ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Kashmir : Unilateral Ceasefire

The unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir is bound to be complex considering the nature of the Kashmir imbroglio. One major cause for concern arises from the fact that the offer is made directly to armed militant groups, leaving out others such as the All Party Hurriyat Conference. Another cause for concern stems from the fact that it is silent about dialogue.

Talk of ceasefire had been in the air for some time. But the announcement caught everyone by surprise, particularly the special secretary incharge of Kashmir department in the ministry of home affairs, and most of the ministers who participated in the cabinet meeting. The fact that bureaucrats were kept out while Farooq Abdullah and the army were consulted, and that it was a cabinet decision lent shine to the time-bound ceasefire, for the duration of ‘ramzan’. However, there is much room for concern.

It is not the first time a ceasefire has been attempted during ‘ramzan’. And in winter months hostilities tend to come down. Besides it is not clear whether the government of India will maintain a cessation of hostilities on its part even if militants do not. Further, the offer is self-evidently directed at the armed militants and scrupulously silent about dialogue, or even talks to start a dialogue. So why make a gesture which excludes talks and restrict it to the armed groups which keeps the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) out of the loop conveying the message that government privileges armed groups? This dismissive attitude towards overground political organisation is senseless, ceasefire by GoI in J and K makes sense because it means a halt to hostilities against people by the government forces who are responsible for the bulk of atrocities committed against the non-combatants. Therefore, if ceasefire was combined with an unconditional offer of talks with APHC and the militants, then the chances of silencing militant guns increase immensely. Instead, the offer in its present shape smacks of exploiting contradictions within the armed militant groups, between militants and the APHC, as well as between all of them and Pakistan. While dividing or weakening the opponent is part and parcel of diplomacy, and jockeying for advantage before negotiations begin is common, devoid of a clear objective this becomes a ruse or tactical device to provide a breather to the forces on the ground. So long as GoI stalls dialogue between the three parties to the dispute; people of J and K living on both sides of LoC, India and Pakistan, every step would negate itself. Arguably, a ceasefire can help bring pressure to bear on Pakistan and the militant groups, and the blame put on them if ceasefire does not hold. Scoring points would not mark an advance on the ground. It is worth remembering that the offer was not made from a position of strength. Because it is the militants who are striking at will and causing a great deal of diffculty for the ‘Armed Forces of the Union’.

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