What is Rajnath Singh’s “permanent resolution” of Kashmir?

  • Publish Date: Jun 21 2017 9:19PM
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  • Updated Date: Jun 21 2017 9:19PM
What is Rajnath Singh’s “permanent resolution” of Kashmir?

The home minister has let on nothing to give people some vague sense of what is on offer


Over the past two weeks, the home minister Rajnath Singh has made several curious statements about the government’s plans for a” permanent resolution” of Kashmir issue.  In one of the earlier statements he cryptically remarked  that “the   government has come up with a permanent solution to solve Kashmir”.  He continued that “the initiative has begun” and the government was “moving forward”. Subsequently, he repeated the statement again and added that the government will “take people into confidence” about the solution.

Although, Singh has given no details about the solution being envisaged, he did define its limits. He made it clear that the solution won't allow any compromise over the territorial integrity  of India, an iteration of the longstanding Government of India position which one could as well have taken for granted.

But what is this “permanent solution”? Singh has let on nothing to give people some vague sense of where we are heading. Yes, he has  stipulated no compromise on territorial integrity. And another important remark that he has made and repeated it in the context of the talk of solution is that not only Kashmir but “Kashmiris and Kashmiriyat” too belong to India.

If not in rest of the country, the statements have generated a simultaneous interest and anxiety in Kashmir. There is interest as the BJP with its extreme integrationist agenda on Kashmir is talking about a permanent solution, which is seen as an indirect acknowledgement of a  problem in the state, something the BJP normally denies exists. And there is anxiety as no one is sure about the party’s intention to adopt a political approach towards the turmoil in the state and work towards a political resolution.

And understandably so. In the three years that this government has been in power, there has been no political outreach towards Kashmir. Government response has been invariably militaristic in nature. The language has become abrasive. Nuance has given way to a literal reading of the situation. A careful diplomatic talk has been replaced by hurling of threats and abuses. Faces have frowned and expressions have become menacing.

This realization prematurely aborts the spasm of excitement over Singh’s talk of a resolution. So what is the home minister really talking about? Is he talking about a resolution in a matter-of-fact manner, meaning nothing more than a stabilization of the situation? This could mean tougher security measures to quell the protests and the stone throwing. A scorched earth policy to crush the militancy. A plan perhaps to  eliminate the active local and foreign militants over a specific period of time. Action against the alleged sources of militant funding. And backing it up with an unyielding political stance, something that the people in Valley see as the brainchild of the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.  

The Doval Doctrine, as it is popularly called, frames for Valley the Delhi’s prevailing give-no-quarter policy. The contours of this policy are gleaned from a long speech on Kashmir Doval gave in 2010. Its larger message is summed up like this: The Valley’s descent into turmoil is self-containing. The resistance once stretched to its limits will end on its own and lapse into normalcy. More so, when it is largely self-inflicting in its fallout  with Kashmiris at the receiving end of the ongoing violence and Hurriyat’s protest schedules. 

Considering there has been a conspicuous toughening of the security measures in Valley over the past some weeks, one could very well see it as part of the alleged plan for permanent resolution. But the truth is even if the centre to a significant extent achieves its ambitious security objectives in Valley within a specific timeframe, it would make little redeeming difference to the state of affairs. It won’t be long before the situation lapses into uncertainty.

But we can hardly presume that New Delhi won’t be aware of this reality. Hence a “permanent solution” will call for something more, for example, an initiative or a plan which if carried to a logical conclusion has a game-changing potential  in security, political or legal terms. One such anticipated measure and which has been a source of deep paranoia in Kashmir is the centre’s attempt to revoke or dilute J&K remaining constitutional safeguards to achieve the longstanding Hindutva dream of  integrating the state into India. Many people even speculate about a bid  to undo the Article 370 or one of its critical features like the Article 35A that protects the J&K’s state subject laws whereby outsiders can’t become the state’s citizens. However, as the things stand such a far-reaching legal step will be impossible to accomplish, unless the J&K Government also plays along, again an unimaginable proposition.   

Besides, let alone the actual revocation of the constitutional safeguards and its potential catastrophic fallout, it is the very fear of such a prospect that has become a factor in perpetuating the ongoing turmoil. And as the top PDP leader Naeem Akhtar has made it clear in an interview, such an attempt will be a redline for the party and break its coalition with the BJP.  The National Conference too will oppose it tooth and nail.

So, apparently given its disastrous repercussions, diluting J&K’s already drastically eroded constitutional safeguards is unlikely to be the BJP’s preferred idea of a permanent resolution.

Is there any political roadmap up its sleeve? One can’t really say. So far the BJP under the Prime Minister Narenda Modi has given little indication that it even considers Kashmir an issue that needs a political settlement and has chosen to treat the unrest in the state as a law and order issue to be quelled by the use of force and some development – albeit, more of former than later.  

But not long in the past,  the same BJP led government was working towards a bilateral solution with Pakistan along Musharraf’s four point formula. It was the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had begun the promising negotiations with Musharraf which were later followed up by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The process had nearly culminated into a Kashmir solution by the end of 2007 when Musharraf’s sudden loss of power and later on the Mumbai attacks  aborted it.

The proposals unveiled by Musharraf in 2006 had set out a four stage incremental process for Kashmir resolution. The steps were: identification of the regions in Kashmir for solution, demilitarization, self governance and a joint management or a consultative mechanism between India and Pakistan on the state.

 However, there is a lot that has happened since. The dynamics that had made the engagement possible then no longer obtain. Several new factors are at play in the regional geo-politics and in the relations between the two countries that have made it increasingly difficult to resume the peace process.

But is the Home Minister by any chance referring to these proposals when he talks of a “permanent resolution”. Again, one can’t really tell.