So what does Modi 2.0 mean for Kashmir? Peace or moreviolence? In its second term, will the BJP decide to be more statesmanlike andapproach Kashmir with the ideals proposed by its veteran leader late Vajpayee?We do not yet know.
But let us be clear about one thing: the return of NarendraModi to power in Delhi (and how!) also means that his government’s unabashedlyaggressive policies towards Kashmir have been given a thumbs up by the generalpublic in the country. There is no soft-peddling that argument; and why shouldone? Let’s call it for what it is: BJP’s return to power is the success ofaggression. And this aggression is only going to lead to more aggression andviolence. Put bluntly, New Delhi’s BJP government is unlikely to be in a moodfrom now on to listen to opposing sides for a resolution of the Kashmirconflict. And why should it? It has a mandate to continue doing what it hasdone for the last five years. In any case, I don’t think conflict resolutiontops its agenda in vis-à-vis Kashmir. But for argument’s sake, let’s assumethat the BJP leadership is willing to talk about conflict resolution inKashmir. If it does so, any negotiations will be from a position of strengthand based on its terms and conditions.
The manifestations of this are already evident. Thehigh-pitched discussions today about the abolition of Article 370 and thepossibility of fresh delimitation of the constituencies in the state areindications of precisely the mood in New Delhi and what to expect in the yearsahead.
This is just one side of the coin. On the other side, as Ihave written several times in the past, there is unlikely to be any let up inthe Pakistani claims and sustained involvement in Kashmir unless New Delhiagrees to talk to Islamabad on the contentious Kashmir question, something Modi2.0 and Amit Shah’s home ministry may have little interest in. I continue tobelieve that Pakistan is keen on talks with India, and they have said so manytimes in the not so distant past, and it is keener on talks on the Kashmirquestion. New Delhi may have some interest in reigniting talks with Pakistan ingeneral, but there is likely to be no interest in talks on Kashmir. Theimplication on no-talks on Kashmir is straightforward: Pakistan will continueto increase the heat in Kashmir, to bring India to the negotiating table, tobegin with. Note that no meeting is scheduled between Prime Minister NarendraModi and Pakistani PM Imran Khan on the sidelines of the Shanghai CooperationOrganisation summit in Bishkek in mid-June.
Even more importantly, notwithstanding whether or notPakistan is involved in Kashmir one way or another, there is palpable anger andalienation in South Kashmir. The politically-aware youth of these districtsrealise that their struggle against India may not get them anywhere and theyalso fully realise that the Indian state will come down heavily on them. But itseems to me that threat of harsh punishment won’t be deterrent enough for them– they are likely to resist, pelt stones, pick up arms, fight and die young.However depressing this might sound, this seems to be the reality on theground. My own recent visits to the valley and to militant and resistancehotbeds such as Pulwama suggest to me that insurgency and armed militancy (orterrorism, if that’s what you prefer) are far from gone from Kashmir. In fact,they are on the rise and will become worse in the days ahead. College goingboys and girls express their anti-India feelings so openly, and school goingchildren do not hesitate even for a moment when telling you that they want’azadi’. Parents of slain militants speak so proudly of their children who tookup arms against the Indian state, fought for Kashmir/Islam, and got killed inthe midst of their ‘noble mission’. Their neighbors look at them with reverenceand respect. This is how much legitimacy that exists for violence incontemporary Kashmir.
So what do you get when you combine the electoral success ofmilitarized and aggressive policies, Pakistani deep state’s unrelentingactivities in Kashmir and the increasing legitimacy for violence that exists inKashmir today? For one, those in charge of the country’s national securitypolicy should be deeply worried, under ‘normal circumstances’ of course.However, today, that doesn’t seem to be the feeling in New Delhi which ispreparing to meet the situation with even more aggression. Secondly, this wouldmean there is unlikely to be a let up in the violence we are witnessing inKashmir. The years ahead are going to be tumultuous for Kashmir, unless ofcourse there is a change of heart in New Delhi. We must therefore braceourselves for more violence and bloodshed.
Finally, the slow but sure American withdrawal fromAfghanistan will prove to be a shot in the arm for the Kashmiri youngsters pickingup against the Indian forces. While I do not believe that the situation is ripefor a repeat of 1989 when Afghan fighters were brought in to Kashmir by thePakistani side, the Kashmiri youngsters will surely look at the developmentsand take inspiration from that.
Even more so, in a situation where there are no talksbetween India and Pakistan, and Pakistan’s feeling of triumph in the Afghanchessboard, will further vitiate the regional geopolitics.