New Delhi: Whoever thinks there is an instant solution to Kashmir does not know the first thing about the state. If there was an easy solution to Kashmir, it would have happened by now. If muscularity was the solution, it would have succeeded long before Narendra Modi adopted it as a panacea. We all know where it has lead. A full-blown insurgency has seized Kashmir. It was never this bad after the early 1990s. The ceasefire on the India-Pakistan frontier that Atal Behari Vajpayee had so carefully crafted has come apart. One blessed day, the Border Security Force exultantly leaks to the press that the Pakistanis pleaded to stop the firing. The demented media, carried away by nationalism, plasters it in blaring headlines all over the front page. Shamed and stung, the Pakistanis retaliate the next day, spreading mayhem on the international border. Are retards running India’s national security apparatus?

And before we have quite settled down, out pops Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi like a bad penny. He is in some fracas involving a Srinagar hotel and a minor or young woman. The mother of the girl alleges Gogoi raided her home twice. Was it an authorized raid or the major’s private enterprise? What was the object? What is going on? In the very early days of the Kashmir troubles, such things were reported. This writer covered some of the incidents. India is highly sensitive about the army. It is the force of last resort and is only deployed in exceptional circumstances protected by such laws as AFSPA. The Indian Army is also, on its own account, a highly disciplined force. Agonized by the plunging image, the army instituted drastic corrective measures back then. Already restricted, the terms of engagement of the army in counterterrorism duties were further tightened. By and by, as the army gained the upper hand, it largely withdrew from public sight in Srinagar and the surrounding big towns and redeployed in rural hotspots.

The Burhan Wani killing changed everything. The subsequent crackdown was so severe that it threw back the Valley to the turmoil levels of the 1990s. It has gotten darker since, with insurgency in full boil, girl students on the warpath giving scarce thought to the consequences of their revolt, and to the flames has joined the anger and outrage over Kathua. It is no exaggeration to say that Kashmir is almost at a tipping point when young women will swell the ranks of the insurgents. The last thing any sensible government at the Centre would want is troublemakers like Gogoi in uniform and on the prowl. This writer is restraining himself from saying more. The army should not become the new cause for separatism. Having encouraged Gogoi with an undeserved award, the army chief has much to answer.

Muscularity will not work in Kashmir. We are squarely in the middle of the all-baring information age. Kashmir requires patient handling stretching over decades. Kashmir will resolve itself as India becomes a liberal democratic model state and shows a way out of poverty and backwardness for the rest of South Asia. Led by hollow men, the present regime will not understand the natural flow of history. Kashmir needs old-style politics and not Rambos gone wild. India is not an archetypal nation-state. Its Constitution is ambivalent about India’s federal-unitary features. India’s nation-building has been a ceaseless wonder of grand bargains. The wise men of India of the past never shrank from dialogue. They were confident of the legitimacy and manifest destiny of the Indian nation and were willing to engage with anyone who had quarrels with the Union. The current regime has little use for dialogue. It believes muscularity is the answer. We all know where muscularity has taken Kashmir.

The silver lining is that a recent conference of security and intelligence officials largely advocated dialogues with Pakistan and the Kashmir separatists to contain the violence in the state. Rajnath Singh who chaired the conference apparently assimilated the consensus and he is a deep man. Hailing from India’s most political state, he is part of the Vajpayee tradition. Trouble is Rajnath Singh has no influence on the present leadership. However, if he is able to convey the anxiety of the conference attendees to the powers, he would have met his moral obligation.

Which is not to suggest dialogues with internal and external parties will yield instant reprieve not to speak of far-reaching peace. But it will have strengthened the cause of cultivating strategic patience. Kashmir is, at least, a fifty-year project. No one can snatch Kashmir. But that makes winning the peace with honour for its residents immeasurably important.