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Kashmir is stuck in a time warp

By Colonel Anil A Athale (retired)
March 02, 2017 15:48 IST
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Both the separatists in the Valley and the Indian establishment have failed to fathom that the world's alignments have changed, writes Col Dr Anil Athale (retired).

The situation in Kashmir in 2017 is a classic example of both sides being trapped in a time warp. The trouble in Kashmir is now confined to a few districts in the valley, while the rest of Jammu and Kashmir is unaffected. Yet, the separatists, led by the Hurriyat and Pakistan, never tire of talking of the whole of Jammu and Kashmir.

Strategic thinking, or what passes off in in its name in Delhi, is in reality current affairs analysis. This is conducted under the looming shadow of the Red Fort. Even an ostensible ‘outsider’ succumbs to the notion of equating India with North India, ignoring the South, the West and East. The salience of Kashmir in national dialogue has much to do with this. The lazy media contributes to this by making a small incident affecting 1/100th of the population into a national issue and breaking news!

Neither azaadi, nor joining Pakistan, will solve Kashmir’s problem… If azaad, it will become another Syria or Daesh; as for joining Pakistan, what then happens to the Hindus of Jammu, the Buddhists in Ladakh, not to forget the Kashmiri valley separatists' claim over all of Jammu and Kashmir, though not even a dog outside three-four districts in the valley supports them.

The 20 per cent Shias in the Valley must also ponder over their future in Pakistan where they are regularly pulled out of buses and slaughtered just for being Shia. Just as the Valley Kashmiris were waving Pakistani and Islamic State flags, in Pakistan, IS or ‘Daesh-led terrorists let loose mayhem on the shrine of Lal Shabaz Qalandar in Sindh killing hundreds!

Twenty-six years of visiting regularly and studying the Kashmir issue gives me the advantage of a ‘been there, done that’ and a long-term view.

Both sides, the Indian establishment as well as the separatists, seem to be in a time warp. Separatists, who swear by United Nations resolutions, want to join Pakistan, fly Islamic States flags and yet wonder why the world does not support their ‘legitimate’ demands.

Our own ‘liberals’, especially in universities in Delhi, lionise the supporters of azaadi in Kashmir. The Kashmiris on their part want to follow the brutal Daesh or Islamic State. Do the supporters of secessionists in Kashmir ponder over this? Do they want Kashmir to turn into a Daesh stronghold and Srinagar be reduced to debris like Mosul in Iraq?

The Indian establishment is yet to fathom the change that came over due to the 1998 nuclearisation. As nuclear powers, the national borders are now in a deep freeze.  The world's reaction to the Kargil misadventure is clear evidence of that. The Western support to Kashmir secessionists was part of their Cold War strategy of checkmating a pro-Soviet India.

The Cold War has been over for the last 25 years, and world alignments have changed. Every major country has been affected in some way or the other by the virus of Islamist terror. There is a general loathing for the brutal regime of IS in Iraq and Syria. We have, however, still to fathom this change. We still protect separatist leaders so that Pakistan’s intelligence should not harm them and put the blame on us. In the changed global context, to put it bluntly, nobody gives a damn as to what happens to the Kashmiri separatists.

Our squeamishness in using force is difficult to understand. One is not advocating the use of artillery/tanks/fighter aircraft as Pakistan is doing, but surely air power, especially helicopters, ought to be used. All this can be attributed to lack of continuity in our government apparatus and, despite the creation of the NSC, the lack of a holistic view of an issue that is at once a domestic revolt, regional issue and international issue.

The world is a much changed place from the 1990s; no country has the stomach for secession. Our starry-eyed youth, in some universities, have romanticised the Kashmir violence. Do these young supporters of Kashmiri separatists want Kashmir to turn into another ‘Daesh’ or Khilafat where little girls are sold as sex slaves and infidels are beheaded, ancient monuments destroyed and minorities exterminated!

Colonel Dr Anil Athale (retired) is a military historian and specialises in counter-insurgency. 

Image: A protester throws a stone towards a policemen during a protest in Srinagar, Kashmir. Photograph: Danish Ismail/Reuters

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