2018 has ended on a sombre note in Kashmir. This year again saw the violence take the centre stage. Militancy expectedly grew from strength to strength. The rising number of killings have led to corresponding replenishment. The beginning of 2019 thus eerily recalls the start of 2018. Militancy-wise, the Valley is poised precariously where it was at the start of the last year.
Going forward there is little hope that this state of affairs will change for the better. That is if the governments in New Delhi and Srinagar choose to continue to deal with it through excessive use of force. More so, when the changing global situation in the region might make such an approach more unproductive. For example, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan will disrupt the geo-political arrangement that with all its troubles had become a source of new regional stability. An Afghanistan without US presence could plunge back into turmoil with India and Pakistan fighting for control. The consequent disorder would further spill over into Pakistan which in turn could cross into Kashmir.
This unhelpful scenario will only be further set back by the continuing lack of dialogue between Pakistan and India through 2019 due to national polls in India. Such an environment has every potential to send Kashmir adrift unless both countries take concrete measures to pre-empt this possibility.
So, what would the 2019 Kashmir be like? Very uncertain, indeed. Shall we see the continuation of militancy in the state? This is a distinct possibility even if Pakistan lacks the weight to support another cycle of insurgency in the state. There is no underestimating the ability of the militant networks in Pakistan to act autonomously of the government. More so, when impending US exit is likely to offer them space and time to refocus their energies eastwards.
There is also a possibility that Kashmir could remain peaceful with a few sensational attacks occasionally breaking the calm. But we could also be looking forward to a very tumultuous year, considering the fact that the state will be holding two successive or may be simultaneous parliamentary and assembly elections. And elections over the past three decades have always brought the worst out of the Valley. The exercise becomes a bitter contest of contending political ideologies and the conflicting sentiments and their most likely physical fallout is the sudden rise in violence followed ultimately and this has largely been the feature of the past decades by the participation in the polls. So, here we keep our fingers crossed but meanwhile welcome the arrival of new year. May the new year bring peace to Kashmir that doesnt have to be enforced but evolves out of a genuine process of addressing the issue of Kashmir.
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