Herald View: Time to return to the drawing board in Kashmir

Even policy framers in New Delhi have started viewing Kashmir through the prism of the RSS in which Kashmiri Muslims are seen only as anti-nationals who ought to be taught a lesson

NH Web Desk

What is happening on the Indo-Pak border or the various statements being issued on either side of the border increasingly make less sense. The other day an Indian Army spokesperson announced that DGMOs of India and Pakistan had spoken to each other on the hotline and had agreed to maintain the ceasefire. Barely 24 hours later, heavy firirng was reported from border areas where civilians were said to have been targeted by Pakistan Rangers.

This curiously was followed by the Home Ministry announcing that its boss Rajnath Singh would visit the Kashmir Valley with an olive branch to wean away misguided youth from the path of militancy. Barely a day later, when a stone pelter was crushed under a CRPF vehicle, even the internal ceasefire went for a toss. Amidst reports of renewed hostility on the LoC, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitaharaman reiterated the ‘eye for an eye policy’ vis-a-vis Pakistan, just a day after a Pakistan Army spokesman said that Pakistan did not want a war but its desire for peace should not be misconstrued as weakness.

It is confusion worst confounded. No one knows what is on inside Kashmir. Nor is there any clarity regarding Indo-Pak relations; that Kashmir is in a mess has been known for some time now.

Young boys are taking to arms and dying in encounters. There is no let-up in the cycle of violence that ebbs for a while and erupts again with greater ferocity. The Modi government’s much vaunted muscular policy appears to have further alienated Kashmiri youth from India.

Even policy framers in New Delhi have started viewing Kashmir through the prism of the RSS in which Kashmiri Muslims are seen only as anti-nationals who ought to be taught a lesson. The simmering problem of militancy can scarcely be resolved through the RSS world view, which is really a one track tunnelview of the enemy being taught a lesson. Sometimes the enemy turns out to be smarter.

That is precisely what is happening inside Kashmir, where the enemy is not the Kashmiri but the Pakistan Army which, helped by the Modi government’s policies in Kashmir, is luring ever-growing number of youth to fight Indian security forces in the Valley. This is what Pakistan has always wanted and India appears to have walked into the trap. The government appears clueless about how to deal with Pakistan. PM Narendra Modi has been blowing hot and cold on Islamabad. He had invited the then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to be a guest at his swearing-in ceremony hoping to make peace with Pakistan.

It was sheer naivete as no civilian leader in Pakistan has been allowed the authority by the military to decide on Pakistan’s relationship with India. It is Pakistan’s military establishment that calls the shots. Soon after Sharif’s visit, incidence of infiltration into Kashmir went up. Modi responded with ‘surgical strikes’ on terror camps inside Pak territory.

Sometimes the enemy turns out to be smarter. That is precisely what is happening inside Kashmir, where the enemy is not the Kashmiri but the Pakistan Army which, helped by the Modi government’s policies in Kashmir, is luring ever-growing number of youth to fight Indian security forces in the Valley

So, we are essentially back to square one, both inside Kashmir and in our dealings with Pakistan. It is a message that Pakistan has been conveying to us for decades and it is loud and clear: India needs to deal with its western neighbour to fix Kashmir. It is the ground reality and it can be ignored only at a very heavy cost. The much-hyped Doval doctrine which advocated a tough approach to both Pakistan and Kashmir has led us nowhere.

It is, therefore, time for us to go back to Pakistan to fix the mess both inside Kashmir and on the border. Policy matters cannot be decided on the whims and fancies of organisations like the RSS. It will be in the best interest of India if our ruling establishment moves away from the narrow path it has strayed into and makes a fresh and pragmatic beginning inside Kashmir as well as with Pakistan.

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