In the backdrop of an increase in the infiltration of terrorists into Kashmir valley from across the Line of Control and attempts by pro-Pakistan elements to cause destabilisation in Kashmir by instigating stone-pelting mobs, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh made a huge success of his visit to Islamabad for the SAARC conference, where he put it across to the world community that India would now follow a policy of stern reciprocity towards Pakistan and stick to the principle that talks and terrorism could not go together.
The Home Minister strengthened the hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in moving from a policy of reasoned consideration towards a neighbour to a tough response to deal with a hostile Pakistan. The Prime Minister had been quite upfront in reaching out to the civilian leadership of Pakistan in the hope that Nawaz Sharif would take charge of India-Pakistan relations. However, the follow up on Pathankot made it clear that the inimical Pakistan army was in no mood to give up the use of terrorism for dictating terms to India on Kashmir. Both Rajnath Singh and Prime Minister Modi have now struck a hardened note in defining India’s new approach to Pakistan. The Home Minister told Parliament that talks with Pakiatan would be held only on POK. The Prime Minister rightly chose his Independence Day speech to give a stern message to Pakistan that it would have to pay for the mischief of cross border terrorism it was playing against India. From the ramparts of Red Fort he warned Pakistan against committing atrocities on the people of Balochistan and POK.
India should now be prepared to handle a determined bid by the desperate Pakistan agencies to foment unrest in Kashmir and create a Kargil type of situation on the LoC. The disclosures made by Bahadur Ali, an LeT terrorist caught in Kashmir’s Handwara, about the Pakistan army-backed training in arms and navigation provided to him, say it all. It is clear that internal security is now the most important segment of India’s defence. India needs to check out a few things to keep up its security preparedness.
First, the Centre must give a few clear messages to the state government. The administration there must reach out to the youth to wean them away from the path of violence, using its intelligence machinery to identify the ring leaders behind the stone pelting mobs who were acting under external influence. Deputy commissioners and commissioners must interact with the youth to understand their grievances. The ruling coalition should hold talks with the opposition parties and other moderates on issues of governance, but not encourage the separatist leaders who are sold out to Pakistan. It is shocking that the head of a Jamaat outfit rang up Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan to seek his help in organising a protest procession on the funeral of Burhan Wani.
Second, the constitutional authorities in the state such as the Governor must monitor the role of the Army under AFSPA. The Army is in Kashmir primarily to strengthen border security against infiltration and conduct intelligence-based operations against terrorists. The role of the Army in neutralising the heavily armed militant is distinct from the accountability of the police supported by the paramilitary force in dealing with stone-pelting mobs. Mob control drills must demonstrate “restraint” on the part of the armed forces. The Prime Minister has done well to reiterate that the administration in J&K would be run on the principles of democracy, humanity and inclusiveness that marked Kashmiriyat.
Third, the Centre must reaffirm that the state government is there to make all efforts to improve the “human development index” for the citizens and maintain law and order and that India-Pakistan issues were to be left to be handled bilaterally by the former.
Fourth, the events in Kashmir have once again brought into the open the apologists for Pakistan who find it difficult to accept that Burhan Wani was a heavily armed adult who headed HuM, a militant outfit working directly under the Pakistan-controlled United Jihad Council of Syed Salahuddin in close collaboration with the LeT. They talk of “political process”, but do not consider it significant that for over two decades now, democratically elected governments have been in action in J&K, because of which separatists sustained by Pakistan have been pushed to the margins. The state and Central governments must sternly deal with these detractors.
Last but not the least, our foreign policy establishment is going to be tested for its diplomatic success in isolating Pakistan as a fountainhead of faith-based terrorism. The rise of ISIS shows that the combat against Islamic radicals is far from over. The US cannot blindly depend on Pakistan as the dubious role of Pakistan army in manoeuvring agents of ISIS and Al Qaeda against its opponents in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and other places is getting unravelled. The Pakistan army derives its strength from the China-Pakistan axis and also believes that its tactical nuclear weapons deter India from taking on Pakistan in a conventional warfare. The world community has to be convinced that the posture of aggressive defence taken by India against cross border terrorism does not detract from the declared policy of India of not being the first to wage a war.