Army chief General M M Naravane concluded his Kashmir visit on a positive note writes Zahoor Malik
Army chief General M M Naravane concluded his 2-day Kashmir visit on a positive note by saying that the situation on borders and the hinterland has seen great improvement. He viewed that after such a long time J&K has reached a situation where peace and tranquillity are prevailing.
Naravane’s visit came 100 days after a fresh truce on LoC between India and Pakistan. It was the outcome of the February agreement by the two countries that they will strictly observe the ceasefire understanding reached in 2003.
The ceasefire violations and subsequent exchange of fire used to intensify early summer as the snow melts on high mountain passes. Defence officials would link it with the infiltration. This time, however, the LoC is calm and there is no report of infiltration. Talking to the media, Naravane said the peace on borders depends upon Pakistan. “Onus of holding it further lies on Pakistan. As long as they do so, we will hold it,” he told reporters.
There is an impression in India that Pakistan opted for a ceasefire because of its own compulsions. It just wanted to wriggle out of the greylisting at Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a Paris-based global watchdog for curbing terror financing and money laundering. It has made debts expensive. The FATF is likely to review the listing this month while considering the actions taken by Pakistan.
While Pakistan has observed the ceasefire, it has ruled out talks or trade until India rolls back its August 5, 2019 decisions that read down Article 370, done away with all the protections to land and citizenship and bifurcated the state into two federally governed territories. Talking to media with visiting Tajikistan president, Emomali Rahmon, in Islamabad, Imran Khan linked the August 5, Kashmir decision with the economic well being of the entire region.
“But if our ties improve [with India], China is one side and Pakistan is in a pivotal position to connect the whole region. But this is all dependent on India rolling back the unilateral steps they took in Kashmir on August 5, 2019. Till they move back, the whole matter is stuck here,” Khan was quoted saying. “If the relations don’t improve, then it will be a loss for India, Pakistan and the whole of Central Asia.”
India has not reacted to the Pakistan moves beyond the ceasefire. In fact, Delhi has nothing to lose due to the ceasefire. The truce has brought peace for people living in border areas and they are back to normal life. Modi government has in a way silenced some of its critics by making Pakistan go for ceasefire despite its tough posturing on article 370. Gen Naravane gave credit to the Kashmiri people for the improvement in the situation.
With borders silent, the security grid is now focussing more on anti-militancy operations and other related issues. Despite Covid19 limitation, police said a large number of operations were conducted and the focus remains on “intelligence-based pinpoints operations.”
Militancy, however, manages to exist. There were a few killings in south Kashmir. Militants killed BJP councillor, Rakesh Pandita. A youth, Mohammad Amin Malik, was killed in SOG camp in Tral, after he allegedly snatched the rifle of a cop, fired at him and left him injured. Amin, police said, was killed in an encounter after he refused to surrender. Earlier, two civilians were killed by suspected militants in Bijbehara.
After around 4000 deaths, society is keen to avoid major gatherings within the homes and at religious places. Naravane, however, said that the security grid is ready to hold the yearly Amarnath Yatra but the decision has to be taken by the government. As per the earlier decision, it was supposed to start from both tracks from June 28 for 56 days.
The surge in infections has led the government to suspend online yatra registrations in April.
In a week or so, the Manoj Sinha administration is expected to make its stand clear on yatra. It may have to take all the stakeholders along in its decision making especially the central government. Health experts and some quarters are advocating the suspension of yatra fearing it may take the Kumb Mela route to Kashmir. However, the people living in Pahalgam and Baltal, whose livelihood is associated with the pilgrimage, want the yatra to take place. They say they have suffered badly in 2019 and 2020.