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The General Truth

In the past three days two saner voices were raised from two unexpected quarters in Delhi and Islamabad. Indian army chief Gen Bipin Rawat took everyone by surprise when, on Monday, he said gun was not solution and neither the Army nor the militants would achieve their goals through it in Kashmir. He rather asked for taking a peaceful recourse to resolve the problem. General Rawat is not known for making statements of “peace” generally. His mantra has rather been ‘hot pursuit’ to bring peace. It is general Rawat who declared that civilian protestors near encounter sites would be treated as militants. Since then several civilians have fallen to the bullets of security forces during clashes at encounter sites in many parts of the valley. He is also known for adoring an army officer (Major Gagoi) for using as a Kashmiri boy as human shield in April last year in Budgam. His Pakistani counter-part Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, almost around the same time, pleaded for a peaceful, comprehensive and meaningful dialogue for the resolution of all outstanding disputes between the two countries including “the core issue of Kashmir.” It is an open secret that Pakistani civil and military establishment had never been on same page on relations with India, more particularly against the backdrop of Kashmir. Pakistan army is often attributed as the “sponsor” of Kashmir militancy. Now since the ‘peace talk’ has come from the highest offices of both the military establishments, it should grab the attention of political leadership, both, in Islamabad and Delhi. Besides fighting three regular wars, the armies of the two countries are in a state of perpetual (though limited) war on the border and line of control (LOC). So when the Generals call for peaceful means, one should not miss the point that this feeling among them must have come after a long but failed experience. It should work as guiding factor for governments in New Delhi and Islamabad. But in the given situation, change of course in Indo-Pakistan relations appears quite unlikely in immediate future. The mutual hostility has remained an important political ingredient of governing parties in India and Pakistan to strengthen their support constituencies internally. Pakistan is slated for general elections in August or September this year while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity would be tested in April next year. That makes the peace an uneasy proposition, at least for now, or till the elections in the two countries conclude next year. It can be said with great convenience that peace in India and Pakistan is hostage to internal political compulsions of the rulers. They must move beyond. As the situation shapes up, New Delhi and Islamabad should understand that we are not living in a stable and peaceful region. The military presence of America and NATO is increasing and their private armies like ISIS is making inroads in almost all the important south Asian countries—India, Pakistan, Afghanistan besides Kashmir. China and Russia have also developed economic and political interest in the region. With America on one side and China and Russia on the other side, South Asia is genuinely sitting on a powder keg. The situation in Kashmir too is becoming hard to handle. Kashmiri south, who are at the forefront of the campaign, are different from their peers of 90s. They are a generation unprepared to sit back and shut-up. It is not in the interest of either Pakistan or India to be complacent. The focus should be returning to Musharaf-Vajpayee-Manmohan days. The latter had given green to talks between the secessionist All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) and Pakistan. Modi, for his part, has ruled out any such engagement with Islamabad. Talking peace is sensible and necessary, even if quick results are not the intention. Not talking is simply too dangerous.