Are India, Pakistan back to fighting it out in Kashmir?


Faisal Khan (41)What explains the sudden steep rise in militancy in Kashmir over the last six months? Most reasons refer to the fillip in local recruitment to the militant ranks, neglecting the evolving geo-politics in the region which have effectively put Kashmir on the back-burner of international politics. And more crucially the deteriorating India-Pakistan relations following Pathankot airbase attack which has led to the suspension in dialogue and New Delhi’s refusal to talk Kashmir unless Islamabad stops terror and brings the Pathankot and Mumbai perpetrators to book.

Has thus the old tug-of-war between the two countries once again come down to the ground in Kashmir? This is at least the thinking among the militant groups in Pakistan which are advocating resurrection of the old policies aligned to Pakistan’s core interests. The editorial of a recent issue of Alqalam, the online magazine of Jaish-e-Muhammad, puts it bluntly: “There is still time. Pakistan government should return to its forgotten policies. The result of their burial is in front of the country. Pakistan has no option but to resurrect these policies and pursue them with a renewed vigour”.

The editorial titled India’s warning to Pakistan expresses alarm at the home minister Rajnath Singh’s statement in which he said that India won’t keep count of bullets if Pakistan fires first. It then describes in detail the Pakistan-unfriendly geo-political situation shaping up in the region: “Pakistan has been embroiled in the fight against terror under pressure. And the government is pursuing this fight at the cost of peace in the country. Pakistan has also acted against many patriotic forces of our society because of which the country had to bear heavy losses. But it wasn’t all done for a day when India together with Iran and Afghanistan would threaten to attack Pakistan?”

The editorial criticises the role of America which despite Pakistan’s “unlimited support” was viewing the country with suspicion and “encircling Pakistan with other countries to fulfill its objectives”.

“By allowing itself to be used against the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Pakistan has only harmed its own interests. By acting against jihadi forces and treating them as its enemies, it is Pakistan which has suffered. It has only deepened the discord in the country. And India benefiting from this weakness is now threatening Pakistan. This should give Pakistan establishment some fodder for thought,” the editorial reads. Jamat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed has also talked along similar lines. “The objectives the US failed to achieve in Afghanistan in its failed war are now being handed over to India,” he tweeted. In another tweet, Saeed puts a positive spin on Pakistan’s estrangement from the US. “Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim nations are moving away from the US and will eventually be able to form the Muslim Union,” he wrote.

Saeed also spoke against the establishment of Sainik and Kashmiri Pandit colonies in Kashmir. “Will not allow India to make Sainik Colonies or bring Hindu terrorists in the guise of pandits in Kashmir”.

Similarly, in a recent statement, Hizbul Mujahideen supremo threatened to strike New Delhi following Pampore attack which killed eight CRPF personnel. “If forces continue to target innocent civilians, then militants will spread their net in New Delhi and will strike there,” Salahuddin said in a statement. “The attacks at Pathankot Air Base, Bijbehara, Pampore, Kupwara and Drugmulla amply prove that militants present in every part of Valley have potential to hit Indian forces”.

This shows a certain renewed confidence among militant ranks, underlining a degree of new found freedom of operation. What is more, the rise in infiltration this summer has been steep relative to the previous five years. Around 60 militants, police sources say, have infiltrated into the Valley in recent past to replenish the depletion in militant ranks due to killings in frequent gun battles. More than 70 militants were killed in encounters with security forces since January this year. In comparison, 60 militants had infiltrated into Kashmir through the entire 2014. As massive unrest following Burhan’s killing underlines, Kashmir is once again threatening to become the battle-ground – even though the militancy may not rise to the levels of the nineties. Though there are local causes which are contributing to the recruitment, the spike in infiltration shows that the prevailing India-Pakistan equation has once again become a factor in the situation.

“The violence in Kashmir no longer alarms international community but it does make a difference to how India approaches Pakistan and vice versa,” says Naseer Ahmad, a local columnist. “A deteriorating Kashmir situation could bring the state back in the limelight and force New Delhi to discuss it with Pakistan. Kashmir would thus once again become an issue on par with New Delhi’s concerns on terrorism”.