Jammu and Kashmir needs intentional, alleviating efforts

The intemperate statements of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in the wake of India’s decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, even threatening a nuclear war out of spite against New Delhi’s action to formally integrate the region with the rest of the country, is a sign of desperation.

They reflect the demeanour of an upstart who knows not the implications of his statements and has had little exposure to politics in a democracy. Imran has no say in his own country on how long his country would continue to train, equip and infiltrate into India terrorists engaged in subversion but deigns to advise India to come to the negotiating table.

Now, when India has acted in its wisdom and in the best interests of the country, he escalates things not having the gumption to question his own country’s army for its aggressive designs and its subversion.

Evidently, Imran reckons in his heart of hearts that he would be made the sacrificial goat as time comes to find a scapegoat within for Pakistan’s isolation and her failure to find support internationally for Islamabad’s stand on Kashmir.

The army which is the one that fuels terror against India would conveniently turn its face away when it comes to taking responsibility for the failure of governance and of Islamabad’s loss of face across the world.

With Imran’s counterpart in India, Narendra Modi, riding the crest of what looks like an international wave, Pakistan’s story of Indian atrocities in Jammu and Kashmir has fewer and fewer takers than India’s proof-driven stand that Pakistan is fuelling terror and mayhem in Kashmir.

With the Indian Opposition in total disarray after the comfortable BJP victory in the Lok Sabha elections, Modi is looking larger than life while Imran has been reduced to a pygmy.

Ironically, it appears that the Indian Congress party looks to Pakistan more indulgently than Islamabad’s allies abroad with the exception of China for its own selfish reasons.

The Chinese for their part have their hands full with the dissent in Hong Kong, their obsession to safeguard the China-Pak Economic Corridor through which they fancy their ships would pass through on trade errands to Europe and the trade tussle with the US which is turning a huge drain on their hitherto-sound economic muscularity.

Much as China would like to make common cause with Pakistan to browbeat India, they have a plethora of problems close at hand to deal with. But for some sabre-rattling, the Chinese have no time for Pakistan’s tantrums.

There is visible anger in Kashmir over the manner in which the Kashmir valley has been relegated to the status of a Union Territory reporting to New Delhi which is a far cry from the status of aspiring to regional autonomy, but the Kashmiris are groping as to who they should look up to.

The glue of religion is there but the ruinous state of Pakistan’s economy and of its stock on the international stage is making sceptics out of Kashmiris. They are torn between an irksome India and an ill-governed Pakistan.

Be that as it may, this is the time for India to improve the economic lot of the people of J and K so that they may some day look across the border with a sense of fulfilment that they are better off under India.

While Jammu and Kashmir is tied to India irrevocably, it is vital that the Modi government takes steps to not just superficially but also emotionally integrate with India.

It is imperative that now that the roadblocks to investment and development stand removed, there is conscious and serious effort to win the people’s hearts.

Investment must flow into Kashmir sooner than later and for that all cobwebs need to be removed. Some Indian industrialists have expressed eagerness to invest there and it is vital that incentives be rolled out for them.

Employment opportunities need to be created for local youth who deserve to be weaned away from violence and hate through understanding and the right kind of motivation.

Now that the doors have been opened for investors from outside the state there must be a chance given to them to co-exist with local residents in a spirit of give and take.

Foreign investors must also be welcomed in due course but to start with, Indian investors must make a beginning. As jobs are generated, old prejudices will gradually wither away and the benefits of employment would be seen by all.

While the people of Kashmir live in fear of the Indian army and the local police, the security forces as well as the administration in general must expose them to the human side of India. The Kashmiris who have been exposed to living in other states have seen how they are accepted by society. There must be more inter-mingling and better assimilation in society.

Ideally, before the clampdown on the Kashmir valley in the wake of the withdrawal of Article 370 a package should have been announced for Kashmir to instil hope and goodwill. But it is still not too late. The healing touch must begin at once.

Kamlendra Kanwar is a political commentator and columnist. He has authored four books.

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