In re-structuring the state or Jammu and Kashmir, thus making irrelevant Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution that pertain to the state’s special status, the government has cleverly circumvented the need to amend the Constitution which would require a two-thirds majority in both Houses of Parliament.
Never has a State become a union territory in India. It undoes an arrangement worked out seven decades ago under circumstances prevailing at the time of the Partition, when wishes of a reluctant Maharajah and a Sheikh Abdullah with popular support had to be accommodated.
Those circumstances no longer exist and what a ‘temporary’ arrangement, although a solemn promise, had to go some day.
China and Pakistan will be directly hit by this and are bound to attack it, besides the United States and Britain, the ‘mother’ of Partition and of the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.
But this is a fair accomplice – a reality that cannot be reversed, whatever the controversy and criticism.
It is not going to be easy for India. Next few weeks, even months, will see liberties of Kashmiri people curtailed. There will be spiral in violence, both on the border and on the streets in J and K, particularly in the Valley. There will also be militant attacks, and not just in J and K but also in Punjab. Indian security forces and the intelligence agencies are going to face their most difficult test in the coming months.
While Pakistan will continue to scream, China has special reason to be unhappy since Pakistan ceded it the Aksai Chin portion of J and K in 1961. But there is little the two can do. For China, Indian will be next door to Aksai Chin through which the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes. It is of great strategic importance. China has invested billions in the road that gives it access to the Indian Ocean. India has not joined Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of which CPEC is a big part.
Pakistan has already appealed to Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) that will pass yet another resolution condemning India and demanding that the world community put pressures on India to restore Kashmir’s special status. The United Nations has already issued an appeal to both India and Pakistan to maintain calm and not resort to violence. Pakistan will remind the world that India has defied the UNSC resolution on Kashmir– of course, without explaining its own failure to abide by those resolutions.
But the fact of the matter is that the world community is tired of this 70 year old dispute that has no solution. It is aware that the dispute has only made Pakistan resort to nursing terrorism at home and export it to Afghanistan and other nations.
Both India and Pakistan claimed full ownership of J and K. But on the ground, Pakistan retains about a third of the territory and India the rest. This will continue in effect, despite resolutions passed by parliaments of the two countries (India did it during the Narasimha Rao era) not giving up an inch of the territory.
Now, it will be as-is-where-is on the ground. Pakistan will continue to cause infiltration by “freedom fighters” the success of which will depend upon the level of support it gets in the Valley.
Militancy has spread deep into the Kashmiri countryside, with teenage boys involved. Both New Delhi and Srinagar will have to work hard to control it. The stick is out now – the time for carrot to be dangled may be far off. There is little by way of reaching out to the Kashmiri people. On this score, the move today seems rather hasty and premature.
Why has India acted now?
The genesis of the action lies in the United States desperately trying to quit Afghanistan, by early next year latest, and President Donald Trump, seeking a second term on the basis of this ‘achievement’ coopting Pakistan and Imran Khan. Of course, Trump cannot do this cooperation from Imran and even more, his mentors, the Pakistan Army.
It is possible to surmise that what transpired in Washington in the third week of last month triggered Indian action. Trump, with little idea of the Kashmir issue’s complexities, made the mistake of offering to media or even arbitrate on Kashmir with India and Pakistan.
If this was a lollipop to Imran Khan to ensure his cooperation, we do not know. But it did thrill Khan, making him return home showing “V” for victory sign. The surmise was that Imran Khan had gone to offer cooperation on Afghanistan and earn money, arms and support that such cooperation would yield. But he had got Trump’s Kashmir mediation offer as a ‘bonus’.
An angry India rejected Trump’s explicit and public, made in Imran’s presence. Modi said he had made no such request to Trump. Pakistan sought to press Trump through a question placed, probably by a Pakistani reporter. And a mercurial Trump, unaware or unable to understand how Modi’s mind may be working, repeated the offer last week.
India, that sees itself as a bigger ally of the US than Pakistan is, had reasons to be angry at Trump and Imran Khan linking quitting of Afghanistan with Kashmir. In the past also, many American administrations and even the British governments, have bought Pakistani line that if Kashmir issue was resolved (in effect, India is made to give up control over it by any means) the Afghanistan issue would also get resolved and there would be peace in South Asia.
It would make sense to link the Trump-Khan-Afghanistan line with Kashmir and India for one simple reason. Assuming Trump is able to leave Afghanistan, with or without Pakistan’s support, and the Afghan Taliban gain control of Kabul – which is inevitable as of now – Pakistan would be super-confident in the region and with help from Taliban and its own militant outfits, could create havoc in Jammu and Kashmir.
The rise in militancy in Kashmir in 1991, it must be recalled, was immediately after the erstwhile Soviet Union left Afghanistan and United States and the West declared themselves the winners. And then, Pakistan under Nawaz Sharif had helped install a friendly government that was hostile to India for earlier being on the side of Moscow.
India cannot countenance another round of anarchy in Kashmir caused by Pakistan, now bolstered by China and even if unstable, Trump’s America. It has done on its own territory what it thought best. And this was urgently needed. This was the moment Modi has ceased, that is keeping with his party’s agenda.
In effect, the Kashmir dispute has become truly bilateral. The Pakistani standpoint of including the separatists as a party has been eliminated. How that works domestically, regionally, with Pakistan and China and internationally, remains to be seen.