Thursday, September 21, 2017
The recent terrorist attack on a bus carrying Amarnath pilgrims returning from Amarnath Yatra, resulted in the death of seven and injuries to 14 others. This incident has resulted in condemnation of this terrorist attack by all sections of Indian society, including those in the Kashmir Valley.
While terrorists have been attacking all manner of targets, including local policemen and civilians, they have ,somehow, been sparing the pilgrims undertaking Amarnath Yatra. So this attack on pilgrims has surprisingly invited criticism even from the separatists. Though it may be recalled that this very group had raised so much hue and cry to the request from the Chairman Amarnath Board ( Governor J and K ) for land on lease at Baltal to construct just temporary shelters for the Pilgrims using the Baltal route to Amaranth.
Baltal is above the tree line and is under snow for nearly 8 months in a year, so this forest land had no use and yet Valley wise demonstrations were engineered against giving, this otherwise useless piece of land, on lease. It may be recalled that former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah speaking on this subject, in Parliament, objected to making tunnels for the convenience of pilgrims, using the Baltal route Yet he would have no objection to the Banihal tunnel and currently being planned tunnel at Zogila. So the comments that these leaders now offer on the killing of pilgrims sounds hollow, a sham and some others have rightly put these down as crocodile tears.
Indian media has spewed much rhetoric on the need to retaliate against Pakistan. Hitting Pakistan across the Line of control in J and K is a zero sum game. Pakistan too can engage Indian post with artillery and shows no hesitation in targetding civilian population as well.
There is also the demand for Governor’s rule in the state, forgetting that it was during Governor’s rule that Pandits were driven out of the Valley. There was complete breakdown of law and order and yet no one, yes no one, was held accountable for the lawlessness that prevailed then. Those who still parrot Kashmiriyat, forget that this culture and Sufi spirit died long ago and its final demise occurred when Pandits were hounded out of the Kashmir Valley.
Then there is talk of political solution and yet no one appears to spell out as to what that political solution is. There is a democratically elected government in the state and the state has its own constitution. The state has been getting more than its due share of financial help from the central government. There is no extreme poverty in the Valley as there is in other parts of J and K and the country on the whole. Yes there is unemployment, which is an all India occurrence and is essentially due to lack of control over population explosion.
J and K state has enormous potential for tourism and consequent scope for employment in this field. Improved facilities for the pilgrims going to Amaranth would by itself have doubled the number of pilgrims and consequently more work for porters, pony owners and small businesses. But it is the political class and the separatists who have stood in the way of expansion of tourism. With Article 370 in place no major investment in tourism, industry, education and healthcare could come to the state and consequently no jobs. The political class and the separatists, to serve their own narrow ends, have been creating this false fear amongst the ignorant and the ill informed that abrogation of Article 370 will work to their disadvantage. Nothing is farther from truth than this canard.
There is need to go all out against the terrorists operating in the Valley and equally put in place added surveillance and security along the Line of Control. There has been much demand in the media to act against Pakistan and make it prohibitively expensive for it to send terrorists into India. Pakistan has the instigation and support from China, and of late there appears to be some co-ordination in the actions of the two.
As for Pakistan, the best course for India is to put both World Bank and Pakistan on notice for termination of Indus Water Treaty. After all terrorism and treaties cannot go hand in hand. If Pakistan continues to send terrorists to this country, then Indus Water Treaty cannot hold good. For China we need to have a fresh look at the trade deficit with that country which is almost 50 billion dollars, that is discounting large scale under invoicing by Indian businessmen.
There is need for India to look at options other than military action and yet there can be no two opinions that the country must keep its powder dry.
(Lt General Harwant Singh is former Deputy Chief of Army Staff. The views expressed here are personal to the writer)
(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR)