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Playing to the gallery

Without a single reference to the recent Uri attack, Sharif said peace between India cannot be achieved "without a resolution to the Kashmir dispute".  Sharif insisted that Pakistan was willing to discuss Kashmir with India at any time, and claimed that India has posed "unacceptable preconditions" for dialogue. 

The obvious pre-condition being referred to is New Delhi's demand that Pakistan moves ahead with its prosecution of the attackers in the 26/11 Mumbai Attacks and the Pathankot siege before any further talks. New Delhi responded in kind, questioning whether “ending terrorism” is an unacceptable precondition.

Following the script laid down by the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment, Sharif spoke of not allowing "externally sponsored terrorism and threats of destabilisation to cause turbulence in Pakistan," and went on to mention how Burhan Wani has emerged as a "symbol of the latest Kashmiri intifada".  

The speech comes amid diplomatic efforts from India to isolate Pakistan in the aftermath of the Uri attacks, singling it out as a source of terrorism. India’s offensive received explicit support from Afghanistan when its Vice-President said Pakistan had not sufficiently acted against terror.

To the uninitiated, the ‘intifada’ reference is a clear attempt to link recent events in Kashmir to the Palestinian struggle. Sharif’s attempt to present this reference is both deceitful and disingenuous, since recent history tells us another story. Besides the grave errors committed by the Indian State, the Kashmir story also includes the Pakistani military establishment’s role in creating a plethora of terror organisations from the Hizbul Mujahideen to Lashkar-e-Taiba for the sole purpose of bleeding India “with a thousand cuts” after the 1971 war. 

Besides, Sharif makes no reference to how the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment still sustains all the Kashmir-centric militants in Pakistani Punjab and Muzaffarabad. These columns have explained how Burhan Wani is a creation of both the discontentment created by the Indian state and Pakistan-sponsored terror. Despite the circumstances behind Wani’s rise to fame, one cannot condone the ideology he espoused. 

In video that went viral last year, Wani, flanked by two gun-toting militants, said: "We will rest only after establishing an Islamic Caliphate not just in Kashmir but the entire world." It is evident that such an ideology is not in sync with Kashmir’s pluralistic ethos. The nature of militancy has indeed changed. Some have called it the “ISIS-isation” or the arrival of a deeply reactionary strain of Sunni Islam in the Kashmir Valley. 

The origin of the clamour for “azaadi” was indeed secular and trans-religious. However, the movement has morphed into the desire for an Islamic state. The persecution of Kashmiri Pandits in the early 1990s laid bare this fact. 

Despite sharing a unique culture, their only perceived fault was that they subscribed to a different faith. Dissenters against this reactionary line have been killed for merely talking to New Delhi and little surprise that these elements never condemn atrocities committed in Uri. The concept of Kashmiriyat has always been about religious harmony and brotherhood. It goes beyond maintaining the special constitutional status (Article 370 of the Indian Constitution) for the state.

However, Sharif is only playing to the gallery, as all politicians do. Before he became the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi also roused the passions of his domestic audience. In a 2011 television interview, Modi raged about Pakistan, calling it an “enemy country” and a nation of “expert liars”. Modi severely criticized the previous UPA government’s policy of strategic restraint and said that he would have used force to respond to the 26/11 Mumbai attack and other terror operations emanating from Pakistan.

 “A neighbour hits you and in response, you go to America,” he said. “Why don’t you go to Pakistan instead? It needs to be replied back in its own coin. Stop writing love letters to Pakistan.” Suffice it to say, this is the sort of rhetoric that propelled him to the highest office of this country. During his tenure as prime minister, however, Modi has realized that when in government, it’s hard to back up such rhetoric. There have been four major offensives on Indian soil, including the dastardly attack on Sunday since the Modi government took office. 

The first was an attack in Gurdaspur district, Punjab, where three civilians and four policemen were killed, besides three Pakistan-backed terrorists. This was followed by an audacious strike on one of India’s most important air force bases in Pathankot earlier this year. In June, Lashkar-e-Toiba militants attacked a CRPF convoy near the town of Pampore in Jammu Kashmir. The terrorists killed eight officers. For all intents and purposes the Modi government has gone back to adopting the UPA government’s policy of strategic restraint with the added flavor of a “diplomatic offensive”.

However, this does not mean that India should idly as Pakistan’s deep state incurs greater damage with every passing month.  India must tighten its defensive system against infiltration and enhance security across sensitive military installations. Across Gurdaspur, Pathankot and Uri, the security perimeter was breached too easily. 

The Centre must concentrate on the real but unglamorous task of protecting India’s borders and the lives of her people. Beyond all the bluster, there must be a concerted attempt to prevent Pakistan from incurring further injury. 
 
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