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I Am Optimistic, We Will Prevail, We Are Big

Gyan Setu, a think tank for providing a platform for opinion leaders of all hues on defence and strategy issues, was launched on Friday at a round table panel discussion on the theme “J&K-The Way Forward”

The seminar hall was packed to capacity with retired military top brass, university professors, cadets training for joining the Indian armed forces and others. The J&K issue was dissected threadbare but at the end of it one was left wondering whether the platform really provided a way forward, as the topic for the day’s deliberations suggested.

The line-up of panellists was impressive with former Army Chief Gen. (retd) VP Malik, sharing the stage with former Northe Army Commander Lt. Gen (retd) DS Hooda, former Weste Army Commander Lt. Gen. (retd) KJ Singh, who initiated the discussion and also moderated the proceedings, former secretary rank officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its official spokesman Ambassador KC Singh and PU Vice Chancellor Arun Kumar Grover.

I Am Optimistic, We Will Prevail, We Are Big, Lifeinchd

Photos By: Life in Chandigarh

There appeared to be near unanimity on the issue that the jingoism being resorted to by the Narendra Modi led NDA government over the Kashmir issue must stop and that a well thought out long term strategy must be put in place in consultation with all stake holders and executed quietly and firmly without making a fuss over it.

Barring a few voices of optimism, the picture by and large painted over the security scenario in J&K was grim. It was felt that Indian diplomacy had failed to isolate Pakistan internationally. The option of a limited war with the neighbour was ruled out because of its limited scope and the imminent danger of China joining the conflict in favour of Pakistan. A big question mark was also raised over US, especially under an “erratic” Donald Trump, and Russia supporting India in such an eventuality.

While some security experts felt that a process of direct dialogue with various sections of the people in Kashmir, including students, teachers, etc, not the separatists, should be undertaken alongside urgent steps to control the current law and order situation, others felt that a dialogue should only commence from a position of strength. Under the present scenario offer of dialogue will be taken as a sign of weakness, they argued.

I Am Optimistic, We Will Prevail, We Are Big, Lifeinchd

Gen. Malik was the most optimistic about India coming to grips with the situation. In his remarks, to mark the conclusion of the discussion, he said the country had weathered even worse situations in Kashmir earlier. India was too big a country, with a commanding strength of armed and security forces, to not succeed. We may be faltering here and there, but we have enough inherent strength to see us through, he added.

Wondering how long the PDP-BJP alliance will last in the state, Gen. Malik suggested that the unified command of various forces and agencies in Jammu and Kashmir, which had done wonderfully well in the past, and which appears to have gone into hibernation, should be revived at the earliest to bring the situation under control. “Though situations demand tough decisions to be taken, but we need not announce them, just implement them quietly and firmly,” he opined.

Ambassador KC Singh decried the repeated flip flops by the NDA government over its stand towards Pakistan and cautioned against the country’s domestic policies and rhetoric overriding its foreign policy. We need to devise a new approach towards Pakistan, and continuing a process of dialogue should be an integral part of it, he remarked.

I Am Optimistic, We Will Prevail, We Are Big, Lifeinchd

Lt Gen Hooda, while discounting the chances of early resolution of the Kashmir issue, felt that government policies towards Kashmir and Pakistan should be well thought out and coherent, and not guided by the rhetoric orchestrated on the social media, which was being used as a handle by the separatists and militants to whip up anti-India sentiments. He asserted that lack of good governance and some atrocities by corrupt elements in the state police had a big role in fanning the unrest and these issues need to be addressed urgently alongside ongoing security measures.

Vice Chancellor Prof. Arun Kumar Grover wanted the common heritage of India and Pakistan, the Panjab University, which took shape in Lahore, to be leveraged to bring the academia of both countries together, not through physical meetings, which invariably create difficulties, but through various means of long distant contact. This will help revive the bonding between them and though them between the people at large in both countries.

Among others who participated were Lt. Gen. (retd.) Bhoopinder Singh, Lt. Gen.(retd.) Harwant Singh Bawa, Lt. Gen (retd.) J. P. Singh, Retd. Justice J.S.Narang, Lt. Gen.(retd.) R. S. Sujlana, Lt. Gen. (retd.) Vijay Oberoi. Lt. Gen (retd.) A. S. Sihota, Lt. Gen (retd.) K. S. Mann., Lt. Gen (retd.) I. S. Singha and Maj Gen (retd.) Amarjit Singh.

Faculty members, scholars and students from various departments of Panjab University, students from IAS and Law preparatory institutes and Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Mai Bhago Armed Forces Preparatory Institutes were all ears to the discussions.

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