PM Modi addresses people after inaugrating Kishanganga Power Station at a function in Srinagar today | PTI
PM Modi addresses people after inaugurating Kishanganga Power Station at a function in Srinagar | Photo: PTI
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At the joint press conference with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the G7 Summit in France, Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed one message unambiguously. He made it clear to America and the world that all issues between India and Pakistan are bilateral and ensured the international community accepts India’s viewpoint on abrogation of Article 370.

In the three weeks between Jammu and Kashmir losing its special status and the Modi government making the international community, barring China, endorse its stand, the developments prove that India’s short-term strategy has been very successful. The situation on the ground in Kashmir is under control. The  unprecedented deployment of the security forces, the Valley’s curfewed streets, and the ‘information blackout’ have ensured there are no mass protests – violent or peaceful – and there is no loss of life.

But while the Modi government has achieved its immediate political aim, India’s long-term strategy remains unclear. Except for vague political rhetoric, one has heard little about the government’s plans for Kashmir in the long run. Have we reconciled to the idea of controlling the  territory of J&K without the ‘soul’ of its people?

If the Modi government intends to win the hearts and minds of Kashmiris, then it has an endless ‘to do’ list to follow, which has been discussed ad nauseam. Here are some recommendations based on my experience.

Also read: Demonetisation, GST, now Kashmir. Modi govt doesn’t think beyond the first step

Us versus them

‘People of India’ versus the ‘Muslim population of Jammu and Kashmir’ is the predominant narrative. The politicians, the public and the media have fallen prey to it. Little or no distinction is made between the Kashmiris and the terrorists. This narrative is against the norms of a civilised society.

Of course, violence in Jammu and Kashmir to a large extent has been the principal cause for tensions, but are we going to punish 8.5 million people for the crimes of 250-odd terrorists? If this narrative percolates down to the armed forces, the early signs of which, in my view, are discernible, the consequences will be horrendous.

This narrative has to change. As a nation, we cannot lose our moral compass.

Appeal to emotions

It is empirical wisdom that no matter how aggrieved the people may be, an emotional appeal by the highest authority can bridge the gap to a great degree. That is exactly what former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his successor Manmohan Singh did, paving the way for the situation in Kashmir to be brought to near-normal by 2012.

So far, the Modi government hasn’t, either in its first tenure or in the second, taken any such action. Prime Minister Modi should go beyond a televised gesture and make a direct emotional appeal to the people of Jammu and Kashmir explaining his political strategy, plans for their development and well-being, and his approach to reconciliation.

Also read: The sheer folly of Modi govt’s media managers plotting a Kashmir-is-normal story

Development plans

The short-term and the long-term development plans must be spelt out in concrete terms detailing when and how they will be carried out instead of being simply announced as rhetorical promises.

The short-term development plans and welfare measures must fructify fast and their impact must be visible for the people to see in the near future.

Rope in the youth

The key to Jammu and Kashmir’s future are the post-1989 youth who have seen nothing but violence. Many of them are educated and aspirational. Lack of jobs and the prevailing circumstances have resulted in frustration and “anti-national” sentiments among the youth. When these sentiments fester for far too long, the gun is only one step away.

As a nation, we must take affirmative action to employ the youth of Jammu and Kashmir. The Modi government must guarantee them the right to work and launch a stipend scheme as per qualifications as soon as possible.

Also read: Modi govt’s Kashmir crackdown is damaging India’s image abroad

Education and health

Good education and healthcare are basic rights of the country’s citizens. Improvement in both never fails to touch the hearts of the people. We must transform these two sectors in Jammu and Kashmir and make it a model for the whole country.

A large segment of the population has been psychologically affected by violence for years. This problem has to be specifically addressed.

National effort

Let there be no doubt that Jammu and Kashmir or any part of it is not going anywhere. It was and will remain an inalienable part of India. The choice is ours whether we would like to keep it with or without the ‘hearts and minds’ of the people who live there. This is not the time for triumphalism but for reconciliation.

If we the people and our elected government show the wisdom and the will, Jammu and Kashmir can be a model for the rest of the country in five years.

Lt Gen H S Panag PVSM, AVSM (R) served in the Indian Army for 40 years. He was GOC in C Northern Command and Central Command. Post retirement, he was Member of Armed Forces Tribunal. Views are personal.

