What has been disconcerting about the recent Kashmir unrest is the fact that unprecedented street protests, led entirely by young Kashmiris have been triggered when local Hizbul poster boy, Burhan Wani, with declared Lashkar links was eliminated by the J&K police. That Pakistan and its sinister spy agency, the ISI, has been fanning the flames in the Valley, for decades, is hardly news but India needs to introspect and get its act together which can only commence by a frank analysis of the root causes of this continuing unrest.
It is an irrefutable truism that the nation’s security and well-being cannot be held to ransom to partisan, petty party politics. A time comes in the life of a nation when unity in thought and action by its leaders and people is sine qua non. Thus, the Rajya Sabha debate on 10 August 2016 on the J&K situation was indeed encouraging, conveying that our politicians across party lines for once, displayed a rare unity of purpose.
Need for Preliminary Groundwork
Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s speech was a fine amalgam of maturity and firm intent of the Indian government. The government’s acceptance of the Opposition’s demand to convene an all-party meeting on 12 August to discuss the J&K conundrum was indeed pragmatic and a timely step. Presumably the Centre’s decision not to send an all-party delegation to the Valley for the time being rests on the fact that some preliminary groundwork should be first undertaken. Nevertheless, it must not be delayed overly.
Now India has to seriously look inwards to discern why in the last 70 years, we not been able to integrate the Kashmiris with their parent nation emotionally.
No Need for Plebiscite
Firstly, owing to their Sufi and Kashmiriyat moorings, the people of Kashmir should normally be at ease with the secular and inclusive ideals of India rather than with the fundamentalist and extremist orientation of a terrorist state like Pakistan.
Secondly, are our Kashmiris, thanks to the incompetence of our information agencies, aware of the atrocities being committed on their fellow Kashmiris in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) regions by their Pakistani colonisers? Are they not aware of the gradual elimination of Shias in the GB region? Are our Kashmiri brethren not aware of the massive demographic changes in the PoK and GB regions due to the re-settling of the Sunni Pakistanis from the plains in the mountainous tracts of PoK and GB?
India, on the other hand, owing to its scrupulous adherence to Article 370 of the Constitution, has not allowed even one individual from the rest of the country to settle in J&K.
Thus, the call for a so-called plebiscite in J&K is meaningless. Additionally, the fine print of the 1948 UN Resolution for J&K clearly stipulates that all Pakistani forces have to vacate the areas of erstwhile J&K state before any movement for a referendum can take place. The prime minister too referred to PoK and the GB regions as being part of J&K and India must consistently maintain this stand.
Both the Centre and the state government now have an uphill task: to douse the flames and endeavour to bring a semblance of peace and normalcy to the restive Valley. The immediate goal should be to exhort the youth to shun violence before any political negotiations with stake holders can commence. During this highly emotive impasse some confidence building measures such as generous educational/economic/employment opportunities should be offered to youngsters.
Don’t Negotiate with the Separatist Leaders
India must not make the mistake, once again, of negotiating with separatist leaders. The latter, being on the payrolls of the Pakistanis for decades, are fraught with a risk to their lives in case any separatist leader talks of peace. Thus, no separatist leader is prepared to change tack and get themselves killed by Pakistani agents.
Pak Army Should be Exposed
That any solution being thought of has to be within the overall ambit of the Indian Constitution and India’s political integrity brooks no elaboration. Also, the solution for J&K must not cause an adverse ripple effect on other states of the Indian Union. However, let us also now look at our forgotten brethren in the PoK and GB regions, for on 27 Oct 1947, the entire erstwhile princely state of J&K had acceded to the Indian Union. Their pitiable condition can be attributed to the grave atrocities being committed on them. Also, the genocide inflicted on the hapless Baluch population by the Pakistan Army should be amply highlighted in front of the whole world.
Don’t Tamper with Article 370
India has encountered similar problems in the past and has been able to overcome them and we will certainly this time time as well. Thus, no overreactions are called for in the Valley and India must exercise strategic patience. If Article 370 of our hallowed Constitution is the legal glue which binds J&K to India, lets not tamper with it.
Meanwhile, India needs to raise the costs, for a terror-exporting Pakistan. The latter will never forsake its myopic anti-India policies till it is made to pay a heavy price for its myriad machinations and is ostracised internationally.
(The author was India’s first chief of Defence Intelligence Agency and has served in J&K. He can be reached at @kamaldavar)
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