Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the roadmap for Naya Jammu & Kashmir with successful completion of the All-Party Meet convened by him at 7 Lok Kalyan Marg on 24 June. The meeting which has many firsts to its credit was an unprecedented success and sent positive vibes in both the regions of the UT. There was usual skepticism and annoyance in Jammu region claiming under representation while many in Kashmir did not give it a much chance of success hoping that Gupkar Alliance would stick to its demand of restoration of 370. Both sides were surprised at the end of the meeting and the positive signals that emanated at the end of the meet. This was the first All-Party meet which saw no boycotts by the invitees. All 14 invitees attended the meet. It was also the first such meet without any pre-set agenda yet it lasted for about four hours and ended on a happy note without any acrimony. It was the first such meet in which no participant talked about separatism or Pakistan. It obviously sent shock waves across the border and to the pro-Pakistan lobby in the Valley. They felt that their relevance has been further relegated post 05 August 2019. Such a situation is difficult to digest for Pakistan and its sympathizers who still consider J&K to be its jugular vein without realizing the fact that majority hearts have changed post 05 August 19.
If at all there is unanimity in Pakistan, which is usually divided on all issues, it is on the issue of keeping J&K on the boil. There is no divided opinion on this and the entire effort of the Pakistani deep state is focused to that end. No sooner than later Pakistani establishment realized that it is not only losing ground in Kashmir but the coming summer of 2021 may prove to be a turning point in bringing normalcy back, it activated its “Dirty Tricks” Department headed by ISI to create hurdles so that law and order becomes a major issue thus receding the chances of peace and tranquility in the Valley. It is desperate to spread the arc of terror to Jammu region as well. ISI has been active in the Muslim majority Districts of Poonch, Doda and Kishtwar for quite sometime but without any obvious success. However, the probability of sleeper cells cannot be ruled out. Reports suggest that network of sleeper cells is already in place in hilly areas of Kathua district adjoining Udhampur District. Desperate attempts have been made to target Jammu with an intent to disturb the communal harmony and provoke communal riots. It goes to the credit of Jammu Police and its intelligence sleuths that none of the attempts succeeded with the Police able to pre-empt them. Pakistan’s desperation can be gauged from the fact that it has taken a calculated risk to up the ante by deliberate escalation of the conflict ladder through use of armed UAVs to attack the Indian Air Force (IAF) base at Satwari, Jammu.
This has added a new dimension to the Pak sponsored terror and also given a wake-up call to the security establishment which was making tall claims of sealing the border with latest state of the art high-tech gadgetry including laser fence to cover the water bodies under Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System planned by the Union Home Ministry. But Pakistan has once again surprised us by choosing the aerial route to strike at our assets. Earlier Pakistan had surprised us by Suicide Attacks and later by using the sea route for Mumbai attacks. Initially our response to both lacked preparedness and imagination but later these options became prohibitively costly for the Deep State. Buoyed by the success of drone attacks during the Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict Pakistan lost no time in procuring these from its all-weather friend China and its new found Saathi (friend) Turkey and adding to the inventory of terrorists. The daring drone attack on a moonlit night at Satwari Air Force station has not only exposed gapping holes in our Air Defence but also on our ground surveillance on the border and the area between the border and the National Highway. The drones not only infiltrated to attack the air base but also exfiltrated without being challenged! God forbid if such drones are in possession of the terrorists who are already inside our territory.
The drone threat has emerged as a major challenge for the security forces and may be used repeatedly by the terrorists to disturb peace during the current summer and scare away the tourists. India will soon have a counter strategy in place and things won’t remain so simple for the terrorists or their Pakistan based akas.
Economic revival in any form does not suit the game plan of Pakistan. Targeted killings of political workers, policemen and minority communities will continue not only to create terror in the mind of the locals but also to derail the political process and emergence of democracy as the peoples’ favourite.
On the political horizon, the changed tones of Kashmiri leaders immediately after return to Kashmir is an indicator of things to follow. The Gupkar Alliance, cracks in which have become very obvious, will continue to exist on paper with each constituent party pursuing its own agenda to keep its vote bank happy. Demand for restoration of 370 will continue to simmer but remain subdued on the pretext that it is sub judicial. Demand for restoration of statehood before elections will gain ground but these parties will keep shifting goal posts depending upon which way wind is blowing in Delhi and their acceptability by the local youth which is totally annoyed with them.
While Centre may focus its eyes and ears on happenings in the Valley it can ill-afford to ignore Jammu anymore. The aspirations of the local Dogras coupled with restoration of Dogra identity, culture and heritage has become a major binding force among the local youth. Its gaining ground with the local civil society as well. Jammu is no more willing to suffer Kashmiri hegemony again. Hence, Jammu will watch every move of the Central Government very closely and dissect it with surgeon’s precision. The Centre therefore will have to do a fine balancing act while taking any decision about political future of J&K and ensure that the interests of Jammu region are not ignored.
(The writer is a Jammu based veteran political commentator, columnist, security and strategic analyst.)