Kashmir: Keep guard, reassure citizens
The Centre must maintain external security, but allay internal apprehensions.Updated: Aug 05, 2019, 07:59 IST
Jammu and Kashmir has been in ferment for the past week. It began with the Centre deploying additional paramilitary troops. On Friday, the Amarnath Yatra — in its last lap — was cut short. The government also advised tourists to leave the Valley. On Saturday, the process of evacuating non-Kashmiri students in the Valley’s educational institutions began. Residents of the state, particularly the Valley, have been anxious, getting into long queues to stock up on supplies. Kashmiri political parties have stepped up pressure on the Centre not to take any step that will alter the unique and special constitutional arrangements, particularly Article 370 and Article 35A, which underline the state’s relationship with the Union. The border too has heated up, with India foiling attempted infiltration bids by Pakistan’s Border Action Team (BAT).
There are two elements to the entire dynamic in the state. The first is external. The government, reports indicate, has received credible inputs that Pakistan is attempting to send infiltrators into Kashmir, while providing them with army cover. Islamabad is emboldened after the warm reception its Prime Minister Imran Khan got in Washington. The US dependence on Pakistan to facilitate talks with Taliban, which is a prerequisite for it to get out of Afghanistan, has changed the calculus in Washington. New Delhi realises this has direct security implications. In the late 1980s, as the jihad against the USSR drew down in Afghanistan, there was a shift of Islamist fighters towards Kashmir. Could Pakistan, yet again, attempt the redeployment of its assets from its western to eastern front? This would lead to a renewed phase of terrorism. India must do all it can to maintain security on the external front, keep a close watch on the evolving external geopolitical situation, and ward off any designs which can cause instability.
But there is also an internal element to the equation. While operational secrecy is necessary, it is time for the Centre to take Kashmiris — which includes the state’s political forces, civil society, and citizens — into confidence. There has been a lot of speculation, born out of the opaqueness of the Centre’s action, leading to panic. The political leadership in Delhi must reach out to Srinagar and outline, based on what can be shared without jeopardising national interest, the reasons for the security build-up. It must also desist from disruptive moves such as revoking Article 35A, at a time when the external situation is not conducive and the state does not have an elected assembly or government. This is the time to win the goodwill of citizens of the state, not alienate them.