Kashmir is again witnessing a serious escalation of militant violence. Eight CRPF paramilitary personnel were killed and 21 others injured in an ambush at Pampore on June 25. This follows two other separate attacks this month, which killed two BSF personnel at Bijbehera and three policemen in Srinagar. The incidence of militant violence in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) often corresponds to the tenor of India-Pakistan relations. In recent years, India’s counter-insurgency successes and the intent to sustain bilateral dialogue has acted together to bring down the number of casualties significantly. In other words, Pakistan would maintain a measure of militant capacity in Kashmir but would calibrate violence in line with its (shifting) political purposes.
It looks like Islamabad has decided to spike up the militancy yet again. This is of course in step with the charged atmospherics owing to the recent tussle over India’s bid for membership into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Islamabad clearly banded with China to oppose India. Sartaj Aziz, foreign affairs adviser to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, openly proclaimed that Pakistan successfully blocked India’s membership. The coordinated action with Beijing also seems to have prompted a brash, insensitive remark from Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit who when asked about the Pampore attack reiterated that Kashmir was an issue to be resolved and preferred to focus on the Iftaar that he was hosting. Home minister Rajnath Singh reacted sharply to the militant attacks saying that if shots were fired from Pakistan then India would not be keeping a count on the bullets that it will fire.
The tensions between India and China and the downturn in India-Pakistan ties looks set to have violent consequences in Kashmir. This round of instability will also affect tourism revenues in the Valley the summer season is still underway. The Centre may be reconciled to a new phase of India-Pakistan hostility that proceeds from wider geopolitics but it must find a way to address widespread anger in Kashmir. New Delhi has often relied on the state government to pacify Kashmir but the PDP-BJP coalition is unpopular in the Valley for several reasons including the shooting of five civilians at Handwara in April and the speculation about resettling ex-servicemen in the Valley. Pakistan can be expected to stoke violence in Kashmir but the Centre needs a more purposive, sensitive political strategy for the Valley.