Both Omar Abdullah heading the National Conference (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti heading Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in J&K have been batting for India to talk to Pakistan and initiate dialogue with Hurriyat separatists. In September last year, India had agreed to a meeting between foreign ministers of both countries meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA meeting. However, perforce India had to call it off subsequently because of the killing of three Special Police Officer in J&K by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists; the MEA press release said, “Any conversation with Pakistan in such an environment would be meaningless. In view of the changed situaton, there will be no meeting between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan in New York”.
Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti are fully aware of Pakistan’s chronic charade of talks and simultaneously stabbing India in the back. But blood of SPOs or security personnel don’t matter to them, as they continue to toe the line of their cross-border mentors. For his last electoral win, Mufti Mohammed Saeed (Mehbooba’s father), publicly thanked Pakistan from the same podium as the Prime Minister. Not only is PDP inexorably linked to Hijbul Mujahideen, Mufti Mohammed Saeed as Union Home Minister in 1989, earned kudos from ISI by orchestrating kidnapping and release of his own daughter Rubaiya Saeed in exchange of releasing 13 militants, facilitating heightened militancy in J&K. As for the NC, the role of Farooq Abdullah in the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits (KP’s) has never been probed and PILs filed in Supreme Court have been rejected on pretext of the case being old, albeit older cases are pending with Supreme Court.
But why would NC and PDP want the situation to improve? J&K, with 1% of India’s population, received 10% of all central grants between 2000 and 2016, giving nearly Rs 1 lakh per citizen. Compared to this, per person say in Uttar Pradesh received mere Rs 4,000. This is over and above the funds flowing in from within and outside India to keep the pot boiling in J&K. Given the ‘policy of appeasement’ by successive Union Governments, these doles probably continue in same measure, if not increased. The South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) says following with respect to J&K: casualties surged from 358 in terror-related violence during 2017 to 451 in 2018 (highest since 2008); civilian fatalities at 86 in 2018 are highest since 2007; 259 terrorists and 95 security forces personnel lost their lives in 2018 – ratio of 2.7:1 and; violence escalation in J&K after bottoming out with 117 fatalities in 2012, has largely been consequence of polarizing politics and continuous policy failures.
Hurriyat separatists being underdogs of the ISI; running their agenda in radicalizing the Valley, indigenizing terrorism in J&K and arranging finances for terror. They excel in spewing venom against own security forces but are happy bum-chumming Pakistani security forces. Stone-pelting is a flourishing industry in J&K, as already discussed in these columns (http://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/indias-impotency-against-stone-pelting/). Amnesty to stone-pelters and others has been periodic phenomenon in the past, as were others set free under pretext ‘minor offences’. Astonishingly, intelligence agencies have not been able to break the money-chain of the stone-pelting industry and nab the leaders despite the finger pointing at local politicians, separatists and hardcore clergy. But then a rat like Yasin Malik who boasted to Tim Sebastian on BBC that he had killed four IAF personnel is free bird, ostensibly having convinced the IB he is their ‘mole’?
In terms of de-radicalization, neither are the mullahs and politicians with Wahabi ideology being addressed, nor is the education curriculum scrutinized for breeding hate. Ironically, the blue-eyed scholars find no need to address such issues at all. Politicians want removal or dilution of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) depending on whether they are without or in power respectively. But no politician will ever recommend lifting of ‘Disturbed Area Act’ which will automatically remove the Army from the scene; because these politicians know that despite layers of personnel security, they may get lynched for misadministration and corruption. In terms of numbers, India has the same number of central armed police forces as the Army, but politicians want the Army around them to continue the ‘game’. Even in the years that J&K saw least incidents of violence, no move was made to remove the ‘Disturbed Area Act’.
The Pakistani army is on pig’s back. With his radical credentials Imran khan was installed as Prime Minister to shut up his and his political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) opposition to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and handed a begging bowl to sort economic mess created by the Generals, themselves rolling in millions. Imran’s government has dutifully lifted the ban on Jamat–ud-Dawa (JuD) and its NGO Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) from the list of banned organizations in Pakistan, rather than extending the ban when the presidential order banning them lapsed last year. Imran says it is India which has blocked engagement between the two countries; telling a Turkish channel that Pakistan’s offer for dialogue was rebuffed by India “just to bag anti-Pakistan voted” in upcoming elections. In November 2018, Imran told Indian journalists that Pakistan would not allow its soil to be used for terrorism outside. Apparently, he has yet to graduate to the level of lying Musharraf who declared as President “there is not a single terrorist on Pakistan’s soil”.
India has pointed out that Pakistan has done nothing to create an atmosphere conducive to dialogue; under Imran, Islamabad is not only providing support to terrorists but also seeking to mainstream terrorist groups; Shehryar Afridi, Minister of State for Interior met JuD leader and UN proscribed terrorist Hafiz Saeed representatives in Islamabad on December 16-17, 2018, openly extending support to them; JuD’s so called rescue centres in POK have PTI support and their so-called welfare activities have focused anti-India agenda; Pakistan’s religious minister Noor-ul-Haq Qadri shared a public platform with Seed on September 30, 2018; both spewing vitriolic anti-India statements, with Qadri confirming he attended the conference on Imran’s instructions, and; in October 2018, banned Hijbul Mujahideen leader and United Jehad Council (UJC) chairman Syed Salahuddin called on Pakistan military support to terrorists active in J&K, in a UJC press conference in Muzaffarabad attended by Mohamed Asghar of JeM, Masood Amir of Hizb-e-Islami amn LeT commander Dr Manzoor.
It is the Imran government that has issued postage stamps glorifying J&K terrorists. Clearly the Pakistani military is not going to change tack because the very basis of its hold over Pakistan is conflict with India, and she has China’s backing in this. Pakistan’s sustained effort to revive Sikh militancy in Punjab should convince those who think otherwise. US drawdown / pullout from Afghanistan will instigate Pakistan to do more mischief against India. Elections or no elections, India needs to stand firm on its policy that ‘talks and terror can’t go together’ – let Pakistan brew in its own stew. The Pakistani military’s proposal for the Kartarpur Corridor should have been linked to first cessation of terror activities against India. Ironically, the lust for power has made the Congress reach out to Pakistan for support. The ludicrous statement by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on January 12 that there has been no major terrorist attacks since BJP came to power, is no solace either. What is the body count in her definition of ‘major’ terror attack? Obviously the blood of soldiers has no meaning for her. We need ‘firm’ policies to deal with terrorism in J&K, and with Pakistan, not political pusillanimity.