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'There is no military solution to Kashmir'

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf and Saisuresh Sivaswamy
Last updated on: June 19, 2018 15:22 IST
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'Once the violence is contained, the politicians must play their role, but unfortunately that is not happening.'

Clashes erupt in Srinagar between locals and security forces following Eid prayers, June 16, 2018. Photograph: Umar Ganie for

IMAGE: Clashes erupt in Srinagar between locals and security forces following Eid prayers, June 16, 2018. Photograph: Photograph: Umar Ganie for

A S Dulat -- former chief of India's external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing -- is convinced that the use of force will not solve the Kashmir problem, that a solution can only be achieved through talking to the Kashmiris.

"Solving Kashmir is a very big ask. But it is not even being managed properly," Dulat -- then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's advisor on Kashmir -- tells's Syed Firdaus Ashraf and Saisuresh Sivaswamy in the third part of a four-part interview.


Par unki niyat hi saaf nahi hai toh kya kare (but if their intentions are not clear, so then what can we do)?

You have to check out niyat (laughs), what to do!

I ask the same question to the Pakistanis, what is your niyat? Where they want to go and what they want to do. They ask me the counter question, aap ki niyat kya hai?

Is India better off without a headache like Kashmir? Jammu and Ladakh are peaceful, so it is not like the entire state of Jammu and Kasmir is against India.

If Kashmir goes, then the lives of Muslims in India will be difficult.

If Kashmir goes, then the rest of India will say throw the Muslims of India into the Arabian Sea or the Bay of Bengal, what are they doing in India? They must go to Pakistan. What is their role in India?

I think that way.

It boils down to this: Cannot a big State like India accommodate one Muslim majority state within the country? Kashmiris think that way.

Journalist Saeed Naqvi once said the Hindu-Muslim problem in India is a triangular problem. It is an Islamabad-New Delhi-Srinagar problem.
Once you solve that triangle, the Hindu-Muslim problem too would be solved in India.

That I think is simplifying things a bit too much. But yes, if Kashmir were to become normal -- as I say, we may not be able to find what Kashmiris call a full and final solution -- but still if Kashmir were to normalise then it eases the pressure on Muslims in the rest of the country and vice versa.

When there is pressure on Muslims in the rest of the country it does impinge on Kashmiris too as he begins to think Muslims have a problem. It is both ways.

Once I had a discussion with Maulana Mehmood Madani (of the Jamiat Ulema e Hind) and he was talking about Muslims and Islam in India. I asked him: 'How is that you don't espouse the cause of Kashmir?' He went silent for a while and said yes, that is one of our weaknesses.

And if you ask (Syed Ali Shah) Geelani and Mirwaiz (Umar Farooq), they will say the same thing, that they do not take up the cause of Muslims in India very seriously.

Both think they are independent of each other.

On the other hand it is a success of India's secularism that not even 10 Muslims from mainland India have joined Kashmiri militant groups.

Kashmiri Muslims too feel the same way about Indian Muslims. They are Indian Muslims and we are Kashmiris, they say.

The kind of communal harmony among, say, the Muslims of Karnataka or the Muslims of Maharashtra and their Hindu neighbours is more than that of Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits.
Has the Islamist ideology crept in among the Kashmiri population so rigidly that they could never identify with their regional identity, with their Kashmiri Hindu neighbours?

In fact, in Kashmir Hindus and Muslims traditionally over centuries have got along very well. There was never a problem.

It was just that period of 1989-1990 when the Pandits left in panic because of targeted attacks. And those who are living in Kashmir have no problem with Muslims or vice versa.

It is a sad story and a separate story. Bringing them back (in Kashmir) also requires an effort and the separatists have to play a huge role in it.

Individually they say that they would like their Pandit brethren back, but I think a more serious effort is required.

Has the chasm between the two communities widened? Even if they return, will they be able to lead a normal life? It has, after all, been 30 years since the Pandits left the valley.

It would be normal, but there is the scare that if they go back will they be targeted again.

Somebody has to give an assurance that they will be fine. And that assurance, more than security forces or the Government of India, has to come from local Muslims.

