The US has been first off the mark on the Narendra Modi government’s move to abolish Article 370 that grants special status Jammu and Kashmir, saying in an early morning statement Tuesday that it was “concerned about reports of detention and (urged) respect for individual rights”, even as the UN secretary-general called for all parties to “exercise restraint”.
Perhaps, other governments will soon issue carefully crafted statements. Certainly, many are watching the crisis carefully. Pakistan’s Imran Khan has begun to call world leaders – he began with the Turkish and Malaysian presidents Monday – while Pakistan army chief general Qamar Javed Bajwa has summoned a corps commanders conference to discuss developments.
With the Pakistani media leading from the front – “Modi devours Kashmir” was a particularly catchy headline – Imran Khan insisted that Pakistan would continue to seek international attention according to the 1949 UN Security Council resolutions.
Still, Modi’s determination to demonstrate the irrelevance of Jawaharlal Nehru taking Kashmir to the UN in 1949 is manifest. It will be interesting to see what the PM says when he goes to the UN General Assembly meetings in New York next month.
Modi learns quick
Meanwhile, China, Russia, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and Muslim nations have been very quiet. China’s Xi Jinping is coming to India in October and Putin’s Russia has not-so-long-ago memory of Chechnya to deal with.
In any case, none of these is a democracy. If you have bloody hands, you can’t really point an accusing finger at Narendra Modi.
Love him or hate him, you have got to hand it to Modi. He learns quickly. In fact, he probably took a leaf out of the world’s notebook as he travelled relentlessly in his first term – no newspaper, not even the New York Times, could stop the rise and rise of a self-appointed megalomaniac called Trump – and reassured himself that the voter standing in front of the EVM was all that mattered.
With most of India coloured saffron, Punjab, Kerala and a small handful of states in the northeast could hardly make a dent in Modi’s strategy. The near-complete irrelevance of the Congress and the rest of the opposition, as well as its double-speak on Article 370, made it much easier to carry out this ‘surgical strike’ on the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Trump’s fall into the Pakistani trap
Increasingly, it transpires, that Fate in the persona of Trump, lent a hand. It’s unclear when the US President last read a book, especially on India and Pakistan, or on Kashmir.
Trump has been so focused on his own agenda on exiting from Afghanistan that he laid out the red carpet for Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the US two weeks ago. He knew the Pakistanis hold the key because of their control over the Taliban and other terrorist groups that are occasionally unleashed to create havoc in Afghanistan.
But when the generals accompanying Imran Khan – Pakistan army chief general Qamar Javed Bajwa and ISI chief Faiz Hameed – demanded their pound of flesh, Khan had no option but to fall in line.
Kashmir. Third-party mediation. The UN resolutions.
Trump fell into the Pakistani trap like many an American politician before. His call for mediation in Kashmir was like the sound of music to Pakistani ears. Much worse for Delhi was the Trump statement that no less than PM Modi had asked him to mediate in Kashmir.
Using Trump’s opportunity
Did Modi use the opportunity Trump gave him to do what the RSS has always wanted since Syama Prasad Mookerjee announced in 1953 that “ek desh main do vidhan, do pradhan aur do nishaan nahin chalengey” (you cannot have two Constitutions, two prime ministers and two flags in one country)? Certainly, BJP manifestos have always stated that the scrapping of Article 370 is on top of the party’s agenda, just like building a temple on the disputed Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi land and uniform civil code.
Even in 1998, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee took India across the nuclear Rubicon and the world was apoplectic in response, all it needed for his principal secretary Brajesh Mishra to do was to point to the BJP manifesto and that particular clause right on top.
Certainly, Modi is no Vajpayee, but he will have to watch this space far more carefully. The international community will respond to events inside the Kashmir valley and how Home Minister Amit Shah deals with them. The Ministry of External Affairs has issued a proforma statement saying that “this is an internal matter” of India, but if the situation in Kashmir deteriorates and Modi-Amit Shah don’t reach out to apply salve, it won’t take time for the world to say critical things about India.