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  1. It’s essential to remember that two years ago the Indian army honoured one of its officers for torturing a Kashmiri shawl weaver. The torturer was given a medal of commendation.

  2. So called rational Hindus like Rajiv Singh here in comments saying re education like China is the only solution, in other words deprive Kashmiris from their faith- Islam ( this is most imperative to be done to radical Hindus or RSS like modi and group to let India live in peace). He stirred up all this because he’s stealing tax payers money, Check ur GDP bro.
    And obviously modi and gang is seeking to steal more money from foreign investors and also simultaneously please his hindutva fanatics, killing two birds with one stone

  3. This is disgraceful the BBC accounts of the great Indian army visiting villages and rounding up civilians and giving them a beating.
    These are not isolated incidents according to the BBC investigation, but since the lockdown these beatings have happened in dozens of places. In rural Kashmir over a wide area.
    Who has authorised this, where has the orders come from, what units are involved?
    Panag as a former Army commander could you please explain to your readers, the chain of command of responsibility, for actions like this,
    Are more atrocities likely ? Who in the army has ordered this unlawful action? Where was it planned?
    How is this justified, is the army chief aware of this?

  4. Best thing Modi has done for the Kashmiri
    He has separated the wheat from the chaff. Now it’s black and white.
    This Indian army has not fought a war against Islam, the Americans, Russians and Syrians have to their cost.
    The 8.5 million Kashmiri is willing to give his life in a just war (Jihad).
    This is not going to be a localised insurgency around the Pir Panjal.
    There is a danger of this conflict spreading .

  5. Emotional appeal and all are superficial.I have no doubt that things will become normal gradually.The most problamatic section is going to be the educated elite and the feudal gentry ,the Pak sympathisers and who believe in 2 nation theory.Should BJP govts. in center and states follow aggressive RSS agenda then it can increase alienation and normalisation will become more difficult.Majority of ppl in the state must have faith in secular crefentials of the rulers in center and Modiji in particular as they trusted Nehru to join India inspite of being a muslim majority state.Further,Modi govt. must lay out time bound plan for gradual phasing out of Army and security forces from civilian areas to deploy at the borders.Modi is a doer and I am optimistic.I personally feel with a Cong govt. at center it stands better chance.

    • What a joke of this article is. India should follow Xinjiang kind policy of China. De-islamisation of the valley is only option that through re-education.

  6. Very good suggestions. I doubt emotional appeals will do much to win hearts and minds in the short run but they can help mould how the rest of the nation looks at Kashmir. It should indeed be top priority to implement some informal affirmative action for the youth from Kashmir in jobs all over the country. If possible they should quickly try to scale up health services especially for children, the psychological impact of violence is probably the highest on kids and we should put all efforts to end the cycle of pointless violence. Of course there will be people like commenter Dost Mohammed Khan below who will always be waiting for their blood thirsty jihadis to succeed, we can’t let the existence of such vicious and hateful people tar all Kashmiris and prevent their progress.

  7. BJP government has claimed article 370 has deoperationalised in national and in the interest of people of Kashmir and not for political reasons. If it is true, let the government should come forward to form a national government with representative from all parties. This would help to build confidence of Kashmiris that India stands for them and send a right message to international communities.

    • Hahaha, you don’t do such silly things, only Xinjiang like China policy of running re-education camps will solve the issue.

    The RSS got the vote and thus it’s power, by equating Kashmiris, Pakistanis, Indian Muslims, under one big label MUSLIMS and is in the business restoring the Hindu pride for imaginary past wrongs.
    Savakar had his own agenda for muslims so what makes you think the Pracharak is going to follow your suggestions?
    Great electoral benefit has accrued for the BJP in following Savakar’s ideology, “the humiliation of the other will restore the pride in our nationhood defined” (sic)
    Your article gives the impression that insurgent fighting the forces of the N Army which you commanded is a futile but the mujahideen succeeded against the mighty Soviet Union, so General advise in your writings, that Modi and the Government should eschew feelings of hubris. This insurgency, as AS Daulat said, is now going to take a different turn.

  9. Atoot ang hai. It should be rippling with muscle, fresh blood coursing through it. Both strength and flexibility. Khoobsoorti toh Maalik ne di hai. Not something in a plaster cast, hard, rigid, immobile.

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