On his visit to Kargil War Memorial in Drass sector on Saturday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh once again said that the resolution of Kashmir issue is on the cards and that no power on the earth can stop it. As usual, Singh gave no details about the solution being envisaged. In past, however, he has made it clear that the solution won’t allow any compromise over the territorial integrity of India, an iteration of the longstanding Government of India position which one could as well have taken for granted.
But what is this Kashmir solution, that the defence minister is talking about? The statement has, however, generated a simultaneous interest and anxiety in Kashmir. There is interest as the BJP with its integrationist agenda on Kashmir is talking about a permanent solution, which is seen as an indirect acknowledgement of a problem in the state, something the BJP normally denies exists. And there is anxiety as no one is sure about the partys intention to adopt a political approach towards the turmoil in the state and work towards a political resolution.
And understandably so. In BJP’s last term in the government, there was no political outreach towards Kashmir. Government response was invariably militaristic in nature. So what is the defence minister really talking about? Is he talking about a resolution in a matter-of-fact manner, meaning nothing more than a stabilization of the situation? This could mean tougher security measures to quell the protests and the stone throwing. A scorched earth policy to crush the militancy. A plan perhaps to eliminate the active local and foreign militants over a specific period of time. Stronger action against the alleged sources of militant funding. And backing it up with an unyielding political stance.
Considering there has been a conspicuous toughening of the security measures in the Valley over the past five years, one could very well see it as part of the alleged plan for permanent resolution. But the truth is even if the centre to a significant extent achieves its ambitious security objectives in Valley within a specific timeframe, it would make little redeeming difference to the state of affairs. It wont be long before the situation lapses into uncertainty.
But we can hardly presume that New Delhi wont be aware of this reality. Hence a solution will call for something more, for example, an initiative or a plan which if carried to a logical conclusion has a game-changing potential in security, political or legal terms. One such anticipated measure and which has been a source of deep paranoia in Kashmir is the centres attempt to revoke or dilute J&K remaining constitutional safeguards to achieve integration of the state into India. Many people even speculate about a bid to undo the Article 370 or one of its critical features like the Article 35A that protects the J&Ks state subject laws whereby outsiders cant become the states citizens.
Or is there any political roadmap up the centre’s sleeve? One cant really say. So far the BJP under the Prime Minister Narenda Modi has given little indication that it even considers Kashmir an issue that needs a political settlement and has chosen to treat the unrest in the state as a law and order issue to be quelled by the use of force and the development.
But not long in the past, the same BJP led government was working towards a bilateral solution with Pakistan along Musharrafs four point formula. It was the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had begun the promising negotiations with Musharraf which were later followed up by the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The process had nearly culminated into a Kashmir solution by the end of 2007 when Musharrafs sudden loss of power and later on the Mumbai attacks aborted it.
However, there is a lot that has happened since. The dynamics that had made the engagement possible then no longer obtain. Several new factors are at play in the regional geo-politics and in the relations between the two countries that have made it increasingly difficult to resume the peace process.
But one hopes that the resolution that the defence minister is talking about is essentially political in nature. It should address the factors that have not only tipped Kashmir into a perpetual turmoil but also bedeviled the peace and prosperity in the larger South Asian region.