Can Modi achieve peace in Jammu & Kashmir?

The Jammu and Kashmir State is on fire. In Kashmir Valley, violence has increased after declaration of cease fire by authorities

Brij Bhardwaj

The Jammu and Kashmir State is on fire. In Kashmir Valley, violence has increased after declaration of cease fire by authorities. This led to suspension of anti-terrorist operations by security forces. While in Jammu region the entire 200 km long border with Pakistan along the ceasefire line is on fire, with regular shelling from both sides. This rarely hits the troops, but affects the civilian population on both sides.

On Indian side people killed include small children. It has touched double digits while the number of those injured is in three figures. Hundreds of villages have become ghost towns with, only animals and the elderly moving about and hiding at night. Number of displaced persons, who have sought shelter, has crossed one lakh. The surprising part is that Indian and Pakistani diplomats are meeting at neutral places. But there is no solution to meaningless action in Jammu and Kashmir around the ceasefire line.

Former Finance Minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Cabinet has called it a brainless policy while Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir has called for the shelling to end is hurting civilians living close to cease-fire line on both sides. One hopes that Army Chief of India, General Rawat, who is visiting Kashmir, will activate hot line to bring end to the meaningless artillery duels taking place along the cease-fire line in Jammu and Kashmir.

It is time that the Government of India realises the futility of the present policy as action against the militants, a record number killed, is not showing any results, except increasing the number of local recruits and alienation of the local population. The locals turn up in large numbers to provide safety net to militants under attack from security forces, civilian causalities. The markets remain frequently closed, studies interrupted, with schools and colleges closing down.

This has also upset the tourist season, though some brave ones are still venturing out to see the gardens of Srinagar and visit Gulmarg and Pahalgam. It is no secret that the only way to resolve the Kashmir issue is through talks with all elements in Kashmir and with Pakistan. The present conflict can lead to unnecessary escalation by action by rogue group on both sides, which needs to be curbed.

The problem is that both sides, India and Pakistan, are in the election mode at present. As such it will not be possible to find solution under the glare of cameras of electronic channels or media, but will have to be done by working behind close doors, probably in a neutral place. The BJP Government made some gestures like inviting The Pakistan Prime Minister for swearing in ceremony at the beginning of his terms four years ago. Can he do so again? Its peace can be restored, both sides can earn brownie points. In the present situation , there are no winners.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have to follow the example of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to achieve a breakthrough. The Indian Prime Minister, who through his trips to China, Russia and talks with U.S President, has been trying to resolve many problems affecting India’s relation with these countries. He needs to make the effort with the similar energy and determination nearer home.

This will also earn him additional bonus points in the polls into 2019 as peace in Kashmir and better ties with Pakistan can be a crowning achievement for the Modi Government, close to election to the Lok Sabha in 2019. A strong policy pursued so far can be justified only by achieving peace in the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir. can Modi do it?

(Brij Bhardwaj is a veteran journalist and commentator)

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