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Resolving the Kashmir tangle

  By Vijay Darda | 18-07-2016

There are strong political reasons both at the bilateral level and internationally that the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan has remained unresolved for almost seven decades. Beginning 1948 when it first harboured the ambition of capturing Srinagar, Pakistan has repeatedly made unsuccessful attempts to resolve the issue militarily. After its attempts in 1965 and 1971 failed, it resorted to a strategy of bleeding India by a thousand cuts and has been since then waging a low intensity war. In an act of military adventurism the then Pakistani Gen Pervez Musharraf waged the Kargil war in 1999. That too failed. Pakistan’s Kashmir obsession and its strategy to inflict as much pain as possible on India is well-documented.

Whatever be their other differences, this is one agenda on which both the military and civil dispensations in Pakistan are on the same page. Above all, it is because of the international support both military and political that Pakistan has been getting over these decades that it is able to pursue this course of action. The ‘cooperation’ extended by China and the United States of America is responsible for all the military might of the Pakistani army and it is well known that on its own it would neither have been able to sustain this ‘war’ nor become a nuclear armed nation.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that India also has become adept at handling the Kashmir situation internationally. The problem area is the domestic dimension of this sustained crisis and here the failure of successive governments is writ large. If we accept that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India, then it follows axiomatically that like every other state of the union the responsibility for the law and order and peace in that state is also ours. Blaming someone else, in this case Pakistan, is simply not an option.

In this context it has to be appreciated that tackling violent militancy and dealing with civilian disaffection are two different aspects even though these may be congenitally linked. The same norms and the same approach will not work. With boots on the ground, the scale of militancy has been held in check, but there has been not much corresponding success in managing the civilian dimension of the problem. Last week’s developments in the Valley have driven home this reality in a tragic and painful way. After one Hizbul commander Burhan Wani was killed in a security operation, street protests saw violent clashes between civilians and the security forces leading to 39 deaths and more than 1500 injured. This is an unacceptable situation from any standpoint. Such use of force is bound to multiply the civilian disaffection, and with it the local support for militancy. Whatever else may be the fallout of this civilian anger, it certainly is no way to fight militancy.

The extraordinary use of force against the protesters during the regime of a coalition government that is headed by chief minister Mehbooba Mufti is also baffling. As a leader in opposition, she was sympathetic to all victims of state violence and would visit their homes to share the grief. Even the other partner the BJP was critical of the way the Congress-led or supported state governments acted in such situations. The same holds true for the Modi government. Prime minister Modi owes to the nation to live up to his promise of reining in Pakistan. Unlike various other promises that may be put on hold or forgotten, this is something that is associated with the integrity and safety of the nation and does not brook any compromises.

There is no disputing the fact that an ultimate solution would be found only through dialogue. Pakistan has its own way of conducting this dialogue, and would like to use violence as a means for extracting its ransom. This can be handled by the Indian diplomatic and security establishment effectively. But the larger need is to engage the people of Jammu and Kashmir politically to end their civilian grievances. The UPA government had set-up a team of three interlocutors- journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, academician Radha Kumar and former Information Commissioner M M Ansari.

For the BJP, additionally there is the question of Article 370 of the Constitution that gives a special status to J&K. As a party in opposition, and in fact even before its current avatar came into existence and going back to the days of Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh it has held a particular view on the Kashmir issue. It has also blamed India’s first prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru for creating the Kashmir problem in the first place. The more relevant point now is that as the party of governance both at the centre and the state, it now has the responsibility of finding the solutions to the problems. It has to show that it has the political sagacity and ability to move beyond the rhetoric and put in place a solution that works for the people and brings in peace and prosperity. It has to engage the stakeholders in J&K politically, and come out with a negotiated political solutions. Gun shots either by the militants or security forces will only lead to bloodshed, and nothing else will come out of these bouts of violence and counter-violence.

Before I conclude…

The Supreme Court’s decision in the Arunachal Pradesh case that annulled all the actions of the governor that led to the imposition of the President’s rule in that border state is laudable from every standpoint. For the first time a dismissed state government has been brought back to life. The decision has reinforced the supremacy of the Constitution and sent a warning to governors that if they do illegal things to please the party that has appointed them, then the courts would come back at them. This is yet another sign of a vibrant democracy.


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Resolving the Kashmir tangle


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