Go back to Vajpayee, Manmohan doctrine


Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has once again spoken on Kashmir, this time warning the central and J&K governments of the “perilous path” it has taken in Kashmir.  He has warned that the lowest-ever polling in Srinagar constituency portends “difficult days” ahead and suggested that the government give up its muscular policy on the state and pursue engagement with the people.  However, the centre is unlikely to heed this gratuitous, albeit sane advice. If anything, the deferment of the Anantnag polls following the lowest ever polling in Srinagar has shown the limits of the Doval Doctrine on Kashmir. An exclusively security-driven approach was expected to bring the militancy under control and also reign in the youthful protesters, leading to a realization that the resistance was futile. This, in turn, was expected to force people to settle for accommodation with New Delhi on latter’s terms.

“In the game of power, the ultimate justice lies with one who is strong,” Doval said in his famous 2010 speech on Kashmir adding that India should change its “soft approach” towards Kashmiri political leaders. But as the past three years of BJP rule has proven, the policy has done little to bring peace to Kashmir or forced Kashmiris to settle for reconciliation with New Delhi. Instead, the situation has only gotten worse.  The alienation is unprecedented. Far from ending the militancy, the past three years have not only revived it but also made it more indigenous. Now for the first time in more than a decade,  the local militants have outnumbered the foreigners. What is more, the security estimate puts the number of militants at more than 300, which is double the number that had been active over the past decade.

What is more, Kashmir street has turned decisively against New Delhi. Overwhelming participation in the militant funerals followed by the protests near encounter sites are also of the recent provenance.  And as the comprehensive boycott of Srinagar by-poll has shown, now people for the first time aren’t ready to allow polls. The government has now been forced to defer the other poll in Anantnag scheduled for April 12 to May. This is a profoundly telling development. Never before has the Election Commission been forced to defer polls in Valley for the simple reason that they couldn’t be held.  Three years is a long time for a policy to bear fruit. And if we go by the current situation, the Doval Doctrine has only ended up deepening the alienation in Kashmir. And if any policy did make a redeeming difference, it was a policy of reconciliation and engagement towards Kashmir and Pakistan pursued by New Delhi from 2002 onwards to 2007. Ironically, the policy was begun by the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a BJP leader, and taken forward by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh through his first term. The policy had greatly reduced militancy in Valley and helped build a momentum towards the resolution of Kashmir. If anything is urgently needed to address today’s Kashmir situation, it is to return to the same processes and policies.  We urgently need a reversal of Doval Doctrine on Kashmir.

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