Author : Manoj Joshi

Originally Published 2016-08-16 12:16:11 Published on Aug 16, 2016
Modi's focus on Pakistan in J&K is one-dimensional

At a public level, the Modi government has articulated a desire to deal with the Jammu & Kashmir issue within the parameters outlined by Atal Bihari Vajpayee — “Insaniyat, Jamhuriyat, Kashmiriyat.” But in reality, the government is working along quite distinct lines from those taken by past governments. The outline of the Modi strategy rests firmly on the belief that without Pakistan there would be no problem in Jammu and Kashmir. So, the government’s focus will be on Pakistan’s misdeeds. Terrorist actions will get a tough response. The government will seek to isolate Pakistan across the world as an irresponsible state sponsor of terrorism.

There were some confusing moments during Modi's recent speech about the need to talk about all its four parts — Jammu, Kashmir Valley, Ladakh, and POK. Just why this should be done, considering there are no real problems in Jammu and Ladakh is not clear. If the PM is signalling the need to focus on regaining POK, then he should say so — it is a perfectly legitimate aim.

It would give India a huge geopolitical leverage, although I am not sure whether the BJP would be happy to see the proportion of Muslim voters rise sharply in the state and the country. At some level, it seems the issue is of “Kashmir” — the real estate — in opposition to Kashmir — the place — where millions of people live, the majority of them Muslims. Holding on to the real estate is fine but when it comes to the people, especially the ones who are agitating, there is less clarity.

The PM is unhappy, as he noted in his speech that — “children are not able to study, apple produce is not able to reach to the mandis, shopkeepers are not getting their daily income and government offices are not able to implement works of public interest.”

But who are the agitators? Are they dupes of the Pakistanis? Overground workers of the jihadi organisations? Or, to use the favourite phrase of our politicians, “misguided youth”? We don’t know how they will be dealt with, because we don’t know how the government classifies them. Sure, as a senior security official said on Tuesday — there will be restraint “in dealing with citizens”, though “terrorists will not be spared.” The problem is that neither the PM, nor the security official, gave any indication as to whether those involved in the current agitation fell in the “citizen” or “terrorist” bracket — and herein lies the real problem.

< style="color: #163449;">Complexity

Once again, the PM spoke of the Vajpayee path. But that path was much more complex than the one we are seeing unfold under Modi and Doval. Pakistan-origin violence was far more intense in the Vajpayee years, yet he reached out to Islamabad and succeeded in obtaining a ceasefire on the LoC in 2003. This had a huge impact in reducing the casualties of service personnel and civilians in the border zone and took away a crucial cover under which the militants infiltrated from Pakistan. Importantly, it enabled India to build a border fence which has curtailed the movements of men and weaponry. Another key effort of the Vajpayee government was to seek a ceasefire with the Hizbul Mujahideen.

The government took the bold step of declaring a ceasefire to facilitate the process in 2000. Just why and how this was sabotaged is another story, suffice to say, the opponents of the efforts do not live only on the other side of the LoC. All this enabled the first genuinely fair elections to the J&K Assembly in 2002. What we have today is a one dimensional policy of focusing on Pakistan as the sole cause of the problems in Jammu and Kashmir. So, the government seems determined to take the war to the Pakistani camp. Whether or not it can succeed is another matter.

The thinly-veiled anti-Pakistan edge of the Modi government’s global anti-terrorist campaign has yielded few results in the past two years. Far from being isolated, Pakistan has succeeded in rebuilding its American ties, strengthened its Chinese ties, and established a new bridge to Russia.

Since Modi is the Prime Minister of India and the head our government, he is fully entitled to take a new approach to a chronic problem. A caveat that emerges from his approach is whether the government have thought through the end game in relation to Pakistan and J&K — or are they merely retailing slogans under the guise of policy.

This commentary originally appeared in Mail Today.

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.


Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi is a Distinguished Fellow at the ORF. He has been a journalist specialising on national and international politics and is a commentator and ...

Read More +