New Delhi: Often dazzled by a few tactical successes, governments tend to ignore or suppress the strategic complications of a situation. This is the case with the Narendra Modi government’s unremitting hard line in Jammu and Kashmir, which has not changed with his Independence Day speech that supposedly abhors “golis and gaalis”.

If Jammu and Kashmir’s terrorism and insurgencies were phenomena affecting a state in the heart of India, say, for example, the Nizam’s Hyderabad or Portuguese Goa, the troubles would have been resolved long ago. However, Jammu and Kashmir is a border state, and all of it is claimed by a country contiguously present on its western frontier, namely Pakistan. To further buttress its claim to Kashmir, Pakistan possesses a chunk of it, a trophy of war.

Having lost one out of four wars to India decisively, the 1971 Bangladesh War being most one-sidedly in favour of India, Pakistan has no stomach for more armed confrontation. If India and China go to war, Pakistan will back China. In all other circumstances, it would prefer to continue with low-intensity war with India in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere. This is merely terrorism by another name.

Whether or not Pakistan succeeds in bleeding India with a thousand cuts, India is more definitely at a loss to contain Pakistani terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. “Surgical strikes” were always a one-off option and they have exhausted their utility. Tactical measures have short lives and even more so if they are not wedded to a strategic plan.

Hours after Modi spoke against “golis and gaalis” (sounds hideous in any language, and more so in the equivalent of a state-of-the-union address), the United States formalized the proscription of the Hizbul Mujahideen. The Modi-Donald Trump conversation on Independence Day is significant to this step. But the ban will have as much impact as the surgical strikes, and perhaps even less. The United States is too far away and horribly distracted by its own troubles to care about making a ground-breaking difference in Jammu and Kashmir. All parties know this to be the case, but at least some are compelled to pretend that the United States has a whip hand in most matters.

What’s changed the Jammu and Kashmir equation for India and Pakistan is that both states are nuclear powers. Being the more risk-taking power of the two and thus more capable of nuclear blackmail, Pakistan has seamlessly joined deterrence with terrorism. It finally realized the futility of war with India after Kargil. On the other hand, it discovered the endless options provided by terrorism conducted under a nuclear overhang. This is what India is confronted with in added intensity since Kargil.

Scorning his predecessors for not destroying terrorism root and branch from Jammu and Kashmir, Modi has given free rein to the security forces. The results have been disastrous for civil society whose details are well-known for repetition. Contrariwise, the numbers of terrorists neutralized have also recorded peaks, leading the Modi government to imagine triumph in Jammu and Kashmir. Alas, reality is not so simple.

If Jammu and Kashmir were in the geographical locations of Goa or Hyderabad, Modi’s sanguineness had some basis. That is not so. Under the nuclear overhang, Pakistan will prosecute deniable terrorism. It did so receiving US funds, and now it is the recipient of Chinese largesse. Pakistan will not change in a hurry. The rest of the world is preoccupied by concerns other than Pakistan unless a country interest is at stake. The United States, conversely, has finite leverage in Pakistan. It cannot risk that for anyone.

Therefore, instead of getting loopy about the Hizbul ban (its successors will be worse), the Modi government should reappraise its Jammu and Kashmir options with a cold eye. It will come to the realization that predecessor governments were not so ineffectual in containing terrorism and insurgency. The fact that the BJP and PDP are in government together (however hopelessly) testifies to the success of past governments. If they had not succeeded with elections, Jammu and Kashmir would have been stuck with governor’s rule.

This is to say the key to peace and stability in Jammu and Kashmir lies with the people of the state. So far, the Modi government has deported with Kashmiris as non-citizens, aliens and even enemies. If anybody can terminate Pakistani machinations in Jammu and Kashmir, it is the people. Security operations opposed by people will not succeed in the long term. Counterterrorism follows multiple cycles of ups and downs before it settles to a peaceful mean.

For Kashmir to have long peace, it would require more that speeches made on Independence Day, and more so with their suspect intention and doubtful reliability. Above all, nothing changes the verity of the Kashmir situation that peace is only possible with the wholehearted participation of the people. Democratic principles will keep the state with India and not militarism.