Kashmir cease-fire signals Delhi’s desire for peace, say experts

Kashmir cease-fire signals Delhi’s desire for peace, say experts
An Indian police officer fires a tear gas shell towards demonstrators, during a protest against the recent killings in Kashmir. (REUTERS/Danish Ismail TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Updated 17 May 2018

Kashmir cease-fire signals Delhi’s desire for peace, say experts

Kashmir cease-fire signals Delhi’s desire for peace, say experts
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced on Wednesday that it would suspend all operations against rebels in the disputed Kashmir state
  • Kashmir has been gripped by frequent bouts of violence for the past several months and more than 130 people have been killed in the state this year

NEW DELHI: India’s decision to suspend operations against militants in Kashmir during the holy month of Ramadan is a good move and one that sends a message that the government is willing to negotiate peace, experts said on Thursday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced on Wednesday that it would suspend all operations against rebels in the disputed Kashmir state with two exceptions — if Indian security forces were attacked or if innocent lives were in danger.
“The decision was taken to help peace-loving Muslims observe Ramzan in a peaceful environment,” the official handle of the office of the home minister tweeted on Wednesday.
Kashmir has been at the heart of a dispute between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, both of which claim it. It has been gripped by frequent bouts of violence for the past several months and more than 130 people have been killed in the state this year, according to media reports.
At least 120 local men have joined the militancy this year — up from 16 in 2013, said Happymon Jacob, associate professor of disarmament studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.
“The announcement is a good one because it tells you this is the season of Ramadan and fasting and (people) should try not to get into such conflicts,” Jacob said. “Most of the militants in Jammu and Kashmir are local boys and this decision is a way of telling the people in Kashmir that we are willing to negotiate, we are willing to talk,” Jacob said.
Soon after the federal government’s announcement, however, militants attacked an army patrol party in Shopian in south Kashmir, according to local reports. It was not clear if there were any casualties.
The decision came a week after all parties in the state, led by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, recommended it to the government. Her party, the PDP, rules the state in an alliance with Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. New Delhi agreed with Mufti’s suggestion despite resistance from its state leadership in Kashmir. At the time a BJP spokesman told local media that such a move would “demoralize security forces.”
Mufti “wholeheartedly” welcomed the move and thanked the prime minister and the home minister “for their personal intervention.” In a tweet, she said: “The month of Ramadan is a harbinger of peace & such a decision will go a long way in creating a peaceful & amicable environment for a sustained dialogue.”
As a result of the rise in militancy as well as heightened social unrest, the BJP-PDP alliance has lost all support in the state, Jacob said. By pushing for a cease-fire, it is a way for the PDP, for Mufti, to reclaim some lost territory, he said.
“More importantly, this cease-fire offer could also be a realization in Delhi to have some stability both externally (on the border with Pakistan) and internally going into 2019 national elections,” he said.
India and Pakistan have accused each other’s security forces of harassing their diplomats for several months this year. That ongoing tension has recently, and suddenly, died down, Jacob said, adding that the Indian government could be trying to calm the situation.
The last time that India offered a cease-fire to militants was in 2000. At that time, too, the government in New Delhi was led by the BJP. That cease-fire soon fell apart due to militant attacks.