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Is Jammu and Kashmir Ripe for a Political Solution?

B.S. Sachar was Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
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  • November 02, 2007

    After nearly two decades of active militancy and disturbed conditions, Jammu and Kashmir is today witnessing a distinct change in the ground situation and signs of return to normalcy are clearly noticeable. Commercial activity in the State has picked up, people are no longer hesitant to move out at night and participate enthusiastically in national and religious functions. This year Kashmiri Pandits performed puja in ancient Hindu temples in the heart of the Valley and celebrated Dussehra in Srinagar after a gap of 20 years. A record number of tourists has thronged the Valley in the last two years bringing hope and cheer to the tourism industry.

    There could be a number of reasons for the welcome change in the situation after nearly two decades of violence. Prominent among these seems to be the consistent international pressure on Pakistan during the last few years to stop abetting terrorism. Pakistan moreover is increasingly becoming embroiled in internal conflict, with the military and security agencies ranged against fundamentalist groups. The ongoing peace process with India can also be said to have contributed to Pakistan’s decision to rein in militant and terrorist outfits that target Jammu & Kashmir. At the same time, the usefulness of the formidable fence constructed along the Line of Control in curtailing easy routes of ingress and egress for militants and terrorists across the border cannot be ignored.

    The civil administration in the state is far greater tuned in and has started functioning normally. Government officials right down to grass root levels report to their offices regularly. Even the legal as well as redressal machineries have become efficient and effective. There is increased pressure on the Security Forces (SF) to vacate Government buildings and premises so that the offices located there could start functioning. The local police have emerged as a formidable law enforcement agency after a period of disarray during the initial stages of militancy. This has been a result of the experience and confidence gathered during anti-terrorist operations, better equipment and weaponry and actionable human intelligence. They are no longer a silent partner in joint operations with the Army and contribute in an equal measure.

    With improvements in the education system, revival of traditional business and commercial activity, better road connectivity, spread of cell phone networks and cable television, people have become more prosperous, aware and better connected. The masses have reclaimed their voice, and the media plays a vital role. No story is more than a few minutes away from the local and national media. Cases of alleged misbehaviour by the security forces are headline news. It may, therefore, not be imprudent to say that the system of checks and balances is firmly in place and functioning.

    The level of terrorism in the State is at its lowest in recent history. Indicators pointing to the same are reduced levels of infiltration, decline in the number of terrorists killed in encounters with security forces and a substantial drop in terrorist initiated incidents. Most of the surviving terrorists can be easily called ‘goondas’ or criminals, not jehadis. Terrorism is a means to earn easy money and power rather than an instrument of jehad. Rarely do terrorists give a pitched fight to the security forces and instead choose to run and fight another day. With foreign coffers tightened and the supply of warlike stores from across the border reduced, tanzeems are finding it difficult to pay and arm their cadres. Gone are the days when people turned up in large numbers and shops downed shutters to mourn the killed terrorists. The security forces have to play a critical role in ensuring that the situation is not reversed. They need to continue to relentlessly pursue the dual strategy of checking infiltration across the LoC and neutralising the remaining terrorists in the hinterland.

    With the ground situation improving, the civil administration and police firmly in place, the military aspect of the solution to the militancy in Jammu & Kashmir has been reached. As Lt. Gen. T.K. Sapru, GOC 16 Corps, said at a recent function in Jammu, "Our task was to bring down the level of violence and we have done it." Is the situation not ripe for a political solution to bring the beleaguered State back onto the rails?