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PM Modi’s US visit is fifth setback for Kashmir’s separatists in 4 years

PM Modi to hand over 70,000 appointment letters to new recruits tomorrow.

Srinagar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first State visit to the USA comes as a major morale dampener for the separatists and militants struggling for Kashmir’s separation from India.

His current visit to New York and Washington DC is widely perceived to be the fifth successive setback for the valley’s separatists and militants since June 2018.  PM Modi is visiting the US on the invitation of the ruling Democratic establishment which has a history of being on the side of the separatists and militants in Kashmir.

For nearly 30 years, the valley’s separatists and Pakistan-backed militants enjoyed a sort of diplomatic recognition across the world. They successfully created an impression that the police protection and the state hospitality and protocol, including personal security officers and bulletproof cars, had been accorded to them “under world pressure.”

For a long time, the surrendered and arrested militants were permitted to continue their secessionist activities as ‘political leaders’. Cases of murder and other heinous offences against them were frozen. They were left free to frequently travel around the world, marry abroad and dominate the Indian national media as well as the international media with a patented Pakistan narrative.

Both Atal Behari Vajpayee’s NDA government as well as Dr Manmohan Singh’s UPA government remained remarkably soft to the Kashmiri separatists and invited them for “talks on the Kashmir issue.” Every time though, the separatists set the condition of involving Pakistan.

It is a matter of common observation that the separatist-militant ecosystem gained real strength only on the space lent to them by the Indian State, Kashmir’s mainstream politics and almost all the democratic institutions including the legislature and judiciary. With a few exceptions, almost all the militants and separatists booked in criminal cases were acquitted and freed. Nobody raised a question over CBI’s 10-year-long muteness to a temporary stay order on the trial in the Rubaiya Sayeed kidnapping and the Indian Air Force personnel killing.

By the time Narendra Modi-led NDA government realised the impact of the gains achieved by the separatists and Pakistan through their mainstream promoters, as also the concomitant reverses suffered by India in Kashmir, much of the damage had been done.  It withdrew support from the Jamaat-e-Islami backed PDP regime in June 2018—after over three years of its power partnership with the BJP.

However, the first lightning strike on the separatist-militant combine came immediately after the killing of 40 CRPF personnel in an unprecedented terror attack in February 2019. With that began the audacious process of puncturing all the vehicles of secessionism. In the next few weeks, all the State privileges and VIP status were withdrawn from the separatist leaders; many of them were put under house arrest; many were sent to jail and tried under stringent laws; many organisations from JKLF to Jamaat-e-Islami were banned; assets of many separatists and their parties’ were attached.

The second major onslaught on them came in the form of the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A and downgrading of Jammu and Kashmir to a Union Territory in August 2019. The people of Kashmir took it as irretrievable and soon they turned their back on the separatists, militants and their protectors in mainstream politics. This led to Pakistan snapping its intermittent gestures of reconciliation with India. Islamabad launched a major political and diplomatic drive to build pressure on India but failed. Out of nearly 200 countries at the United Nations, China and Turkey alone have intermittently supported Pakistan on Kashmir.

The third successive setback to the separatists happened in May 2023 when India organised a G20 event in Srinagar, notwithstanding a worldwide propaganda campaign by Pakistan. It was for the first time after September 1986—and only the third time since 1947—that a major international event was held in Jammu and Kashmir which Pakistan calls “a disputed territory”. All the G20 member countries, except China, sent their representative to participate in the Third Working Group Meeting on Tourism at SKICC, Srinagar.

Months before Modi’s visit to the US, Pakistan landed in an unprecedented political and economic crisis. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan himself is now calling Pakistan a failed State and the “world’s most dictatorial country”. Khan’s hard-hitting videos coming from his social media handles have evidently dispirited the separatists in Kashmir. Now the only demand from the valley is “Assembly elections and restoration of Statehood”.

Meanwhile, even as a Kashmiri activist Samira Fazili, known for her “Stand With Kashmir” campaign during the Obama and Trump governments, is silent for being now a functionary of the Biden Administration, Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Talib have announced their boycott to Modi’s address at the Capitol Hill on 22 June. When the Jammu and Kashmir Government got Kashmiri businessman and separatist activist Mobeen Shah arrested, his US-based cousin Fazili built up pressure on India and got him released.

Ilhan Omar has been vocal in her criticism of Modi’s government, accusing it of “repressing minorities, emboldening Hindu nationalist groups, and targeting journalists/human rights advocates with impunity. Rashida Talib is known for her anti-Israel and anti-India diatribe and has been actively involved in anti-India propaganda on the Kashmir issue.

Kashmir’s separatists and their promoters worldwide celebrated Joe Biden’s victory as Modi had publicly supported the Republican candidate Donald Trump in the Presidential elections and organised a massive rally of the Indian diaspora at Houston in September 2019. Modi’s bonhomie with Trump was evident also in his three previous visits to the US in June 2016, March 2016 and September 2014.

While Modi led a Yoga session at the UN headquarters on 21 June and he would be addressing the US Congress at Washington DC on 22 June, he is scheduled to have a chain of meetings with the US administration including President Biden and his wife. And there is silence in Kashmir!