Modi in Kashmir …treading the trodden path
Dr. Javid Iqbal
May 22 2018
Narendra Modi’s May, the 19th visit to Kashmir had marked similarities with his earlier visits, ever since his party BJP aligned with PDP. He could be clearly seen treading the trodden path. ‘Vikas’ his chose word, the Hindi equivalent of development seems to his bye-word—a penance for whatever ails Kashmir. Mufti Syed in initial days of BJP-PDP alliance and after his parting, Mehbooba Mufti kept on parroting the ‘Agenda of Alliance (AoA)’ with Modi paying scant attention to it. On November, the 7th 2015, he retorted that he needed no advice, when Mufti Syed suggested reaching out to Pakistan. Rebuffed publicly, PDP pocketed it, and the drama continues. On May, the 19th Mehbooba Mufti again harped on it at SKICC function by hyping it beyond being ordinary. “It (agenda) is not an ordinary document. It is a roadmap for taking J&K out of sufferings as it has solution for every problem confronting the state. We are hopeful that we will act upon in times to come and you (the Prime Minister) will support us in its implementation,” so said Mehbooba Mufti.
Whatever the stress Mehbooba Mufti might have laid on AoA, it got scant attention from Modi, as if he had hardly heard what was being related. Instead ‘Vikas’ bandwagon continued, in spite of Mehbooba Mufti being effusive on Modi’s attempts to reach out to Pakistan and failure of the country across the divide to respond positively. She talked of Modi inviting Pak PM to his oath taking ceremony and going to Pakistan ‘’ for our sake.’’ Even such effusiveness did not move Modi, not even the impassioned plea that the solution to Kashmir problem was the biggest challenge for the Prime Minister, “You (the Prime Minister) tried many things in the past. You are a great leader and our country is big. I am hopeful that you will continue with your efforts to take J&K out of sufferings. We are optimistic that you will take more steps to end our problems.” All these pleas were left unanswered, to note the obvious—Mehbooba might have her say, as coalition is a compulsion for BJP, however BJP would continue to tread the chosen path.
The chosen path is putting Kashmir’s resistance to status quo and indigenous struggle for conflict resolution at Pakistan’s door by giving it the name of cross-border militancy and seeking global support for Indian stand. Modi’s gesture in inviting Pak PM for his oath taking ceremony and dropping in Pakistan on his way from Kabul to Delhi on December, the 25th 2015 were never ever a part of structured dialogue between two countries, but a diplomatic ruse to avoid addressing, what needs to be addressed to put the relations between subcontinental neighbours on an even kneel. As AG Noorani noted in a recent column in ‘Dawn’ reproduced in ‘Greater Kashmir’ (20.05.2018) ‘’A deliberate policy of confrontation was launched, at stages, almost immediately after Narendra Modi came to power in 2014. Cancelling the foreign secretaries’ talks in 2014, on specious grounds, was intended to convey a message: the BJP is fundamentally different from the Congress. The policy evolved since then to reach its menacing proportions of today. But they were always in view.’’ Noorani’s view is fundamentally different from how Mehbooba Mufti perceives Modi’s diplomatic gestures to be.
While efforts to address what is called the external dimension of ‘K’ conflict remain in limbo, the internal dimension entailing addressing the resistance forces in Kashmir has had a hostile BJP response. Far from engaging the resistance, operation ‘all-out’ has been launched to crush resistance in any form. It has gone much beyond going ‘all-out’ against militant elements, crushing any civilian resistance, too. Peaceful assembly and protest remains severely curbed. And, Mehbooba Mufti regime remains a partner in implementing the agenda, whatever the pretensions to the contrary. Ramadhan ceasefire is a PR exercising meant to score a political point. It could hardly be branded a substantial move to address the real public concern, which remains conflict resolution on a permanent basis. Modi pointing to Dineshwar Sharma as the person to talk to could hardly have any takers. Lacking a meaningful mandate, Sharma hardly interests anyone beyond some sponsored trade delegations.
Modi’s agenda of ‘Vikas’ in the state of Jammu and Kashmir with a much touted investment of 80,000 crores is largely meant to address India’s defence needs and tap energy resources of the state. The needs of large garrisons of army in Kashmir in terms of means of communication keep on escalating. And, this need gets propagated as largess to the people of state. Same could be said of escalating energy needs. The expanding Indian economy is getting energy hungry, and hydroelectric resources of JK State remain a potential source, notwithstanding the greater investment needed to tap it. In the energy sector, the promise in ‘AoA’ to return Uri and Dul-Hasti power projects remains unfulfilled, as GOI subsidiary—National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) pockets more and more projects, adding to its kitty. This is hardly meant to enhance state’s power potential, as Modi outlined. NHPC kitty gets transmitted to national grid, and is distributed as laid out by GIO. It has had JK State buying power to the tune of Rs. 4000 crores plus every year to meet the needs of the state. There is hardly a word on this equation ever turning in state’s favour. Modi’s hallow talk of ‘Kashmiriyat’ in such a dismal scenario would hardly be a penance for what ails Kashmir.