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Modi has convinced the world Kashmir is India’s internal affair – but they’re still watching

Enough countries, including the US, are concerned about what happens in Kashmir next. Global patience with the draconian lockdown will soon run out.

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Does the world care about Kashmir? They know that it is a part of the subcontinent over which India and Pakistan keep trading blows, mostly at a level inconsequential to the rest, and only occasionally ratchet it up to the nuclear-threat level so everybody has to go scampering, searching for an atlas. Each significant nation, by now, has its own equivalent of what might be a spiral-bound primer of Kashmir FAQs.

Donald Trump might not be the best example. Not when he is supposed to have famously asked what is “Button” and “Nipple” (for Bhutan and Nepal) in the course of a briefing on the subcontinent. Still, his comment at his July press conference with Imran Khan, where he described Kashmir as this most beautiful place where bombs were going off all over the place, was significant.

He has a mind uncluttered with detail or institutional memory, and his GK isn’t exactly at the UPSC level. In that comment, therefore, he made it evident that the first time Kashmir figured ‘bigly’ on his mind was with Pulwama in early February. That, if you check back the records, was the only bomb of some size to have gone off in Kashmir for almost his entire tenure yet.

What does this tell us? That in India’s best strategic and political interest, no news on Kashmir is good news. In the 30 years since this round of insurgency began in Kashmir, the only time the issue caught the world’s conscience was in 1991-94, when P.V. Narasimha Rao launched that unforgiving counter-insurgency, and got every international human rights organisation and the first Clinton administration furious.

He put down that trouble and then made some amends, essentially to assuage global opinion, by opening up Kashmir to the international media, and setting up his own National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in 1993.

Since then, his effort was to let Kashmir slide to the back-burner.

Otherwise, he played down Kashmir as a strategy. In a published interview with me, to a question on what he foresaw in Kashmir, he simply said, “Bhai, they will do something, we will do something, what emerges will be the net of it.” He said it, waving his finger in the air as if writing an arithmetic sum, including the two parallel lines at the bottom and indicating the ‘net’ between them. That’s only as far as he would go.

Also read: 5 dangerous Right-nationalist myths on Kashmir that need to be demolished

Over the decades after the Simla Accord, Indian prime ministers, including Atal Bihari Vajpayee, pursued a strategy of playing down Kashmir. All questions about Pakistan, including during the near-war situations (Kargil, Op Parakram), were limited to terrorism. Kashmir was never allowed to become the issue.

For a long time, this had worked neatly. Even when the Pakistani ‘miltablishment’ got its mojo back after 9/11 as the Americans returned to pamper it, there was no talk of Kashmir. If at all, the US and allies counselled calm on Pakistan even if it got restless. They didn’t want the distraction. On the other hand, India mostly used the new situation deftly: Keep your spoilt child in control, or don’t blame us if we ruin your plans which entirely depend on Pakistan.

Three consequences emerged. First, the world started to believe that the two countries had found their strategic balance, and troubles would remain at the tactical level.

Second, that Pakistan with its doddering economy, and India with a booming one, had both acquired a new vested interest in status quo.

And third, that the two countries were progressing towards accepting the Line of Control as the real border. A formal settlement, to borrow the words Deng Xiaoping famously spoke to Rajiv Gandhi, could be left to a wiser generation. In fact, among the most significant lines I had heard in the course of my coverage of the Kashmir crisis of the early 1990s had come from Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Robin Raphel, who was seen here as hostile. Soon after her remark questioning the Instrument of Accession had caused a storm, she had said somewhat philosophically, “Kashmir is only India’s to lose”.

India under the Modi government has made a departure from his predecessors’ serendipitous Kashmir strategy and broken the status quo.

Also read: To understand Modi’s new Kashmir reality, these 5 liberal myths need to be broken

It follows, that the onus now was on Pakistan to threaten war. Which it did for some time, but gave up. It saw its military limitations, and nobody in the world was amused. Please check out that video clip of Imran Khan’s press conference in New York where he asks in exasperation, so what else can we do besides what we are doing? We can’t attack India.

