PM speech shows UP has changed nothing

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When Prime Minister Narendra Modi rose to speak at the inauguration of the Chenani-Nashri tunnel, many expected  he would use the Kashmir platform to announce a political initiative on the state. It was expected that now freed of the near-term electoral compulsions by the UP win, he would reach out to Pakistan and announce resumption the talks. The resumption of the talks with Hurriyat was also expected. But nothing of the sort happened. The PM instead reiterated the development mantra as a solution to Kashmir’s ills, calling for pursuit of tourism than the terrorism. “There are only two roads before youth of Kashmir which will decide their fate. One is tourism and another is terrorism,” Modi said.  He had nothing else to offer.  As the speech revealed, a dialogue with Islamabad seems hardly uppermost in New Delhi’s priorities, nor the one with Hurriyat.  And though he profusely quoted the terms of the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, – Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat – he didn’t emulate him. If anything, this shows the dialogue between India and Pakistan has little hope of resuming in near future. India has now a vast constituency that  won’t agree to talks with Pakistan, let alone  stand a pursuit for the resolution. And if at all there has to be a resolution, New Delhi seeks it on its terms. So, when PM speaks of Vajpayee’s terms of reference on Kashmir, he divests them of their profound political import. He doesn’t mention Insaniyat in terms of the willingness to talk to separatists outside the ambit of the Constitution but interprets it literally as humanity. And Jamhooriyat for him is the large turnout in the Assembly and the parliamentary polls in the state. He, however, doesn’t elaborate a bit on Kashmiriyat, equating it with Sufism which teaches co-existence.

If anything, it shows the UP win  will hardly change the existing state of affairs. The PM is not in any way inclined to use his enormous political capital to seek a political resolution of Kashmir. This is unlike Atal Bihari Vajpayee,  his predecessor in BJP. Vajpayee too was ideologically-rooted. But he utilized his political stature to break free and dealt with issues unburdened by the ideological commitments.  Modi also has stature but he has so far chosen to play politically safe and operate strictly within ideological boundaries which have only narrowed by the day.

Considering much of Modi brand is based on a tough stance towards Pakistan and not conceding a bit in Kashmir, it is unlikely that he would depart from his policy so far. More so, when this stance has politically benefited him. His party’s agenda is a complete ideological makeover of India and the lynchpin of this programme is the integration of Kashmir into India by divesting the state of its constitutional safeguards. Now that the PM is armed with an absolute majority, one could expect him to work to realize this longstanding ideological agenda on the state. There is thus a dire need in Kashmir for a serious rethink and reflection about this new reality. Kashmiri leaders need to formulate a political response to counter an assault on the state’s constitutionally validated special position in Indian Union.   

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