How long more must Kashmir bleed before the nation as a whole can build a consensus on an effective approach to eliminate the daily threat of terrorist attacks on soldiers and civilians alike? The seemingly unending series of attacks on the army camps and posts in the Valley has taken a heavy toll of human life and have certainly impaired the morale of the country for it to be able to neutralise the ISI-run terror networks in Kashmir. Military casualties have undoubtedly increased in recent months.
With an election due in Pakistan in the next couple of months, the Rawalpindi GHQ would like to prop up the political proxies of the terror outfits floated at its behest to cut into the votes of the established political parties, especially Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League. The former prime minister was ousted in a judicial coup masterminded by the army and continues to be at odds with the ruling military establishment. A marked step-in the terrorist action in Kashmir in the recent days is supposed to bolster the stock of the newly-formed political wings of Hafiz Saeed’s Lashkar-e-Taiba and other such Islamist groups allied with the ISI. However, that cannot be the reason for India to put up with the most audacious attacks on supposedly fully secure army targets.
The attack by the J-e-M’s terrorists on Saturday at the Sunjuwan military station-cum-residential camp in Jammu has resulted in the death of four army personnel. A civilian living in the residential quarters of the military personnel too was killed. The point is simple. The so-called tough stance against Pakistan, of no-talks with Islamabad, no-talks with the separatists under the rubric of the Hurriyat, seems to have yielded no let-up in the terrorist violence. Admittedly, initially the increased terrorist acts could be explained as a reflection of the renewed pressure exerted by the security forces following the advent of the Modi Government. But this has now gone on for more than three years and yet the new policy does not seem to have ended the killing spree. The ISI seems to be able to strike at will deep inside the Valley at targets and time of its choosing. Given that the security forces are operating in Kashmir with one hand tied at their back due to the constraints imposed by the democratic system, and also due to the overzealousness of the self-appointed human rights activists, they cannot be blamed for the continuing mayhem. Indeed, they have reason to feel aggrieved at the relatively considerable casualties taken by them, but are restrained by the civilian authority to hold fire in the face of extreme provocations.
Therefore, it is for the political executive to devise a game-plan which, while lessening the constant threat from the terrorists, can restore a modicum of peace in the Valley. The hoped-for peace dividend from the highly unlikely alliance between Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP and the BJP seems not to have worked in favour of either coalition partner and it has certainly not checked a bee-wit the terrorist mayhem. Caught in the cul-de-sac of neither-peace-nor-war, Kashmir seems to be living from one terror attack to another. But for how long? It is time the prime minister found time to re-visit the Kashmir policy.
So far, it has failed to silence the AK-47s of the ISI mercenaries. An all-out war against Pakistan is not an option. The surgical strikes did not seem to have dissuaded the ISI against carrying on its nefarious activities. As for restarting the off-now, on-now dialogue process, virtually abandoned by Modi after the initial effort, there seems to be no clarity thus far. Some weeks ago, there were reports of the national security advisers of the two countries meeting in Bangkok, but nothing seems to have come of it thus far. Maybe a resumption of Track II diplomacy will help in bringing a respite from almost daily terror attacks.
The point is that the nuclear-armed neighbours cannot allow matters in Kashmir to drag on like this indefinitely. Nor should India stand on prestige and refuse to talk to Pakistan. Even if these talks have produced virtually nothing in the past seven decades, there is no harm in trying since the other options are too risk-prone and dangerous for peace in the sub-continent. As a greater power, a far bigger economy, we stand to lose far more from the slow-bleed in Kashmir. We should do something to end this ISI-sponsored madness. And now.