The responses of the prime minister and the home minister to the current developments in Kashmir signal the termination of the brief phase of friendliness with Pakistan that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had initiated. Modi had reached out to his counterpart in Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, in the hope that the country’s civilian leadership might pick up the courage to take charge of Indo-Pak relations. However, even after India permitted a visit by the SIT of Pakistan, to Pathankot, to probe the terrorist attack organised from across the border on the airbase there, there was no follow up — the JeM leadership responsible for that act has not been prosecuted.
Rajnath Singh used the SAARC platform at Islamabad to declare that the international community must take appropriate action against Pakistan for breeding terrorism. The home minister returned from Islamabad to great national applause. In Parliament all the parties praised him for his address at the SAARC meet, giving the message that issues of national security are above politics. Modi, on his part, made it clear that the handling of mob violence in the Valley was India’s domestic concern and assured the people of Jammu and Kashmir that the state’s coalition government will work on the principles of democracy, humanism and inclusiveness that are the hallmarks of “Kashmiriyat”.
The final enunciation of India’s no-nonsense approach to Pakistan has come from the prime minister who declared from the ramparts of Red Fort that the youth should not take to arms under external influence, that there could be no glorification of “terrorists” as martyrs and that India will not forget PoK is part of Jammu and Kashmir and belongs to India. He warned Pakistan that India will not be a silent spectator to atrocities by the Pakistan government in Balochistan and PoK. India’s new line that Pakistan will have to pay for cross-border terrorism has not come a day too soon.
The Centre now must control all the parameters of the Indo-Pak situation, domestic and international. Three things are important in this respect. The first relates to what Rajnath Singh emphasised at the SAARC conference: The international community should not allow a distinction to be made between “good terrorists” and “bad terrorists”. During the “war on terror”, the US — guided by its national interests — had looked the other way when Pakistan let loose terrorist outfits like LeT, JeM and HuM on India to compel the country to come to the negotiating table on Kashmir. These outfits did not target any other country. Since the combat against radicals is far from over, thanks to the rise of the ISIS, it was necessary for India to remind the international community that it was absolutely unwarranted for any country to draw a line between one set of terrorists and another.
Secondly, Pakistan will now make a desperate bid to step up subversion in the Valley and intensify infiltration there to replicate a Kargil- type situation. Pakistan is also encouraged by the Sino-Pak axis acquiring a military and nuclear dimension. Our foreign policy establishment is going to be tested: It has to isolate Pakistan as a military dictatorship that has duped the US-led West, as far as fighting Islamic radicals is concerned. Pak army is now in a position to manoeuvre agents of ISIS and al Qaeda. In the US, Donald Trump’s election campaign has increased American awareness about radical Islam and the next dispensation there is likely to understand the threat of faith-based militancy that India faces.
Lastly, the Centre must get all constitutional functionaries including the governor of Jammu and Kashmir to play their assigned role in safeguarding national security. The counter-terrorism operations of the army should not be confused with that of the police, backed by the para military forces, in handling civic unrest. The state government must devote itself to improving the human development index in the state. It should be asked to not encourage separatists. It should also be made clear that dealing with Pakistan on matters relating to Kashmir is the Centre’s preserve. Many apologists of Pakistan suggest that the Valley is totally alienated from India. Our domestic policy should be robust enough to take care of these concerns.