It is time for the politicians of Kashmir to smell the saffron. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his effort to bring about fundamental structural changes to the Indian State, has many irons in the fire. Knowing the fickle nature of the voters, he would like as many pending issues resolved before the end of his present term in 2024. One of these, of course, is a long term resolution of the J&K ‘problem’. The essential thrust is, of course, the ‘democratisation’ of the Union Territory by freeing it from the fear of terrorism, as well as granting equal rights under the constitution to all sections of its people.
Part of this requires eliminating the vested interests of political parties like the National Conference and PDP, which have ‘personalised’ their hold over power by doing politics of Kashmiri separatism, essentially playing India against Pakistan to obtain favours from both. For this, they have ensured that the people in the Kashmir valley remain alienated from the mainstream. One consequence of this has been the failure to develop the territory’s potential to a level that would have hugely benefited the common folk.
It is for these regional parties, along with the radical groups, to decide whether they can hold out till a post-Modi dispensation. The problem with this approach is that the gamble may not pay off. Also, their continued recalcitrance could result in, one, Modi striking harder and, two, the newer parties making deals that could, effectively, see them in long-term political exile. The only solution is to trust in democracy throwing up the right power balance, with the immediate objective of regaining statehood status.
One result of all this, of course, is loss of the Pakistani bargaining chip, used for so long to blackmail Delhi. With effective integration of the region with India and installation of truly representative governance, the tenuous hold that separatism has upon people’s psyche will effectively be brought to an end. The stage for all this was set by the security forces that have worked so long to defang the terrorism option.
Another reason for Modi to settle matters quickly is the meltdown that could take place in Pakistan after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Stability in J&K is a must if the troubles are to be kept out. The local politicians too must factor this in if they really care for their people. They have been invited for talks, they should respond positively.