The Vested Interest Lobby

The Ufa meet last month in Russia, between the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India, was a low-key affair. It was to be followed by a meeting between the National Security Advisors of the two countries this month and also by a mechanism wherein their Director Generals of Military Operations were to meet regularly to ‘calm’ cross-border tensions. Analysts speculated that it was a clean break from the past, with Pakistan-related foreign policy passing from the charge of the Foreign Ministry to the National Security Advisor – making relations with Pakistan a primarily ‘security-centric’ issue. Regular meetings between the DGMOs of the two countries could also be called a ‘security’ transfer.

Militaries and National Security directorates tend to be away from the limelight and uninfluenced by day-to-day politics. If a mechanism for regular military-to-military contacts is established, a so-called ‘high-level hotline,’ then tensions that develop regularly over the border can be lowered. Historically, the first real ‘hotline’ was established in 1963, in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis in which the United States and the USSR were in a dangerous confrontation. It led to the development of instantaneous communication between the Cold War rivals, and possibly, prevented all-out war during intelligence or military crises. A similar mechanism across the frontier in contested Kashmir could do the same for India and Pakistan.

However, despite the low-key affair at Ufa, and the even lower-key follow-up, some vested interests have taken note. The attack in Gurdaspur, carried out by “Muslims who came from Pakistan because their underwear was made in Pakistan,” and another attack in Udhampur, a few hundred metres from the Northern Command of the Indian Army, in which a “Pakistan resident named Naved,” was caught and labelled as “Ajmal Kasab-II,” were obviously the handiwork of people who have no interest in the peaceful future of Kashmir and South Asia.

Many holes can be punched in the official versions of both incidents. Dr Bhim Singh has already asked many questions of the Security Forces, mainly as to how a group of armed militants could cross the Line of Control (LoC), traverse the entire Valley of Kashmir, undetected, “stealing food” on the way, cross the Banihal Pass, land outside the Northern Command Headquarters, again undetected, and attack a moving paramilitary convoy in broad daylight. And how, an indoctrinated militant from Pakistan, who claims to have come over to “kill Hindus,” can be held by three unarmed Hindu villagers without shooting them? Either this militant is a “planted story” from across the border to belittle the recent military-civilian initiative, or he is plain stupid and uninformed, because Pakistan has 5 million Hindus among whom he could’ve found his targets. Why take the trouble of such a life-risking trek only to attack an unarmed paramilitary bus, and allow yourself to be overpowered by three villagers and paraded in front of the media?

No doubt, vested interests are at play. Only recently, the Commander of the Indian Army in the Valley of Kashmir said that infiltration in Kashmir was ‘Zero this year.’ So where did these militants come from? If we are to believe that these groups infiltrated recently, then they infiltrated through the toughest, the most secure stretch of the LoC in Poonch. Surely it takes two to tango.

It is sad to see the Indian media play the story of the militant ‘Naved’ again and again rather than view it for what it is – an attempt to frustrate any attempts to establish any form of peace in Kashmir and South Asia, and to keep the two nuclear armed neighbours at loggerheads for however long it is possible. The media would have been better off playing the story of Talib Shah, a Kashmiri boy, who loved Kashmir, who was a post-graduate, and who was killed in an “alleged” encounter in South Kashmir a few days ago. Did it miss the story of a disaffected Kashmiri youth joining the ranks of violent resistance without travelling to Pakistan? Because, in the context of Kashmir, Talib and his like-minded friends are far more worrisome than anyone claiming to have come to “kill Hindus.”