Wednesday, 6 July, 2022
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Modi govt’s Kashmir solution was a preemptive move to keep Trump from meddling

If in a few years from now, young Kashmiris still feel alienated, repeal of Article 370 will mean little for India’s security or national integration.

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The  repeal of Article 370 – that provides special status to Jammu and Kashmir – by the Narendra Modi government is meant to resolve the long-standing issues of national integration and international legitimacy with respect to Kashmir.

The ruling BJP has successfully catered to the demand of its base and, for now, a large segment of the Indian intelligentsia and public seems to support its decision. But, like all defining decisions, this solution to a 70-year problem must also stand the test of time before being described as a permanent triumph.

The erstwhile state of Kashmir –the one Maharaja Hari Singh acceded to India in October 1947 – no longer exists. Part of it is with Pakistan, which has already ceded a portion to China, and the part that was with India has now been bifurcated into two union territories.

By changing the reality on the ground, even with a potential legal hurdle before the Supreme Court of India, the government appears to be presenting a fait accompli. Any attempt by the international community, the US, the UN, or even Pakistan, to discuss the issue of Kashmir will now have to deal with this changed reality.

Also read: Pakistan media says ‘Modi devours Kashmir’ but India’s PM has played his cards well

A new Kashmir

New Delhi will most likely benefit from the international community’s willingness to no longer see Kashmir as an international dispute. There might be little or no support for Pakistan when it tries to raise the matter at the United Nations Security Council.

From India’s perspective, Kashmir has now been completely integrated, and India can forego the parts occupied by Pakistan, provided Pakistan stops questioning the 1947 accession of Kashmir or stirring trouble among Kashmir’s Muslim population.

This might mark the end of the India-Pakistan aspect of the Kashmir issue. India has been moving in that direction gradually since 1952. But two other dimensions of India’s Kashmir problem remain unresolved: terrorism remains a challenge and the grievances of Kashmiri citizens will not go away until the two new union territories offer people a better, non-militarised life.

Also read: In case of both Article 370 and Brexit, right-wing nationalism is its own nemesis

A preemptive move

New Delhi has always been sensitive to any global, especially American, statements on the Kashmir issue. India has also consistently pushed back against any external pressure or any notion of international mediation or third-party involvement in any India-Pakistan bilateral issue, including and especially over Kashmir.

In this context, President Donald Trump’s remarks on 22 July while he hosted Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan that he would be willing to mediate between India and Pakistan, apparently sent different messages to each country.

Islamabad (and Rawalpindi, where Pakistan military headquarters are located) may have interpreted the US President’s remarks as suggesting that the United States would mediate talks between India and Pakistan. New Delhi read it as a signal that the American desire to withdraw from Afghanistan may lead Washington to be amenable to pushing India to talk to Pakistan and reopen a chapter India thinks has been closed.

The de-jure integration and bifurcation of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir is India’s way of pushing back on any attempt to change the territorial status quo. It also provided an opportunity to the Modi government to fulfil an item on the Sangh Parivar’s wishlist dating back to the 1950s.

India has always maintained that Kashmir is Indian territory and the instrument of accession signed by the Maharaja of Kashmir, and successive elections within the province, demonstrate that the people of Kashmir wish to remain with India. Pakistan’s argument that as a Muslim majority area, Kashmir should have gone to Pakistan at Partition has lost whatever traction it once had.

Pakistan has nurtured a hardline ‘Kashmir bazor Shamsheer’ (Kashmir by the sword) lobby that portrays India as an existential threat to Pakistan – a view also supported by the country’s politically dominant military. Each of the four India-Pakistan wars (1948, 1965, 1971, and 1999) was initiated by Pakistan, which tends to maintain an ‘all or nothing’ approach on the Kashmir issue that has often surfaced after periods of bilateral dialogue.

As a status quo power, India had, until now, preferred to be reactive in its policies. The uncertainty with respect to American policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the hint of Pakistan’s role in fomenting terrorism in Kashmir, may have led Modi to believe that he had to change Kashmir’s legal status to pre-empt any potential demands by Trump about talks with Pakistan.

