Ordinary Kashmiris, prisoners in their own houses, are sandwiched between the terrorists, separatists and security forces.
The decision to send an all-party delegation to Kashmir to assess the ground situation is a welcome step by the government, even if it came two months after the protests began in the Valley. It is a step in the right direction which will help in arriving at a political solution to the impasse. The 27-member delegation should meaningfully address the unrest that has already taken 73 lives and will build the road to sustainable peace in the Valley.
If we see the timeline of the Kashmir problem since July 8, when militant commander Burhan Wani was killed by the security forces, we will find serious inconsistencies and contradictions in the government’s response in handling of the protests in the state. There is a palpable sense of policy confusion.
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of political outreach and dialogue with the protesters, Union home minister Rajnath Singh invited non-Kashmiri Muslim leaders to consult with them on the path to be taken in Kashmir, thus, trying to project a community-based solution to the problem.
The Union finance minister, on the other hand, spoke in an altogether different voice. There is an obvious ambivalence in the utterances of the Central leadership and between the Central and the state leadership in Srinagar about the resolution of the problem.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Photo: Reuters)
A coherent framework is missing in the process. Confusing signals are making it difficult to bring about sustainable peace in the Valley. Secondly, the words of the government are not yielding any result because they are not backed by genuine action on the ground.
So far as strategy is concerned, the Modi government is banking on the 2002 Vajpayee formula of “Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat”. But the problem is deep-rooted this time around. So, out of the box thinking is required which is nowhere to be seen either in New Delhi or Srinagar at present. There is much that the Modi government and the Mehbooba Mufti government can do in Kashmir. Hoping that normalcy will return to the Valley after the youth get exhausted and that the protests will lose momentum is not a strategy but symptomatic of lack of ideas and political will.
So what is the solution? The path to sustainable peace in Kashmir lies in a separate but integrated plan of action for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the separatists and for Pakistan and the action plan must be followed by courage for serious action on the ground.
When we are talking about dialogue, we will have to have a dialogue in a democratic way. The contours of dialogue must be defined. We should have dialogue with an open heart but not without exercising our minds; otherwise the consequence will be similar to that achieved by the home minister during his last visit to Srinagar. An open invitation for talks was sent on Twitter when there was no internet in the Valley. He himself was not clear about the parameters of the talks. Violence continued unabated even during the visit of the home minister.
The people of Jammu and Kashmir are looking for a permanent and lasting solution. Ordinary Kashmiris, prisoners in their own houses, are sandwiched between the terrorists, separatists and security forces. They are facing the worst economic crisis ever.
But what needs to be understood is that the depth and intensity of alienation among the youth of Kashmir is real and enduring. The challenge is to engage the youth in the Valley through confidence-building measures. Their psychological integration with the Union of India is the lasting solution to the problem. And for that, we need to first understand what their aspirations are.
The trust deficit between New Delhi and Srinagar should be made so strong that it is not cracked by the centrifugal forces. We have to abandon preconceived notions and prejudice, and have to collectively overcome the “we versus them” syndrome in the Valley.
During the UPA government, a series of round table discussions were held as confidence-building measures among the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions. Revival of such strategies would help to strike a psychological cord with the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
The formula for political solution should be accompanied by measures for economic development of the state for real time effectiveness of such a solution. The government ought to keep in mind that the youth of Kashmir are unlikely to respond to economic packages until a political solution is reached.
Like in any other state, the people of Jammu and Kashmir are sensitive to the incidents and utterances in other parts of the country. So the domestic policy of the Central government should be in sync with its Jammu and Kashmir policy. There is every probability that a conciliatory approach towards the Valley will be negated by a polarisation strategy in other states. Rather, it will deepen the crisis.
Pakistan’s meddling in the internal affairs of India, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, is an open secret. By appointing parliamentarians as special envoys “for fighting the Kashmir cause in different parts of the world”, Pakistan has reignited the agenda of portraying Kashmir as an international issue and to impress upon the United Nations, through its well-wishers, for its intervention in Jammu and Kashmir. But Pakistan should remember that the UN Resolution of 1948 has specifically stated that Pakistan should withdraw its troops from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Therefore, by refusing to withdraw its troops from PoK, Pakistan has violated the UN resolution.
Then how to deal with Pakistan? The Pakistan policy of the Modi government is marred by confusion and inconsistencies. The comprehensive dialogue process now appears to be in dead water. Till now, the Modi government is yet to effectively utilise back channel diplomacy for talks.
This mechanism was extensively used during the tenure of Manmohan Singh and proved to be effectual. The UPA government, throughout its tenure, sustained the peace process either by talking to the Kashmiris or to Pakistan. The situation in Kashmir today is a reminder that it is in India’s interest to do so. The present government will have to evolve a consistent policy to deal with Pakistan. An integrated approach to address the political and economic realities of the state only will yield the desired result.
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