The situation in Jammu and Kashmir - The External Dimension

     Since the day the Radcliffe Award was announced, Pakistan has tried every trick in the book to wrest Kashmir from India. Whether it was to send in 'raiders' in 1947 or 'infiltrators' in 1965, whether it was training and sending in 'militants' since the late 1980s or Kargil in 1999, Pakistan has pursued a single-minded policy on Kashmir. Irrespective of whether it was a short-lived democratic government under the shadow of the military or the military itself, Pakistan's objective on Kashmir has been unwavering. Pakistan's policy of waging a proxy war against India during the last two decades has been well documented, well established and an internationally recognized fact. It requires no repetition here. What is relevant to the current situation in Kashmir is that Pakistan was caught unaware as was India when the agitations started in June and took the shape that they have taken. Make no mistake about it. Pakistan did not engineer the situation of the Machhil killing nor the mishandling of the situation by the state government thereafter. What it has done is to take advantage of the situation once it started to deteriorate. A direction from across the border to agents in Kashmir to ensure agitations and violence in order to invite retaliation by the security forces has also been documented. Pakistan's glee at the fury of the agitators can well be imagined. The anti-India slogans and slogans of Azaadi, while there in the background for the last two decades, have assumed an intensity and volume not heard since the early 1990s. For Pakistan, it is again a situation of now or never for Azaadi, an opportunity to wrest Kashmir that has presented itself on a platter. In the 1990s, Pakistan had literally jumped the gun. Impatient with political protests, marches and bandh calls, it had injected violence with the hope that the process of 'Kashmir banega Pakistan' would be hastened. The policy boomeranged. The Indian state has demonstrated that it can deal with violence till the cows come home. But in the process, the Kashmiri struggle got discredited. The international community was unwilling to accept violence as a means to change the status quo. Moreover, to sustain levels of violence, Pakistan had first to sideline the pro-Independence JKLF and build and project the Kashmiri alternative. When that was not enough, it started injecting Pakistanis and others, the 'mehmans', in a plethora of tanzeems. After various experiments and permutations and combinations, they finally came up with the Lashkar, the Lashkar-e-Toiba. For a long time, it was an article of faith with Pakistan that India could be brought to the negotiating table only if the level of violence was notched up greatly in Kashmir- a kind of softening up of India. This would force India to talk and to give concessions. With violence not finding international acceptance, the current turmoil has suited it very well. Recall the glee with which Pak Foreign Minister Qureshi told the Pakistan media that how the situation in Kashmir would find a mention in the talks. In fact, Pakistan used the Kashmir situation to blunt India's call for action against the 26/11 perpetrators and in the process sidelined terrorism being the main issue on the agenda. Why Pakistan will not rein in or act decisively against the Lashkar will be the subject of another piece. Suffice to say here that despite the political track being pursued by Pakistan at present, it has in no way given up on the training and arming of militants, especially of the Lashkar variety. It will also try and push in agent provocateurs to keep the agitational pot boiling and at the appropriate juncture, instigate violence to provoke retaliatory firing by the security forces. However, the issue is not merely of Pakistan not reining in the Lashkar to do its bidding in Kashmir and in India. The danger to Kashmiriyat, to Kashmiri culture, ethos, and way of life from the Lashkar is far worse than anything that they have faced so far. The government, both state and central, have totally failed to project this to the Kashmiris and to show what its real agenda and that of Pakistan is. While Pakistan is certainly euphoric about developments in Kashmir and about the opportunity that has presented itself, yet, it would view these very developments with some amount of concern for two reasons: First, recent developments have put the spotlight on Geelani and catapulted him in a leadership role. In India, Geelani is viewed as a hardliner, even though it was his call that was largely responsible for the agitators to stop stone pelting and damaging public property. However, Pakistan has little reason to cheer about him either. To them, he is an obstinate man who resisted pressures from Musharraf downwards to change his stance on the Hurriyat or Musharraf's proposals a few years ago. It was largely due to Geelani's obstinacy that Musharraf was not able to achieve what he so desperately wanted. Second, while Pakistan has definite links with the Hurriyat and that generation of Kashmiris, it is as ignorant as India about the leadership profile of Gen Next. Worse, as most people have realized, Gen Next is on the rebound from the Pakistan-sponsored violence of the past two decades that has got them only body bags but no Azaadi. That it is equally on the rebound from the traditional Kashmiris politicians would provide little comfort to Pakistan. Moreover, the jury is still out on whether Gen Next has bought the Pakistani argument that Azaadi means accession to Pakistan. It is one thing to shout anti-India slogans, it quite another to sacrifice Azaadi to fulfill Pakistani aspirations. Rest assured, in the coming days, weeks and months, Pakistan would pull out all stops to establish linkages with Gen Next and dictate their agenda of 'Kashmir banega Pakistan'. Already Syed Salahuddin has been brought out from semi-retirement and made to give inflammatory speeches that have been relayed in various mosques. For India, this is both an opportunity and a challenge to get its act together and reach out to Gen Next before it is too late for this generation, too. (The above article is the personal views expressed by the author.)

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