Winds of Change in Jammu & Kashmir

    25-Aug-2020   
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The “Hartal Calendars” are things of the past, stone pelting is rare and isolated, “Funeral Brigade” has become extinct, no more waving of Pak or ISIS flags, stray incidents of targeted killings and daily successful anti-terror operations are the new norms in Kashmir after the dawn of a new era
 

J&K Road Construction_1&n 
The construction of roads in Baramulla District under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana scheme has now gained pace after a brief period of halt amid COVID-19 induced lockdown 
Kashmir is fast returning to normalcy. The Central Government has decided to withdraw 100 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) which were inducted post-August 5, 2019, to maintain law and order. An obvious indicator of the improved situation while the security grid remains firmed in to give a stunning blow to diminishing terrorism. The “Hartal Calendars” are things of the past, stone pelting is rare and isolated, “Funeral Brigade” has become extinct, no more waving of Pak or ISIS flags, stray incidents of targeted killings and daily successful anti-terror operations are the new norms in Kashmir after the dawn of a new era. Majority Kashmiris are looking forward to a peaceful present and a bright future. Undoubtedly, there are still a few bad fish in the pond, but gradually they are losing relevance as has been proved by the flop meeting organised by Dr Farooq Abdullah at his Gupkar Road residence with much fanfare. Media was agog with the hope of the much-awaited revival of the political process in Valley with Abdullahs taking the lead.
 
The local media was overjoyed hoping a roadmap of political struggle to be launched by the grand old party of the Valley, but the net result was a big disappointment. The meeting lasted for hardly any time in which supposedly a review of the events of the entire preceding year was carried out. The presser later addressed by the usually fiery Farooq lacked fireworks. The sum total of what he said was a meek reference to Gupkar Declaration of August 4, 2019, and a decision to wait for the release of all political detainees including their arch-foe Mehbooba Mufti to chart the further course of action. Someone rightly quipped, “Na Nau Man Tel Hoga, Na Radha Nachegi” (If the sky falls we shall catch larks). But there is much to be read between the lines for those who are still harping for the restoration of 370, usually those who had benefitted most from the divisive Article. It is another setback for Pakistan as well.
 
Even the pivot of separatism in Kashmir Syed Ali Shah Gilani has realised the futility of his struggle for “Azadi barare Islam” (Freedom for establishing Islamic State). The most vocal supporter of Pakistan felt the change in the wind post-August 5, 2019 and resigned from the lifetime Chairmanship of the Hurriyat. Apart from other things he also expressed his unhappiness with Pakistan. To placate him, it announced the conferring of highest civilian award Nishan-e-Pakistan on the veteran separatist leader. But the Deep State was playing games with Gilani, once their favourite. The infuriated Gilani refused to accept the award. A big slap on the face of a deep state.
 
Earlier, Islamabad had tried to revive separatism by propping up an alternative to ageing Gilani. However, the nefarious move was nipped in the bud by ever alert JK Police by arresting Ashraf Sehrai, their new favourite. Incidentally, Sehrai’s son was a terrorist killed recently by the police. Pakistan’s intent to prefer those having links with terrorists was obvious. Pakistan still refuses to acknowledge the new reality.
 
The common man is feeling the effect of improved rural connectivity and other infrastructure. Over 600 languishing projects from 5-25 years have been completed. 19,700 km of rural roads were built under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), highest ever, during FY 19-20. Another 5300 km has been sanctioned during the current FY. Many remote villages in Kashmir have been electrified now the first time after Independence
 
Pakistan once again is scouting for new Hurriyat leadership. It is searching for younger leaders, especially those who have been a part of terrorist organisations specifically from more hardened groups like Lashkar-e – Tayyiba (LeT). Once again the JKP has foiled their design by killing top LeT commanders in the last few days.
 
Terrorism is on its last leg. Local support for the terrorists is vanishing. The local recruitment is drying up. The success rate of infiltration attempts has fallen. There is a 50% decline in the killing of security forces. There is a 73% reduction in law & order cases. About 400 terror supporters have been neutralised/arrested apart from the killing of 130 plus terrorists so far.
 
The common man is feeling the effect of improved rural connectivity and other infrastructure. Over 600 languishing projects from 5-25 years have been completed. 19700 km of rural roads were built under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), highest ever, during FY 19-20. Another 5300 km has been sanctioned during the current FY. Many remote villages in Kashmir have been electrified now the first time after Independence. J&K has become the trendsetter by announcing guaranteed health insurance for all its residents. Over 1900 projects recommended by Panchayats during ‘Back to Village 1 &2 (B2V)’ had been completed and work is apace to complete 2100 more. People are eagerly looking forward to B2V3 likely in October. In a first to bring added transparency and accountability into public expenditure, which was the biggest bane earlier, the government has put all of the 10,573 infrastructure projects completed during 2019-20 into the public domain for registering public grievances and feedback as well.
 
The common man is visualising the future with the announcement of metro in both the capital cities, completion of Banihal tunnel, 600 km highway proposed along the border touching all picturesque tourist spots, the Delhi-Katra superhighway cutting travel time to six hours, game-changer Ujh Barrage and Kandi Dam project, 23 new Kendriya Vidyalaya, jobs under governments accelerated job scheme, setting up of IT parks and hopes of huge investments from both domestic and foreign investors.
 
The common man is visualising the future with the announcement of metro in both the capital cities, completion of Banihal tunnel, 600 km highway proposed along the border touching all picturesque tourist spots, the Delhi-Katra superhighway cutting travel time to six hours, game-changer Ujh Barrage and Kandi Dam project, 23 new Kendriya Vidyalaya, jobs under governments accelerated job scheme, setting up of IT parks and hopes of huge investments from both domestic and foreign investors
 
People are also happy with the anti-corruption drive launched by the government. They are hoping that the growing drift between the bureaucratic machinery and them will be addressed quickly by the new Lieutenant Governor. They also hope that connect between them and the administration will improve. All but Pakistan are felting the all-round vibes of positivity.
 
Despite Pakistan’s obsession for Kashmir, costing it dearly both economically and strategically it refuses to relent. India continues to be an existential threat. Terrorism continues to remain an instrument of its state policy. Kashmir continues to be the raison d’etre for continued supremacy of its Army. While all nations have an Army, the Pak Army continues to have a nation. Rawalpindi has turned a deaf year to growing debate at the home of Kashmir versus Afghanistan. Many believe that Afghanistan is strategically more important and Pakistan should concentrate its resources there rather than in the lost cause of Kashmir.
 
For Pakistan, China Factor has become overriding. China is egging Pakistan to continue its obsession and keep the pot boiling in Kashmir. It needs hold in Gilgit-Baltistan and does not want to part with Shaksgam and Aksai Chin. To put pressure on India during the resolution of the border dispute, it needs to keep the threat of a two-front war alive. It needs access to the Arabian Sea for which the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) terminating at Gwadar is crucial. The only ray of hope for beleaguered Xi Jinping’s pet project of Belt Road Initiative is CPEC. China has gone to the extent of compelling Pakistan to choose between it and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, once trusted ally of Pakistan, has refused to allow Pakistan to sail in two boats. The net result is increased dependency of Pakistan on China that does not augur well for the security environment in the sub-continent. Under the Chinese influence and obligation, Pakistan refuses to relent in Kashmir, and Imran Khan’s assertion that Pakistan will continue to support separatists in Kashmir should spring no surprise.
 
(The writer is a Jammu based veteran, political commentator, columnist, security and strategic analyst. Views expressed are entirely personal)