Year in Review

Jammu and Kashmir 2013: Missed Opportunities

13 Jan, 2014    ·   4247

Ayesha Khanyari presents an annual round-up

Missed opportunities, lack of political initiatives in addressing internal problems, rise in separatist tendencies, an increase in infiltration attempts and the debate on empowering the Panchayats were the major trends in J&K during 2013.

Continuation of Protest and Curfews
The year began in the backdrop of huge protests after the hanging of Indian Parliament attack accused Mohammad Afzal Guru on 9 February which brought the valley to a standstill. Once again the government – both at the Centre and state - failed to address the underlying problem.

There was no forward movement in terms of strengthening the Panchayats in the valley; angry panches and sarpanches joined the protests for devolution of funds and power. The protests renewed the debate on the Panchayati Raj in J&K and brought to notice once again the democracy deficit faced by them.

Though terrorist activity in the state has declined in comparison to the past few years, there has been a rise in protests and curfews because the nature of violence has changed. The protestors take to the streets for one reason or another; the common reason that drives is the dissatisfaction with the way things are (or are not) done in the state. Hence when a concert is organised with the motive to depict a picture of the state, which is quite removed from reality, the people are out on the streets to show how that which is portrayed is not real but just another form of imposition.

Communal Divide in Kishtwar
The sour memories of 2008 haunted the state again in August this year affecting many regions in Jammu and leading to a skirmish between Hindus and Muslims. All it took was two motorcyclists swerving close to a procession headed to Eid prayers to set off a communal conflagration that claimed several lives, burning of shops and houses and a fragile Hindu-Muslim amity in Kishtwar town of J&K. Despite the resignation of the town’s legislator - Sajjad Kitchloo - people continued to defy the curfew and take part in violent clashes with the police. The political parties made use of the situation to suit their political motives. The ugly unfolding of the situation was mainly due to the inefficiency of the authorities in handling it.

Moderate Rise in Militancy
There is after long time resurgence in violence. The state witnessed an unusual spurt in militancy-related incidents this year, from 117 fatalities in 2012 to 181 in 2013. Militant groups intensified their infiltration attempts along the border. As compared to last year there was an increase in the number of infiltration attempts this year, many of which were successful. In 2013, 64 security personal were killed as against 18 last year, which reveals a quantum jump. There were attacks on army and CRPF camps. Twin Fidayeen attacks in Sambha and Kathua districts resulted in the death of ten people including soldiers followed by strikes in Jammu, Sambha, Kathua and Udhampur districts.

Cross-Border Violence
In 2013, there were a series of armed skirmishes along the Line of Control (LOC) in the disputed Kashmir area. The incident that sparked outrage in India was the killing of two Indian soldiers, Lance Naik Hemraj and Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh, by Pakistani forces. Skirmishes continued all through the year despite peace efforts by both countries, resulting in causalities. The incidences of violence aggravated in August due to continued firing and shelling across the LOC. Amid the warmongering, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his counterpart Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif decided on the sidelines of their New York meeting to resolve the problem bilaterally by having a DGMO meet.

During the first half of the year, the presence of the Chinese military along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh raised questions about China’s intentions towards J&K. There were protests in Jammu against the Chinese incursions in eastern Ladakh. However, the issue was resolved by the signing of the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement between India and China, at the conclusion of talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

The year ended on a good note with a succesful DGMO meet, where both sides agreed to honour the ceasefire. This military-to-military dialogue was essential to increase the quantum of trust between the two neighbours after such a turbulent year. China welcomed the meeting, saying that it saw improved relations between the two countries as ‘vital’ to regional peace, stability and development.

Change in Regional Dynamics and the Year Ahead
The year 2014 is a crucial year, with the upcoming central and state elections. Recent developments in and around the region are likely to affect the security environment within the region and have implications for J&K in particular. With a democratically elected government and the appointment of a new Army Chief in Pakistan, whether the two Sharifs make a difference this time and if this change in leadership will reflect in future talks between India and Pakistan will be under scrutiny. Nawaz Sharif, during his visit to the US, proposed that world powers should get involved to resolve the Kashmir issue as the region is a nuclear flashpoint. However he was not encouraged by the Obama administration which continues to adopt a hands-off policy on Kashmir. In the year ahead, Islamabad’s relationship with New Delhi will largely depend on how Nawaz Sharif deals with the Pakistani military and the Taliban.

Afghanistan will remain the most important strategic issue for India and Pakistan. With the withdrawal of NATO and US forces from the region in Afghanistan, there is a threat perception about how things will unfold and what kind of bearing it will have in and around the region. Destabilisation in Afghanistan can have a spillover effect - the worrying signals are already manifest and the fear of Kashmir again becoming a target of jihadists has crept in.