Event ReportsPublished on Aug 13, 2015
Taking part in the discussion on his new book "Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years", Mr A.S. Daulat, a former Advisor to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said there have been troubling signs in the Kashmir Valley, such as a number of disappearances and the radicalisation and training of certain sections of youth.
India has only been 'managing' Kashmir, says former Vajpayee advisor

India has only been "managing" Kashmir so far, and the situation could very well go out of control, said Mr. A. S. Dulat, a former chief of Research and Analysis Wing and later an advisor on Kashmir during the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Taking part in the discussion on his new book "Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years", Mr Daulat, who had spent some years in the Kashmir Valley during the course of his career, said there have been troubling signs in the Kashmir Valley, such as a number of disappearances and the radicalisation and training of certain sections of youth.

Referring to comments made by Dr. Farooq Abdullah, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, he said that the display of ISIL and Pakistani flags in Kashmir are an expression of anger and frustration. He sensed a similar frustration in Punjab as well. On whether the idea of ISIL had entered Kashmir, he said terrorism would continue to exist as long as basic grievances will continue to exist.

Early on in the discussion, Mr. Dulat briefly commented some contemporary issues, such as the situation in Gurdaspur. He noted that the attack shared some similarities with previous LeT attacks and is an extension of the situation in Jammu. He also warned not to take Punjab for granted, citing certain signs and signals in recent times, such as pro-Khalistan slogans being raised during the Chief Minister’s speech and other similar incidents. However, he went on to note that such attacks seem to happen whenever the dialogue between India and Pakistan moves forward and only serve to spoil any efforts that have been made. The first to be blamed is always Pakistan.

Talking about the book, Mr. Dulat said that it was a product of his longstanding link to Kashmir. It was intended to be for and about Kashmir and Kashmiris, although he understands the apprehension of some towards it. The theme of the book, as he intended, was that the only solution to this issue is engagement.

Mr. Dulat stressed the importance of talking to the other side including Pakistan. Building and sustaining bridges between Delhi and Srinagar, and Delhi and Islamabad, is key. As long as the Kashmir issue isn’t settled, the problem with Pakistan will continue.

Introducing Mr Dulat and his book, Mr Vikram Sood, a former R&AW chief, said for the Research and Analysis Wing, Kashmir is an eternal problem but beyond its charter. There lies the question of Kashmiri Pandits returning to the state, as well as the increasing strength of radical elements in the area, but as was said, the issues between New Delhi and Srinagar are separate from those of Delhi and Islamabad.

Dr. Manoj Joshi, Distinguished Fellow at ORF, addressed criticisms that the book divulged state secrets. He noted that while it had plenty of new information, it did not divulge any sensitive information. Rather, the book helped fill in gaps in peoples’ understanding of Kashmir over the last three decades. This was important, he said, for a nation wanting to learn lessons from its past.

He said Dulat’s book did well to focus not only on the militancy, but also on Kashmir’s contemporary politics, from Farooq Abdullah to Omar Abdullah to Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. He did, however, lament the lack of context in some places. He stressed the importance of confronting, as a nation, the brutality with which the war against the militancy was fought in the mid-1990s. These excesses can neither be swept away nor forgotten. The recent elections were a sign of the emerging divide between Hindu- and Muslim-majority areas in the state, and insight into this was missing from the book.

Dr. Joshi did go on to praise the empathy with which the book was written, and for understanding the sentiment at the heart of the valley. He recalled Pandit Nehru’s understanding of it as something that exists beyond borders or ethnicities. The nation needs to understand the nuances of this specific sentiment. He also emphasized that political engagement is paramount -- the role of the national security apparatus is to advise and support this engagement, and should not be taking front and centre. The solution to this problem is not solely military action -- it has to come at multiple levels through containment as well as engagement.

Dr. Joshi brought up the example of January 2004, when Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharraf reached an agreement to discuss these myriad issues at the side-lines of a SAARC summit. This key point in the dialogue was guided by the overarching commitment to establish a South Asian free trade area. Therefore, the resolution of these problems, he said, is situated in a larger framework.

Mr. Dulat responded with a comment on the J&K elections, that if the BJP-PDP alliance holds, it could possibly help reduce the polarisation that Dr. Joshi mentioned. The Chief Minister needs to be supported, both by the BJP and New Delhi. He was hopeful that the recent visit by NSA Ajit Doval would have reassured him.

The discussion moved on to Kashmiri Pandits and their possible return, as well as the lack of attention paid to their plight. There was also a call for the government to engage with Kashmiris beyond the higher political levels and with the youth especially. A further point was raised about specifics of any dialog that is to happen. Topics such as the conditions of those affected by the conflict, as well as human rights violations by security forces and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) are relevant and important. The Intelligence Bureau itself must be scrutinized, as well as its role in Kashmir. The accountability of the IB needs to be discussed.

As for the way forward, once again, uninterrupted dialogues need to be resumed between New Delhi and Srinagar. The army should also reduce its footprint in the region and issues with the AFSPA need to be resolved. There was a feeling that there is a disconnect between what is best for Kashmir and what policies are actually enacted by the government, and that the government is more focused on Kashmir’s leaders than its people. There should be an active effort to engage with its people in an effort to explain and convince people of the government’s chosen course of action. The notion of turning the Line of Control into an international border was entertained as a possible solution. Ultimately, the matter of Kashmir comes down to the right of self-determination with dignity- peace with honour.

(This report is prepared by Nishta Gautham, Associate Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

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