‘Sentiments have to be addressed once the situation is normal’
SRINAGAR: The finance and defence minister of India, Arun Jaitley, said on Friday that restoring normalcy in the four districts of south Kashmir is the government of India’s priority.
“Our priority is to restore normalcy in south Kashmir,” Jaitley said in response to a question at a press conference held on the concluding day of the 14th meeting of the Goods and Services Council in Srinagar.
The four south Kashmir districts – Kulgam, Shopian, Anantnag, and Pulwama – have been the centre of the popular anti-India uprising that broke out in the summer of 2016. In recent weeks, the four districts have seen massive student protests after government troops attacked students of the degree college in Pulwama. In the two days that Jaitley was in Srinagar, a civilian’s bullet-riddled body was found in Pulwama and during the funeral possession militants appeared and fired in the air, even as dozens of civilians were injured in clashes with government troops.
Asked how he differentiates between Kashmiri and foreign militants fighting Indian rule in the Valley, Jaitley said that both are involved in the same act of “terrorism”.
“The terrorism and the militancy, both are aimed against the Indian state, its sovereignty and the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” Jaitley said. “The security forces and the locals are affected by their actions. Therefore, those who have taken up the violence of this magnitude will be accountable for their actions.”
Jaitley equated pro-freedom aspirations of Kashmir with sentiments of Indian people who wanted to live free of Indian sovereignty. “Such Sentiments are in every state of the country and they have to be addressed. The current situation (in Kashmir) emerges when you take to violence and arms, then start killing security forces or your own people. This unleashes a cycle which does not stop. Sentiments have to be addressed once the situation is normal here,” he said.
He said an average citizen, irrespective of his political views, will be likely to be on the Indian side in this debate. “As for those who are killing people, they have to be dealt with as a serious problem and will be dealt with accordingly,” he said.
When asked whether the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would bring more development in the neighbouring countries of India, including on the other side of Kashmir, Jaitley said that economic development was the Indian government’s priority. “Let nobody be envious of what happens across the border. But there are examples in history where people have entered (another country) in the name of connectivity and then they have established a strategic presence there,” he warned.