Kashmir calls for course correction

Views from Srinagar

Ashok Bhan

KASHMIR is on burn for more than 27years. Tens of thousands of people, both civilians and soldiers lost their lives and population of Kashmiri Pandits exiled. This is the time for a holistic political process to start afresh, drawing from past efforts and adopting best practices from around the world on resolving such unrest. New Delhi needs to approach the issues keeping in sight the fact that ‘India’s strategic interests are intertwined with the goodwill of the ‘Valley’s ordinary People including Kashmiri Pandits’ in particular and JK State in general and not the land alone. Before the new age violent upsurge yet again gets out of hand, New Delhi needs to deal with the issues in hand with a grand vision. I spend quite some time in the Valley recently and interacted with large sections of civil society and also the leaders who for some political reasons have chosen so far remained away from the mainstream polity. A good section of local youth is reportedly joining the militant ranks and the militant attacks on army and other security forces have increased even after the snow has not melted as yet. It is a very serious dimension/phenomenon that deserves urgent attention of the political leadership and the civil society.
The mainstream leaders including Dr.Farooq Abdullah has expressed deep anguish on the current situation and said that Modi Government must talk to separatist leaders and the stake holders. The central Congress leadership through Mr.P Chidambaram has sensitized the nation that if the Union of India does not act now and engage with new age youth and Kashmir agitating leadership in a meaningful dialogue, Kashmir is slipping away.
There is a worrying turn of events in JK State. The changing character of the insurgency/militancy is a serious warning signal that “an urgent Course Correction” at all the levels of Governance, and a policy shift is urgent need to prevent the escalation and further radicalization. One of the causes of the new age turbulence is being attributed to the betrayal of the democratic expectations. The aspirations and expectations were roused by the election campaign and frequent visits and speeches of PM Modi. Formation of PDP-BJP coalition further fuelled the hopes that through a legitimate political process the aspirations would be addressed and there will be socio-economic empowerment that takes care of youth and the other sections.
The current spurt of upsurge is against the betrayal of promises,which took the toll of more than 100 lives, injuring thousands and pallet blinding of several by excessive use of force. These sacrifices have yet thrown up opportunity for the political leadership to strengthen the political process and engage with all the stake holders for finding a meaningful answer to the people’s aspirations.
The debate in Parliament about Kashmir situation and all party meet that came about after a month back was a late response. The Track-2 initiative through Yashwant Sinha after having meetings with separatist leadership has expressed the need for urgent attention of PM & HM. The present turmoil has brought Pakistan once again at the central stage to internationalize the internal strife of Kashmir. Use of pellets for crowd dispersal has brought international players and Human Rights activists in play to demonize and condemn the security
Paying attention to Kashmir affairs by PM Modi himself and his team psrticularly Rajnath Singh the HM, who is seen by Kashmiris as a sober face of Indian democracy, will be most crucial and beneficial. Political dialogue with all the stake holders and their political empowerment other than a small political class of vested interest in JK becomes important. The exiled Kashmiri Pandits and the youth whose participation in the elections of 2014 made a huge difference are the most important component of the political process. The educated youth going towards militancy in large numbers is a serious cause of concern.
Large scale avenues of employment for the needy youth may have to be created. Kashmiris are longing for peace, economic and political empowerment”. Sub Ka Sath Sub Ka Vikas has to be the real mantra for large scale development and full economic bloom.
The relations with Pakistan have been defined by the partition of British India in 1947, the Kashmir conundrum and the military conflicts fought between the two countries. The relations have always been plagued by conflicts, hostilities and suspicion, despite the two south Asian Countries share the common linguistic, cultural, geographical and economic linkages.
Prime Minister Modi’s reach to Islamabad was even seen progressive as that would domestically help him to move his party, BJP, from Right to the Centre, so that his credentials are internationally recognized as a moderate leader of India. Modi’s friendly relations with US will always be helpful in moving ahead with the structured dialogue with Pakistan.The caveat is terror and talks can not go together.
US is always concerned about the regional security in South Asia. US experts feel that India-Pakistan tensions will complicate and spoil US interest in the region. In India, the foreign policy expert including myself, wish to alert Prime Minister Modi about the implications of China-Pakistan close relations as Beijing is trying to remake geography by launching huge infrastructure bridges on the borders. Therefore, engagement at a comprehensive level with Pakistan and try for resolution of issues becomes diplomatically important despite its belligerence.
The BJP-RSS combine that forms political support base for PM Modi and his team has to change its political narrative from the right wing rhetoric to a tolerant and moderate political discourse, backing up the Prime Minister’s all out political and diplomatic efforts so that he is recognized as a moderate Prime Minister. The PM Modi can only then focus the public mind on the prospects of resolving the big ticket issues of the country.

—Courtesy: Greater Kashmir
[Ashok Bhan, an expert in International Law, is a Senior Advocate and Chairman Kashmir Policy and Strategy Group]

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