Ceasefire Was Bound To Fail

Now that the centre has withdrawn unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir, it looks like it is the end of the road for the Modi-led government in the state. Military is back in charge and the killing cycle – albeit only moderately down during truce period – is set to begin anew. On Monday, two militants and a civilian were killed across the Valley. Government forces also launched several Cordon and Search Operations across South Kashmir and people once again came out to resist them. After a month-long pointless “suspension of the combat operations”, the government has concluded that it hasn’t in anyway helped improve the situation. Hence the recourse to military again, as if the muscular handling of the situation had made any redeeming difference. The sad part of this state of affairs is that there will be little opportunity for a political or apolitical outreach in the near future: It is the last year of the NDA government at the centre and in a few months, the ruling BJP is set to be go into election mode. So any initiative on the state can neither be sustained nor politically profitable for the BJP.

Though on its face, the unilateral ceasefire was great, it was a move undertaken for its own sake. The premise behind it was not only flawed but also half-baked. It should have been the outcome of an integrated effort at a political process on Kashmir. Ideally, it should have begun with the talks with Pakistan, even before the centre approached Hurriyat. It would  always be a hard sell for Hurriyat to talk directly to New Delhi, with Islamabad out of the loop. One reason for this is that the Hurriyat’s political objective is not an internal Delhi-Srinagar settlement of the Kashmir issue but a  Delhi-Srinagar-Islamabad solution. Second, Islamabad would be deeply sceptical about a Hurriyat-New Delhi track,  let alone countenance an internal settlement. So, such a settlement would not be even the worth the piece of paper, it is signed on. Some local and minor political and administrative re-adjustment will hardly do for a solution. On the contrary, Hurriyat runs the risk of becoming mainstream, leaving its space in Valley to be filled in by the new political and militant actors, probably much more hardline than the current crop of separatists.  

On the other hand, an ongoing bilateral dialogue with Islamabad will remove Hurriyat’s inhibitions about engaging Delhi – that is, should the latter feel interested to bring them on board.  But with relations with Pakistan at their bitterest, there are fewer prospects for a repeat of the Vajpayee-era “triangular dialogue” – one, between India and Pakistan and their respective engagement with the Kashmiri stakeholders. So, before New Delhi mulls another initiative on Kashmir, it had better take a more realistic view of the fiendishly complex issue that Kashmir is. There is no way, it can hope to address the state directly. Islamabad will have to be engaged, sooner or later.



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