Also read: Modi took Kashmir’s special status away. He must assure people it won’t become a Palestine

The Israel way?

In this respect, the repeal of Article 370 is like Israel’s steps to legally annex Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Just as Israeli annexation has not, of itself, brought terrorism in the Arab occupied territories to an end, this decision, too, will not be sufficient to end either Pakistan-backed terrorism or the restiveness of Kashmir’s population.

For that, a lot more needs to be done on ground. If in a couple of years from now, young Kashmiris still feel alienated, repeal of Article 370 will mean little in enhancing India’s integration or security.

The author is Research Fellow and Director, India Initiative at the Washington-DC based Hudson Institute. Her books include ‘Escaping India: Explaining Pakistan’s Foreign Policy’ (Routledge, 2011) and ‘From Chanakya to Modi: The Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy’ (Harper Collins, 2017). Views are personal.

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  1. No matter Pakistanis brag around, the situation is different. Indian govt has done and closed chapter of article 370 and related 35A goes automatic. No support whatsoever for Imran Khan from any country. India has done its home work well. Come what may the chapter is closed. Whether Kashmiris are happy or not, it is India’s internal problem. Pakistan has no role to talk as bilateral anymore.

  2. Clearly one sided half baked perspective. Have you considered why article 370 and 35 A was placed as a TEMPORARY measure?

    Do you know that POK had its demography completely altered. Gilgit and Balistan were annexed to Pakistan? These changed the geography as well.
    Do you know that UN resolution taken by naivety of Mr Nehru required that every single Pakistani has to retreat as the FIRST step towards considering plebicite?
    Now with geography AND demography of POK changed the UN resolution is impossible to implement. It also makes article 370 and 35A meaningless as the objective was to preserve demography to allow plebiscite that can NEVER happen!

    Why can this ignorant media guys put their head in place and write some journalistic article with integrity?

    • Please explain how Pakistan changed the demography of Pakistan-administered Kashmir and GB?

      Also, even if 35A and 370 were temporary, the instrument of accession was PREDICATED upon wide ranging autonomy – whether or not those rights were espoused in something called article 370, or whatever else, is irrelevant. The claim that they were only enacted to maintain a demographic status quo in anticipation of a plebiscite is flatly wrong.

      Further, regarding the UN resolution: lets not pretend Pakistan is the reason that plebiscite wont go ahead. The entire region can be de-militarized in a few weeks once India agrees to the vote in principle.

  3. 1. When in January, 2017 Donald Trump took office as American President, we in India were expecting that President Trump would advise Pakistan to take appropriate measures to contain activities of terror outfits like JeM, JuD, LeT, Pakistani Taliban, etc. However, nothing of that sort has happened though once in a while, the US administration does issue routine warnings to Pakistan about need to act tough against terror groups. 2. If USA administration and America’s President are convinced that Pakistan has to take stern measures against terror outfits, what is hurdle/obstacle in the way? I believe there is a strong pro-Pakistan and anti-India lobby in the US administration, which has so far prevailed upon President Trump to be soft with Pakistan. 3. One more development is this: after Pakistan PM’s recent visit to USA, Donald Trump administration has promised restoration of F-16 support programme, which is vital if Pakistan wishes to keep its F-16 fleet in working condition. Further, during Pakistan’s PM’s visit to USA, US President Donald Trump made an unsuccessful attempt to create an opportunity for American intervention in Kashmir. It is a different matter that PM Narendra Modi has very intelligently closed all doors for such foreign intervention. But one conclusion which we Indians can draw from these developments is that India can never rely on US administration till Donald Trump is America’s President.