So far so good. Then, complications begin. Accept it or not, the Kashmir issue has become internationalised after nearly half-a-century. India, not Pakistan, has done so pro-actively. If you take a partisan view, it is encouraging for India that no country, barring China and Turkey, has contested the 5 August changes being India’s internal affair or demanded a return to the pre-5 August status. But the picture is far from perfect.

Enough countries, including the US, are concerned about what happens in Kashmir next. Nobody believes Imran saying there is a genocide going on. Neither does anyone take much comfort in drone pictures of Srinagar showing “normalcy”. The Valley is seen as being under a draconian lockdown, thousands detained without charges or trial, and global patience with this will soon run out.

The UN week is over. There will be celebrations of ‘diplomatic victories’ and how Pakistan was isolated. On balance, Modi will return from New York with more positives than negatives. India’s old “Kashmir is our internal affair” line has by and large gone unchallenged. Trump, even in the White House readout of his meeting with Modi, asked him only to restore normalcy and fulfil his promises to the Kashmiri people, not put the clock back to 5 August. But rather than isolate it further, the new turn in Kashmir has given Pakistan a chance to return to global attention, playing victim and underdog.

If Kashmir being acknowledged as India’s internal affair is a diplomatic achievement at the end of this particularly acrimonious version of the annual India-Pakistan tu-tu/main-main in New York, the key to its future and India’s supreme national interest also lies here. In a week, it will be two months since the communication lockdown.

It has already gone on for too many weeks too long. The delay in opening up is increasing the Kashmiri anger. The longer it takes, the graver will be the danger of a blow-out, violence and bloodshed. Such situations can often go out of control.

The world is not reacting to Kashmir, but it is now sensitised. To that extent, the issue is internationalised. In 2016, at least 40 people were killed in the week following Burhan Wani’s killing. Now just one death, of teenager Asrar Wani, is a matter of contention. Global limelight is now on Kashmir. It will be perilous to take the post-5 August lockdown as the new normal or the new status quo.

Also read: Modi has clean-bowled Imran Khan with Kashmir yorker


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  1. @shehkar
    Like they say in a thorough investigation follow the money. Who are your pay masters. What’s your obsession on Pakistani
    opinion. Used to wonder u were paid the white Italian lady and family, but looks like ISI May be your master.
    Let all the slaves to white masters (racists cum inferiority complex Indian like this author) ponder this question

  2. Let the world watch Kashmir. You start watching what the heck your writers are up to. They are cherry picking facts and crafting narratives to suit their own agenda. It’s healthy to critique the government’s policies and actions, but their blind hatred and bias is preventing them from asking the pertinent questions that are actually useful to its readers and the nation at large.

    For instance, the article “No trade deal, no Kashmir win, no investment but BJP celebrating Modi return from US” failed to elaborate on the deleterious effects of the deal, especially that of Big Pharma on the day-to-day health costs of millions of Indians (see and the article on the “Erdogan support for Pakistan on Kashmir at UN an outcome of downswing in India-Turkey ties” totally missed Turkey’s islamist agenda that led up to why he spoke what he spoke in the UN, but blamed it on the government for not engaging Turkey diplomatically (see article’s comment section). That’s from your senior team. I am not even going to mention others. How do you expect readers to get any insights or understanding from such articles? They seem to be just click-baits, shallow and superficial with nonsense titles! I bet that your writers don’t even know that they are spinning and constructing their own realities! They seem to live in their own fantasy worlds! If a reader has to seek alternate sources for the truth and a deeper insight on matters of public interest, what good is The Print?

  3. Let’s take the worst of the worst case scenarios. UNSC sanctions India or worse still decide to attack- is this all going to be so simple? Would India sit back and watch. A tiny country like Myanmar can’t be messed with. Just don’t talk about India.

  4. Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist,Barnala (Punjab)

    Shekhar Sahib, there is no fun frittering away time and energies on such like topics which will not yield any flood of positive and constructive responses for the reasons evidently very well known to you.

