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Mainstream, VOL LV No 20 New Delhi May 6, 2017

How to Meet the Worsening Scenario in J & K

Monday 8 May 2017, by SC

EDITORIAL

While those in power at the Centre are supremely nonchalant, the situation in J&K has been progressively turning from bad to worse. It was quite natural therefore that Pakistan would take advantage of such conditions in the Valley.

That is why besides allowing terrorists, trained on its soil, to infiltrate into India, it carried out a barbaric act on May 1: two Indian soldiers, one of the Indian Army and the other of the Border Security Force (BSF), were killed and beheaded by Pakistan’s Border Action Team (BAT) at least 250 metres south of the Line of Control (LoC). The raid took place under the cover of heavy shelling by Pakistani troops and it came within 24 hours of the Pakistani Army Chief, General Qamar Bajwa, visiting the LoC.

What needs to be clearly understood is this: the May 1 operation was Pakistan’s way of responding to the Indian armed forces’ “surgical strike” carried out across the LoC on September 29, 2016. And as The Indian Express editorially observed:

...if India’s publicly declared “surgical strike” in PoK... was meant to tell the country that it could “teach Pakistan a lesson” as compared to the previous UPA government, the limitations of such a tactic have become evident over the months. The surgical strike did not secure the LoC. In 2016, the Army lost 60 soldiers until December 15 — twice the number in 2014 and 2015 — to terrorist attacks, Pakistan BAT operations, ceasefire violations and anti-terror operations in Kashmir, many of them after September. The casualties have continued in 2017. At the same time, public expectations of a tough reaction have gone up.

Such ‘tough reaction’ is most dangerous as it carries the seeds of not just further escalation of tensions but also actual hostilities leading to armed confrontation between the two sides. This must be prevented at all cost.

On the India-Pakistan front, as has been pointed out in The Times of India, “calibrated punitive measures to deter Pakistani BAT operations and cross-border terror attacks on Indian Army units in J&K are the need of the hour”.

At the same time, it is imperative to build some ground for future bilateral talks. In this context The Times of India has underscored the need to “pursue Track II diplomacy and informal back-channel communications” with the Pakistani side, adding:

Such efforts should also try to establish a strong line of communication with the Pakistani military with a view towards getting it to accept formal dialogue.

These are necessary in the prevailing circumstances. But simultaneously we have to admit that the situation in Kashmir must be tackled at the earliest since, as former National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan points out in a perceptive article in The Hindu, “new faces of militancy” have emerged in the Valley and among them are a large number of those “who were previously seen as India’s hope in the battle for normalcy in Kashmir and were willing to stake their future in India”.

And he concludes with the following words:

Immediately... what is most crucial is to make an open and impassioned appeal for peace in the Valley accompanied by meetings and consultations at several levels. No segment should be excluded, including separatists and the Hurriayat... India could consider swallowing its pride and reopen talks with Pakistan, not so much hoping that Pakistan would cooperate but to assuage the “hard-liners” in Kashmir. Detaching from a muscular policy to a more reasoned one has become essential.

Before his article got published one of the major interlocuters exploring the Kashmir problem, Radha Kumar, observed in a thought-provoking piece in The Hindu that “talks and de-escalation must go together—it is not wise to make them sequential”.

Such views, articulated by scholars and experts, must be given due weightage by the powers that be.

May 4 S.C.