Kashmir lockdown to ensure changes on ground: Jaishankar
New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has said the government is continuing the restrictions in Kashmir to ensure there is no loss of life in the Valley.
“Many of the restrictions that have been imposed are being done to ensure that there is no loss of life. We have seen how social media and the internet have been used to radicalise people,” Jaishankar said, while addressing a gathering at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think-tank.
Jaishankar said the intent behind the lockdown, which is nearing almost two months now, is “really to persevere and make sure there are enough changes on the ground” so that people’s mindset changes. That is the objective of the government, he added.
The foreign minister said there would be reactions once the restrictions are lifted. “But if we do let the development process going then Pakistan’s plans will come to naught,” he added.
The restrictions on communication and movement of vehicles in the Valley were imposed a day before the Narendra Modi government scrapped Article 370, which granted special powers to Jammu and Kashmir, on 5 August.
He said that once India triggers development in Jammu and Kashmir, all of Pakistan’s plan for the last 70 years against the state would come to a naught.
The minister also pointed out to the Washington audience that the current suspension of the mobile network in the Kashmir valley is aimed at preventing the misuse of internet and social media for radicalising and mobilizing anti-Indian forces and to ensure that no loss of life occurs during the transition to the development phase.
“There are reactions out there. There are vested interests built over 70 years. There are local vested interest. There are vested interest across the border,” said Jaishankar, conceding that “there would be transitional risks when one changes the status quo on anything in a very substantial way and there will be reactions”.
“(But), if we actually manage to get development going in Jammu and Kashmir, do understand, that everything that the Pakistanis have planned for the last 70 years comes to naught,” he added.
The external affairs minister sounded similar to what Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik had said last month.
“If we are able to take Jammu and Kashmir to the path of development, which is very much possible, the day is not far when the PaK residents, facing worst situation under the occupation of Pakistan, will race towards us on their own to be part of India,” Malik had said, taking a dig at Pakistan premier Imran Khan for asking Pakistan-administered Kashmir people to wait for his signal to march towards the LoC.
“We know nobody is going to come here at his (Khan’s) instance,” Malik had said.
The poser to the minister pertained to the recent changes made by India in the constitutional provisions for Jammu and Kashmir, and the risks involved.
“Therefore, that’s not something they’re going to let that happen easily. So our challenge today is actually to sort of ensure that this works on the ground.
“And to do that, the beginning is to prevent loss of life and then the changes are made,” the minister said.
Many of the restrictions which have been imposed are precautions to ensure there is no loss of life, he said, adding these are common sense precautions.
“There is a lot of experience which has gone into that precaution. If you look at the events in 2016, for example, we saw how the internet and social media was used to radicalize and to mobilize,” he said.
“So obviously, if you’re going to walk into this situation, you are not going to let the internet be used by people whose intentions are malevolent. I’m not minimizing the challenges, but I think the intent is really to persevere and to make sure that there are enough changes on the ground so that people’s thinking also change accordingly,” Jaishankar said.
Earlier in his address the minister said for many years, India sought a solution while Pakistan was comfortable with continuing the cross-border terrorism.
“The choice as this government came back to power was clear. Either we had more of the past policies and the prospect of further radicalization. Or we had a decisive change in the landscape and a change of direction towards de-radicalization,” he said.
“The economic costs of the status quo were visible in the absence of entrepreneurship and shortage of job opportunities. The social costs were even starker: in discrimination against women, in lack of protection for juveniles, in the refusal to apply affirmative action and in denial of the right to information, education and work,” he said.
“All this added up to security costs as the resulting disaffection fed separatism and fuelled a neighbour’s terrorism. At a broader level, these realities also contradicted our commitment that no region, no community and no faith would be left behind,” he said.
“The legislative changes made this summer put India and the entire region on the road to long-term peace. That is the reality today in the making,” Jaishankar said. (With PTI inputs)