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J&K ceasefire

J&K ceasefire
With the beginning of Ramadan on May 16, the Centre announced a unilateral ceasefire in Jammu & Kashmir. Earlier, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had proposed the Centre announce a ceasefire during the holy month of Ramadan. Though Pakistan-based militant organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (Let) has refused to accept the ceasefire, insisting that it would continue with its jihadi activities in the Kashmir valley, the other two militant groups, Hizbul Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohammad, have so far not reacted to the Centre's latest move. Separatist group Hurriyat, too, has refrained from commenting on the Centre's move to implement a ceasefire during the month-long Ramadan period. The Indian security forces have given a conditional nod to the ceasefire decision and it has retained the right to retaliate if attacked by the militants. It can also launch operations to protect the civilian population from an attack by the militants. The security forces will continue with its intelligence-gathering operations and can take suitable measures to neutralise militants if its intelligence suggests that they pose a threat to public peace. In the recent months, militant activity in the Kashmir valley has swelled, with a large number of new recruits joining the militants' rank. Even the ceasefire violation from across the Line of Control (LoC) has increased manifold compared to the past years. Indications available suggest that while insurgent activities have spiked in J&K, Pakistan, too, has increased indiscriminate firing of mortar shells from across the border. The general public, especially in south Kashmir, have been up against the security forces and their operations against the insurgents. This has resulted in a spike in skirmishes between the security forces and the civilians, leading to a rise in civilian casualties. The opposition parties in the state have blamed the Centre for being a mute spectator to the Kashmir problem. Though the Centre has appointed a former Intelligence Bureau director, Dineshwar Sharma, as the official interlocutor to hold talks with different stakeholders in Kashmir, there has not been much progress in bringing peace in the state. Some political analysts suggest that after the ceasefire initiative, the Centre should start a dialogue with militant organisations, separatist groups, and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue. The Centre has so far been against any such talks with militants or Pakistan. But in the recent months, Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa had said that Pakistan Army was ready to cooperate with India to solve the Kashmir imbroglio. Going against the country's official line, even former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a recent interview has questioned Pakistan's policy to harbour and give shelter to international terrorists. Though no one is officially admitting, there is a growing sense of frustration in the Pakistani establishment about its increasing isolation in the world arena for providing training and financial support to terrorists. Of late, the US has come down heavily on Pakistan for supporting terrorist organisations who foment trouble in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The US has suspended civil and military aid to Pakistan and has warned the country of more punitive action if it did not mend its ways. The Centre's ceasefire decision in J&K is a bold initiative as similar ceasefires in the past did not bring about desired results. On the contrary, the militant groups used the period to regroup and rearm themselves. In the subsequent months after the ceasefire, there has been a spurt in the number of terrorist attacks. But, on the positive side, the ceasefire provides an opportunity to the militants and the agitating people of the valley to seize the opportunity and give peace a chance. The militants' fight against the Indian state has been going on for nearly three decades, during which thousands of people have lost their lives and the state is perpetually under the shadow of militancy and anti-insurgency operations launched by the security forces. This state of affairs may not change unless there is a change of heart among the militants. As regards a dialogue with militants and separatist groups, there is no harm in initiating such a dialogue if all the parties are committed to bringing peace to the Kashmir valley. The demand for 'azadi' by separatist groups is untenable as no government in New Delhi will ever have the mandate to concede to such a demand. The role of Pakistan in resolving the Kashmir issue is important because it has been providing moral and material support to militants and political outfits based in the valley. For the last three decades, India has used all the tricks in the book to keep Pakistan from interfering in the Kashmir valley but to no avail.
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