Every conscientious person in the world strives for peace and harmony among the neighbours.
Kashmir has been crying for it for decades. They are the worst sufferers of the hostile relations between India and Pakistan. Always terrorized, humiliated, and killed on all sides for the last seventy years, especially those families living across the Line of Control between two countries.
People living close to the border are happy with the ceasefire agreement because there is hardly any day that goes without shelling. If, at least, border dwellers are allowed to live for a while without getting killed (although it doesn’t last long, given the examples of the past), then, everyone should welcome it with an open heart.
However, the timing of the agreement and its sudden announcement has not only surprised everybody but it has raised also some concerns in many public and political circles.
At a time when the two countries have crossed all boundaries to attack each other, to teach tough lessons, to disgrace and discredit each other in international institutions, or to spy and spread chaos across the border, a sudden announcement of the ceasefire came out of blue. It is human nature to be surprised in such a prevailing situation.
Overnight, what a miracle has happened that changed the war-mongering leadership in a peacemaker?
Only a few weeks ago, Imran Khan used to call Modi by the name of Hitler. Modi reiterated his determination to invade Azad Kashmir after stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its special status, there might have been some invisible entity that has put a leash on both the leaders.
It is widely accepted in the political circles of Europe and the United States that despite the war-hysteria in the neighbours, the clandestine process of internal talks was going on, which only intensified after the Chinese intervention in Ladakh. Because Chinese incursion has irked both the US and its allies in Europe that have supported Modi despite his ‘Hindutva agenda’. If the talks are considered to be the handiwork of some international think tanks that have recognized the significance of the security institutions of both the countries, the military establishment of India/Pakistan have also played the important role in reaching this understanding of opening political channels according to some reports in the media.
The perception is that any peace initiative between the two countries can only be made successful by security institutions if they become part of the dialogue process, although this impression was previously found only about Pakistan.
Dr. Shant Banerjee, a professor of international affairs, says, “After the Balakot incident, Indian Prime Minister Mr. Modi was restrained from creating war frenzy by his security and military agencies and put halt to his dream of making India a Hindu Rashtra spreading from Afghanistan to Indonesia. This has created a slight chasm between Modi and the RSS. For a few months, it has been felt that Modi’s style of expression has changed even though the RSS leaders are pushing hard their agenda of Hindu Rashtra through BJP”.
Another reason could be the economic downturn and the persistent farmers’ protests in India that have significantly weakened Modi’s self-proclaimed “invincible position”. There seems a sharp difference of opinion on the issue of farmers, especially in the northern states where the BJP has a strong position and the party has a large vote bank in 70 percent of the farmers’ population. Watching his popularity graph going down might have forced Modi to surprise India with a ceasefire agreement.
After the departure of Donald Trump who was a staunch supporter of Modi’s right-wing policies, India is trying to get on track with the new US administration that it enjoyed during the Obama presidency, but Democrats have strongly criticized Modi’s policies against Kashmir, minorities, and farmers.
Until now, it has been strongly felt that the Biden administration has had only a formal phone conversation with Trump’s close aides, Benjamin Netanyahu, Muhammad bin Salman and Modi, for which India has started hard lobbying in US political circles in an attempt to bridge the rift.
The secular image of India has been severely affected by the comprehensive coverage of Hindutva policies against minorities in the international media.
Despite the positive outcome of the border disengagement with China on the Ladakh incursion, the Indian military hardly trusts China’s intentions. It may be easier to deal with China by keeping Pakistan in a ‘feel-good factor’ of the ceasefire, even though China is trying to save its huge investment on CPEC in the region by supporting a ceasefire agreement.
Although the military establishment has the same amount of control over Modi as Imran Khan, yet, the Pakistani military has never absolved itself of the accusations that the real government in Pakistan is run by the military establishment and the country’s prime minister has the same status in the military as the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir has got in the Pakistan Parliament.
The Indian Army, under the disguise of democracy, has always been working behind the scene in the politics of the country like the Pakistani military has done in the past openly by overthrowing the democratic governments.
Some political circles have expressed that Imran Khan might have been told off by Qamar Bajwa and advised him, “Before becoming too sympathetic to Kashmiris, at least ask us first. Refrain from calling Modi Nazi, Hitler, or Hindutva. Kashmir is indeed our jugular vein but it is our exclusive right to keep or cut it. General Musharraf kept trying to cut it. Earlier in the Shimla Agreement, we had tried to get rid of this vein, but some Kashmiris do not let us leave them”.
According to Kashmiri journalist Khalid Amin, “It is also possible that Imran Khan was unaware of this whole new development and he too, through the media, came to know about the meetings between Ajit Doval and Mueed Yousuf, due to which he sought refuge in finding Al-Beruni in the Jhelum Mountains.”
I remember some cabinet meetings held in JK discussing border security issues, the moment security issues were mentioned, soon the heads or officers of the military establishment would digress from the issue and divert to education, roads or leave the meeting without any discussion.
As far as the border security of Jammu and Kashmir or Azad Kashmir is concerned, all rights are reserved to the forces of both countries. The civil administration is just a spectator.
The ceasefire development has brought Syed Ali Shah Gilani, a senior Hurriyat leader, in the limelight again who has been made disappear from the political scene for quite a long time now. No sooner, he questioned the ceasefire agreement that immediately a rebuttal was issued against him to refrain from making such statements because this could encourage “Hindutva supporters.” Though, the statement was retracted after a harsh reaction from Kashmiris across the border.
What could be more ironic than this that a person, who has devoted his entire life, politics, and vision to become the jugular vein of Pakistan, will have to listen to the taunts of “supporting Hindutva” at the last stage of his life?
The Kashmiri nation is currently at a crossroads where on the one hand there is a lack of credible and honest leadership. On the other hand, there are the same challenges of who to hold on to, who to consider as an enemy and which direction to take in the future that, at least could provide a chance to live with dignity.
(The writer is an ex editor of BBC and Penguin author of ‘Lost in Terror’).