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Last Updated Tuesday October 22 2019 03:39 PM IST

In search of elusive peace in Kashmir

Major-General Jacob Tharakan Chacko
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In search of elusive peace in Kashmir Unless and until underlying political causes are sincerely and earnestly addressed there can be no lasting solution to the Kashmir problem. PTI

Amir Khusrow, the Sufi poet, who immortalised the beauty of Kashmir through his famous lines 'Gar firdous bar-rue zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin ast,' (If there is paradise on earth, it is here, it is here...), must be turning in his grave; angry, disgusted and frustrated with the way Kashmir has travelled in time.

Though Kashmir is blessed with unparalleled natural beauty, it has also witnessed many bloody power struggles and uprisings over the years. In fact, nothing seems to have changed. Nobody seems to have learnt anything from the past. History, therefore, continues to mercilessly repeat itself with changed participants.

Electoral politics

As the elections did not clearly mandate any one political party, two parties that spat venom at each other during elections formed an alliance of convenience. Though the PDP had the numerical advantage, the BJP, with the centre’s support, had its say. However, in one surprising move, accusing the PDP for the deteriorating law and order situation, increase in cross-border firing, and inadequate development in the Jammu and Ladakh regions, BJP pulled the plug on the alliance, bringing in President's rule. The rationale behind the separation notwithstanding, a dumbfounded PDP could just muster a faint counter accusation that the BJP was trying to adopt a 'muscular policy' in Kashmir.

Army's role

Soon, president's rule was projected as panacea for all ills plaguing Jammu and Kashmir. The proponents of the theory argue that under the governor, the Army and security forces will be able to stabilise the situation, crush militancy and restore peace and tranquillity in the state. As if to prove the theory, print and visual media has started reporting a spurt in number of terrorists being neutralised in the valley. Nothing can be more fallacious.

 In search of elusive peace in Kashmir Youth throwing stones, protesters waving ISIS flags and locals openly foiling Army operations have become commonplace.

Free hand for ops

The Army always enjoyed a free hand in the conduct of operations and do not normally succumb to political influences in matters of operation, at least at the tactical level. While the Army will succeed operationally, it seldom steps into politics. It is not the first time that President's rule is being imposed in the State. With the raison detre unaddressed and given the manner in which doctrines are experimented, it may not be the last. Efforts to control manifestations would remain peripheral and at best accrue only electoral dividends.

What Army can do

Army intervention would certainly bring down violent manifestations of militancy but it cannot stop the spread of political ideology that helps militancy expand. Across the world, it never has. Those who fill social media with the propaganda that Israel has successfully and comprehensively eliminated its problems of militancy should remember that peace still eludes Israel. What should worry the nation at large, is not the current political situation but the resultant. Once imported, terrorism is now locally subscribed to and supported. Influx of local youth into terror ranks has given militancy in the valley a tone of liberation with religious underpinnings. Girls throwing stones, protesters waving ISIS flags and locals openly foiling Army operations have become commonplace.

 In search of elusive peace in Kashmir Army intervention cannot stop the spread of political ideology that helps militancy expand.

Hardening stance

It is a well-established fact that the intervention of security forces in a political problem will only help harden the positions of stakeholders and bring about situations that may become irretrievable. Unless and until underlying political causes are sincerely and earnestly addressed there can be no lasting solution to the Kashmir problem. Unfortunately, the minority that recommends a dialogue-driven approach is often dubbed as pseudo-secular and anti-national. While hard-line approach will garner electoral windfalls across the mainland, it may actually inflict deep and irrecoverable injuries.

Wisdom of Vajpayee, Manmohan

It is here that the wisdom and courage of Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh become relevant. Though, they initiated unconditional talks, political compulsions did not allow these dialogues to culminate into anything meaningful. There is no harm in re-initiating such an effort. The first and foremost requirement now, while the Army caps violence, is to persuade each and every stakeholder to sit across the table and talk. Insulated from the prying, bullying and instigating print and visual media, intellectuals from all sides must be encouraged to discuss every possibility, permutations and combinations without the fear of the mob. Formal, informal and back-track channels must be activated to initiate such talks.

Vajpayee, Manmohan Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh had initiated unconditional talks, but political compulsions did not allow these dialogues to culminate into anything meaningful.

Lasting solution

The need of the hour is to bring a sense of sanity through engaging various stakeholders in search of an everlasting solution. Else, the valley would continue to fester as it has for centuries. Also, it will remain a political pawn whch helps political opportunists reap dividends. If the North and South Koreas can speak, If Russians and Iranians can cooperate, if the German wall could come down to unite its people, it is not impossible to find a solution to the Kashmir problem.

(Jacob Tharakan Chacko is a retired major-general with 36 years of experience at various managerial and directional posts. He is a recipient of the Sena Medal. He may be reached at: jacobtharakanchacko@gmail.com)

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