Mehbooba’s occasional pro-dialogue statements have no relevance except as a customary reiteration of her party’s stand.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has once again made a strong pitch for the talks with Pakistan as the war was not an option. Speaking on the last day of the Budget session in the legislative assembly, the CM said that the dialogue with Pakistan was necessary if the bloodshed and suffering in J&K was to be ended. She talked about how despite winning all the wars with Pakistan, the problem in Kashmir hadn’t gone away. Mehbooba once again spoke against the television channels for whipping up hate for their TRPs. She said the channels had “created a mess” as nobody was allowed to advocate dialogue.
However, this is not the first time that the CM has batted for dialogue. But it has hardly made any difference to the policy on Kashmir and Pakistan in New Delhi. The reason for this is not far to seek. Adversarial approach towards Pakistan and in part towards Kashmir has been at the heart of the BJP's sectarian ideological and policy outlook. The party has often resorted to belligerent rhetoric towards the neighbour to mobilize public opinion in India in its favour. And even in regard to the situation in the Valley, its approach has been aggressively pro-Army. If any more reminder on this was needed, it was provided by the BJP’s support to the Major Aditya Kumar when the state government filed an FIR against him for killing three civilians at Shopian. Now the Supreme court has stayed the FIR against the army officer. This kind of approach towards the killings in Kashmir leaves no scope for engagement and dialogue. Such a policy has little electoral benefits for the BJP, neither locally in Jammu, nor in rest of the country.
For all of Mehbooba’s noises, the PDP seems now all but reconciled to the state of affairs. However, one could still understand if it were only about the BJP’s rejection of dialogue that the PDP had resigned itself to. But the truth is that the BJP has so far refused to adhere to any of the agreements made in Agenda of Alliance, let alone take steps to implement any of them. This is something that has been a source of embarrassment for PDP in its core constituency in Valley where people blame it for its ill-advised alliance with the saffron party. However, the alliance is likely to go on regardless, much like the way it has so far. Mehbooba’s occasional pro-dialogue statements have no relevance except as a customary reiteration of her party’s stand.
But as things stand, her stance means little in New Delhi. Already the Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has indicated retaliatory action against Pakistan for the recent killings of soldiers along the Line of Control and the fidayeen attack at Sunjwan in which seven soldiers were killed. She said that “Pakistan will pay for the attack”. But even if a retaliatory raid is held, it will do little to redeem the situation. The violence is likely to go on as it springs from deeper structural factors which need to be addressed for a durable peace to return to the region.
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