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Friday, Aug 23, 2019

Kashmir: Play cards right

This will ensure that it is treated as a domestic issue by the world

editorials Updated: Aug 13, 2019 20:26 IST

Hindustan Times
The government must not lose sight of the need to lift prohibitory orders at the first opportune moment
The government must not lose sight of the need to lift prohibitory orders at the first opportune moment (AFP)

The world has decided to wait and watch when it comes to Kashmir. A good chunk of the international system could even be said to be paying no attention. Pakistan’s hopes of creating a global storm over the Indian government’s ending of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status have fallen flat. China, unsurprisingly, has made the most noise but most of it has been about Ladakh. Now even President Donald Trump’s mediation offer is reportedly “off the table”. The United Nations Security Council told Islamabad it would not allow a discussion on Kashmir. The Islamic world has been silent. The overwhelming sense: a world that has other priorities, does not see Pakistan as a credible complainant and is prepared to take the Modi government at its word when it says both democracy and statehood will be restored.

There has been ample evidence that the world long ago become tired of Kashmir and largely endorsed India’s view that this was a bilateral concern. Pakistan’s own brinkmanship has steadily undermined the credibility of its own arguments, whether through its support for terrorist activity or its willingness to provoke border wars a la Kargil. The decline in militancy in the Kashmir Valley from its height in the late 1980s and the contemporaneous rise in India’s economic and strategic significance has made it all that much harder for Pakistan to find an external audience. This was evident in the aftermath of India’s airstrike on Balakot. The lack of sympathy for a Pakistan that had, ultimately, been bombed on its own soil, was striking.

New Delhi cannot afford to rest on its laurels. Quite a bit of the present international acceptance of events is because Kashmir is relatively quiet. While odd protests can be expected, bloodshed should be avoided as much as possible as that, more than anything else, could swing the international mood from passivity to activism. The government must not lose sight of the need to lift prohibitory orders at the first opportune moment and initiate Kashmir along the complex path to new elections and statehood as soon as possible. Holding to these requirements will be made doubly difficulty by Rawalpindi’s recognition that violence is the best method to undermine the Modi programme.

Terrorist activity, Line of Control fireworks and the funding of mobs are all expected. India should begin the process of vaccinating world opinion to this likelihood even as it continues to wrestle with how to ease the Valley back to a state of quasi normalcy. India took two decades to persuade the world to treat Kashmir as a bilateral issue. If it plays it cards right today, it can ensure Kashmir is treated as a domestic issue within two years.

First Published: Aug 13, 2019 20:26 IST

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