Situation improving, but will Modi’s policy bring Kashmir back from the brink?

 

The investigation agencies and security forces seem to have throttled the terror funding after a massive crackdown against separatists and terrorist elements using stone-pelting as a weapon of choice to spawning unrest in Kashmir valley.

Manish Tiwari | Chandigarh

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s opponents may not like to admit it. But there are enough indications that his Government’s ‘carrot-and-stick’ policy in dealing with terrorist elements and separatists is working well. Pushed to a corner after the sudden spurt in stone-pelting incidents and terrorist attacks in the Valley following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen poster boy Burhan Wani last year, his decision to crackdown on separatists and terror funding seems to be helping the security forces gain major grounds and move towards restoring normalcy to the State. Government reports show there has been a 90 per cent dip in the cases of stone pelting in the Kashmir valley this year compared to last year.
Three days ago, when a Delhi court framed money laundering charges against Kashmiri separatist Shabir Shah and alleged hawala dealer Mohammad Aslam Wani, I was reminded of a statement of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on May 6 that “only Prime Minister Narendra Modi can resolve the Kashmir problem”. In the past few months, after concerted efforts made by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the military intelligence and security forces to deal with terrorists and money laundering cases involving Kashmiri separatists, there has been a steep fall in the incidents of stone-pelting. The killings and attacks by terrorists in the Kashmir valley too have witnessed a downward trend.
Stone pelting had, no doubt, become a weapon of choice for separatists in Kashmir to spawning unrest in the past few years. This tactic, which was first proposed by former Pakistan’s ISI chief Hamid Gul to stoke trouble in Kashmir, became to be used frequently after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen poster boy, Burhan Wani in 2016, as a ploy to foment unrest in the Valley and further turn a section of Kashmiris against India.
But after giving enough opportunities to separatists and militants, a clear shift in the Centre’s approach from being ‘defensive-offensive’ to ‘offensive’ — which the National Security Adviser Ajit Doval ­would always like to pursue, has definitely helped India send a tough message not just to the separatists but its obdurate western neighbour Pakistan which has been making continuous efforts to destabilise our country by aiding and abetting terror attacks.
That Pakistan provides shelter and gives a pulpit to terrorists is an open global secret. Yet, the failed state, which is battling numerous internal conflicts, including home-grown terrorist groups which are now out of control, has been unable to read the underlying message that it will face Indian onslaught if it tries to push more gun-trotting ‘jihadis’ across the border.
After the Burhan Wani killing last year, it seemed the situation in Kashmir had gone from bad to worse. There were even talks that we may lose Kashmir if the situation persisted. Large-scale involvement of students in stone pelting incidents had made the situation grave, raising suspicion that there was some financial angle to it. Government agencies were quick to realise that pelting of stones in Kashmir has become an occupation rather than venting ire against the government establishment.
But after the crackdown against such elements and a series of arrests and cases involving separatists, the investigation agencies seem to have throttled the terror funding from across the border while the revival of cordon and search operations to hunt down terror elements have sent them into a tizzy.
Hurriyat leaders who had got used to getting blanket appeasement from the Central Government are at the receiving end too. After failing to pay heed to repeated efforts to hold talks, they have started facing the heat. The message from the Govenrment is clear — India cannot tolerate any move to use political space to compromise on national interest and country’s image.
Meanwhile, due the infighting within the rank and file of the terrorist groups operating in the Valley and the militants becoming more disorganised, the trouble-torn state has witnessed a lot of changes in the past few months. The appointment of Dineshwar Sharma, an old Kashmir hand in the country’s internal intelligence agency, the new interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir recently, has further sent signals that the Government is willing to talk but would not hesitate in cracking the whip against the rogue elements working at the behest of our hostile neighbour.
While the signs are positive, Modi’s trusted lieutenant Doval, seems to have taken a cue from what former US President John F. Kenedy once said: “One should never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate.” So far so good.
But Modi must remember that the Centre will have to strike a fine balance between tough actions and bringing all stakeholders to the negotiating table to find a long-lasting solution to one of the most complex problems the world is facing today.
Will Modi be able to steer Kashmir back to normalcy? Only time will tell.

(manish@dailyworld.in)

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