to de-escalate militancy in the state. Why it remained a failure to a larger extent?

Surrender policies were adopted, modified and incentivised from time to time. Unfortunately, less response has been seen towards the policy.

But another aspect is that the policy should not be like that it will give an easy window to youth that joining militancy is the easiest way to get employment. So to balance the two aspects is very necessary. Still debate is going on how to improve the existing surrender policies including the new-age militancy which is characterized by young-educated people joining militant ranks and radicalization among youth. The present militancy is different from what it was a decade or two before.


J&K police have remained an important part of counter-insurgency in the state. Unfortunately, the families of police personnel have become soft target of militants recently. How are you viewing this new challenge?

Jammu and Kashmir Police is the most important force in integrating the state with the rest of India. A radicalized and alienated mind-set among the youth has felt that the police being the part of the same population are working against their interests and developed a perception that attacking the families of police personnel will help in weaning them from such official duties. As a result they became soft targets of militants and radicalized sections.

Pakistan on the other hand have forgotten the understanding that J&K police is playing an intelligence operational role and hence act as filter and funnel role in the counter-insurgency without which the other security establishments in the state can’t work. So, naturally, Pakistan will undertake such tasks to demoralize police personnel and attacking their families is the easiest and soft way out.


A proposal was propagated that Jammu and Kashmir police should be segregated from counter-insurgency and be made responsible for law and order and intelligence activities. How do you view this?

Jammu and Kashmir police is an indispensable part of the counter-insurgency. It is not possible to control militancy for the security organisations like Army, CRPF, BSF, etc. without the aid and advice of the local police. This proposal is not viable as it will not only be harmful to militancy deterrent measures, but also hurtful to interest of nation as well as local civilian population. The security personnel coming from mainland India engaged in counter-insurgency are alien to the state and there will be increased possibility of human rights violation. The need of the hour is that Jammu and Kashmir police should remain a basic constituent of the counter-militancy operations so that focus of fight against militancy is maintained. Police reforms as per SC guidelines should be undertaken and law and order and intelligence services should be separated and put under the same police department.

Any effort to separate Jammu and Kashmir police component from the fight against militancy will be counter-productive. The incumbent Director General Police Dilbagh Singh has the capacity and capability to coordinate with the other security agencies to deal with the prevailing situation in Kashmir and situation can be improved with Dilbagh in command and control of the Jammu & Kashmir police.

Stone pelting has remained a major challenge before security apparatus in the maintenance of the law and order in Kashmir. Army General labeling stone-pelters as militants is the most extreme view. During your tenure as DGP, there were also incidents of stone-pelting. How do you view this challenge?

We analyzed the stone-pelting phenomenon during my tenure as Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police. We found that there were organised funding mechanisms prevalent and succeeded in busting some models. We found that few youths planted by separatists were given responsibilities for a particular area and they were pelting stones first in one area and then disappear from that area. The ongoing pelting was carried forward by the civilians. These plotters were then moving to the adjoining area and repeated the same. The civilians who continued pelting stones out of anger can’t be called militants but the group that is involved in organised crime can be called militants.

Separatists are put under house arrests often and barred from offering Friday prayers and thereby, alleging that they are being prohibited from performing their religious rights. Do you agree?

There has been no such policy by any governments of the state that prohibits a person from performing religious duties. But due to the local conditions, some mechanisms are put in place so that the conditions will not get worsened. Generally, separatists are barred from offering Friday prayers at Jamia Masjid as it is often seen that post-prayers the conditions get worse and law and order situation becomes critical. As a precautionary measure, such temporary measures are taken for maintenance of peace.