Press Trust of india

Don’t look at Kashmir as enemy territory: Fmr FS

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“Address governance issues to deal with cross-border attacks”

New Delhi, Dec 11:  India would have been better prepared to deal with “cross-border terrorism” had governance issues and "major gaps" in security structures been addressed, former foreign secretary Shyam Saran said Tuesday.

Saran, speaking at the launch of the book 'India and Pakistan: Neighbours at Odds' by Avtar Singh Bhasin, said a part of the problem has been the issues troubling "our internal defences".

Giving the example of militant attacks in Pathankot and Uri in 2016, he said there have been "major gaps in governance".

"If we look at Pathankot, the deal that we have not been able to address cross-border smuggling, there have been cases where you have fenced gates but some people allow smugglers to come in and it should come as no surprise that terrorists came through it too," Saran said.

"In Uri, essentially large number of people died not from the firing by the terrorists but due to explosion of gas cylinders kept in a tent. About 19 soldiers died as a result of that explosion," he said.

He said Pakistan is to blame too but "it should not blind us to the fact that there are major, major gaps in our own security structures that allow these things to happen".

On January 02 in 2016, militants belonging to the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad group attacked the Air Force base in Pathankot in Punjab in which seven security personnel died. In September that year, militants of the same group attacked an army base in Uri sector in Jammu and Kashmir.

Saran said Jammu and Kashmir was no different than any other princely state and the "original sin" of treating it differently at the time of Independence has led to many challenges.

"If we look at Kashmir as enemy territory, it will be enemy territory. So, we have to change the manner, how we deal with the issue."

He also said that taking the Kashmir issue to the United Nations gave other countries opportunity to interfere in the internal matters of the country.

"Having made the mistake of going to the UN and agreeing to a plebiscite, we opened the door to international intervention for decades to come," he said.

Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (retd.) said it would be very difficult to stabilise Kashmir internally without resolving issues of the state at the larger level.

"We have to engage with Pakistan but the engagement should be from a position of strength," he added.

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