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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 9 New Delhi February 16, 2019

Statesmanship: Need of the Hour

Sunday 17 February 2019, by SC


What happened today in Kashmir has once again brought back the issue of India-Pakistan confrontation on Kashmir to the forefront. The sheer magnitude of the terror strike in Avantipora in the Pulwama district, about 20 kilometres south of Srinagar, on the Jammu-Srinagar highway should make the authorities alarmed over the extent of alienation of the local Kashmiris from the Government of India and the security forces: from all available accounts of what took place this afternoon it is clear that an explosive-laden SUV rammed into a CRPF convoy on the highway and that resulted in as many as 44 CRPF jawans being killed (the figure of the dead is in all likelihood to rise) while numerous others have been injured. Such a terrorist attack has not taken place in the Valley for a long time—this is the biggest such assault in 15 years—and it was carried out by a local militant, Adil Ahmed Dar, reportedly working on behalf of the Jaish-e-Mohammad’s Afzal Guru Squad.

This incident has led to government functionaries, including Central Ministers, directly calling for retaliation and they have been fully backed by certain influential news channels known for their anti-Pakistan rhetoric. While the incident has caused legitimate resentment among large sections of the public, enhancing confrontation with Pakistan can only worsen the security situation in our region. While the Pakistani hand behind the incident cannot be overlooked what needs to be understood at the same time is that trying to search for an alternative to negotiation and dialogue with the Kashmiri public as well as Pakistan on the basic and vital questions related to Kashmir can lead one only into a blind alley. To say that a “war-like situation” has been created due to today’s terror strike, as a Minister of State in the Narendra Modi dispensation has averred, is to play into the hands of those who, both in India and abroad, want to see the two South Asian neighbours engaged in an armed conflict. That eventuality must be avoided at all cost since its consequence would be disastrous for both the countries (armed with nuclear weapons) and their peoples.

On the face of it, the incident has been caused due to a massive intelligence failure as the Congress has correctly observed. That needs to be addressed immediately. Simultaneously urgent steps must be taken to proactively tackle the problem of public alienation from the government, that is, the one at the Centre in New Delhi as J&K is under Central Rule.

The myopic leaders running the country from the nation’s Capital could take the wrong step of escalating tensions on the border with the objective of “teaching a lesson” to our recalcitrant western neighbour. That indeed would be playing with fire. Any such move is fraught with not just uncertainty but, more importantly, grave danger.

Statesmanship alone can help us find the path forward in this complex scenario.

February 14 S.C.

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