It is in the fitness of things that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, in his address to the nation on 8 August, put the seal on the abolition of Articles 370 and 35A and explained it to the people of Jammu & Kashmir as to how the decision was meant primarily to give them the best deal in democratic freedom, development and the long-term future of their young. In an easy, conversational communication—so characteristic of him—he reiterated the line of presentation that Home Minister Amit Shah had taken in Parliament, focusing on how the step of the Centre was meant to liberate Kashmiris from the denial of tremendous benefits that the laws of the land would have brought to them long ago but for the self serving attitude of their corrupt local leaders. He dwelt at length on these gains now awaiting them, quietly asserted that the decision regarding Kashmir, taken after deep deliberation, was there to stay and assured the people of J&K that the new identity of a Union Territory was created only to give the Centre a fuller responsibility for their development and protection against terrorism and separatism. He clarified that there would be no interference with electing an Assembly and hinted that at an appropriate time J&K would become a state again. He put his vision in a nutshell by saying that he looked forward to a new Kashmir rising under a new leadership.
By largely confining his address to the domestic dimension of J&K, Modi gave a subtle message to the world that while India was quite prepared to deal with the external threat of cross border terrorism in Kashmir, effectively, it had taken the decision of abrogating Articles 370 and 35A primarily because of the failure of a corrupt dynastic dispensation that had for decades cornered power in the state by colluding with pro-Pak separatists and instigating the psyche of “alienation” among the youth. The action of the Modi government in J&K can be described as a people-centric step, since it aims at throwing open the floodgates of development for the people there and giving them better protection against internal and external threats. People anywhere in the world want a democratic rule for two reasons: the total freedom to elect their rulers and a guarantee that these elected leaders would devote themselves totally to the well being of those who had elected them. For over two decades Kashmir had an unbroken rule of elected representatives but the latter thoroughly let down the people of the state by engaging in corruption at the cost of development, exploiting economic disgruntlement for encouraging “alienation” against the Centre and joining hands with the pro-Pakistan Hurriyat to promote the call of talks with Pakistan for a “political solution” of the “Kashmir issue”.
The political parties of the valley, when in power refused to name Pakistan for cross border terrorism, allowed Pak agents to foment civil unrest and shamelessly took the line that even for stopping stone pelting India must talk to Pakistan. Their political vested interest made them blind to the new covert offensive of Pakistan in the valley—of replicating the Afghan jihad of the early 1990s by pumping in the Mujahideen of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba across the Line of Control. There has been an irreversible spread of Salafism in the valley at the cost of Kashmiriyat since then. Pakistan’s ISI made the Jamaati outfits, Hizbul Mujahideen and Dukhtarane Millat, take orders from Hafiz Saeed based in Pakistan and spread the network of its agents for whipping up civilian disruptions. Pakistan converted the territorial dimension of the Kashmir issue, symbolised by the existence of the LoC, into a “Muslim issue”—the planned ouster of Kashmiri Pandits was a clear evidence of that—and made sure that the valley parties, now totally helpless against the separatists, would remain a mute spectator to that. The Modi regime watched these developments with grave concern and felt really alarmed that the Pakistan army-ISI combine had switched over to raising suicide bombers of Jaish-e-Mohammad to launch frontal attacks on our security forces, as in Pulwama. Moreover, even though India had succeeded in pushing Pakistan to near isolation in the world community, the Pakistan army, to get a hold on Afghanistan, was successfully leading on US policymakers by pretending to get the Taliban to reach a peace pact with the US. It was exploiting the political compulsion of President Donald Trump to find a way of pulling out American troops from Kabul before the next US election. India, unlike the US, could see that before 9/11 Pakistan had no quarrels with the Taliban and had installed an Afghan emirate under Mullah Mohammad Omar in 1996. After many years of awkwardness for Pakistani rulers, created by the American “war on terror”, a situation had arisen where the Pakistan army would get back into favours with the US in Afghanistan and feel more emboldened to make its “proxy war” against India a bloodier affair. The Centre’s move in Kashmir is well timed strategically since it helps to liberate the Kashmiris from the stranglehold of the separatists and Pakistani agents and strengthen the security grid in the state against an increasing threat of terror offensive from Pakistan.
It is good that on the third day of the clampdown itself life in the valley was opening up. For the near future, the Union Territory of J&K will have to be under a Lieutenant Governor, who is a senior, cool-headed individual, knowing all about security and intelligence and who was specially knowledgeable about the network of Islamic terrorists operating within and outside India and familiar with the state administration, which was known to be the hibernation ground for many subversive elements. The LG’s basic role would be to give a push to the development projects and facilitate the functioning of the Army and security forces in a manner that they took on the terrorists and enemy agents with minimal collateral pressure and inconvenience for the general population. This would require hard work, strategic wisdom and a sense of integrity on the part of all stake holders in J&K.
D.C. Pathak is a former Director, Intelligence Bureau.