Rules for Conflict Managers

Kashmir is a strange world where the ruling elites of New Delhi are always moral and their counter-parts in Islamabad always immoral. Convincing the sultans in Delhi that political solutions are a better option than an indiscriminate use of force and idle threats it's a phenomenal challenge. Convincing them that Kashmir affairs are a delicate and sensitive matter seems like a lost battle. There is a wrong assumption that the ever increasing number of security forces in Kashmir can change the course of history by continually increasing shelling along the line of control (LoC), always in 'retaliation' to Pak shelling, of course. The conflict managers in Delhi have failed to find the correct equilibrium between diplomacy and advocacy when it is the question of Kashmir. Everyone wants magical solutions while refusing to believe in magic. With LoC again becoming hot the Modis and Rajnaths and their opposition critics are now talking in multiple voices and invariably at cross purposes. The Congress party last week hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleging that his 'directicnless' and 'inconsistent' foreign and defence policies actually had led to a quantum jump in cases of terroristic activities and ceasefire violations in recent months. To prove their point the Gandhi party cited comparative statistical figures of casualties during the Congress regime and Modi rule. Seeking to substantiate the allegations Congress public relations spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said, 'in last 44 months of the Modi government 286 Jawans and 138 civilians have died against 115 and 72 respectively during the same period of Congress rule'. In truth they are talking about the comparative roster of martyrs to derive political comfort and hide their failures. Those who are dying all along the LoC all these years will soon become footnotes in historical records on both sides of the fence.

As for foreign policy matters India is totally isolated from its neighbours. Congress was never a better player in diplomacy. In foreign policy orientation India never made its mark at any point of time. India is now desperately trying to woo the Uncle Sam somewhat nakedly as a last resort to keep Pakistan in check. India's isolation in the region is mainly due to its big brotherly attitudes towards its neighbours. Also a kind of cold war mentality seems to be a stumbling block in the path of resolving the contentious border disputes with China. Not that things were better during the Congress dispensation. The enemy perception about Pakistan and China has not changed much since the days of Nehru. Nor will it change for the better even if Modi's party loses the parliamentary gambit in 2019. It is the same old story of how to contain Pakistan on the western front and keep China in good humour by regularly emphasising willingness to resolve the border dispute amicably in the north.

True, Pakistan has been consistantly promoting terroristic activities in Kashmir for decades by providing military training and funding to different jihadi groups. It's an open secret, at least open to the so-called international community, not excluding China. But Pakistan is capable of doing this despite international outcry, though limited, because they are not diplomatically isolated in the region. Also, they enjoy popular support of a section of Kashmiri population in the valley proper. And it is the main plank of their aggressive postures. In the yester years the Abdullahs failed to stabilise the Kashmir polity because of their passive response to the aspirations of Kashmiri people and excesses of security forces. And today the Muftis have no better answer to the growing social and political dissent across the broad spectrum of the Kashmiri society. Not that all insurgents operating in Kashmir are Pakistan-based, there are a large number of home-grown militants who see in Kashmir a failed state. Congress depends heavily on the Abdullah family enterprise—National Conference—to pacify Kashmiri anger but NC is a discredited outfit. And today the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) depends on yet another dynastic party of the Muftis to heave a sigh of relief but Muftis look more isolated from the masses than Abdullahs. Even a coalition government of BJP and People's Democratic Party of the Mufti family is no remedy to the challenge posed by a few bands of insurgents.

Nowhere in the world, insurgency, left-wing extremism or right-wing violence can be completely eliminated by engaging troops. The very presence of large number of military and paramilitary forces is the permanent source of Kashmiri distrust which again begets peaceful protest and violence. The BJP's communal approach to the Kashmir issue has really compounded the situation instead of easing it. The wounded psyche of Kashmiri mothers who have lost their sons in the endless conflict cannot be healed by periodically announcing some economic sops and treating stone-pelting school boys in the streets as hard core ‘terrorists’.

Hawks on both sides of the fence (LoC) are yet to realise that a military solution to the vexed question of Kashmir is not feasible. Nor would the Generals in Islamabad like to nurse the idea of two-Kashmir formula though Kashmir like Bengal and Punjab is a de facto two state reality right from the beginning.

Vol. 50, No.34, Feb 25 - Mar 03, 2018