    As a ritual just attribute one write-up or two in a week pertaining to the megalomaniacs of ruling elite and its blind followers to keep them in good humour.

    My humble request to you is to offer space to issues pertaining to burning and sensitive public problems like welfare state concepts of imparting affordable quality education and affordable health care system ! Right from earth to sky vast is the scope of journalism .Trifles would end in nothingness and futility – The bragging and boasting clan will continue to harp on, to mark time to cling to power.

    Then please accord top most priorities to mindset and attitudinal changes of the masses and society which are indeed the dire need of hour in the best national interests.

    National Interest in my view calls for refined, positive and constructive attitudinal changes.

    The ruling group and its bandwagon ‘s hollow thoughts would not go beyond-” Pakistan” “, Congress ” and “HMV” !

    Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist
    Pom Anm Nest,Barnala (Punjab)

  5. When the world gets in silent mode of indifference, it means Been there, seen that and heard this all before. No credit for self credit.

  6. Mr. Gupta sounds very much like a Pakistani politician. Does he think the world is going to lose its patience with India because of Kashmir? Where does he get that notion from? His left leaning tendencies appear to be leading him to illogical conclusions! Or may be, just may be, he thinks that if peace is maintained in Kashmir, Modi will have eliminated the biggest problem plaguing India. And that in turn will render nay sayers like him insignificant.

  7. Sorry Shekhar Gupta, your support to your PM Imran Khan has come when he lost everything in UNGA. Congratulations to our PM Modi for totally isolating your country Pakistan and PM Modi on the world stage.

  8. “The longer it takes, the graver will be the danger of a blow-out, violence and bloodshed. Such situations can often go out of control” is what Shekhar Gupta concludes which is line with the wishes of Imran Khan and all those whose meal is ati India thoughts. So finally it’s clear where Shekhar Gupta comes from though he has pretended enough to be different.

    • Not true. Ms Aarti Tikoo Singh has tweeted a two minute BBC clip of crowds of men and women at Soura, after Friday prayers. Seeing their emotions and passion, dealing with popular mood will be a huge challenge. The security establishment has avoided loss of life so far, but at the cost of a total freeze of activity. When that ends, as it must, very difficult to predict what will happen. The Editor’s fears will be shared by many reasonable people.

      • Editors expressing fears publicly is not going to solve the problems if at all they exist as feared. Shekhar Gupta should have visited the Kashmir and then reported the factual ground situations. Just imagining is not going to help any one concerned with Kashmir issues and not certainly echoing Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan’s lines. Shekhar Gupta has done just that.

        Unlike Shekhar Gupta there are journalists who have recently visited Kashmir and published raw videos. Unless the objective of visit is to support Pakistan’s propaganda., there are no restrictions on Indian journalists visiting and reporting facts and ground situation from Kashmir.

      • Certainly not from the school you have studied. In a democracy people are not expected to follow the same line of thinking even if they studied in the same school and by the same teachers unless they are mentally challenged like RAGA. You should worry about your own logical thinking. Let mine be mine and yours be yours. Don’t expect Raga will change to Modi’s logic and Modi will change to Raga’s logic. I have enough seen of interpretations of left and the right neither agreeing to other.

        • Ha. Ha. My logic. Your logic. So tomorrow you say that the sun rises in the West I should accept it because it’s your logic.

          Some logic this.

  9. 8 million Kashmiris are holed up like cattle in their own land for last 55 days. Kashmir has become a Huge Nazi concentration camp…..World & especially Western world has not forgotten what Nazi Philosophy stands for….They know well that this sick racist thinking will take world towards next World War……Modi govt has to go for world peace !!!!

  10. Only Shekhar Gupta thinks that the world is loosing patience with the clampdown in Kashmir…..seems like he is going back to his
    Indian Express days. At the end of the day, chaos in Kashmir is in Pakistan’s interest. The rest of the world couldn’t care less about Kashmir. Modi/Shah/ Doval will do the right thing at the right time.

