Dealing with the Kashmir issue

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Hiranmay Karlekar
The need of the hour is for a comprehensive strategy and tactic to deal with the fundamentalist challenge and Pakistan’s continuing perfidy in the valley
To no knowledgeable person’s surprise, the all-party delegation to Srinagar achieved nothing, except perhaps some widening of mental horizons known only to the beneficiaries. Not just that, the huge snub administered by the separatist leaders to those in the delegation who wanted to talk to them, once again underlined what only those with blinkered political visions fail to see – that they do not want an end to the violent agitation in Kashmir except on their terms, which is that they want it to be either independent or a part of Pakistan.
Further, none of the secessionists can now be blamed for believing that the dispatch of the all-party delegation indicates the Central and Jammu & Kashmir Governments’ wavering resolve to deal firmly with the unrest. The corollary is the conviction that all that is needed is for the agitation to continue and, sooner than later, the Centre will say the country has had enough and, to the applause of sections of the civil society and human rights organisations, to say nothing of Islamabad’s foreign patrons, give Kashmir Azadi, which will mean its eventual annexation by Pakistan.
It is this belief that has to be demolished if the separatists and those bullied into toing their line, are to be brought to talks for a reasonable solution within the framework of the Indian Constitution. The BJP government in Delhi must realise that the responsibility of dealing with Kashmir, including the policy adopted toward its coalition government with the PDP in Jammu & Kashmir, is its and its alone. The blame or praise for whatever happens in Kashmir will attach to it and nobody else. Also, the opposition parties are in no position to influence the views of the secessionists which are determined not even by the latter themselves but Pakistan, which, it is more than clear, will not accept any outcome to any negotiated settlement that does not put Kashmir on its lap. Of, course, what the opposition parties say matters and can provide useful inputs. The Union Government should keep an open mind and give full consideration to their views on such a vital issue as Kashmir. At the end of it all, however, it has to make up its mind.
It must remember two other things here. First, except perhaps in J&K itself, Kashmir has never been an important issue in Lok Sabha or State Assembly elections in any other part of India; nor will it be one unless the latter is granted secession. If that happens, this or any other government in New Delhi which does it will be wiped out in the polls. Besides, given the surcharged communal situation in many parts, such a development will rouse intense passions throughout the country and spark violence on a scale that may tear its social fabric apart.
No doubt the present BJP Government at the Centre and the principal mainstream political parties firmly hold that Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India and would not brook any thought of letting it go. Holding a view firmly is, however, one thing; devising a strategy and tactics to ensure that it prevails is entirely different. Unfortunately, this is precisely what we have failed to do. We have even failed to anticipate the consequences of specific actions. Otherwise, we would not have sanctioned the use of pellets. Water cannons are a much better option.
What is needed is a full-fledged counter-insurgency programme encompassing a wide range of activities including the blocking of the money trail to the secessionists, preventing them from freely conducting anti-India activities, devising a mechanism to promote successfully a narrative that counters their secessionist propaganda; arresting ground-level leaders who mobilise the stone-pelting crowds, and, finally, engaging in the kind of clandestine operations without which no insurgent/terrorist violence can be
stamped out.
And, having worked such a strategy and accompanying tactics out in detail, we must not abandon it mid-stream and plump for a mirage on the horizon.

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