Not By Development Alone

HOME minister Amit Shah's three day visit to Kashmir was perhaps the longest than any of his predecessors must have spent in J&K. In a packed schedule, the home minister made sure he pays close attention to the problems of the former state. He interacted with diverse delegations. The visit was primarily not political in nature. The home minister tried to keep the focus on the development of J&K. Almost all his statements were more or less about improving the economy of the union territory and providing employment to the youth. He didn’t, however, announce any big-ticket economic or political initiative as is otherwise expected from a high-profile visit like that of a home minister. And that too as powerful as Amit Shah. In fact, the visit even dampened the expectations of talks with Pakistan.

In response to a statement by the former J&K Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah that India should talk to Pakistan to resolve bilateral issues, the home minister said he would rather talk to the youth of Kashmir than Islamabad. This coming from the home minister of India means that India has no plans to talk to Pakistan in near future. It is true, in the last over two years New Delhi has tried to cleanse Kashmir of its Pakistan and separatist discourse. And it has so far been successful in that. Though there had been some back-channel contact between the two neighbours towards the end of the last year which culminated into a re-affirmation of ceasefire in February this year, the dialogue failed to move on after India apparently refused to reverse the revocation of Article 370. And ever since the two countries have drifted apart. Their relations have become tense again. And it is unlikely that the neighbours can negotiate their way out of this dead-end unless there is a minimum level of mutual confidence between them. In the current circumstances, it seems unimaginable how this confidence could be restored.

That said, the home minister’s visit which came immediately in the wake of the killings of civilians including those of the members of the minority community was also to bring back a sense of security. He defended the internet and security curbs in the Valley saying they were necessary to save the lives. During his stay, he highlighted what he said was the redeeming difference made by the withdrawal of J&K autonomy. The visit has also come in for some criticism with political opponents of the BJP saying that the situation in Kashmir had only deteriorated over the last two years. However, the truth of Kashmir is more nuanced. One can only hope that the situation from hereon gets better.

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