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Chidambaram’s perception of Kashmir is lost in rest of India  

 Aditya Aamir

Congress leader P Chidambaram carries the perception that the Modi government and the BJP-PDP state government do not see the reality. So, promulgate Governor’s rule and the fog will clear over the Valley and the reality of the Kashmir dispute will be there for everybody to see.

Chidambaram a supports the idea of interlocutors. A view he shares with Mani Shankar Aiyar, who is a Pakistan-friendly interlocutor. Aiyar believes the removal of the Modi government is the urgent reality to solve all things disputed between India and Pakistan. In Congress circles Chidambaram commands more respect than Aiyar. So when PC lists “measures” to solve the K-dispute, he is heard loud and clear and the Modi government is forced to go on the offensive-defensive mode.

The former Home minister of India — whose trademark ‘mundu’ enthralled Pakistanis when he went on a visit to Pakistan — has written in a column in a national daily that the idea of interlocutors has to be supported by a set of measures. Top of the set is promulgation of Governor’s rule. That is a political demand. The Congress and the rest of the opposition in the state will like it nothing better than to see a ‘BJP-mukht’ Jammu & Kashmir and also deprive the BJP the bragging right to claim that the entire north India — from J&K to Jharkhand — is ‘Congress-mukht’.

Another K-reality that Chidambaram wants the government to see is that there are many stakeholders to the dispute. He insists the Central government should hold talks with all stakeholders. He wants appointment of interlocutors to “pave way for talks”; reduce the presence of the Army and para-military in the Kashmir Valley; hand over law and order to the J&K Police; strengthen the defence of the LoC and take deterrent action against infiltrators and militants.

In short, Chidambaram wants Modi to toe the Manmohan Singh line on Kashmir. Shouldn’t he wait for the Congress to return to power in 2019 to put his plan into action? The Congress’s only intellectual leader has placed a set of data to prove the point that the “hard, muscular, militaristic approach” of the Central government has failed to present the reality of the Kashmir dispute. So his demand to reduce army in the Valley.

His perception that the Modi government has failed to see the reality is solely based on the number of deaths of civilians, terrorists and security forces in the past year, which saw a record number of infiltrations from across the border and encounters with infiltrators this side of the border. The “night of 30-31 December 2017, when militants attacked the CRPF Training Centre at Lethpora in Pulwama district, killing five CRPF personnel and injuring three,” is fresh in Chidambaram’s mind. His take is that the attack on the CRPF camp took place because the Modi government acts as if there is no K-dispute.

To millions of Indians, however the “hard, muscular, militaristic approach” of the Modi government is a welcome change as is the government’s policy of no talks with Pakistan unless and until cross-border terrorism is brought to a halt by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists.

But then the Congress has always chosen to draw up a K-policy based on the perception that citizens of the rest of India do not count. The past three-and-a-half years has proved that perception wrong. Indians in general keep a keen eye on what is happening in Kashmir and Indians in the majority don’t consider Hurriyat as a stakeholder.

The Congress may not but Indians also believe that the stone-throwing and other “anti-national” activities like the unfurling the Pakistan and ISIS flags are the handiwork of the Hurriyat, with money and resources provided to them from Pakistan. Action against Hurriyat leaders has been welcomed by Indians.

Chidambaram is right when he writes “different sections of the people — and the polity — have different views on the issue of J&K” but he fails to read that whatever may be the view of the people of the Valley the view of the rest of India is not the Congress view. But then Chidambaram’s arrogance is greater than that of Mani Shankar Aiyar. Chidambaram’s perception of the reality of the K-dispute and his set of measures will only legitimise the status of the likes of Hafiz Saeed at a time when Pakistan has finally started taking action against non-state actors under pressure from the United States. Sometimes a tweet can have more of an effect than one thousand words of appeasement.

At a time when the US is cutting Pakistan to size India can ill-afford to be seen as a soft, puny, non-militaristic stakeholder. In fact, there are only two stakeholders to the Kashmir dispute — India and Pakistan, and Pakistan a pretender at that.

Contrary to Chidambaram’s assertion that infiltration and militancy are not the issue but a consequence of the issue, they are what keep the issue alive. His table of the number of civilian-terrorist-security forces killed emboldens Pakistan to stake claim to the whole of Kashmir. Reducing security forces in the Valley is not the panacea to the problem. Not as long as the Pakistan Army calls the shots in Pakistan.

If Chidambaram can’t see his own table and what it implies then the Congress should correct him. Rahul Gandhi, if he wants to win 2019, should break away from the Chidambaram perception and look at the reality that is Kashmir. If the 2019 election is fought on the one issue of the Kashmir dispute, the Congress will lose it. It is hardly unlikely that the people of India will change their view on Kashmir just because Chidambaram says so. The rest of India is also a stakeholder in Kashmir. Probably, the most important stakeholder. If the Congress can take life from breaking Pakistan, it will be killed for breaking India.

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