Transfigured by a kiss from the angel of loss of life, the frog returned as a prince: Mohammad Yasin Malik rode down his metropolis’s streets that morning in 1994, laying declare to the dominion. 1000’s had lined up on the streets of Srinagar, showering rose petals. 4 years earlier, Malik had been despatched to jail, accused of the murders of Indian Air Pressure officers, and the kidnapping Rubaiyya Sayeed, daughter of then-House Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. Until then an obscure determine born to modest circumstances, Malik grew to become Kashmir’s most vital secessionist chief.

For months earlier than Malik’s launch, Indian intelligence officers Amarjit Singh Dulat and Asif Ibrahim had plotted his coronation—amongst their arsenal, presents of go well with material bought from a retailer in Connaught Place, the odd bottle of Black Label and guile.

This week, when a New Delhi court docket gave Malik a life sentence for financing terrorism, the jail door additionally slammed shut on India’s decades-old effort to convey peace to Kashmir—by handing energy to secessionists. Now the Narendra Modi authorities has a brand new road-map for Kashmir. Just like the previous one, although, this route is suffering from landmines.

Additionally learn: ‘Jack’, ‘John’ instrumental in sending Yasin Malik to jail for all times

Speaking to the enemy

Partaking enemies is the stuff of Indian counterinsurgency: Telangana, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Punjab all noticed efforts to bribe, inveigle or ideologically co-opt enemies of the State. Kashmir’s secessionists, India knew, had been enmeshed within the political system. High secessionists, corresponding to Syed Ali Shah Geelani, had fought a number of elections. Within the infamous rigged election of 1987, Malik had been a ballot agent for the Muslim United Entrance candidate, Muhammad Yusuf Shah—who, in flip, went on to go the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen.

The core thought of the peace initiative was easy: To lock terrorist commanders into electoral democracy once more.

Following his launch from jail in 1994, Malik declared a ceasefire—a transfer greeted with some wry smiles within the intelligence group. The Jammu Kashmir Liberation Entrance (JKLF) had been decimated by assaults each by the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and the India-backed militia. Malik’s flip to non-violence was underpinned as a lot by necessity as precept.

As Indian forces slowly degraded the Kashmir insurgency via the Nineties, the key peace effort grew. Former Jamaat-e-Islami chief Ghulam Mohammad Bhat emerged from jail in 1997 and known as for “a political dialogue.” Two years later, Abdul Gani Butt, a key chief of the secessionist All Events Hurriyat Convention coalition, known as for dialogue with pro-India political events.

Then, in 2000, dissident Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Abdul Majid Dar started negotiations with the Indian authorities. Fazl-ul-Haq Qureshi, the secessionist politician who served as his casual envoy, proposed an answer involving “semi-sovereign standing for Jammu and Kashmir, and joint management exercised by each India and Pakistan”.

Even Pakistan’s Inter-Companies Intelligence (ISI) service grew to become concerned. In 2002, the Analysis and Evaluation Wing (R&AW) helped dealer a gathering between the Hurriyat’s Abdul Gani Lone and ISI chief Lt Gen. Ehsan-ul-Haq. Lone, officers acquainted with the dialogue say, unsuccessfully lobbied the ISI to assist the peace negotiations—and was assassinated quickly after.

Turning to Pakistan

Led by Dulat, New Delhi’s negotiators scrambled to guard the dialogue from this jihadist assault. In January 2004, then-Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani met with the Hurriyat management, led by the cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. There have been extra talks in March. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held two extra rounds of talks in 2005. The previous secessionist Sajjad Lone additionally met with Manmohan Singh quickly afterwards. Later, in February 2006, Malik himself held a one-on-one secret assembly with the previous prime minister.

Afraid of each the jihadists and their very own political constituencies, although, the secessionist management held off on bringing a proper agenda to the desk—not to mention committing to electoral democracy.

Pissed off, New Delhi turned to Islamabad. Following the India-Pakistan disaster of 2002, navy ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf had initiated a ceasefire on the Line of Management (LoC), and scaled again assist for Kashmir jihadists. Common Musharraf understood that battle would destroy his hopes of reviving Pakistan’s financial system.

In 2005, Indian diplomats SK Lambah and Tariq Aziz started secret talks, hammering out a deal involving Pakistan accepting the Line of Management as a border, and wide-ranging autonomy for either side of Kashmir.