Therefore, I said that separatist leaders have a huge role to play in it.

If Geelani, Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz go and visit the migrant camps in Jammu and say come on, we want you back, then something will happen.

Is there an ideal solution for the Kashmir problem?

Let us at least manage it properly even if we cannot solve it.

Solving, I think, is a very big ask. But it is not even being managed properly.

Managed means accretional steps that one has to take.

What happens is every time there is a cycle of violence, force has to be used and the army has a bigger role and that is understandable. It has to be done.

What the army has to do, it has to do.

What the J&K police have to do, they have to do.

What the intelligence agencies have to do, they have to do.

Everybody has a role and they all do it well, but at the end there is no military solution to Kashmir.

It is an emotive issue. It is a political matter.

Once the violence is contained, the politicians must play their role, but unfortunately that is not happening.

We are not encouraging too much and that is a problem.

Why is it that political parties do not play a proactive role in solving the issue?

As I said, it is both ways. Part of the blame lies on Delhi and part of it on Kashmiri politicians too. They also don't play the role they should play.

It is both ways, but we need to engage with Kashmiris.

Do you think the rigging of the 1986 assembly election in Jammu and Kashmir by the Rajiv Gandhi government was the biggest mistake on India's part as it feared that if the Muslim Conference won a majority they would pass a resolution in the assembly declaring independence from India?

I don't think anybody would have declared independence.

If the Muslim Conference would have won three or four more seats it would have been good having them in the assembly rather than in Pakistan as chairperson (Syed Salahuddin, who contested the 1986 assembly election and became a militant thereafter) of the United Jihad Council. It is unfortunate.

Of course, talk about rigged elections was exaggerated. It was a question of only 3 or 4 seats and those seats would not have made a difference.

Whose brainwave was it? I don't know.

But I won't blame Rajiv Gandhi for it. Some people blame him, some people blame Farooq Abdullah and some people blame the over-enthusiastic administration, but I don't know who was to blame.

It was unfortunate, but it would not have happened. It would have made no difference.

However it happened in a few seats and one of them was Yusuf Shah's, who then became Syed Salahuddin.

But nobody was going to declare independence in the assembly. This is how crazy we can get.

When there were problems in Punjab and the Akalis contested elections there were fears that even they would declare independence in the assembly and announce Khalistan. This is the height of rubbish.

History is full of what-if moments. What, according to you, was the biggest what-if moment in Kashmir?

One of the big mistakes was the dismissal of Dr Farooq Abdullah's government by Indira Gandhi in 1984.

As long as Sheikh Abdullah was alive, Pakistan never dared to meddle in Kashmir. They knew the Sheikh was too big to take on.

After Sheikh Abdullah died, his son Farooq was appointed chief minister as he was Indira Gandhi's choice.

But somewhere she got unhappy with him as he organised one or two Opposition conclaves in Kashmir. So it was decided to replace him with his brother-in-law (G M Shah).

In fact, then governor B K Nehru opposed it, but nothing happened. He said it was a mistake.

The people in Kashmir say the Farooq Abdullah of 1983-1984 the people of Kashmir never saw again.

When he came back to power in 1987 the people of Kashmir called him a stooge of Delhi.

Talking to Farooq in the 1990s, he told me he was not like his father.

'I am not going to spend 23 years in jail, I am going to be on the right side of New Delhi for you cannot survive in Kashmir by being on the wrong side of Delhi,' he said.

After that if the agreement with (then Pakistan military dictator General Pervez) Musharraf had come through, that would have been a big thing. Dr Manmohan Singh too said we were very close to it. Things would have been different.

It was during Vajpayee's time too. We came very close to solving the Kashmir problem then.

Vajpayee unfortunately did not get enough time. Unfortunately, whenever he moved forward something happened (the terror attack).

Modiji has had the best opportunity and fortunately nothing has gone wrong.

Whether it was Manmohan Singh who had to deal with 26/11, or Vajpayee who had to deal with Kargil, the Parliament attack and the hijack of the Indian Airlines plane, Modi has had no such problems.

He had the best opportunity to do something.

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