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Pratap Bhanu Mehta on ‘Kashmirisation of India’, Gen Hooda on challenges post Article 370

The best of the day’s opinion, chosen and curated by ThePrint’s top editors.

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Blood and Betrayal

Pratap Bhanu Mehta | Contributing editor and former vice-chancellor of Ashoka University
The Indian Express

Mehta writes that this moment in Kashmir is a “dry run for the political desecration that may follow in the rest of India”. The way BJP has nullified Article 370 and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir –stealthily, amid tight security and informational blackouts – has shown that the only agency which the state runs on is “raw power”. The narratives that support the move on Kashmir includes many ideas, some of which may find validity. But they still don’t address the well-being of Kashmiris who have now been under military occupation for over two generations. Parliament has become a ‘notice board, not a debating forum’.

But this decision on Kashmir is not just about Kashmir. Following the UAPA Bill, NRC, communal tensions and the Ayodhya mandate, there is a fear of safety for anyone who “stands up for constitutional liberty”. The culture that supports this is equally worrisome.

Today, there is growing impatience with any alternative view, Mehta writes. The BJP may feel that it is “Indianising Kashmir”, but in reality, we will see a “Kashmirisation of India : The story of Indian democracy written in blood and betrayal”.

Kashmir: Managing the aftermath

Lt General (Retd) DS Hooda | Former General Officer Commanding-in-chief, Northern Command
Hindustan Times

General Hooda writes that the government’s decision on Jammu & Kashmir should be seen as a win-win for all stakeholders. Now that the speculation around Kashmir’s fate is over, we must prepare for the challenges ahead. First, there could be a worsening of law and order in the Valley similar to the eruption that occurred after the killing of militant Burhan Wani in July 2016. But security forces are well equipped to deal with disturbances although, large-scale protests need to be dealt with carefully, as civilian deaths will leave long-lasting scars and make resolution difficult. Secondly, Pakistan can be expected to step in and try to internationalise the issue. Hooda feels the neighbouring country will “undoubtedly step up its support to terror activities in Kashmir”.

The situation will also have to be tackled beyond a security approach to overcome the alienation of Kashmiris. Communication strategies will help ‘turn the youth away from the path of extremism’, through both verbal messages and visible actions.

The end of autonomy: Pakistan’s negative ambitions spurred Centre’s decision on Jammu & Kashmir

Syed Ata Hasnain | Retired Lieutenant General in the Indian Army
The Times of India

Hasnain writes that the Kashmir issue is the result of non-professional political leaders like Trump and Imran Khan, intervening in long-standing political and international issues. Trump’s assumption that Modi wanted help on mediating on Kashmir gave way to Imran Khan assuming that the US was taking a lead on the mediation. During this ‘golden moment’, Khan’s generals would have advised him to negotiate on Kashmir, considering Pakistan’s leverage over the US owing to the ongoing negotiations with Taliban. Signals from Kashmir indicated the Indian government’s intentions to dismantle separatist networks, potentially rendering Pakistan irrelevant in J&K. The Indian Army’s clampdown on terrorist networks and the lack of resources to organise protests by separatists groups meant Pakistan needed to do something big to create an unrest. This meant commencing infiltration, which led to a ‘spurt of activity’ in July across the LoC in the Kashmir segment, and not in Poonch and Rajouri where there are exchanges of fire usually.

The Indian government felt this was the best opportunity to introduce their ‘fresh and decisive mandate’ echoing the BJP’s promise of bringing changes to Kashmir, and moved to nullify Articles 370 and 35 A. While the Army is well prepared, the government should be of mindful of communal tensions and rumours as ‘failure to control that will never be advantageous to the nation’.

Piecing together Kashmir’s audacious road map

Amitabh Mattoo | The writer is professor of International Relations, JNU
The Hindu

Amitabh Mattoo writes that after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, the challenge now is to allow J&K people take ownership in the state. He writes that for many Kashmiris these articles were a matter of faith. At the same time, revocation of Article 370 has always been a part of BJP’s fundamental tenets.

He writes that it will be a myth to believe that J&K’s autonomy had remained intact over the years. All institutions of India already included J&K within its scope and jurisdiction. The only difference, he writes, related to permanent residents and their rights, non-applicability of emergency provisions on certain grounds without the state’s approval, and change in state’s boundaries.

He writes that while Article 370 aimed to provide space to “people who felt vulnerable about their identity and insecure about the future,” it also created a patronage network which “incentivised bad politics, rent-seeking and corruption”.

He further says that with this decision, the Narendra Modi government has “unleashed a chain of events difficult to predict or contain”. He suggests that this move is part of the larger geopolitics shaping the region and the way in which regional interests are sidelining Indian interests. He speculates that Trump’s offer to mediate may have also precipitated this decision but nonetheless it would have taken months to prepare for it.

He also notes that ever since the imposition of governor’s rule, a lot of steps have been taken to devolve power to panchayati raj institutions in the state. Steps are also being taken to address corruption in the state, which Mattoo says is one of the “leading causes of youth angst and alienation” in the state.

The big GST question

Mihir S Sharma |Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation Kashmir: Managing the aftermath
Lt General (Retd) DS Hooda | Former General Officer Commanding-in-chief, Northern Command
Business Standard

Mihir Sharma writes that the one “original sin” of this government remains its failure to “properly structure and implement” GST. He writes that GST was meant to be a single-rate tax which would reduce burden on taxpayers, reduce their paperwork, compliance costs and lead to an expansion of tax base and government revenue.

However, he notes, that GST is underperforming on revenue and there has been a shortfall in revenue collection through GST. He speculates that this might be due to higher than envisioned evasion as online platforms for invoice matching were poorly designed.

Another problem, he mentions, is the tax rates as there are too many of them and some of which are really low.

He also argues that “the investment-friendliness” of GST has also not been achieved. India’s tax environment still remains too unpredictable, he says.

He recommends that the government should “abandon its defence of multiple rates, and focus on efficiency and dynamic gains”.

India’s competition policy must keep up with emerging threats

Narayan Ramachandran | Chairman, InKlude Labs

Narayan Ramachandran writes that corporations with disproportionate consumer market shares are rising globally, including India. The present regulatory architecture is “inadequate to comprehend and determine whether this corporate concentration gives rise to monopoly power”. He writes that in India competition is governed by the Competition Act of 2002. He adds that currently “a requirement of “dominance” and a test of price “increases” restricts the commission from challenging abuse”.

Further, now consumer data and behaviour have become an asset on which a monopoly or oligopoly can come to exist. In India, corporate concentrations are emerging in e-commerce and payments space. He writes that the draft e-commerce policy brings some of these such as “predatory pricing and consumer data abuse” into discussion but is not adequate enough. “An updated competition policy in India must simultaneously focus on the objectives of free and fair competition, consumer welfare and the abuse of monopoly power wielded by government and companies,” he recommends.

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