Harnessing the Potential of Kashmir
Economic. Reviving the economic health of the state needs to be taken up on war footing. This is a multi-faceted task which on one hand would revive the economy and increasing prosperity levels; on the other, this would reduce the burden of the central grants that sustain the state currently. Psychologically, this would help by adding to the feeling of well-being and encourage the people to contribute to their own future. Peace in the state is a pre-requisite for economic growth and needs to be ensured by providing prophylactic security, rather than visible deployment of the Security Forces. Such a security needs to be active and/or even pro-active but definitely never reactive – this requires a rethink in the ‘modus operandi’ and even in the role and nature of operations required of the Security Forces for ensuring security.
A start by Mr. Mufti could be the rehabilitation of the displaced Kashmiri Pundits and the countless refugees from Pakistan in the state, whose existence even today lacks legitimacy.
Tourism and Infrastructure Development. Kashmir, apart from being one of the choicest tourist destinations of the world, has much more to offer than the valley and Ladakh; more areas, especially in the interiors of the state need to be opened up and developed. The vast area east of the Jammu-Srinagar highway like Doda, Baderwah, Kishtwar, Bani, Padam etc. needs to be opened up and developed for tourism. In addition to conventional tourism, the state with its natural environment, has the potential of becoming the nation’s centre of ‘higher education,’ and also become a destination for ‘medical and religious tourism.’ These opportunities need to be encouraged, as they would not only usher in prosperity but also offer opportunities for employment.
Youth. The Kashmiri by nature is intelligent and proud and this is amply evident in the youth. The Kashmiri youth is also acutely aware of the developments taking place outside the state and, given a chance, would be willing to step outside for higher education and employment. Such endeavours need to be encouraged as external openings on one hand keep them from negativity and at the same time making them empowered citizens helps the people of the state. The youth need to be trained enabling fruitful employment, both within and outside the state and encouraged by special scholarships and placements. Sports provide yet another field to fruitfully channelize the energy of the youth. Though, it is heartening to see the number of young boys playing cricket, yet surprisingly, only one has made it to the national squad so far. This is due to the lack of appropriate sports infrastructure and professional coaching, which require to be accorded priority.
Kashmiriyat. Kashmiriyat, which has the potential to be a secular beacon for a nation as disparate as India, needs to be revived in the spirit it espouses. The essence of Kashmiriyat, which essentially is an ‘all inclusive’ philosophy, without distinctions made on the basis of religion, caste, colour or creed, needs to be made vibrant and palpable once again. A start by Mr. Mufti could be the rehabilitation of the displaced Kashmiri Pundits and the countless refugees from Pakistan in the state, whose existence even today lacks legitimacy. In the same breath, there is little logic in only advocating restoration of ancestral property rights of people who by choice or otherwise have migrated to Pakistan of Pak occupied Kashmir, if the same is not reciprocal and includes refugees who came to Kashmir during partition.
…it cannot be denied that the role of the security forces continues to be important. However, rather than concentrating on the interior, they need to focus on eliminating/reducing infiltration across the LC and IB, apart from providing prophylactic security within.
Political Issues or Non-Issues
AFSPA and Declaration of Disturbed Area Act. Undeniably, with a change in the security environment, there is a case for withdrawing the ‘disturbed area’ status, and with it the AFSPA, the roll-back needs to be progressive and situation based. Having said that, it cannot be denied that the role of the security forces continues to be important. However, rather than concentrating on the interior, they need to focus on eliminating/reducing infiltration across the LC and IB, apart from providing prophylactic security within. Thus, while on one hand, there is a case for a review, at the same time, there are even stronger reasons for the government and Security Forces to work together in a synergized manner.
Review of the Unified Command. Though it may seem premature since the results of the change are still to be visible, there may be a case for re-constituting the Unified Command in the state. If the situation improves, there is merit in relieving GOC 15 and 16 Corps from their role of being Advisors to the Chief Minister and leaving them to safeguard the LC, which is a high priority requirement in view of the proxy war from Pakistan. At the same time, since the Counter Insurgency grid ‘was’ and ‘remains’ the fundamental reason for the changed security environment to have come abot, the Director General of Rashtriya Rifles (who had been brought in from Delhi for the task during the Kargil War), could well be shifted to Srinagar and entrusted with the task of being the Advisor as well as the man in charge of Counter Insurgency and Counter Terrorist operations. Such a move could well become a catalyst for change as this would not only signal a change, but would also entrust the right man for the sensitive job, freeing the Field Commanders to do their primary task.
The people of the state have clearly spoken for peace and development and it is for the leaders to deliver.
While change is the call of the day and hope permeates the air, for the PDP-BJP experiment is to be successful, not only must both sides dispense with rhetoric, but Mr. Modi and Mr. Mufti needs to think out of the box and come up with a new narrative. Collectively, they need to combine their vision and energy to synergise their efforts. The call of the time is for them to come up with a ‘Truman’ type of doctrine, combined with a pro-active but humane ‘Marshall’ type of plan for reviving and bringing back Kashmir and the Kashmiris to the mainstream of ‘Team India.’ Now that a beginning has been made with the fusion of the (seemingly) disparate PDP and the BJP, a corresponding change must be visible to the people on the ground. The people of the state have clearly spoken for peace and development and it is for the leaders to deliver.
Given the circumstances, Mr. Modi and Mr. Mufti may well succeed where many of their successors foundered. Having said that, both sides of this unique political experiment need to remember that ‘faith’ is a two-way relationship that needs to be nurtured by both sides. At the same time, while it is understood that sticking to this well-meaning path in the vexed politico-social real world of Kashmir’s politics is difficult, we wish them success in their historic mission, and the people of Kashmir luck on their new journey – indeed in their success lies the success of Secular India and therefore peace that has come to Kashmir after decades, deserves to be given a chance to succeed.