The Indian Army stands tall with the reputation of being a beacon showing light to the people of Kashmir and the idea of Naya Kashmir. With the Indian Army becoming an integral part of the new story on which Kashmiri Awaam embarks, there is a rising expectation amongst the local masses for more participative engagement.

Where is the Ship right now & where is it heading? Using the Ship metaphor, I must say that the Ship of the Indian Army is sailing amid harsh operational environment and yet delivering time & again. With more than three decades of accomplishments, the Indian  Army has come a long way from being an omnipresent entity in Kashmir to the present one which is a much leaner force, yet effective & closer to the people of Kashmir. The Awaam of present times has grown up playing and living next door to the Army camps & establishments, sometimes in the hands of Indian Army making them feel the warmth that Army has offered them over the years. With this bond strengthening even further there comes an associated emotion of ‘Expectations from the Indian Army’. Indian Army with whatever possible means within its capabilities has ensured constructive participation in every possible sphere, be it Infrastructure development, Women & Youth empowerment, community development projects or education and has taken initiatives in a number of activities making people feel loved & more connected. Once, a farfetched dream of the Indian Army is about to be realised at this juncture

There are incidents, where the Indian Army has assisted local population but people have confused these actions to be the mandate of the Armed Forces whereas, it was an act of humanitarian assistance and concern. In 2015, Army establishment based at Gurez, erected four electric Poles which had got washed away due to the heavy rains thus resuming the power supply in one of the villages and lights were installed under Sadhbhavana in some of the other villages. The third such initiative was construction of Volleyball courts in various schools. All these initiatives were appreciated by the local people but with this came lots & lots of requests for execution of certain tasks which were purely beyond the purview of the Army. It was purely a case of ‘Rising expectation of Awaam from the Indian Army’. Even in the present, the Army is still working tirelessly on the same lines with full vigour executing various projects or works of similar nature. It is not wrong to have expectations, not at all, however, these expectations of our people and the civilian administration’s failure to deliver the same at a number of times, compels them to approach the Indian Army time & again, increasing their dependency on an organisation already committed to operational tasks yet eager and always ready to help, without having any vested interests and just working to reconcile the idea of Naya Kashmir.

These were some of incidents which reflect the changing nature of aspirations borne by Awaam. The valley is witness to such incidents growing manifolds in the present scenario. As we further embark on the journey of assisting civil administration, it becomes very tough for an ordinary citizen to differentiate between tasks executed by the Indian Army as part of Sadhbhavana & those of civil administration, thus cropping up the issue of “Alienation of Awaam” in which some portion of society, although very less feels that the Army’s assistance is not being extended to them. The said alienation of local masses somehow undermines the efforts of the Indian Army working tirelessly for a promising & secure Kashmir. Indian army being finest in the world that not only promises but delivers, it becomes imperative for the army to start looking for ways & means to meet the aspirations of Awaam. While there is a simmering discontent amongst the local population against the government for its way of functioning & growing aspirations of Awaam, there is a need of a balanced approach that ensures that people do not wean off their faith in the civil agencies & simultaneously the Army is not burdened with the additional tasks apart from the ones it executes as part of humanitarian initiatives under Sadhbhavna.

The answer lies in civil military cooperation where the Army works in synergy with civil administration & the latter executes the laid down tasks and projects within the stipulated time frame thus balancing the aspirations of the people and freeing the Indian Army from the dilemma whether to assist the local populace or leave it to the government. As executing the tasks falling under the purview of the civil administration will be deemed as interfering in their working space and will lead to either conflicting interests or the Awaam losing faith in the government initiatives due to its inability to deliver in time. In addition to this, projects which resonate positive messages to the Awaam can be executed in synergy with civil administration & the Armed Forces aiming at higher dividends benefiting Awaam. Formulation of an apex body at Jammu & Kashmir (Union Territory level) which will take inputs from both civil administration & Indian Army will be a welcome step. The priority areas have to be identified by this body and efforts should be aligned accordingly without affecting the operational capability of the Indian Army by burdening it.

An intense debate must start as to, how to put this to work. We should clearly focus on devising means for regaining the confidence of Awaam in the civil machinery, which is a continuous process & probably will take time. While this is in progress, I am sure Indian Army will remain at the forefront & will continuously assist civil administration whenever & wherever required, without losing the sight of operational tasks at hand.       

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