Kashmir flare-up may derail Indo-Pak ties

Valley on boil: Army chief's warning indicates apprehension

Kashmir flare-up may derail Indo-Pak ties
A flare-up in the Kashmir Valley this summer, as is being forseen by the Indian security agencies, may throw cold water on the prospects for re-establishing India and Pakistan ties this year.

Army Chief Bipin Rawat’s stern warning last week that those who oppose the army’s operations during encounters will be treated as “anti-national elements” is seen as an indication of  the apprehension of the authorities in the coming months.

The army chief's statement — made after paying tribute to  personnel who lost their lives in encounters with militants in Kashmir — was seen as a sign of exasperation over Pakistani handlers repeatedly mobilising sections of local population to oppose the security forces whenever an encounter took place with suspected terrorists. Even as Gen Rawat’s remark has generated a political controversy, intelligence inputs have suggested that stones could be replaced by Molotov cocktails in small bottles once summer sets in and the battle against the army waged by Pakistan-supported terrorists and their “overground workers” will increase in the Kashmir Valley.

Just before the latest encounter in Kashmir and resultant deaths of an army major and three soliders, there were signs that Islamabad and New Delhi could be preparing for a political dialogue of sorts. So much so that the talk in diplomatic circles was that things may improve between the two prime ministers and Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif could meet on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Kazakhstan on June 7-8.

Even as the security establishment in Delhi insists that India would not be in a hurry to resume such a dialogue, major changes in the Pakistan Army and Foreign Office are being read positively.
The recall of Pakistan’s high commissioner to India Abdul Basit after completion of three years is seen as yet another sign that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wants a change in foreign policy.

New Delhi’s attention was also drawn to reports about Pakistan’s new army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa being less hawkish about ties with India compared to his predecessor  Gen Raheel Sharif.

Gen Bajwa’s advice to his officers to read a book, Army and Nation, by political scientist Steven Wilkinson on the Indian Army’s relationship with its civilian administration was seen positively in this context. He had said the military has no business running the government.

A few days ago, Pakistan handed over an Indian soldier who had strayed across the border in September. India facilitated the return of a Pakistani boy who had been brought here illegally by his father.

Interestingly, there was also invite to Indian authors and commentators for the Lahore Literary Festival being held between February 24 and 26 close on the heels of Indian participation at the Karachi Literature Festival earlier this month.

A day ago, the Ministry of External Affairs strongly condemned the attack at the Sufi shrine in Sindh that left over 70 dead. This was the first such condemnation since a suicide bombing outside a Lahore park in March 2016 that killed 74. Then, Modi had telephoned Sharif to convey India's condolences.

Start of cold phase

The start of a cold phase after the January 2016 attack on Pathankot airbase and the September 2016 attacks in Uri by terrorists from Pakistan saw India’s surgical strikes on militant camps across the Line of Control. Therefore, any decision to revive a comprehensive bilateral dialogue would depend on how the situation fares in the Kashmir Valley, officials said.
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