The Pulwama attack

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At least 44 Indian security personnel were killed near the district of Pulwana in Occupied Kashmir on Thursday 14th February, the deadliest such attack since 2002. The attack is being claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) according to reports in local media but this has yet to be verified. Indian media channels both electronic and print were quick to point the finger of responsibility and indirect blame on Pakistan, as were the politicians led by the Indian PM Modi who on Friday 15th February withdrew the Most Favoured Nation status that had been granted to Pakistan in 1996 after the formation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). A meeting of the Indian cabinet also on Friday resolved to do all it could to isolate Pakistan diplomatically and economically, a move that has failed in the past. Condemnation has been no less swift on this side of the border, as have the rejection of the Indian allegations of complicity.

Pakistan gains nothing from this attack or indeed from any attack made in Indian Occupied Kashmir. Such attacks advance nothing on either side of the border, or within IOK itself where they are certain to trigger yet another Draconian response by Indian forces on innocent civilians, the ultimate losers in the endless conflict. It is that very response, violence and oppression sustained over decades that feeds and sustains those that carried out the attack who will argue that desperate times call for desperate measures. Oppression orchestrated by the state has similar effects globally and IOK is not different, with violent extremism being one of the gangrel offspring of oppression. The Indian army, supported by politicians, pulls the trigger on the deaths and misfortunes of millions.

The Kashmir problem remains stuck in virtually the same position it has occupied since Independence assorted UN resolutions notwithstanding, and peace initiatives that span two generations have never got beyond the stage of tentative dialogue. In a fair and rational world, it would be the Kashmiris themselves that were offered the choice of resolution, but India has never come close to anything as radical as that. There are doubts anyway as to the viability of IOK as a stand-alone entity, landlocked and with a feeble economy it would need external support for years to come. Probably from both India and Pakistan.

There is only one solution and it lies not in bullets and bombs but in dialogue. The PTI government has generally followed the line of its PML-N predecessor regarding India and Kashmir, and despite this latest incident we would urge the government to continue to take this line – peaceful constructive dialogue. Talking and fighting can continue simultaneously as the example given by the ongoing Afghan peace negotiations with the Taliban provides. It is difficult in the extreme and requires a management of cognitive dissonance that neither side has displayed in the past. But it is possible, and if the Taliban can be brought to the table then so can the many conflicting agendas attendant upon IOK. The circumstances are completely different and that we acknowledge, but the modalities have a commonality. Tools that can be used to resolve one conflict may be deployed in a dissimilar one. Probably inevitably there is now going to be a heightening of tension along the Line of Control and Working Boundary between India and Pakistan. There will be yet more bloody incidents, more deaths both military and civilian and none of the many sides will see an advance. Talk. It is the only realistic way forward.

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