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Is it Safe to Work in Kashmir?

Using a Risk-Based Methodology to Keep Employees and Assets Safe and Secure.

Security Events in Kashmir, India.
Security Events in Kashmir, India.

It begins understanding RISK! Traveling to, or working within any foreign country is NEVER without risk. That ideal state of “zero risk” just doesn’t exist, whether you are talking about Kashmir, Canada or even the US.

A client asked us this question, as they considered taking on a large project in Indian Kashmir - part of exploring a business opportunity for their first entry to this growing market.

Obviously the client’s business development team clearly saw opportunity…the upside potential, which a market entry into India could bring. However, several executives and even employees were understandably “concerned,” given the history of violence and military activity along the border with Pakistan.

When you look at some “risk maps” provided by leading security consultancy companies, many designate this section of India as “HIGH” for security risks. Does that sound safe? Perhaps that’s why another US multinational that was scheduled to work on this same project issued instructions that, “under no circumstances would any of their US employees travel to Kashmir.”

But Oversight took a different approach while providing security advice for this client. It begins understanding RISK! Traveling to, or working within any foreign country is NEVER without risk. That ideal state of “zero risk” just doesn’t exist, whether you are talking about Kashmir, Canada or even the US. There are no “guarantees” for complete and perfect 100% safety and security. So, the question about safety and security really becomes one of just how much “risk” is acceptable to any given organization, and to their workforce.

Let’s begin with agreement on the definition of key terms – that “keeping your people safe and secure” = “keeping security risks at acceptable levels.” But, before we could accurately estimate security risks, we first had to know something about the security situation in the Kashmir area. We started our situational awareness efforts well in advance of our client’s planned operations. We gathered relevant information, organizing it in ways which would help us understand the actors and risks, including using digital maps to geo-reference key security events.

It’s virtually impossible to assess risks without performing situational awareness. And, while you can utilize services that “sell” security data, unfortunately you just won’t get enough security information in any given corner of the globe. Our efforts produced a security picture with about 20x more information about Kashmir than all competitors.

We then augmented our information by having discussions with security professionals during a pre-operational site survey. We met with several security guard providers in India, and also with the Regional Security Officer at our Embassy in Delhi. This additional information filled gaps, and also confirmed what our own data indicated – that the security risks could be adequately managed in order to keep risks at acceptable levels. In other words, the client’s work COULD be undertaken, while keeping their people and assets “safe and secure.”

We assessed some (14) different categories of security risks at all of the locations where the client would have people during the life of the project, including in-transit locations and lodging. This provided the client’s management team with a much better idea about WHERE they had the highest risks, and WHO and WHAT was causing the risks to be elevated.

Clearly the high level of protest activity by separatists in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir was problematic, especially since employees would be lodged there, and need to travel daily in and around the city. But, the unknown community dynamic at the rural work area was assessed to be more likely to cause low level protests, if not properly managed. Of course, with a number of militant groups operating in the area, that was also a concern. Yet, historically those militants almost exclusive focused their anger and actions (attacks) against state security forces, the police and army.

Based upon our assessment, we contracted local security forces to provide secure transportation for crews, and emergency evacuation services if or when required. We made lodging plans based heavily upon the internal security procedures at the hotel, and the hotel’s location in the most secure area of Srinagar. The client’s in-country partners provided community relations teams and contracted state security forces to mitigate risks emerging from those communities in the work area.

Our entire security management plan was driven by knowledge of the client’s risk levels. This insured that security resources were allocated to the right locations, against the right risks, and in the most cost-efficient manner. And, this plan was briefed in detail to employees that would work in India, before the start of actual operations. That action of briefing employees is essential, and the objective is NOT to convince them about how they should feel about working in Kashmir. Rather, it’s a commitment by management and part of a Duty of Care responsibility to show in a transparent way that the organization “understands the security risks”, and “has a solid plan to proactively manage those same risks,” every day.

The result of the client’s efforts was a very successful business entry into this important new market, while also ensuring that employees were “safe and secure,” even during a period of higher than normal protest activity in Kashmir, India.

We encourage all organizations to stay proactive, use tools and best practices to KNOW and monitor your security risks.

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