  4. An outstanding analysis in deed!
    The removal of 35A or making J&K and Laddakh Union Territories should be only seen as means and not the end in itself. De jure the state has become a complete state of Union of India like any of it’s other states. It would also no more be an international agenda too.
    But two most important points remain – One, terrorism and Two, alienation of Kashmiries especially the youth.
    The Home Minister has said that the Union Territory status to the state may go and full statehood granted once the things normalise. Good enough – that implies the centre does have a roadmap for J & K. Keeping it an Union Territory would help the centre to be in direct command and monitor all the minute details of Security as well as Growth.
    Economic growth is very important. Education, Employment and Poverty elliviation are the areas to join the local people with the mainland and mainstream. Illiteracy must go and education usher in. Lots of employment are to be created locally and rapid poverty elliviation programmes be undertaken. On terrorism and security the centre has to be ruthless and dispassionate and all strong and stiff measures be taken without prejudice to anything and anyone.
    Other than these two, the most important thing to do would be to sensitise the people – to educate them and let them know the equity and purpose of the centre move. They will definitely be feeling that something major has been taken away from them and that they have been ill treated by ‘India’. A feeling has to be inculcated in them that they have been strengthened further, that they are richer in opportunities, in liberties and in freedoms absolutely at par with their counterpart in any part of the country.
    The centre has to be seen to be sincere in making the area one among the best in the country.
    The resolution has got huge support from huge adversaries of BJP and NDA. The centre must not be seen failing them in any manner.
    Amit Shah is a politician and administrator par excellence. Being the Union Territory this would be in his direct control and supervision. The political part has been achieved too well. The administrative part would be too challenging taking care of infiltrators and terrorism aspects. And along with that the welfare part too must take root.
    Too many apprehensions are being expressed from too many quarters. Some of them are apparently quite genuine and well placed. But the centre appears to have the intent and will be able to make it all.
    Let all of us trust that few years away we have an excellent, secured and well placed J&K state of our country!

    • Development isnt the issue in Kashmir. When insurgency broke out in 1990, JK was among the states administered by India with a good economy, relatively high literacy, and lower poverty rates than most places in India. The issue is political, and the alienation Kashmiris feel as a result of brutal crackdowns. You can’t man-splain to them why downgrading their status from state to UT is in their interest. Thats paternalistic.

  5. Remarkable that one statement – not factually correct – from President Trump could have set off such a swift flurry of events, with perhaps not even Raksha Mantriji in the loop. From India’s perspective, two fishbones are stuck in the throat. One, externally, Pakistan, with which wars have been fought. Internally, the continuing resentment and alienation of the people. Neither ends with these constitutional changes, which have been wrought with some creative interpretation of what was normally required to be done. Difficult to be sanguine about the future.

  6. Take aways are
    1. Kashmir is no longer going to be an international issue to be used by Pak and others. They cant use to blackmail India or get benefits from Pakistan the way, US tried.
    2. Domestically, Kashmir wont be a political issue any more.
    3. With its own constitution, Kashmirs so far living in a bubble yet getting all benefits from Government of India. With removing Article 370, They will be truly integrated and see some development.

    Author part from making the comment “Kashmirs will be alienated, didnt explain how ?”

    • India removing autonomy doesnt mean in any sense at all that Kashmir is no longer an internationally recognized conflict. Israel annexed Jerusalem, yet East Jerusalem’s status is still very much considered disputed. Same with the Golan Heights.

      Kashmir’s “bubble” was a precondition for union with India as espoused by the Maharaja. Kashmir’s problem isn’t about development – its about self-determination and has been fueled by India’s brutally repressive policies in Kashmir.

  7. The author missed one crucial aspect: JK becoming a UT makes the security matrix stronger. The Abdullahs and Muftis have been double agents and have nurtured Terrorism all these years.

    Re: Pakistan, it is not possible to satisfy their insatiable hatred for India. But the economic trajectory of India diverging above Pakistan will make it much harder for them.

    • Pakistan’s insatiable hatred? India almost never came up during Pakistan’s elections – except when IK lambasted Nawaz Sharif for his friendship with Modi. On the other hand, a huge part of the BJPs campaign centred on hatred of Pakistan. I truly think Indians are more full of hatred for Pakistan than vice versa. Also, no one believes India’s 7% growth rate – even the CEA for BJP estimated it at 4.5% for the past several years, which is not much higher than Pakistan’s. Further, economic indicators are weakening in India, and strengthening in Pakistan. Pakistan’s mess is due to the fact that it doesnt collect taxes well, and has one of the worlds lowest GDP-to-tax ratio. This has been been overlooked in India where Pakistan’s woes have been attributed solely to a weak economy.

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