Mehbooba Mufti's call for talks with Pakistan is absurd; the answer is to take war into enemy territory

It is unclear how will talks make Pakistan stop exporting terrorism, while Mehbooba Mufti should also realise that channels of talk are not wholly shut between India and Pakistan

Prakash Katoch February 14, 2018 08:34:37 IST
Mehbooba Mufti's call for talks with Pakistan is absurd; the answer is to take war into enemy territory

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has given a call in the state Assembly that India 'must' talk to Pakistan to 'end bloodshed'. Ostensibly, this is based on the recent terrorist attack by ISI-backed Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists at the Sunjwan Army Camp on 10 February and another terrorist attack on a CRPF base in Srinagar two days later. She hasn't specified with whom in Pakistan talks should be held – the prime minister, Pakistan Army, the ISI or radical mullahs like Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar or someone else?

It is also unclear how in her assessment, talks will make Pakistan stop exporting terrorism, with Pakistan having publicly announced 'Death by a Thousand Cuts' as its policy against India, which it has been implementing over the past years. Strangely, when the terrorist attack took place at an army camp in Uri on 18 September, 2016, killing 17 army personnel (mostly due to burning) and injuring another 19, Mehbooba was not rooting for talks with Pakistan. It has become a fashion between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference (NC) to alternately call for talks and firm action against Pakistan.

This time it is Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference calling for war, but at the same time NC MLA Akbar Lone is shouting "Pakistan Zindabad!" in the Assembly. The Pakistan Army holds Pakistan by the jugular. Political authority in Pakistan is dead going by Pakistan's own media. The army is hand-in-glove with terrorists like Saeed, Azhar and Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi with the full backing of China. Open rallies are being conducted in Pakistan for jihad against India, balkanising India and undertaking terrorist attacks in Indian cities.

Mehbooba Muftis call for talks with Pakistan is absurd the answer is to take war into enemy territory

File image of Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti. PTI

Mehbooba probably knows but will not acknowledge that channels of talk are not wholly shut between India and Pakistan. National security advisors of both India and Pakistan have been talking periodically, although Naseer Khan Janjua, the Pakistani NSA, is a former three-star officer of the Pakistan Army whose profile says he fought against the Indian Army at Siachen. Besides, he was also Director-General of Military Operations (DGMO) at one time. Any hopes of peace through him would be utopian in the extreme as he is part of the same formula of 'Death by a Thousand Cuts'. At the same time, the hotline between the DGMOs of India and Pakistan has not been shut down despite Pakistan upping the ante on the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border.

Mehbooba should realise that her call for talks with Pakistan in the current environment entails the following:
- Showcasing to the world that India has kneeled down to Pakistani terrorism – total surrender.
- Reversing Government of India policy that terrorism and talks cannot go together.
- In the event India does go for talks and Pakistan continues exporting terror, Government of India being portrayed as having made another blunder.

In all probability, Mehbooba is playing the game of Pakistan, which is also linked to elections there in November this year and next year's General Election in India. The fact is that both the PDP and NC have cross-border links with terrorist organisations and by extension, with Pakistan's ISI. PDP came into power with the support of the Hizbul Mujahideen and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (Mehbooba’s father) publicly thanked Pakistan after winning the election in the presence of Narendra Modi. Former militant commander, Hilal Ahmed War, claims the kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed (Mehbooba’s sister) was stage-managed by her father, who was then Union home minister, through Yasin Malik. This is the same Malik who later in an interview with Tim Sebastian on BBC boasted he had killed four members of Indian Air Force personnel.

When the NIA cracked down on Hurriyat hardliners and arrested them with proof of terrorist links, illegal wealth and inciting youth for violence, Mehbooba went on record to state that the NIA has no jurisdiction in Jammu and Kashmir. Later, she threatened that if Article 35A (that deals with special status) was tinkered with, there will be no one left to hold the National Flag. Radical separatist leader Asiya Andrabi was recently seen attending a Hafiz Saeed rally in Pakistan. Earlier, separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of Awami Action Committee (one of the two key factions of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference) visiting Pakistan under whatever pretext was photographed openly hobnobbing with Pakistan Army officers.

Remember when then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's bus journey to Lahore was reciprocated with a stab in the back at Kargil? Is Mehbooba working on similar lines considering both China and Pakistan would want a change of government in India in 2019? China is focussed on influencing internal politics of South Asian nations, examples being Pakistan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

It was perhaps no strange coincidence that just before the killing of Burhan Wani, Mehbooba released over 600 stone-pelters from prison, and over 9,000 stone-pelters before the recent Shopian incident. The Jammu and Kashmir Police filing an FIR against the Indian Army (even Major Aditya Kumar who wasn’t even present at the incident site) for the Shopian incident, despite grave provocation by stone-pelters was possibly at the behest of Pakistan and the Hizbul Mujahideen, aside from pandering to her votebank. It was also aimed at driving a wedge between the army and the police. Even Omar Abdullah sided with the stone-pelters despite grave provocation to army personnel. The Supreme Court staying any action against Kumar is actually a slap for Mehbooba, even though her stance is likely to continue  albeit her stance is likely to continue as before.

During her recent press briefing, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman pointed to the Rohingya presence adjacent to the Sunjwan Army Camp. Some 4,000 Rohingya were accommodated in Jammu during the UPA-II regime under pretext of United Nations Human Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). This was done despite Article 370 and neither the NC nor PDP objected. Just before the terrorist attack on the Sunjwan Army Camp, Professor Hari Om had tweeted:

It would appear that the ISI's plans are being facilitated smoothly by politicians and local police. That radicalisation in the Kashmir Valley is increasing with assistance of the PDP and NC too is evident. While the government has reiterated that terrorism and talks cannot go together, a focussed policy is needed to crush the anti-nationals within Jammu and Kashmir, and the rest of India. There is no need to celebrate Pakistan admitting that Hafiz Saeed is a terrorist. This only links him to the terrorist attack on the Army School at Peshawar in 2014.

Khurram Dastgir, the Pakistani defence minister’s assertion that this has nothing to do with Trump’s admonishing Pakistan is subterfuge; Pakistan is snaring the US with Donald Trump unveiling his $4 trillion annual budget for FY 2019 on 12 February, under which Pakistan is to get $336 million aid if it behaves. It changes nothing on ground for India. Finally, no amount of barricading posts and camps will work. The answer lies in a sub-conventional response – transporting the war into enemy territory.

The author is a retired lieutenant-general of the Indian Army

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