Pakistan's Kashmir [MIS] Adventure

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Ravi Munshi

The State of Jammu and Kashmir is under siege. It has been in that state since the day it opted to share its future with India. Monstrosity of the current uprising – with flames of jihad erupting from the five corners of the valley – shows no sign of recession. More than a month has passed since Burhan Wani – a self-confessed murderer and a dreaded terrorist, who was barely out of his teens when he killed and threatened to kill innocent people – was finally gunned down. While no one could have predicted the aftermath of his death, one thing has become clear. Exploitation of the vulnerable youth and the brutal end that invariably follows their induction into terrorism is a never ending circle of violence. It doesn’t have to be that way but what Burhan willfully embraced is the same fate that awaits his successor and the one who succeeds the successor and so on.

What should have ordinarily been a sigh of relief for the valley residents, the ill-advised youth and their uninformed parents have, instead, turned the occasion into a show of support for his misguided cause by foolishly rising up in arms to eulogize their fallen comrade. Foolish because little do they realize how Pakistan does and always has used the poor and the vulnerable amongst them as fodder to feed the fires of militancy and insurgency as it fights its proxy war against India.

As state policy, Pakistan grooms patsies on foreign soils. Geelani, Mirwaiz, Andrabi, Malik and scores of other separatists inside and outside of the valley are merely pawns – dancing to the tune of their masters in Pakistan. Working actively against the sovereignty of India and organizing violent and murderous protests while deriving ideological, military and economic support from India's sworn enemy, their insurgent acts are treasonous.

Like those of a puppet, strings of the 'movement' are firmly held together by the rouge elements operating from the Pakistani soil. With each passing day – under the watchful eyes of the ISI – Hafiz Saeed, from across the LoC, writes and rewrites the menacing script of death and destruction in the valley. He inspires and motivates hoards of poor, uneducated and vulnerable youngsters, encouraging them to engage in all such unlawful activities as marching in violent protests, pelting stones and hand grenades on the security forces, destroying government property and taking law into their own hands. Such actions are premeditated to invite legitimate action from the security forces – invariably resulting in the loss of life or limb.

Naïve idealists that believe excesses are being committed vis-à-vis the violent protesters, need to be reminded that it’s no longer a minor law and order situation which could be contained by conventional mob management tools and techniques. For the security forces, it’s nothing short of fighting in a war zone – a proxy war that Pakistan has let loose on the streets of Kashmir. Barring stray incidents of dereliction of duty by some men in uniform, police brutality against the ‘unarmed’ and ‘innocent’ civilians is a manufactured term – intended to rationalize murderous attacks by the mob-frenzied ‘stone brigade’ as it targets and lynches security personnel.

There’s dichotomy in the way Pakistan has lent ‘only the moral and diplomatic support’ to the Kashmiri cause. On the one hand, it claims the struggle for ‘azadi’ in Kashmir is indigenous – to rid the State of the Indian hegemony, thus clearing the way for ‘self-determination.’ On the other hand, it has always maintained that Kashmir is the ‘unfinished agenda of the Partition’ and, as Bhutto promised his countrymen after the Bangladesh debacle in 1971, Pakistan would fight a thousand years of war with India to wrest Kashmir from its dominion.

Without clarity in its purpose, Pakistan’s notion of freedom for the Muslims living in the valley is cleverly camouflaged by the undertones of religious commonality – a blackmailing sentiment that’s generally hard for the Muslim community to resist. For now, Pakistan may seem to be succeeding in alienating the valley’s Muslim residents from the rest of India but the statistical data from various independent sources is quite revealing:

  • Of the three regions that J&K is currently organized under, Muslims aren’t in the majority in two. There have been no protests or alignment with the separatist agenda in 85% of the area.

  • Separatists exert influence over five districts of the State only and they are all Sunni Muslim.

  • Protesters comprise only 5% of the population. Even with such low percentage, when translated in absolute numbers, the figure is overwhelming enough to draw serious notice. Enormity of the prevailing situation is grave that can neither be ignored nor looked at solely on percentage basis.

  • Ninety eight percent of the protesters come from families that live below the poverty line. Feeling disenfranchised for economic reasons, they are the most vulnerable and easily targeted segment of the community. Regrettably, as front runners, they are also the worst sufferers of the consequences of encounters with the security forces.

  • None of the children or grandchildren of separatists and their immediate family members have or ever will participate in stone pelting or other unlawful activities that could jeopardize their personal safety.

Be that as it may, the obvious question everyone’s asking is what it will take India to awaken to the reality of deteriorating conditions in the valley and what plans does it have to insulate the State against Pakistan’s relentless campaign of insurgency and militancy? Forthright answers have eluded public’s perception of the game plan.

PM Modi’s style of crisis management, particularly with regard to the Kashmir issue, hasn’t followed a predictable path. Violating diplomatic protocol at the highest level, his shuttle diplomacy – unexpectedly landing at Nawaz Sharief’s doorstep with his hand fully extended for a lasting handshake – was a goodwill gesture but it failed to generate any goodwill.

Whether it was laryngitis or a tactical move, PM’s long silence on the worsening situation in the valley has been deafening. It didn’t help; rather it yielded space to both, Pakistan and anti-India elements – separatists and their secret sympathizers masquerading as ministers in the ruling coalition – to mount what may be termed as a verbal and psychological assault on the valley’s residents.

Inimical to the doctrine of peaceful co-existence, Pakistan has tested India’s infinite patience on numerous occasions in the past. But, just as all good things must end, infinite patience must also come to an end. And it did on August 15, 2016. From the rampart of the Red Fort, on the 70th anniversary of India’s Independence went a clear message to Pakistan.

The PM was on a roll that morning and laid out his administration’s clear policy towards Pakistan – a country long considered to be the root cause of unrest in Kashmir. Designed to shake up the Pakistani establishment to the core as never before, it was the first time in the history of independent India that an Indian PM had the gumption to verbalize India’s legitimate claim on the territories illegally occupied by Pakistan for more than six decades.

For the PM, it wasn’t going far enough if he could push Pakistan only to its back foot. He had to go an extra mile – to instill fear in the hearts of the Pakistani establishment – which he did by raising the specter of continuing exploitation and gross human rights violations of genocidal proportions in Balochistan. He was quick to offer moral support to the Baloch in their just struggle for freedom from the illegal occupation of their independent country.

Closer to home, he borrowed three buzz words from yesteryear – Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat – first coined by his predecessor, Atal Behari Vajpai. While Vajpai used those words wisely as guiding principles with which he intended to end the Kashmir crisis, the PM used them with a slightly different cadence. He chose those words rightly to challenge the mainstream to introspect – Without the presence of Insaniyat and Kashmiriyat, could Jamhooriyat alone resolve the ‘Kashmir problem,’ ever?

India’s stern response to Pakistan’s belligerence will have a causal effect in the valley. Hard positions held by the separatists thus far will likely see a gradual transformation – they’ll soften. Infiltration bids by Pakistani terrorists may also decline in the near future but with a neighbor like Pakistan, India will forever have to maintain vigilance at all times.

The PM has lit a fire that can either consume or purify the soul of Pakistan. But for now, what started several decades ago as the Kashmir adventure, Pakistan is destined to suffer the consequences of that misadventure.