Defence minister Rajnath Singh, home minister in the previous administration (2014-19), said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had explored various alternatives to bring peace to Jammu & Kashmir, including reaching out to separatist groups and launching an amnesty for around 9,000 stone throwers.
None of the measures worked.
Nor, he added, had any of the local political leaders, currently in detention, been able to break the seeming deadlock in the state.
“Nobody else tried for a dialogue as much as I did as home minister,” Singh said in an interview, noting that he had brought “former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti forward” and taken along opposition leaders like Sharad Yadav and Sitaram Yechury in an all-party delegation he led to Kashmir to assess the situation in 2016.
“The leadership of Kashmir was in the hands of the same people. But they could not create the required situation in Kashmir. They were not able to bring normalcy in Kashmir,” Singh said.
The current NDA government’s decision to scrap Article 370 and bifurcate the state into two Union territories has changed all that, he said. The situation is returning to normal, the armed forces are ever-ready to repulse any attempt by Pakistan to destabilise the state, and as the state develops, people will come around to seeing the advantages of real integration with the Indian mainstream, Singh said.
Assembly election in Kashmir will happen after the delimitation of assembly segments is completed.
Singh refused to comment on the pending judgment on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit, but said a Supreme Court order on the matter will be binding on all.
The defence minister said India’s military capabilities had been strengthened and the morale of the armed forces was high at the moment. He said there was no scope for a dialogue with Pakistan at this juncture.
Singh, who recently took a ride in a Rafale fighter jet, said it was thrilling to fly at supersonic speeds.