The ‘ceasefire’ offer in J&K

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ARMY Chief Bipin Rawat’s indication that the Centre could stop anti-militancy operations in Kashmir Valley has been seized upon with gusto by regional politicians. In a state weary of the continuous cycle of killings and counter-killings, the Army’s ceasefire was bound to evoke considerable interest. That an all-party meeting was convened within 24 hours of the Army Chief’s statement, which, in turn, “unanimously” urged PM Narendra Modi for a “unilateral ceasefire” during Ramzan and the Amarnath yatra indicates political unanimity in both Jammu and Kashmir on exploring non-military solutions to the Kashmir dispute.  But what Gen Rawat said next is also equally important: who will guarantee that the security forces will not be fired upon; who will guarantee that security personnel on leave will not be attacked?In other words, the Army Chief was drawing red lines as a condition for easing of anti-militancy operations. If they do not wish to be rendered inconsequential, mainstream politicians, enjoying office or recently eased out of it, need to demonstrate their influence and authority to ensure that civilians keep their part of the bargain for anti-militancy operations to stop. However, the unanimity displayed in the all-party meeting does not square up with the subsequent statements of the two alliance partners: the BJP and the PDP. If an end to the Army’s heavy hand in Kashmir is not a calculated desire, the two parties need to work out a consensus to provide a believable façade of sincerity and credibility.  The politician is also sorely needed to round off some edges in the Army Chief’s statement, especially when he benchmarks the Indian Army’s operations with those in Syria and Pakistan or blames mysterious, dark powers for the lure of the gun in the Valley. A well-established and thriving conflict economy also spawns forces, including external, inimical to an effort to change the status quo. This makes it even more crucial for politicians and the security forces to remain on the same page. The message of peace, however, is yet to percolate to the streets that remain violent and contested. The politician has his task cut out.

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