A tough call
Should J&K ceasefire be extended or have the terrorists made it unfeasible?
As Eid approaches, the Government of India has to take a call on whether the ceasefire — or to be more precise the month-long suspension of proactive operations by the security forces while retaining the right to self-defence and/or armed intervention in a situation where civilians/innocents are in danger — in the Kashmir Valley announced on May 17 should be extended. The latest information from the ground, as reported in The Pioneer on Wednesday, is that infiltration has increased in a big way over the past three weeks. The Indian Army has eliminated 36 infiltrators in the period beginning May 17 till today, in comparison with only 56 of them being gunned down in the fourth months from January and May. Terrorists have also, in the ceasefire period, carried out 42 attacks while all through January-May the figure was 55 terror incidents.
Indeed, it appears that the worst fears of the security and intelligence establishment have been realized and the separatists have used the cessation of operations to regroup and replot to take advantage of the situation. The military domination established by the security forces ever since the launch of Operation All Out by the army, paramilitary, police and intelligence agencies in close coordination last year, may not yet have been lost but we seem perilously close to it. The sacrifices made on behalf of the nation by the men and women of our security forces to establish that domination on the ground, the Centre is aware, cannot be seen to be frittered away. The national mood will not countenance any step which seems to suggest that. At the same time, the tactical advantages of extending the ceasefire, as Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and other political forces at the national level even though they often advocatewhat is effectively a soft separatist agenda have been demanding, cannot be ignored completely. Not because the usual malcontents must be pacified or to throw the peace lobby a bone but if it makes sense in the national interest which includes the interests of the residents of the State of the Union under discussion too, naturally, but without a veto.
If the Centre's strategic aim is, as it ought to be, peace in the Valley and a mainstreaming of Kashmir with rest of India, overwhelming military domination on the ground is an essential prerequisite, which Operation All Out has achieved very substantially if not wholly. The Government therefore needs to decide on two central issues. First, whether the domination established by the security forces could be fatally undermined if the cessation of operations/ceasefire is extended beyond Eid. If the answer is yes, then there is no question of an extension. If, however, the answer is in the negative, then an extension could certainly be considered. But even then attempts overt and covert must be made to ensure that less hawkish elements disassociate themselves from the narrative of violence, intimidation and Islamist terror that Pakistan is pushing and those simpatico in the Valley are amplifying for the extension to be meaningful.
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