The imprimatur from Islamabad appeared to steer the secessionists. “The agenda is just about set,” the cleric and secessionist chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq proclaimed. Six a long time after Pakistani irregulars had first swept down the highway to Srinagar, the curtain was about to fall on the lengthy, grim battle over Kashmir. “It’s September 2007,” he went on,“that India and Pakistan are taking a look at, when it comes to asserting one thing on Kashmir.” He was proper—however the deal had already begun to disintegrate.

Former CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s Peoples Democratic Occasion (PDP) appropriated a lot of the secessionist platform, and deepened its hyperlinks with the Jamaat-e-Islami and different jihadist supporters. The Nationwide Convention, cornered, additionally started courting the non secular Proper-wing. Then, in 2008, Pakistan’s new military chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani delivered the loss of life blow—quietly killing the key peace plan, for worry it could empower jihadists combating his forces.

Inside Kashmir, strains grew. For years, Islamist patriarch Syed Ali Shah Geelani had been utilizing ethnic-religious points to mobilise in opposition to what he described as a sellout. He warned at a rally in Baramulla that India was looking for to vary “the Muslim majority right into a minority by settling troops together with their households”. Then, he claimed, “they’ll both bloodbath Muslims as they did in Jammu in 1947, or perform a genocide as was completed in Gujarat.”

Late that summer season, the breaking level got here. Massive-scale violence broke out, led by a brand new Islamist cohort satisfied that India was a risk to their ethnic identification and religion. Competing for the Islamist political constituency in Kashmir, each the main events and the secessionists had ceded their very own floor to Geelani.

Additionally learn: Remarks on Yasin Malik’s sentencing unacceptable, OIC shouldn’t justify terrorism: India

The top of the highway?

Three males, holding the keys to historical past of their arms, met within the car parking zone in New Delhi’s Khan Market in 2009, for a last-ditch effort at reviving the dying peace course of. Mirwaiz Farooq, alongside together with his Hurriyat colleagues Bilal Lone and Abdul Gani Butt, had been pushed to a close-by Intelligence Bureau-run safehouse to satisfy with then-home minister P. Chidambaram. There was little on the assembly, although, however recrimination: Nothing remained of the peace course of begun in 1994 however ruins.

In Could 2014, Manmohan Singh quietly handed over the information containing the unsigned minutes of his secret envoy’s talks with Pakistan to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In an effort, as the brand new prime minister put it, “to show the course of historical past,” Modi reached out to his counterpart, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Even band, baaja, baraat, although, didn’t minimize it with Pakistan’s Generals: Modi developed an in depth relationship with Sharif, even exhibiting up impromptu for a household wedding ceremony, however the ISI delivered assaults throughout Punjab and Kashmir in return. In 2019 got here the Pulwama disaster—and the revocation of Kashmir’s particular standing.

Is that this the tip of the highway to peace? Efforts to interact secessionism are over: Malik’s story makes this clear. Mirwaiz Farooq makes no political statements; his former Hurriyat colleagues are silent. Even in 2008, that they had little capability to affect occasions on floor. In the present day, their energy has diminished to vanishing level. Those that nonetheless wield affect are those that embraced electoral politics, like Sajjad Lone.

Elections in Kashmir are anticipated within the coming months, on the again of a controversial delimitation of constituencies. New Delhi will want legislators who don’t undermine the constitutional modifications introduced since 2019, or search to disrupt stability. And that can want political dialogue with the Kashmir Valley’s main political events.

India’s Nationwide Safety Advisor, Ajit Doval, and Pakistan’s military chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa, are identified to take care of back-channel contact. ThePrint had revealed in March that Bajwa was pushing for India to revive some authorized protections in opposition to the sale of land in Kashmir to non-residents, in return for retaining jihadists reined in. How far the outgoing military chief can go, although, and the way sturdy his commitments will probably be, is unclear.

Going through intense navy strain on the Line of Precise Management with China, India wants peace with Pakistan—and Pakistan, combating chapter, wants peace with India. For each, it’s important the highway doesn’t once more result in that ugly place known as deadlock.

The writer is Nationwide Safety Editor, ThePrint. He tweets @praveenswami. Views are private.

(Edited by Neera Majumdar)

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