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As the euphoria of a fantastic electoral victory dies down, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will start looking at various issues of governance and security. This must include a serious look at Kashmir, where a lack of understanding and of coordination between the Centre and the state, combined with wayward policies, has shaped the situation to the advantage of the separatists. Two observations need to be flagged. First, the 25-year, externally sponsored conflict is at a crucial stage. The military process of eliminating the internal systems of terror is reaching its culmination but politically, not enough has been done to take the situation to the next stage. Second, for the first time in 25 years, we have political stability at the Centre, with a single party having won a majority.
No doubt, the prime minister will be briefed by security experts. But he must avoid accepting cliched approaches. The most viable policy is to internally strengthen our position and disallow the message that the government is willing to negotiate from a position of weakness or an “as is where is” situation. There will be efforts to internationalise the Kashmir problem, with the notion that fresh initiatives are a must and that the goodwill brought in by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit must be seized. But policy formulation is not based on such temporary positives, which appear from time to time. There are external, internal and external-internal dimensions to the situation that need to be understood. The external dimension is highly dynamic, contingent on the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, besides the peripheral areas. The attempts to ideologically establish radical roots in the region should concern us most. That is what drives radicals in Pakistan to continue targeting Jammu and Kashmir. It is important to remain engaged with Pakistan’s moderates and ensure that radical ideology is not allowed to dominate the future narrative — that is the common ground the two prime ministers have for the time being. China’s entry and interests in the AfPak region have to be taken into account while formulating our responses.
The external-internal dynamic is the deep interest that the extra-constitutional establishment in Pakistan takes in matters concerning India, with a special focus on J&K. The Pakistan army, struggling with internal security challenges at present, needs J&K as a diversion. The ISI has its own agenda and considers itself the guardian of Pakistan’s strategic interests. The radicals, led by Hafiz Saeed, have this establishment’s support to keep alive the J&K narrative in the minds of citizens and pursue violent activism. The authorised establishment can give no assurances — those given are face savers, at best. Yet the initiative of inviting Nawaz Sharif and his acceptance of the invitation were both bold and welcome, because doors have to continued…