Shri Ram Madhav Ji spoke to CNN News 18’s Shreya Dhoundial on the Centre’s decision to announce a temporary ceasefire in the valley during the Ramzan as a goodwill gesture. Here are the edited excerpts from the interview:
Q: What is your realistic assessment of the Ramzan ceasefire?
Ram Madhav: The first two weeks since the Ramzan ceasefire announcement have witnessed incidents of grenade throwing. In the last two days, there were 4 or 5 grenade attacks. There was continuous cross-border firing from Pakistan’s side. After a week or 10 days’ lull even stone pelting has resumed. It is very unfortunate. We had hoped that in the month of Ramzaan, the people of the valley would be busy with the religious activities but there are still good number of misguided youths who are indulging in terror and stone pelting.
Q: So is it your assessment that the ceasefire has failed?
Ram Madhav: No. Not really. As I said from our side, we have made a gesture. We have hoped there will be relative peace and calm in the valley. I must also tell you, barring incidents of some violence, large parts of the valley remain peaceful. So we have to take a final assessment towards the end of this Ramzan period which is around middle of this month around 15-16 June. Once we come to the end of Ramzan, we will take realistic assessment of the situation and certainly the government will take a view.
Q: And when you say take a view, is the view extending the ceasefire? It ends in the next 12 days.
Ram Madhav: As I said I would rather use the word suspension of operations. We have announced suspension of operations, but then if there are any terrorist activities, security forces will respond appropriately. It’s premature for me to comment on what will be the next step but if terrorism persists, government and security forces will have to take a tough line.
Q: Are you saying that if the situation continues to be what it is right now, suspension of ceasefire will not continue. Is it not contrary to the government’s view?
Ram Madhav: There can be different views at this juncture, but as I said we all have to wait till the end of the month. We will give our realistic assessment to the government. We will get assessments from agencies. The government will then take a final view.
Q: The security forces are of the view that the momentum of their anti-terror operations have come to a screeching halt because of this ceasefire. Is it a concern that the government views seriously?
Ram Madhav: That will also be taken seriously. The suspension of operations and all of that is there but this is with the specific objective. We thought that let security forces show a gesture of goodwill during Ramzan. Let us expect proper reciprocation from the other side. We are pursuing Kashmir from two approaches. One, we go after the terrorist, we tackle terrorism as if there is no scope of any other alternative like peace. But at the same point we are committed to pursuing peace as if there is no terrorism in the valley. We have to pursue both lines, our interlocutor is pursuing the line of peace. Our security forces, which have been asked to exercise restraint in the month of Ramzan.
Q: Should we see this current ceasefire as an acceptance that the earlier stance of the government which was Operation All Out by the Army was flawed. That it had become a zero sum game. It seemed the more terrorists security forces were killing in the valley, an even greater number were picking up the gun? It wasn’t working out. Is the ceasefire an acceptance of that as well?
Ram Madhav: Not true at all. It is a completely flawed assessment. In the last two or two and a half years, our security forces have been able to neutralise large number of terrorists. more than 600 of them have been neutralised. They were pursuing hard line agenda to neutralise terrorists in the valley very vigorously. As a gesture of goodwill, keeping the sacredness of Ramzan in mind, the govt has asked security forces to suspend operations. But if this continues, again I am repeating myself, then the security forces will return to what was happening before Ramzan. The home minister, it is on record, has asked Hurriyat to come forward for talks. This is a gesture shown by the home minister of this country. We are hoping that before the end of Ramzan month, Hurriyat leadership will respond appropriately.
Q: Is the government already speaking to the Hurriyat? Are the back channel talks already on?
Ram Madhav: The government has made arrangements to talk to all sections of the society in the Kashmir valley. Government is willing to have open political negotiations with different sections, including Hurriyat. As far as Pakistan is concerned, it is a different matter.
Q: The Hurriyat is saying there is no point in talking with us if you cannot bring Pakistan to the table. Your ally, Mehbooba Mufti, has also said the same. She said we need to speak to Pakistan as well. What’s the party and the government’s view on that?
Ram Madhav: Government stand is we are ready to talk to all sections in the Kashmir valley, including hurriyat. Our interlocutor is already working on that. There can be other arrangements also. As far as Pakistan is concerned that is a different issue, that call will be taken on a different level.
(The interview aired on CNN News 18 on June 5, 2018. Click here to read it on CNN News 18)