After Article 370, India Must Be Vigilant with Pak & Prez Trump
Indian diplomats will have to carefully monitor President Trump’s response to Pakistan’s overtures to intervene.
The Modi government has crossed the Rubicon in Jammu and Kashmir. It has completely and irretrievably broken the legal status-quo and consequently the political framework put in place since the accession of the state to the Indian Union.
It has acted in accordance with the Sangh parivar’s ideology, which has throughout staunchly and consistently opposed any provision of special autonomy for the state.
More importantly, going far beyond what the parivar’s ideologues had conceived, it has extinguished the state of Jammu and Kashmir which existed from the acquisition of the region by Gulab Singh from the East India Company in 1846, and which became part of the Indian Union, although on a special basis.
Home Minister Amit Shah announced in Parliament this morning that instead of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, there will now be two Union Territories: that of Jammu and Kashmir with a legislature, and that of Ladakh without one. The reasons given for this basic step are the fulfillment of the aspirations of the Ladakhi people in the case of the latter, and internal security situation on account of cross-border terrorism in the case of the former.
Thus, the Modi government has, although indirectly, blamed Pakistan for being responsible for its decision to convert a state into a Union Territory!
Importance of the 1947 Compact
The J&K political class, represented in the mainstream parties, have united to oppose the Modi government’s decisions. They obviously consider it an abandonment of the basic compact of 1947 when Kashmiri leadership under the stewardship of Sheikh Abdulla agreed to give up the idea of independence. In return, the Nehru government pledged to allow the state an extent of autonomy not available to any other state in the Union.
All through these past seven decades, mainstream political opinion held onto this compact, even though many in the Kashmir Valley turned their backs on India. The special privileges available to the people of J&K, all flowed from the autonomy compact.
Many aspects of autonomy necessarily got eroded as the assimilative powers of the Indian Union operated through the decades. Many features of autonomy were also extinguished for practical reasons. Those that remained inter alia dealt with issues of property rights and concerned the personal interests of the Kashmir elites.
Changing Kashmiriyat in the 1980s
Global Islamist tendencies grew after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and Saudi Arabia’s efforts at spreading its narrow and sharp version of the faith, both as a result of its increased oil revenues and its reaction to the siege of the Holy Mosque in Mecca the same year. These tendencies got a fillip because of the US decision to throw out the Soviets who also entered Afghanistan in 1979. The Kashmir Valley did not remain unaffected and the nature of its Kashmiriyat began to change. These tendencies have grown immeasurably and there is now a hardcore Islamist element in the Valley. These elements have no interest in the Indian enterprise.
Significantly, the political class became fractured in the 1980s, partly because of mistakes committed by Delhi and some elements who lost interest in continuing with the compact which had traded independence for autonomy. They began to pursue a separatist agenda.
Pakistan Interferes; Separatists Emerge
Always looking for opportunities to fish in Kashmiri waters, Pakistan — greatly chuffed by the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 — got together both Islamist and separatist elements to begin an armed insurgency against India. Pakistan encouraged the use of terror and sought to ensure that the alienation of the people of Kashmir Valley was also consolidated.
In the past three decades, separatists and the Islamists have continued to act against the Indian state. At the same time, mainstream parties holding on to the basic compact attempted to carry on.
The Modi government has not only turned its back on these mainstream parties, it is holding them responsible for the lack of development in J&K. It is painting them as villains.
But the question is: who will replace them as the political elements supporting the basic merger of the Kashmir valley with India and on a new footing? It appears that the government hopes that a new leadership coming from the grassroots will emerge and win popular support.
Pakistan and President Trump: A Test for Modi Govt
In all this, it is important to give Kashmiri people the full assurance that there will be no interference with their faith, their cultural traditions and their way of life. They also have to be assured that there will be no rush— as indeed there practically cannot be—to change the demographics of the Kashmir valley.
The government must make it clear that while terrorism, violence and separatism will never be acceptable, the honour and welfare of all people will be safeguarded.
Predictably, Pakistan has reacted with fury at these changes. It will now invoke every international forum to seek the intervention of the major powers. It will signal to the US that its assistance on the Taliban front will now necessarily get reduced because of its growing preoccupation on the eastern front. Indian diplomacy will have to clarify that the changes are within the domestic sphere of India.
It will have to be vigilant especially in the UN where Pakistan will seek to draw the attention of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to the changes, request it to take note and ask India to roll back. India will have to strongly reject any moves that Pakistan may make in opening up the issue in the UN.
The major powers will be wary and seek to avoid getting into India-Pakistan squabbles while urging calm and asking that both countries should resolve their issues through dialogue. With so many global fires burning at this time, the global community would hardly want another issue on its hands now.
The situation in West Asia is a priority for the international community. Trump backed by Israel and the Sunni Arab state is putting enormous pressure on Iran and the Shiite state is resisting them is causing great dislocation. It has the seeds of enormous adverse economic and security impact the world over. The major powers cannot afford a distraction which will further complicate the situation.
However, the real question that Indian diplomats will have to carefully monitor is President Trump’s response to Pakistan’s overtures to intervene and put pressure on PM Modi to engage Pakistan on J&K.
Trump’s preoccupation is the extrication of the US from the Afghan situation where he needs Pakistan. Trump has already indicated to Modi his willingness to ‘mediate or arbitrate’. He may be tempted to repeat the offer. India will have to deal with it as it had with his previous overtures.
The coming weeks and months will test the Modi government internally and externally because of its decisions of today but vast sections of the nation will stand behind it.
(The writer is a former Secretary [West], Ministry of External Affairs. He can be reached@VivekKatju. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own.The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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