'Theatre of War'

After losing power People's Democratic Party top boss and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir became wise and asked the Modi government not to make Kashmir a theatre of war while advocating armistice on the borders and dialogue with the Hurriyat leadership. But her short political honeymoon with Modi's party—Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—was a theatre of absurd. War against Kashmiris has been going on for decades and she didn't do anything positive to stop drifting of Kashmir towards a war like situation. Modi is just an actor in a theatrical show of war and peace. There is no reason to believe that it will end anytime soon even though geo-political power equation in the sub-continent has changed dramatically in the post-cold war era. Kashmir is a contentious issue that cannot be resolved so easily unless all stakeholders agree not to disagree to change their rigid positions. In reality what stands in the way of lasting peace in Kashmir is quest for regional power status by both India and Pakistan. With Pakistan losing its domineering position in Afghanistan and India not gaining much in justifying its presence in a hostile terrain desperation on both sides of the fence gets expressed in low intensity conflict all along the Line of Control (LoC) in the west almost round the year. Everybody knows two parallel lines never meet and India and Pakistan cannot meet, despite a lot of peace rhetorics after each bout of fire exchange along the border. But a war hysteria is beneficial to the ruling establishments, including military establishment, to military-industry alliance, to the ruling elite of both countries. War hysteria can be whipped up to the feverish pitch within a very short period if the rulers of the sub-continent so wish.

As it is election season warmongers are back in business. All of a sudden Indian Army chief Bipin Rawat on the eve of Army Day warned of strong action against Pakistan's inimical moves. But of late radical insurgency in the valley of death is not that pronounced. Pakistan sponsored terroristic activities have declined significantly even as per admission of the security bureaucracy. Faced with American displeasure Pakistan seems to have slowed down its dubious game of destabilisation. What appears from recent security records relating to militancy in Jammu and Kashmir is not that catastrophic and unmanageable. New Delhi's policy of recruiting surrendered militants as special police officers to fight the militants seems to be responsible for the recent spate of killings and its fall-out. This notorious policy is paying dividends. All things considered militancy in Kashmir is not that powerful today as it was even a decade ago. The army can handle them. So focus has been shifted to sniper attack by Pakistani Rangers and regular shelling across the LoC. India alleges that sniper firing is taking along international borders while shelling mostly takes place along LoC. And a Border Security Forces assistant commander died in a recent shelling along LoC. Then Rawat congratulated himself for ensuring moral dominance along the border in the western sector. After all what is moral dominance was not explained by Mr Rawat. In other words it is unlikely for LoC to become silent because both sides are trying to define and redefine their authority along LoC. Whether Mehbooba likes it or not Kashmir is already a theatre of war and it is a different war, not found in classical texts. Her idea of opening dialogue with the Hurriyat has no taker in the government. But this Hurriyat is nothing without the militant campaign of insurgents. Her party—PDP—never took any serious stand against the Hurriyat. If Hurriyat leaders don't get much media coverage these days it is because insurgents are lying low and their capacity to strike terror has, of late, dwindled. Dialogue can at best be a process to buy time while dealing with the adversaries and the Rawats think Hurriyat will vanish in the thin air if they succeed in taming the militants. Even Trump's America is now desperately trying to open dialogue with the Taliban through Pakistan and General Rawat came under fire from valley based politicians for ignoring the Hurriyat leaders by allowing them to get more closer to Pakistan and isolation from what they call mainstream India.

A sense of alienation has gripped the entire valley because the people in Kashmir have lost faith in regional power brokers like the Mufti family and Abdullah family. Hundreds of thousands of people, both young and old, are languishing in jails. No political party has any programme to launch movement for their release. Periodic election in Kashmir is a farce now. Fascism in Kashmir has come early as any suggestion to shun bullet culture there is being interpreted as a pro-Pakistan and anti-national exercise. While addressing a grand rally organised by the ruling TMC in Kolkata on Janury 19, Yashwant Sinha, a former BJP veteran, said he was dubbed a Pakistani agent because he preferred conciliation over confrontation in resolving the Kashmir issue. Any voice of dissent is being billed as anti-national—it doesn't matter whether the dissenter belongs to Kashmir or Chattisgarh.

A divided Kashmir is a reality. A war to change this reality may be disastrous. As the sub-continentals cannot take the luxury of going to another war which could be nuclear despite regular saber rattling along LoC, they continually resort to controlled conflict approach to keep Kashmir disturbed round the year.

Vol. 51, No.30, Jan 27 - Feb 2, 2019