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Saturday, 1 October 2016
Kashmirs from valley are watching
Kashmir is watching
By Arun Joshi
The 29/9 surgical strikes at the terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir has been imprinted as a memo...
The 29/9 surgical strikes at the terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir has been imprinted as a memorable event on the psyche of the nation. It has redrawn the psychological and strategic map of Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control. With just one set of surgical strikes, India has reversed the squeamish responses of the past and drawn fresh red lines, militarily, geographically and psychologically. For India too Kashmir is an unfinished agenda of the Partition. A strong message has been delivered to Pakistan that it can hold on to its soliloquy of Kashmir as its “jugular vein”, but India will not allow the breach of its position that “Kashmir is an integral part of India.”
That India has the legal right on the whole of Jammu and Kashmir was substantiated by the strikes at the terror camps, and not against the Pakistani army or the people. It was a sequel to the position articulated by the Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj at the United Nations General Assembly on September 26, when she asserted that: “Jammu and Kashmir, was, is and will remain an integral part of India and Pakistan should stop dreaming about it.”
Undoubtedly, the surgical strikes are being read as a cause and effect of the September 18 attack at the Army base in Uri, Kashmir, in which 19 Indian soldiers lost their lives. India went in for publically acknowledged strikes at the terror camps in PoK, with a due verbal copy to Pakistan's DGMO by his Indian counterpart.
India had declared that it would respond to the Uri attack at the “time and place of its choosing.” This meant that the Indian Army could launch strikes anywhere in Pakistan and from any of its establishment. It chose the areas close to the LoC in Poonch and Kupwara to mount the anti-terrorist strikes across the dividing line.
Jammu and Kashmir is a contested territory. As per the instrument of accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh in October 1947, the whole of the state, including Gilgit, Baltistan belongs to India, legally. Pakistan claims that this Muslim-majority state should have been its natural part as per the two-nation theory, forgetting that there is no East Pakistan now. There is no doubt that in some of the Muslim-majority areas this dream still lives on, as a result of a ham-handed handling of situations in the Valley, especially while dealing with disturbances. In the cycle of anti-India narrative being peddled, Pakistan has seen a growing space for itself in physical and emotional terms, forgetting that the appeal to Kashmiri Muslims lies in “azadi” emotionally and not in Pakistan.
Kashmiris would be keenly watching Pakistan's response. Since the strike against terrorists, Pakistan is in denial mode. It cannot own nurturing terrorists on its soil and does not want to be seen harbouring anti-India terrorists that it has trained in its camps in Pok and Pakistan. They had seen the decisive wiping out of East Pakistan in 1971 and the emergence of Bangladesh on the world map.
Today's Pakistan is not that of 1971 era. It is truncated and facing insurgencies in Balochistan and Sindh, but at the same time it is a nuclear power. India's conventional war supremacy is at risk because Pakistan is not committed to no first use of weapons of mass destruction. Since May 1998, when both India and Pakistan conducted tit-for-tat nuclear explosions, the fear gripped the world that any escalation of conflict in the subcontinent would lead to a nuclear clash with catastrophic consequences. Pakistan had successfully used this weapon of misinformation during the Kargil conflict of 1999. It was emboldened after 9/11, when the West needed Pakistan to neutralise the Taliban and Al-Qaida in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban was a creation of Pakistan's ISI, Pakistan's usefulness in decimating them was important. India was held back from taking any action beyond the “coercive diplomacy,” following the December 13, 2001 terror assault on the Indian Parliament. The shuttle diplomacy by the US and the UK defused the situation. Pakistan continued to use the reservoirs of terrorism to export terrorists to India and Afghanistan. Its actions largely went unpunished in the public domain.
Something moved the strategic poles early Thursday morning. The action of the Indian soldiers prevented mayhem in Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of the country. Thirty-eight terrorists could have wreaked havoc. This offensive was Jammu and Kashmir specific, steeped in symbolism. The tremors of its impact were felt beyond the state. A strike from elsewhere would not have had as much impact. Pakistan was made to realise that it cannot take for granted that there would be no response to its attacks in Jammu and Kashmir.
Something had to change and it did. Kargil was a new script in mountain warfare, where India let the world know that it can fight all the odds against it. The September 29 strikes showed that no amount of Pakistan-sponsored agitation in the Valley, couched as a “peaceful freedom struggle” by the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his September 21 speech at the United Nations General Assembly, could prove a hurdle in its mission. The Uri attack emanated from across the Loc and the surgical strikes were launched and executed from this side of the LoC.
Kashmir is a natural theatre of India- Pakistan hostilities. What is different is that the present Kashmir is not what it was in 1947, when there was a strong resistance to tribesman's invasion of the state. Even in 1965, the Indian Army was tipped off about Pakistan’s “Operation Gibraltar.” Of course, 1971 was different. East Pakistan was wiped out and Bangladesh emerged as a new nation on the world map.
Kashmiris were quick to grasp the message and their leader Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah saw the futility of his fight against the Indian rule in Kashmir. He fell in line and came back to power as the Chief Minister (not as Prime Minister, the position that he had held before he was deposed in August 1953). History has moved on that track since then.
The militancy, radicalism of the ISIS brand and the anti-India narrative have made things worse, particularly when Kashmiris blame the security forces for killing protestors (the violence part is never mentioned). This is a fluid situation. The agents provocateurs and saboteurs are active. This can cause more problems for the security forces and the country in Kashmir. In a way, one lesson that is visible is that India would no longer be squeamish in its response to terror attacks and those celebrating the massacre of Indian soldiers. The rules of the game have changed. The sustainability of this lies in how the future crisis is handled. Kashmir is watching