J&K challenge: Democracy and security must go together

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The timely interception and neutralisation of four suspected Jaish-e-Muhammed terrorists travelling in a truck with a stockpile of weapons, ammunition and explosives, at a checkpoint on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, has averted a major disaster. Coming less than ten days ahead of J&K’s district development council polls, the terrorists most likely planned to disrupt the first electoral exercise since J&K became a Union territory. This shows that Pakistan will do everything in its power to disrupt normalisation in J&K and continue to push terrorists across the border to achieve its nefarious designs.

In recent weeks, Pakistani forces have been guilty of multiple ceasefire violations along the LoC. There is a strong possibility that Pakistan is coordinating its moves with China, with whom India remains engaged in a military standoff in eastern Ladakh. The China-Pakistan pincer is the biggest strategic security challenge India faces today. Their game plan is to stretch Indian security forces along multiple fronts while fomenting unrest in J&K. Simultaneously, Islamabad is trying to make a show of action against terrorists like Hafiz Saeed in order to head off sanctions by global terror financing watchdog FATF.

For its part, India must remain vigilant to the combined China-Pakistan security threat and move ahead with steps to normalise the situation in J&K. True, this is a tough balance between security and democracy. But successfully holding the district development council polls is imperative for reaching out and giving voice to the people of Kashmir. In this regard, there have been complaints that candidates of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration are being restricted from campaigning freely. A level playing field must be allowed in the polls to ensure their integrity. Security and democracy must go hand in hand.

This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.

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