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India-Pakistan-J&K question

India-Pakistan-J&K question

The dissolution of the Jammu & Kashmir Assembly on November 21 came as a surprise. At a time when different permutations were being explored to fix the state's governance, Governor Satyapal Malik decided to dissolve the House. He said that he took the decision to stop horse-trading and other unethical practices evident in the bid to form a government. On a day of quick developments, Congress, PDP and NC joined forces and decided to stake their claim to form the government. Meanwhile, Sajjad Gani Lone, chairman of People's Conference, claimed that he has the support of the state's BJP MLAs and would like to stake his claim too. Faced with two sets of claims to form the government in the state, the Governor dissolved the house, paving the way for a fresh election, which is likely to be held around the time of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In a witty reply to a question on whether he consulted the Centre before taking the decision to dissolve the house, Malik said that had he consulted the Centre, he would have invited Sajjad Lone to form the government. With the appointment of Satya Pal Malik as the Governor of the troubled state, the Centre had signalled that it would view the state in political perspectives instead of through strategic or terror angles, for which other agencies would be free to take appropriate steps as required. The purely political background of the Governor would help develop a more animated political environment in the state. After his appointment, the first urban local body election in the last 13 years has been successfully organised. The reason BJP had cited at the time of withdrawing from the PDP-BJP government, earlier this year, was that there was no improvement in the overall situation on the terror front. There was a sudden spike in terror-related incidents during the last few months of the Mehbooba Mufti government. After PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti resigned from the chief minister's post, the House was kept in suspended animation and the parties were free to work out different combinations to form the government – but just when they could do so, Governor Malik dissolved the House. Was the coming together of Congress, PDP and NC to form the government in J&K an unholy alliance? After the decision to dissolve the Assembly, the three parties that had jointly staked claims to form the government in the state have said that they will fight the elections separately, and not as an alliance partner. BJP leaders did not miss out on the opportunity to claim that these parties had joined hands only for grabbing power in the state.

Meanwhile, a lot has been said and done on the India-Pakistan front that has a serious bearing on the conditions in J&K. Away from the rut of day-to-day politics, India and Pakistan decided to open a dedicated corridor for Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan visa-free. But as expected, the Kashmir issue figured at the groundbreaking ceremony and its aftermath. Responding to a pitch by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for peace, the Indian Army chief remarked at a function that India and Pakistan can stay together only if Pakistan becomes a secular country. If we look at the anatomy of the tension that exists between India and Pakistan, it is not hard to see that much of the difference between the two worldviews that they represent is due to Pakistan choosing to become an Islamic country instead of a secular one. When the state and the government are identified with a certain religion, a degree of partiality is bound to occur and this would act as a seed for greater discontent at a later stage. Pakistan, with its Muslim majority population, can share a vibrant relationship with Indian Muslims; but who would want Indian Muslims to go to Pakistan and return completely brainwashed – the way it has unfolded with misled Kashmiri youth. So, in order to have a meaningful relationship with India, Pakistan will have to accept the universally-accepted tenets of secularism whereby it protects its minorities from ill-treatment. Another important statement came from Home Minister Rajnath Singh who remarked about the reign of terror that exists in Pakistan. He said, if Pakistan cannot handle the menace of terrorism alone, it can seek help from India. It is true that a new government in Pakistan would find the situation utterly hopeless. On the one hand, terrorist and extra-constitutional forces are destabilising the country, on the other hand, poor economic health is forcing the Pakistani government to seek assistance from international financial organisations and friendly nations. What holds Pakistan back from emerging stronger from the crisis is the presence of terrorist camps and recruits and on its soil. In an honest admission of the situation, Pakistan could seek India's help in eradicating terrorism.

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