On his first visit to Jammu and Kashmir as prime minister, Narendra Modi has struck the right note by saying that winning hearts through development is his government’s aim. Considering that it is scheduled to go to polls in November this is a prudent way to reach out to the people of this long-troubled border state, holding out the hope of better times. Apart from addressing Indian army jawans at Badami Bagh cantonment, Modi flagged off a train between New Delhi and Katra, which is the base town for the much-venerated Vaishno Devi shrine as part of linking Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India through the railways. Symbolic of his stress on development, he also inaugurated a hydel project at Uri. By ignoring the separatists, who had given a bandh call to protest his visit, Modi has given a clear message. His government will make no compromise on security and there would be no let-up in ushering in economic prosperity to the region through development of infrastructure. His dual approach of security with development is expected to pay him political dividends.
Modi’s promise for the return of Kashmiri pundits who were forced to leave the state in the wake of terrorist incidents and threats has already raised the spirits of the Hindu minority. For too long Congress governments at the Centre have been playing with the sentiments of the community while doing precious little to ensure conditions for their safety and security. Under Modi’s dispensation, there is real hope. Modi’s Kashmir policy is aimed at integrating the state into the national mainstream. He has spoken about Article 370 though he is still testing the waters to see if he can take the next step on the sensitive issue of tinkering with the special status for Kashmir.
By steering clear of political groups but making it a point to address the troops, Modi’s message was subtle but effective—that he stands by the army and is not one to appease or join issue with those who pose a threat to peace and tranquility.