Is calling off talks with Pakistan a Kashmir poll strategy?

Calling off talks with Pak a strategy?
New Delhi's decision to scrap the secretary-level talks with Pakistan to protest the latter's invitation to the separatist leaders of Kashmir is undoubtedly a case of flexing the muscle of nationalism. But there is also a domestic factor which has played a key role in this decision-making and that is the upcoming election in Jammu and Kashmir.

BJP govt hasn't abandoned the peace initiative with Pakistan

According to observers, the BJP-led government at the Centre hasn't really abandoned the peace initiative with Pakistan that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken on the very day of his swearing-in on May 26. The government has taken notice of a couple of things for taking a strong stand vis-a-vis Pakistan.

Pak's internal turmoil

First, the turmoil in Pakistan and the growing uncertainty over the Nawaz Sharif government's fate has alerted New Delhi. If democracy in the neighbouring country crumbles yet again under pressure, then Kashmir will feel an impact and New Delhi is preparing for such an eventuality. The flexing of the nationalist muscle at this very moment is not without a basis. By calling off talks with Pakistan, one believes India has given an indirect message to the disruptive elements in poll-bound Kashmir: "Do not create any problem in the state at this crucial moment".

Aim to form govt in Kashmir

The other factor is of course the BJP's aim to form its own government in the state. After a successful campaign in Kashmir during the Lok Sabha election (the BJP won three out of six seats in the state), the Sangh Parivar is keen to see the BJP come to power there and bring the border state under the influence of its nationalist ideology. For this, adopting a strong anti-Pakistan stance is key, feel the right-wing think tank.

Sajjad Ghani Lone to be projected CM candidate

According to reports, the BJP will try to project Sajjad Ghani Lone, chairman of the People's Conference and son of the slain kashmiri separatist, Abdul Ghani Lone, as the chief ministerial candidate in the next assembly polls. The party's Kashmir in-charge, JP Nadda, also had a series of meetings with Lone, the daily report said. The BJP is trying to cash in on the fact that Lone harbours a strong anti-Pakistan feeling. He had even blamed Pakistan for the assassination of his father in May 2002. He is a safe bet for the nationalist BJP to take its ambition forward in the sensitive state of Kashmir.

Elections take place in 87 seats in J&K assembly of which 27 are Hindu-dominated

The party is perhaps feeling encouraged by the massive polarisation that took place in Uttar Pradesh during the general election and wants to repeat the same in Jammu and Kashmir in the assembly polls. It is also stressing rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Pundits and financial package for the state as a poll strategy. Prime Minister Modi has already visited the state twice within three months of assuming responsibility at the Centre.

Regional forces like the National Conference and the People's Democratic Party have criticised the Modi government's stern action of calling off talks with Pakistan, saying it was an over-reaction to a routine affair. They are actually feeling disturbed by the BJP's polarisation tactics in Kashmir with the the election in mind.

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