The manner in which the Pulwama attack was carried out yesterday – a car carrying this kind of explosive device – is quite common in the rest of the world. However, this hasn’t been used in Kashmir for a very long time, and suicide attacks in Kashmir are infrequent, or at best uncommon. The vehicle used must have been prepared for the explosion in or around Pulwama. Winter months are not when these explosives can be transported across the LoC, even if someone wanted to from Pakistan.
Kashmir witnessed a massive surge in violence post Burhan Wani’s killing in the summer of 2016. India used all means at its disposal to crush this uprising with brute force. Today, most independent analysts even in India believe that the current generation of youth in the Valley is possibly irretrievably alienated from Delhi. Over the last few months, with the onset of winters, the counter-insurgency operations have also witnessed a quantum rise. On a daily basis, in far-flung villages north and south of Srinagar, encounters are happening in which wanted-militant leadership is being eliminated.
The Pulwama attack is a sort of an eruption of the feelings of the people who are being eliminated day in and day out in Kashmir. That’s what needs to be understood. Use of military force or bullets is not the answer. People have to sit down instead of just killing people standing up for their political rights. People have to talk rationally and be patient with each other.
At the moment, Pakistan has a very clear and strong stand on all types of militant groups. Even in the case of the Afghan Taliban, they are not tolerating anyone. That’s what they have openly said and is being widely accepted at this point, even by Americans. They know that Pakistan is really pushing the Afghan Taliban to give up fighting, sit down and work out an arrangement for peace in Afghanistan. There is no tolerance for any type of militancy, it’s a zero-tolerance atmosphere in Pakistan right now.
My interactions with various people tell me that there’s no appetite for any more of those things, which have been going on for the last 20-odd years. I sense this from the government and also the military leadership. The army chief is openly saying that we need to get out of this syndrome – that violence is not the solution for any dispute resolution.
The pressure being used by the Indian military in Kashmir of late is significant. Because the movement of militants becomes restricted in winters, it is very easy for the military to cordon them off and take action against them. You have seen the kind of eliminations that have taken place in the last two months in Kashmir – more than 20-plus top leaders and militants have been eliminated. This act is a sign of desperation among the young boys who are daily watching their comrades being eliminated. There is always a reaction to this kind of army action.
US Special Envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is also arriving here in Pakistan day after tomorrow. At this time, Pakistan would not like America to again start browbeating. We are trying to resolve one issue bleeding us for almost four decades on our western borders and wouldn’t like to see another issue propping up at the same point.
This is a very unfortunate coincidence that has come at a time when Pakistan is really trying to get out of a bigger issue, which has been the prime source of instability in the region.
Besides this, the overall policy shift is very visible in the military mindset in the last two years. The new military leadership took over in November 2016. The military chief has said it openly too. But when there is hard talk on the other side, naturally the guard would be up and the existing tenuous relations will become more tense.
Better sense has to prevail among the leadership of two countries and the media has to understand the gravity of the situation and help in keeping the environment cool.
Narendra Modi’s govt has maintained a gung-ho approach especially towards Pakistan as it is in line with its domestic politics. We already have tense relations and to cash on the emotions of the masses for the next election will be an unwise policy. Withdrawal of any diplomatic or commercial favours would only vitiate the environment.
Cool heads are required to deal with the situation.
The author is former lieutenant general of Pakistan army and spearheaded counter terrorism campaign in FATA and Swat from 2007-10