Mahbooba’s promise and Doval’s doctrine

Views from Srinagar

Dr. Javid Iqbal

MAHBOOBA Mufti promises setting in efforts directed to ‘K’ resolution, were peace to reign in vale of Kashmir. She made the promise while addressing youth convention of her party—PDP in Srinagar last week, precisely on Tuesday, March, the 7th. Her promises virtually boils down to—give me peace, I shall work for ‘K’ resolution. Though the event, the promise as well were widely publicised, it is easier said than done. In a hyperbolic statement, she went to the extent of declaring that—were she to fail in delivering the promise, the masses have the option of voting her out in the election, as and when scheduled. It is a tall promise, with chances of any fruitful delivery very low, almost non-existent. Given Doval’s doctrine, Delhi would be averse to any hopes Mahbooba might entertain.
There is more than one reason to make Mahbooba’s promise a non-starter. Mahbooba is taken to be a lightweight politician. Even in her own party, whatever its estimated strength; she hardly has a total hold. The fissures in the party were apparent, as Mahbooba made a show of resisting the lure of power after her father’s death. Delhi worked on PDP cadres to an extent, where it became known that alternatives were available. Mahbooba sensed it, she had no option but to take power before others would grab it. However the chinks in her armour remained cons counted upon. Thenceforth, she was on a weak wicket with shrinking options. It continues. Her room for political manoeuvre and tailoring a design of her own is limited, almost non-existent. Still, if she entertains any hopes of pushing Delhi on re-strategizing ‘K’ policy, there are apparent impediments.
One, Modi is no Vajpayee, so there are no chances of peace bells tolling. Two, Doval doctrine rules out overtures a la Vajpayee, though these did not extend to meeting even half way the expectations of dominant sentiment of overwhelming majority of JK populace. Three, periodical peace overtures of Delhi from Nehru era to Gujral doctrine were meant to sell the Delhi solution to ‘K’ issue. The solution revolves around granting legal sanctity to status quo. The Doval doctrine with its defensive-offensive posturing is moving much beyond that, yet again for varied reasons.
Delhi feels international political and diplomatic environment compels a change in posture. It translates to moving away from efforts to work for providing legal sanctity to status quo. Instead, adopting a posture of forceful claim to Pak administered Kashmir (PaK) and Gilgit-Baltistan is believed to fit in with Doval’s defensive-offensive doctrine. The doctrine is meant to go on an offensive in order to put the adversary on the defensive. Delhi feels sufficiently emboldened given the US covert support. It could be called covert plus, overt minus, in order to maintain strategic balance. The balance serves US interests, despite the strategic partnership with New Delhi—Indo-US Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA). There are other factors in the equation, which count in the ultimate analysis.
Notwithstanding LEMOA, USA wants to retain Pakistan in its sphere of influence to an extent for varied reasons. One—the precarious, unresolved Afghan imbroglio, Pakistan’s strategic geopolitical location is the key that opens many locks. Two—USA does not want Pakistan to get totally into Chinese embrace. Three, Pakistan army is believed to be a strategic asset to stabilize highly sensitive Pak-Afghan corridor and beyond, if needed in a crisis. Pak army has an added value, given the fact that USA’s heavy investment has not made Afghan army a disciplined force, USA could bank upon. Hence, to pull out of Afghanistan, despite President Trump’s preferred isolation could hardly be the US option. Emergence of IS (Daesh) in Afghanistan by wooing Taliban cadres is an additional factor. Stay put in Afghanistan translates to working with Pakistan. Gen Votel, leading the US Central command has testified to this effect in US senate’s armed forces committee.
Gen Votel has been overemphatic in suggesting Indo-Pak engagement, so that Pakistan could move forces to western border with Afghanistan, instead of remaining tied with guarding eastern border with India. USA remaining engaged with both India and Pakistan has always been taken to be a good omen for ‘K’ resolution. In the past, it was a common belief that it could translate to USA working on melting India’s hard stance on ‘K’ dispute. Such an input seems to be ruled out, given the Doval doctrine. The doctrine does not leave any room for accommodating any view, which could even remotely impact India’s sovereignty. Kashmir is taken to be central to how sovereignty is viewed. While US may like India and Pakistan to stay engaged, it could hardly translate to moving Delhi on Kashmir.
Doval doctrine has been adopted in Toto. The doctrine thrust was evident in Narendra Modi’s shut-up call, as Mufti Mohammad Sayeed suggested reaching out to Pakistan in a public meeting in Srinagar, a month or two before he expired. Mahbooba in comparison is much more manageable for Delhi; hence her promises holding any hope of delivery could be merely a delusion.
As long as Delhi remains in the net of Doval doctrine, apart from its external dimension, internally it would remain focussed on breaking ‘K’ resistance by the professed check on Madrasas, Masjids, and working on dividing resistance forces. In such a scenario, Mahbooba’s promise holds no water.

[Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]. The author is doctor in medicine, a social activist, and a senior columnist]

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