Why Mehbooba Mufti’s call for unilateral ceasefire during Ramadan is mischievous

The recent call by J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti for unilateral ceasefire during Ramadan is not only uncalled for, it borders on the mischievous. After an all-party meeting in J&K she stated, “It was the unanimous decision of all during the All Party Meeting that the Central government should consider a unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir during Ramadan and Amarnath Yatra…. The Central government should follow former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s unilateral Ramadan ceasefire initiative of 2000…” (http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2018/may/10/halt-security-operations-during-ramadan-amarnath-yatra-jammu-and-kashmir-cm-mehbooba-mufti-1812626.html). The reference to the 2000 ceasefire during PM Vajpayee’s tenure is irrelevant since ground situation differs from year to year. Besides, she herself talked of youth taking to arms and stone-pelting incidents targeting tourists, even killing.

The Amarnath Yatra has always been on the cross-hairs of terrorists organizations and the Yatra has been attacked at times. All the more reason to maintain pressure on terrorists. The CM is not a schoolgirl who cannot understand what instability she is inducing, by design or default, through periodic amnesty to stone-pelters. She should also be aware that sustained operations by security forces has, by and large, eliminated the entire top leadership of the LeT and HM in the Valley. Surely she understands that unilateral ceasefire would give the terrorists not only respite but regroup and re-arm. Therefore the suggestion of unilateral ceasefire is mischievous, especially withno state-level de-radicalization program worth the name, Hurriyat hardliners and radical clerics unchecked and even a radical like Mirwaiz referring to the army as British Army – all in all inciting hate.

The worrying part also media reports quoting intel agencies saying that unilateral ceasefire in J&K is an idea worth pursuing (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/intel-agencies-say-unilateral-ceasefire-in-jk-is-an-idea-worth-pursuing/articleshow/64116706.cms). These reports do not identify which are the ‘intel agencies’ albeit reference is made of ‘central security establishment’. Whether this is a perception building exercise is not known but it does raise the question whether some of our intel agencies have been infiltrated. A major example is leaving the Hurriyat hardliners free for so many years to play the game of Pakistan’s ISI and systematically radicalize the youth both in urban and rural areas of Kashmir Valley. As far back as 2011, the NIA had evidence of ISI’s links with the Hurriyat Conference; money trail that showed how the ISI was using intermediaries and the hawala network to fund the separatists in Kashmir (https://www.indiatoday.in/india/north/story/hawala-nia-links-hurriyat-to-isi-138770-2011-08-04). Yet intel agencies kept advising government that Hurriyat was ‘irrelevant’, thereby assisting deterioration of the ground situation. Last year, secret intel papers reconfirmed Hurriyat is on Pakistan’s payrolls, and Hurriyat had links with Pakistan’s High Commissioner at New Delhi (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/secret-intel-papers-show-how-isi-funds-hurriyat-times-now/articleshow/58555286.cms).

Interestingly, one reason cited in media supporting unilateral ceasefire during Ramadan are reports suggesting Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa being willing to back “comprehensive and meaningful” dialogue with India and Bajwa having recently invited Indian military attache to the Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad in March. This is actually mirroring a British Think Tank pursuing its own vested interests by refusing to acknowledge Bajwa’s forked tongue (https://rusi.org/commentary/pakistan%E2%80%99s-military-reaches-out-india). Can we ignore that Pakistani military and ISI are two sides of the same coin, ISI operates directly under the military and what it is doing in J&K? What about the terror attacks, infiltration, cease-fire violations including targeting villages? With Pakistani military exercising total control in Pakistan, isn’t Bajwa aware of   Mumbai terror attacks mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi openly raising funds for terrorism against India (https://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/out-on-bail-mumbai-attacks-mastermind-lakhvi-raising-funds-for-terrorism-against-india-345079.html). Above all, aren’t the ISI plans to free terrorists, train them for jihad in J&K (https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/pakistan-s-isi-plans-to-free-terrorists-train-them-for-jihad-in-jammu-and-kashmir-1229178-2018-05-08) not the brainchild of Bajwa or being executed with his concurrence.

While periodic amnesty to stone-pelters in J&K and its consequences are well known, Mehbooba Mufti may be hard pressed to explain what action is taken by her government against unfurling Pakistani and ISIS flags, if at all. The fact remains that frequency of such incidents have gone up, even as the presence of ISIS influence in Valley is denied. In this context, it is relevant to acknowledge that ISIS had given a call last year to “wage all out war during Ramadan” (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-ramadan-2017-all-out-war-west-new-terror-attacks-manchester-suicide-bombing-islamic-state-a7758121.html) and there were considerable number of terror attacks and casualties ‘during’ Ramadan (https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/06/is-isis-more-violent-during-ramadan/531444/). We may take solace in the fact that ISIS influence in India is not much, but then AQIS also has the same aim with respect to India, and same goes for the ISI and its proxies like the LeT and HM.

The ceasefire anyway will be one-sided – terrorists will reject it outright taking it as a weakness, unless Mehbooba can vouch for the terrorist – can she? All in all, unilateral ceasefire during Ramadan is a bad idea which should not be accepted, as it will amount to consolidation of terrorist organizations. Instead, all out pressure must be maintained on the terrorists, with Mehbooba Mufti and her government focusing on improving administration and de-radicalization.

Prakash Katoch is third generation army officer hailing from Himachal Pradesh. He is former Lieutenant General from Special Forces and post-retirement has published over 2100 articles on international affairs, geopolitics, military, security, technical and topical issues besides authoring two books. He is active in seminars at both national and international levels.

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