The central government has made a mess of a previously successful strategy to tackle militancy in Kashmir, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has said, holding a BJP-PDP alliance responsible for creating a space for “terrorists”.
In an interview with Hindustan Times, Gandhi said the Congress had a clear plan for Kashmir -- bring young people into the mainstream, generate employment and isolate Pakistan diplomatically – that had ended violence and helped India.
“We broke the backbone of terrorism into three to four pieces and brought peace. We confined Pakistan, tied their hands and almost packed them,” the Congress leader told HT late on Thursday.
But, he added, the BJP had diverted from the successful plan by not talking to local people and not including smaller countries in a global campaign to isolate Pakistan. “They don’t have an understanding of the basic tools. Every single person says the prime minister does not listen.”
The Congress leader’s comments came after two months of violence in Kashmir that has claimed 86 lives and left more than 10,000 people injured with widespread protests and discontent against the government and army.
Analysts say the surge in anti-India sentiment had undone decades-long efforts to curb militancy that first broke out in the Valley in 1989. India holds Pakistan responsible for the surge in violence and bilateral relations have rapidly plummeted, especially after an attack on an army base in Kashmir that killed 18 soldiers last Sunday.
But Gandhi pinned the blame on the BJP-PDP coalition, saying the coming together of the ideologically divergent parties was a “strategic disaster” that opened the doors for militants.
He said the PDP had a role in bringing dissatisfied youngsters and potential militants into the political system but that had been destroyed by the presence of the BJP – seen in the Valley as an anti-Kashmiri force.
“By aligning with the BJP, the PDP has almost been finished,” he told HT. “The alliance was an anti-national act done for political opportunism. It cost India tremendously.”
Since violence broke out following the July 8 killing of insurgent leader Burhan Wani, the BJP has grown increasingly unpopular in the Valley and top PDP leaders have spoken out against the alliance.
Gandhi blamed Modi for the escalation in violence, saying the prime minister was mistaken in not visiting countries associated with the Non-Aligned Movement and enlisting their support to isolate Pakistan.
The Congress leader said when former PM Manmohan Singh used to discuss the Kashmir issue with the local people and senior officials “Now the PM does not talk. The people are afraid of the PM,” he said.
“I was shocked when a senior official said the PM knows his mind. No one can tell him otherwise. How will they make a strategy? The PM is already decided.”
The 46-year-old detailed the Congress’ Kashmir strategy of isolating Pakistan, engaging the youth, carrying out panchayat polls, generating jobs and linking women to the banking system through self-help groups.
“We ensured dissatisfied Kashmiris found an entry point to the political process from panchayati raj institutions on one side and the PDP on the other. I used to visit Jammu and Kashmir periodically. I had taken leading industrialists Ratan Tata and others. This was very successful.”
“The Congress successfully fought terrorism in Kashmir. Tourists started visiting in large numbers.”
He said the Congress will support a “concrete strategy” on Kashmir that denies Pakistan any opportunity to harm India.
“Geopolitical strategy cannot be based on events. It’s not a game. You have to take into account and respect the views of people who have experience. The PM does not do that and India is paying a price.”