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Millennium Post

Can Sharif deliver peace?

The situation in Jammu and Kashmir is taking a worrisome turn. Both external and internal factors lend credence to the conclusion. Take the external factor. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been stressing the need for closer relations between India and Pakistan. He says that the Kashmir problem could be resolved through talks. He often quotes signing of the Lahore Declaration when Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee undertook his famous bus journey to Lahore in 1999. The agreement indicated that Vajpayee and Sharif had nearly found a solution not only of the Kashmir problem but also for normalising relations between the two neighbours. Pervez Musharraf sabotaged the peace process through his foiled Kargil misadventure. He ousted Sharif from power and established army dictatorship in the country.

As designated prime minister in May last, Sharif had declared, ‘Lahore Declaration is a good starting point. I am determined to restore the authority of the PM’s office. The army will report to the PM, who is the boss.’ One should not doubt Sharif’s intentions for establishing close and peaceful
relations with India. He realises that Pakistan’s economic, stability and terrorism problems cannot be dealt with without India’s help and peace between the two countries. But the revival of aggressive actions by the Pakistan Army in the past few months indicates either tensions between the army’s top brass and its unwillingness to surrender its supremacy over the civilian authorities or the offensives are a part of the government and the army’s well-thought out strategy on the Kashmir issue.

LoC ceasefire violations by the Pakistan Army have sharply gone up over the past couple of months. Under the protective cover of firing, there has been increase in intrusions of terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir. A latest media report says that Pakistan has set up a specialised heavily-fortified training camp for nearly 50 hardcore terrorists in a dense jungle at Kacharban in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Terrorists are being trained along with Border Action Team members. If the interpretation about the army’s regaining of upperhand in its relations with the civilian authorities turns out to be true then India should be prepared to face new security-related challenges the Pakistan army may pose on the Kashmir front in coming times. In such a situation India will have to act in reverse of what an expert had said that ‘Defence is our best attack’. These external factors need to be seen in the backdrop of two developments that have taken place in the state during the last few months. One, there is revival of the local militancy with the youth mostly in their late teens or early twenties again picking up guns and grenades. The assessment of the official agencies is that the locals are getting attracted to militancy because of multiple reasons, the biggest being disillusionment with the system and radicalisation.

Two, the casualties in the militant attacks this year so far is the highest in the last eight years. In 16 major attacks, militants have killed 33 security personnel – 13 army soldiers, six CRPF men and 13 policemen. The present situation cannot be compared with the one that existed in 2010. Then the Valley had witnessed virtually popular upsurge with massive demonstrations and processions taking place leading to confrontations between the security forces and the stone-throwing demonstrators. The situation posed a threat to the very stability of the Omar Abdullah government. The popular upsurge and violence had erupted after the state had witnessed a few years of relatively normal and peaceful atmosphere.  The spurt in infiltration and revival of militancy, especially by a section of the local youth after three years shows that both the state’s politicians and the Centre have failed to check the alienation of the large section of the Valley’s population, particularly of its urban areas. No doubt, an increasing number of people have been participating in the elected bodies elections despite militant threats directing people to boycott elections. This reflects their eagerness to see that the problems be solved by their elected representatives. But the state’s politicians failed to deliver. They remained preoccupied with fighting each other. Despite having a well-intentioned and energetic Omar Abdullah as chief minister, the functioning of the government is marred by the intra-party and inter-party wrangling of the coalition partners Congress and National Conference, red tape and corruption.  

There have been no visible ground level steps taken by the Centre on the recommendations of the various government-appointed or private organisations, which visited the state during the last half a decade. These committees had suggested steps for normalising the situation and finding a solution of the Kashmir problem.

The state’s mainstream political parties have also not been doing their bit for improving the situation by adopting steps, which could help improve the situation. The coalition partners – National Conference and Congress- as also the mainly Jammu-based BJP keep ‘busy’ in their intra-party and inter-party conflicts. They find no time to expand their mass-level support bases and are losing the opportunity for isolating the militants.

From their past experience, the vertically divided separatists also must have realised that India will never allow Kashmir to merge with Pakistan or become independent. It would accept a solution, which is within the framework of the Constitution as was declared by Atal Behari Vajpayee and Rajiv Gandhi.     The situation also calls for introspection by the ruling coalition and the opposition. They need to give priority to measures, particularly mobilisation of people, for ushering in normalcy in the state. IPA
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