  11. India has been condemned by the world for 70 years now. For discrimination, oppression, genocide and worse.
    Nehru did not care for the criticism, Indira did not care for the criticism, Rajiv did not care for the criticism. Why then would Modi suddenly begin to care for the criticism of the world simply because the Congress and its supporters today are speaking the language of Pakistan?

  12. Mr Shekar Gupta, you are once again exposed. Do you know what is happening to Minorities in Pak and China. In India selfish persons like you are misusing the democracy. Instead of writing such partisan articles, why don,t you expose Pak which is promoting terrorism in Kashmir. Do you agree with some Kashmir politicians who are talking against Indian constitution and supporting Pak. Imrhankhan is much better than persons like you misusing the democracy in India

    • You can’t criticize only Pakistan without criticizing RSS ideology. Pakistan means only Muslim and RSS ideology is only Hindu under Brahmin supremacy.

  13. Imran Khan’s desperation in his UNGA speech by itself reflects world is either indiffetent or aware of the reality in Kashmir of the 70 yrs of mess .Modi with his decisiveness and political will has rightly broke away from past and trying differently but the only right approach under given circumstances.I have absolutely no doubt normalcy would return in Kashmir sooner than later because now that UNGA is over the establishment can take mote risks.For once both the center and j&k state govt. are handling the situation very competently in a calibrated manner.The govt.can start drawing outlines of phased withftdraeal of Army from civilian areas in Jammu and Laddakh to be followed by same in the valley.One more important step should be vigil in Punjab becoz now Pak with cutoff in Kashmir will start it’s dirty tricks in Punjab using Kartarpur corridor.

  14. Repeat after me
    The People of Kashmir are happy they love India
    The People of Kashmir are happy they love India
    The People of Kashmir are happy they love India
    The People of Kashmir are happy they love India
    The People of Kashmir are happy they love India
    See Mr Gupta how easy it is, now you and all the anti nationals are fixed.
    Many thanks, and remember repeat 10 times if doubts come back again
    Go be a patriot

  15. There is no lockdown. Landline communications are working for the past one month. Of course wheeler dealers will look the other way to promote their agenda.

  16. More than the pro-Muslim media, Modi/Shah/Doval know when to open up Kashmir and how to do it without violence. India trusts them. FYI, India does not trust the media.

  17. Shekar just can’t digest the fact that Modi did a fantastic job at New York, the world respects India more and has ignored Pakistan nearly completely. So he has to come up with some nitpicking here and there. Let him have it.

  18. Sooner or later, everyone, not just the Kashmiris, will borrow PM PVNR’s air diagrams and start doing the sums. What have we gained, what have lost. What is the future of politics in the Valley. Is a new golden era of prosperity about to dawn, with new investment – hopefully no randy mainlanders looking for brides – pouring in. Will the people simply reconcile to their diminished status. Have the internal and external dimensions of the problem been magically resolved. Two months down the road, neither the rationale nor the way ahead seems illumined with great wisdom and statesmanship. One hopes the judiciary will soon come out of its torpor.

  19. The coward mentality like that of Shekhar Gupta that prevailed in the last 70 years, has not let India take any action and this strong majority govt led by Mr. Modi has broken that mindset and India rises from a feeling of subjugation to pride in the strength of India.

  20. Strikes and protests happen in every country, and they are viewed by others as that country’s internal matter. But if an ENTIRE population rises in protest, then the onlookers are bound to think that something is amiss.

    So, the world will really get a chance to form an impression about India vis a vis Kashmir only AFTER the curfew is lifted and communications restored – – whether it is India’s internal matter, or a matter of subjugation of millions of people.

    But one thing is certain. As long as Pakistan takes it upon itself to “speak” for the Kashmiris, India is safe. Because Pakistan has such a bad image in the world for its support to terrorism. So as long as Pakistan is talking, the world will think it is some terror related subject and ignore it. The plight of the Kashmiris will attract world attention when the arrested Kashmiri leadership reaches out to world leaders.

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