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Surgical strikes came as a shock to many in Kashmir

Catch Team | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:46 IST

In Kashmir, the surgical strike across the Line of Control (LoC) came as a shock to the people who had given up on a military retaliation after New Delhi embarked on a pro-active diplomatic initiative to isolate Pakistan.

Soon after the attacks, social media sites and WhatsApp groups being accessed by a limited number of the BSNL broadband customers in theValley were abuzz with the news.

The initial shock gave way to long comment threads and discussions about "the truth of the military action", with many doubting the claim after Pakistan denied the attack.

However, after the news sank in, the comments generally veered towards the futility of the exercise and the need for the two countries to talk instead and solve their issues - "particularly Kashmir".

Ground reality?

"A surgical strike across Line of Control or a full-on war - Kashmir issue will still be resolved only by talking to all stakeholders, mainly the people of Kashmir," posted Khursheed Ahmad on Facebook.

"India and Pakistan can keep going on with their strikes and diplomatic war of words but on ground nothing changes in the Valley. It may sound pessimistic but reality is not always as we want to see it. Best would be to stop war mongering and talk."

Some talked about how the surgical strike had brought about a paradigm shift in the security scenario of the region, making such strikes now free for all.

"Whether India carried out surgical strikes or not, its very claim that it carried out a strike against Pakistan has made South Asia free for such type of strikes in future," wrote Naseer Ahmad on his social media account. "Henceforth any country can, in reality, carry out a surgical strike against the other and just like India has given an argument and justification for its attack, others will also have an argument for it."

Did they or didn't they?

Initially, the people on the street were seemed inclined to not believe the strikes were real.

"I think it is a LoC firing hyped up as a surgical strike to satisfy the public anger post-Uri," said Ali Muhammad Mir, a shopkeeper at Rawalpora in Srinagar.

"Otherwise, why isn't Pakistan confirming it. Why should Pakistan deny if the camps have been destroyed and scores have been killed? Why should they hide it? And can they hide it?"

Muhammad Yusuf, a retired school teacher, bemoaned that the brunt of any war between India and Pakistan will have to be borne by Kashmir.

"We have suffered for the past 70 years and we will suffer again," he said. "Why can't the two countries instead sit down to resolve Kashmir and all reason for war and conflict will be gone from the region."

Why the silence?

On the other hand, separatist groups played more safe. In their daily press statements mailed to journalists and local media, all separatist outfits, individually and as part of their umbrella group Hurriyat Conference, eschewed any mention of the strike.

Even the joint statement issued in the name of the separatist triumvirate Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik steered clear of the attack and instead chose to highlight "the ongoing human rights excesses" in the state.

The statement also slammed Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti for saying that India was the safest place for Muslims in the world.

It was only late in the afternoon that a press release issued by the moderate Hurriyat faction led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq expressed "shock over unprovoked firing by India on Pakistan along the Line of Control".

"Military aggression and war is no solution to any problem. It instead worsens problems further which the three previous wars between both the two countries has shown," the statement read.

The separatist triumvirate also criticised the role of electronic and print media for creating war hysteria and arousing passions among the people of the two countries which had aggravated the bloodlust for a confrontation.

"We call upon New Delhi and Islamabad to de-escalate tensions, the statement said. "The two nuclear neighbours should behave in a mature way and instead of confrontations which can only be disastrous for the entire region engage in serious dialogue to resolve issues and bring peace."

Keep calm and...

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti reacted soon after the attack, calling for restraint and de-escalation of the situation as it "could lead to a disaster of epic proportions".

"New Delhi and Islamabad must open the channels of communication realising the dangerous consequences of any escalation of the ongoing confrontation along the borders," the chief minister said.

"We in J&K have suffered immensely because of the violence and know very well its dangers and consequences. For the people of Jammu & Kashmir peace along the borders and within the mainland is of immense significance and I hope the political leadership of the two countries would also treat it in the same spirit."

Unlike leaders of the national Opposition parties, Mehbooba stayed short of congratulating the Army for the successful strike. She called India and Pakistan "siblings locked in an endless rivalry," and cautioned against war as an option between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

The CM urged the countries to revive the spirit of the Joint Statement issued in Islamabad on 9 December, 2015, following the meeting of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with her Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz.

"Both sides had agreed to begin a Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue on peace and security, CBMs (confidence building measures), Jammu & Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project, economic and commercial cooperation, counter-terrorism, narcotics control, humanitarian issues, people to people exchanges and religious tourism," Mehbooba said.

When Opposition almost agrees

National Conference also took a long time to issue a statement. And finally when it came, it was not from Omar Abdullah, but father Farooq Abdullah, who is also the party president.

Omar retweeted JKNC's tweet:

The Senior Abdullah called upon both India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and open all channels of communications to de-escalate the situation along the LoC and the international border.

"We hope cooler heads will prevail and the ceasefire of 2003 will be upheld. Our thoughts are with people living along the Line of Control and the international border as it is them who suffer the most in times of such escalation," he said, adding that the spirit of responsibility should encourage and inspire both governments towards sustained efforts aimed at ensuring peace.

"Confrontation and hostility between New Delhi and Islamabad have not yielded favourable results for either country in the past and all outstanding issues and concerns should be discussed with sincerity and the overarching common goal of achieving peace, stability, and cooperation in the region."

Edited by Jhinuk SenAlso read: Why Pakistan may be compelled to retaliate

Also read: Surgical strikes: Truth the casualty as India, Pakistan make competing claims

Also read: Can Indian economy afford a war with Pakistan? Here are six startling facts

Also read: Surgical strikes: India calls Pakistan's strategic bluff. How will the Sharifs respond?

Also read: Border villages evacuated as India expects Pak to retaliate to surgical strikes

First published: 30 September 2016, 11:46 IST