It’s easy to criticise Kashmir policy as part of Opposition, Mr Chidambaram

Seventy years of talks and still no solution implies that it was a wrong approach from the start.

 |  5-minute read |   17-07-2017
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P Chidambaram’s recent article in The Financial Express, titled “Centre has taken a maximalist position on Kashmir like militants”, is seeking to defend the failures of the UPA and deflect its faulty policies to the present government.

Further, a weak Opposition is always scared when the government in power adopts a different approach, which may succeed. Every approach must be given time before it is judged.

For decades, the Congress ruled the nation and yet was unable to resolve the Kashmir tangle. Still Chidambaram in this article seeks to justify their failures and oppose the present approach.

Every government, which has held power at the Centre prior to the present one, had always considered talks as the solution to the Kashmir problem. If talks, as claimed by Chidambaram, could have resolved the issue, then Kashmir would never have been in the state it is now.

Seventy years of talks and still no solution implies that talks were never meant to be the solution and were a wrong approach from the start. It is this soft policy alone which is the cause of the current crises. A soft approach implies postponing a decision, not taking one, which had been the hallmark of the UPA.

The Congress, including the UPA, which it headed, always visualised the separatists and Pakistan as the holders of the key to Kashmir. Thus, they kept pampering the Hurriyat, providing it funds, security and support. It even failed to indict Yasin Malik for the killing of air force personnel, even though it was known.

Had the Hurriyat been serious about talks, Kashmir would have been resolved by now. The Hurriyat played games and the Congress fell hook, line and sinker for it, a failure which Chidambaram attempts to justify.

The Congress also prevented the Army from adopting harsh measures against militants and Pakistan, giving both leeway and a sense of success. Stone-pelting existed even then, but was restricted as social media was yet to gain ground.

The fact that it is social media which fuels anger, spreads false propaganda and calls stone throwers to the fore was carefully avoided by Chidambaram.

The funding by Pakistan to the separatists would have been known, but Congress mollycoddling prevented agencies from acting against them. It is this funding which supported stone throwing, as the cutting of hawala transactions has reduced it to a trickle.

kashmir1_071717050847.jpgThe Hurriyat played games and the Congress fell hook, line and sinker for it. Photo: Reuters

The massacres of Kashmiris and Sikhs occurred during their watch and they did nothing to prevent it, blaming the state government, whereas they should have acted and enforced order. Had they acted in time and with firmness, the demographic mess in Kashmir, which the present government inherited, would never have come to pass.

Congress policies were faulty and a means of deflecting the problem, not resolving it. It failed to realise that the Pakistan army has never shown any inclination to resolve the Kashmir issue through dialogue. Every time dialogue was attempted, an incident pushed it to the backburner.

This should have been a lesson, which they ignored, reinforcing failures, a serious strategic error. Any strategist would have told them that the basic cardinal rule is never to reinforce a failure. Had the Congress realised it or had correct advisers against “yes men”, Pakistan could have been compelled to change by the sheer power of the Indian Army.

Further, ten years of UPA rule and the Army’s capability to enforce its writ on the borders and gain enhanced capabilities over Pakistan was pushed back by a decade, as the defence minister and the government feared every deal would involve kickbacks.

A military cannot function under a defence minister who is scared of his own shadow, as far as kickbacks are concerned, but needs a strong leader, willing to take risks and provide a free hand, as being resorted to now.

When harsh measures are adopted, there would be increase in incidents, casualties and border escalations, something Chidambaram deflected. It is all intrinsically linked. It would also increase desperation in those who till now were favourites of the government, the Hurriyat, but suddenly feel scared and discarded.

The Hurriyat never hesitated to come to Delhi and visit the Pakistani consulate, doing so at will and state cost, however, its leaders now being called for questioning by the NIA, fear for their lives. This is the change which has occurred and may produce positive results.

Every government must realise that peace and talks can only succeed if undertaken from a position of strength and not weakness or stalemate. It was a state of stalemate when the Congress claimed it was talking, hence all attempts were doomed to fail.

The increase in number of militants being killed would soon inculcate fear among the locals attempting to join militant ranks and those already inducted, but having nowhere to hide. The message is clear, you will be hunted down.

This position of strength can only be provided by security forces and not by dialogue. Hence, till the Army brings the situation to this level, it would dominate the unified command meeting, Mr Chidambaram. This is the approach which should have been adopted decades ago.

There was no permanent solution during the UPA rule, even when Chidambaram was the home minister, irrespective of his claims of seeking solutions by talks. If there was, he should mention it. After all, he is also a concerned citizen of the country.

They only postponed actions, claiming talks, but let the situation deteriorate. Now when the government acts, they seek to criticise. It is time the common Indian is informed about the errors committed by the last regime, rather than their seemingly poor justification.

Also read: Real tragedy of Kashmir is Modi government's policy


Harsha Kakar Harsha Kakar @kakar_harsha

The author is a retired Major General.

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