Degrees of irresponsibility

On national security, Congress pusillanimity, BJP opportunism and AAP anarchism.

The Aam Aadmi Party's controversial foray into Kashmir affairs and the BJP's continuing attacks on the UPA government's foreign policy last week do not bode well for India's national security at a critical moment in domestic politics and great uncertainty in the international environment.

The call for a referendum in Kashmir on the presence of the army there by Prashant Bhushan, a senior leader of the AAP, shows how unready the party is for the big stage. The problem is not that Bhushan has his foot in his mouth. After all, this is not the first time he has stirred up a controversy on Kashmir. In 2011, he had reportedly suggested that a plebiscite should decide whether Kashmir should be part of India. The worry is about the party's facile understanding of the national security challenges in Kashmir.

The army has been deployed in Kashmir since the end of the 1980s for a specific reason — to cope with the extraordinary threat to the nation's territorial integrity accentuated by cross-border terrorism aided by the Pakistan army. The AAP seems to forget that J&K's accession to the Union of India is contested by Pakistan and parts of this frontier state are under the occupation of Pakistan and China.

Yet, it is not out of place for a political party to raise questions about the nature, disposition, and effectiveness of the army's large scale deployment in Kashmir for nearly a quarter of a century. Instead of responsibly initiating what could have been a useful national debate, however, the AAP has raised a highly sensitive issue in a cavalier manner. As a new political formation that has captured the nation's imagination in a short span of time, the AAP might be excused for its innocence on national security.

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