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Decision Time

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What an irony! There are sections of the opposition in India who believe that Article 370 ought not to have been removed because it joined J&K with the rest of India. So, are we to believe that Pakistan’s protest against its removal is its acknowledgement that J&K is part of India? On the contrary! Pakistan knows that the umbrella provided by Article 370 allowed it over many decades to promote alienation in Kashmir on the basis of religious fundamentalism, proxy war through infiltration of jihadis, and funding of separatists. It is, today, raising the bogey of demographic changes, when its own agents carried out the purge against Kashmiri Pandits. Karma has come around! While Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has ostensibly ruled out war as a response to India’s changes in Kashmir, ‘preferring’ diplomatic and economic sanctions, instead, there are elements in that country that are working these days to whip up jihadi fervour. The youths are being exhorted to achieve martyrdom by attacking India in whatever way possible. More importantly, the hope is that this fever afflicts the Kashmiris so that enough blood is shed to attract international attention. It remains to be seen whether there are any takers in Kashmir for this solution to Pakistan’s dilemma. Much of this optimism is based on the expected ‘success’ of the Taliban in Afghanistan. They forget that all the advantages of a resistance force are lost when it comes overground and becomes an open target. It happened, once before, it will happen again. The security clampdown in Kashmir has been effective, thus far. The suspension of communication services has meant that separatists have not been able to get their instructions from the masters in Islamabad. Mainstream society is also being given time to ponder how far these tactics have brought the valley and if there is time to change course. Prime Minister Modi, in his speech on Thursday, held out the promise of returning J&K to statehood. The implication, of course, is that this would be possible conditional on good behaviour. This is the time to choose. However, should the desire for heavenly hoors overcome the prospects of a better life in the existing world, it will open the doors for exactly what Pakistan fears. All concerned should know that the Indian Government, which has so carefully calibrated its moves on Kashmir, thus far, will have worked out responses to several possible scenarios. Are they willing to go down that road? Or, will good sense finally prevail?