It was something that needed to be said in no uncertain terms and the minister for rural development Jairam Ramesh did just that. At the end of a recent visit to Kashmir, he spoke of how the troubled state needs the right political engagement and not a strategy influenced by spy and security agencies.
That this came from a senior member of the government suggests that the Centre is giving the parlous conditions in the state serious thought and is contemplating a change in approach to the problems it faces. This will also strengthen the hands of the state’s chief minister Omar Abdullah who has been at odds with the Centre in recent times over the actions of the security forces. This is not to suggest that India can afford to ignore the security aspect of the problem.
A recent report speaks of the collusion between the American Central Intelligence Agency and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence on permitting drone attacks on Pakistan’s soil as long as its nuclear facilities and terror training camps were not touched. This should teach us two things.
One, the Americans are not going to pull our chestnuts out of the fire by putting pressure on Pakistan, rather they will do what suits their own interests. Two, Pakistan is hellbent on wreaking havoc in India even though it is itself going down the drain on all fronts. But, as Mr Ramesh has correctly pointed out, the Indian State seems to have forgotten the human element in its strategy towards Kashmir.
Many people in Kashmir, probably an overwhelming majority, want nothing more than peace and normalcy. Mr Ramesh’s pitch for two projects to help rural women become entrepreneurs and to help youth acquire skills will, if executed properly, go a long way towards mainstreaming an alienated people. The Kashmiris have seen for themselves the perils of throwing in their lot with a rapidly failing Pakistan. What they need is more encouragement and investment from the Centre and much more effort to address the problems of the state politically.
The chief minister who has seemed marooned in recent times must be kept in the loop on decisions that could affect the state like the manner in which the whole Afzal Guru episode was handled. Pakistan will keep up or even increase its efforts to create mayhem in the Valley. But since forewarned is forearmed, India must put in place the necessary steps to minimise the damage to the life and property of people in the Valley. There are no easy solutions to this fractious problem. But bitter experience suggests that the solution cannot be exclusive of the wishes of the people. And Mr Ramesh was reflecting this sentiment when he made his remarks, though this realisation seems somewhat belated.