Kashmir has been under abnormal situation since July 2016 where there is a prolonged curfew, continuous demonstrations and lot of people have got injured and have died. In August 2016, there was an all-party marathon meeting of 8 hours chaired by PM on Kashmir situation. This meeting was the first engagement of the Modi government with the Kashmir issue.
The PM’s message
One message that has come out from the meeting is that the entire political spectrum of the country is worried about what is happening in Kashmir and is concerned about it.
The PM’s address has stated that all doors of government and country is open for every Kashmiri. It is an important statement which shows the intentions of the political leadership. Apart from it, it has been clarified that Kashmir is integral part of India and there will be no compromise on it.
There will be no adjustment with terrorism. India will continue to fight against it and elements which promote terrorism
For the first time, India raised the issue of PoK where it is clarified by the PM that India will also talk to people of PoK. This is important in the wake of the agitation going on in various cities and towns of PoK against the fraud elections recently held.
The PoK also includes Gilgit and Baltistan. One-third of it is handed over by Pakistan to the Chinese.
The Vajpayee connection
PM involved the name of former PM Vajpayee in dealing with Kashmir issue and had made open statements. PM Vajpayee had been a very popular figure in Kashmir and was seen as a change-maker. He was the person who could think out of box. While addressing Kashmiris, he said that insaniyat is more important than constitution. Thus, he entirely changed the course of narrative in Kashmir.
The present PM is expected to take on the Kashmir matters further with former PM Vajpayee’s approach. An essential part of PM Vajpayee’s formula was a kind of political initiative which he initiated in Kashmir in terms of Insaniyat, Kashmiriyat and Jamooriyat. The present PM has hinted on following the same path. The Union home minister has already made it clear that all the stakeholders in Kashmir will be talked to. The process of identification of these stakeholder has begun and this will take place with the local government. These issues will be focus of attention of the government including the opposition party to have stretched on the need for dialogue.
The PM has not given any concrete framework on Kashmir though he has given direction. It is good in a way as it is not a knee-jerk reaction.
In past it has been observed that political meetings of this kind and there will be immediate reaction to it, which in long run doesn’t help. This time, the all-party meeting was a consultative meeting. The PM heard everyone out and there was collating on the suggestions. The concrete policy will be drafted very soon. Earlier dialogues did not create any long term resolution of Kashmir issue.
This time, the government is taking its time, it is seriously studying the issue and wants to take measured step about what it means to be in Kashmir and have a game plan.
There was a strong implicit message for Pakistan when India clearly said that it is willing to talk to people of PoK. The issue of no compromise with terror and no talks with Pakistan given the atmosphere. If any talks are to be held, there will be talks on Kashmir of PoK only.
It is first time that a PM has raised PoK topic openly else every time there is a parliament resolution passed where PoK is part of India.
People are waiting for government of India to spell out their stand.
He drew attention to excesses committed by Pakistan state on its own regions and minorities. He even alluded of the fact that Pakistan has been guilty of using fighter aircraft against its own citizens in Balochistan.
In the state of J&K, there is state of Gilgit-Baltistan which was earlier called the Federally Administered Tribal Area where, Gilgit-Baltistan particularly is in a twilight zone. It is neither part of Pakistan in full sense like other provinces. Here the citizens do not enjoy democratic rights that the other citizens of the state have. Technically Gilgit-Baltistan can be described as equivalent of disputed of area.
The PM has reminded the citizens of India, many of whom may not remember the historical detail that Kashmir is not an issue by itself, it is part of the composite state of J&K and Pakistan is illegally occupying its part.
The real significance is that PM has drawn attention to the four parts of state of Jammu and Kashmir- Jammu + Ladakh + Kashmir + PoK. He reminded his interlocutors in the all party meeting as well as a signal to Pakistan that, for India, the concern is about the composite state of J&K which had acceded or joined India in October 1948 and Kashmir cannot be seen in isolation.
In 1994, Parliament passed a unanimous resolution where they mentioned that Kashmir is an integral part of India including PoK. In a similar Independence Day speech by former PM Narsimha Rao, he mentioned that the only unfinished agenda was getting back the PoK.
The present also PM asked the people to talk about the atrocities committed on the people of PoK and the problems they are facing should be highlighted. He suggested a two-way road map:
The people belonging to that region get in touch with those who are residing currently in PoK and expose the miserable conditions they are living in
The Indian mission should also try and build up on this narrative
This is a different approach that has no precedence. As far as India’s Pakistan policy is concerned, such clear cut mention of PoK and actions that can be possible taken is departure from past. The PM is actually advocating that the Indian state should reach out, also encouraging the people in J&K who have family and friends in PoK to ascertain the actual conditions on the ground and apprise the global community about the excesses being committed by Pakistani state and also, the denial of certain basic human rights, particularly the democratic norms and principles. The Indian mission given freedom to obtain inputs from those residents of PoK Balochistan who all had to flee Pakistan and now residing elsewhere, does mark a certain assertiveness as far as India’s Pakistan policy is concerned. When the PM mentions that PoK remains underdeveloped, people are facing lot of problems and in India, there is relative peace, people have democratic rights; not only a political but a multi-dimensional approach is being undertaken. Thus, PM is trying to widen the base, in terms of the issues in which Kashmir issue as located in the entire J&K can be addressed.
Involving the Kashmiris
The first CBM- confidence building measure towards people of Kashmir will be decision on use of pellet guns which is a big issue in Kashmir.
The PM talked about the people of J&K whether Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists to contact people in different regions of India and tell them the kind of development that has happened in the state and also compare it to development in another states.
The priority of government is restoration of normalcy. The PM has given clues to the young people who were major part of the agitators. He gave clues by telling that Kashmiris that they are our people, a majority of Kashmiris are peace loving people and there is a small section of people who are misguided. In addition, there is a neighbouring country which is stoking fire. The government has given the assurance of addressing all the problems but never the national security will be compromised.
The state is reeling under acute unemployment and lot of analyst have given the reasons that most of the demonstrators have been the unemployed youth generally.
PM has talked about development in the region and has given a rough policy on Kashmir.
Once the people of PoK compare their existence with rest of India and also J&K, they will understand that Azadi for Kashmir is not a legal not a political option. The people of J&K do not see themselves as becoming a part of Pakistan. Their entire grievances is about the way in which autonomy package has been understood or implemented. The PM has been able to grasp the issue so far. If PM is able to provide appropriate development options, along with that, for the youth there is education, jobs and whatever be the other skill sets and other human security issues- like access to medical colleges, hospital, modern technology, the Kashmir valley will see more peace. No doubt, these issues have been identified in the past but it lacked policy backed actions and political rhetoric followed whenever there is unrest.
The 80000 crore package given to J&K, it is not just meant for building roads electricity, it is for all round development of every part of J&K. So, every region should get its share of development money so that good education, employment for youth, modern healthcare and encourage tourism.
The point that J&K assembly still has vacant seats from the PoK region representation shows that India is determined that PoK is part of India only.
Connecting the dots:
India’s approach to Pakistan’s double standards on terrorism and human rights violation has given a diplomatic shock to Pakistan. Analyse.