Scrapping of Article 370


By Dr D.K. Giri


The radical step taken by Government of India has had predictable response in the country. A good many Indians are rejoicing that Kashmir, finally, after seven decades, got fully integrated into India. However, India being a democratic country, a number of people are resenting the repeal of Article 370 that lent Kashmir a special status. There are also people, mainly commentators, complaining about the manner in which it was done and the passage o the J&K Reorganisation Bill, while they endorse the action. Reactions to this historic development cuts across communities and regions.


Importantly, two more reactions, which are not hard to anticipate, should draw our attention and preparedness. First, the reactions from the people in the Valley, and the second the international community, at least, those in the know of the Kashmir issue, and have some stake in it. Because of the extremely sensitive and volatile situation in Kashmir, the Government has taken massive ‘controversial’ preventive steps to scotch and suppress the reactions in the valley.


But, the point to note is that the Government needs to be wary of international repercussion of any action it takes to maintain law and order. In the past, the GoI, could partly pass the buck to the J&K State government, which was often accused of soliciting support of the separatists. But, now the buck stops at GoI. It can no longer shift any charge to anyone else.


However, I am concerned here about the international community. How would they react? For New Delhi, it is an internal matter, although Jawaharlal Nehru took it to the United Nations.


Understandably, much water has flown down the rivers of Jammu & Kashmir, since it was taken up by the UN. And with the Shimla Agreement and Lahore Declaration, the UN Resolutions became in-fructuous. Now, India is making claims on Pakistan occupied Kashmir as an organic part of Kashmir that was illegitimately taken by Pakistan by an act of aggression. It is another matter, that Nehru’s folly or idealism gave ‘PoK’ to Pakistan on a platter. At any rate, India’s expressed intention to pull it back from Pakistani occupation will trigger international reactions, diplomatic or otherwise.


Insofar as Pakistan is concerned vis-a-vis Kashmir, it has been internationalising Kashmir in every multilateral forum it participated. It has been the leitmotif of their foreign policy, the main source of their international economic aid and so on. So the loss of that source and succour has unnerved them. Pakistan will not stop at anything to rake up Kashmir issue as long as they can.


Expectedly, Pakistan has reacted. Its action of severing all ties with India is not only panick- driven, but reflects a deeper problem. So be it. I think an integration of part Kashmir to India is complete, so should be the separation with Pakistan. This may spur fresh thinking about India and South Asia on their part.


Further, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, has said, they will exercise all options to deal with Kashmir. The Pakistani Army chief has said, they would meet their obligation to Kashmiris and even go to war with India. These reactions bordering on frustration and exasperation are not new. How should New Delhi react?


It is no secret that Pakistan has launched a proxy war, and at times, actual, against India on Kashmir in addition to the two full-scale wars in the past. So New Delhi has to be ever prepared for a military conflict with Pakistan, limited or total. The threat of aggression from Pakistan would never disappear until they are completely subdued by India through trade blockade, and military supremacy etc.


There are people in India who advocate friendship and negotiation with Pakistan. I was one among those, driven by the philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family), Pakistanis are our family, some members decided to live separately, and good neighbourliness. Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee had said, you can change your friends, not your neighbours. But, all those organising principles and philosophy did not work with Pakistan. It would not be friendly and honest with India until it gets Kashmir.


Now our new resolve seems to be, and rightly so, we will not deal with Pakistan until it puts ‘PoK’ on the table for negotiation, and eventual integration with India. So, one can assess the impossibility of normalisation of relations with Pakistan. We can expect a complete break up of relations until this issue is resolved once and for all. In the meantime, New Delhi could stick to its stand that cross-border terrorism must stop before any dialogue could begin.  


What about the United Nations? There is a suggestion by experts that New Delhi should withdraw the application made by Nehru to the UN as it did not have the Cabinet endorsement and secondly in light of bilateral method adopted by New Delhi and Islamabad. If Pakistan wishes to persist with the UN, New Delhi should lobby with the P5 of UNSC to disregard it.


Predictably, some individual members of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation have protested New Delhi’s move in Kashmir. But countries such as the UAE have supported it. In their recent meetings, OIC as a body did not take a position on Kashmir.


Strangely, China has raised objection to making Ladakh a Union Territory by GoI. The Ministry of External Affairs has snubbed Beijing and said: “We do not interfere in your internal affairs, you do not in ours”. As I have maintained China would like to put India down in one way or the other as it fears it may be overtaken by the latter. It is also jealous of the Indian political system that enjoys greater credibility than its own authoritarian system. New Delhi has to be wary of Chinese duplicity and expansionism.


The other power that stood by India on Kashmir is Russia, which has declined as a super power but remains a major world power to reckon with. New Delhi should retain the good- will of Russia, which can still be a friend despite its growing closeness with China.


US President Donald Trump is inconsistent and unpredictable. He despairs the American engagement in Afghanistan. Some commentators suggest that Afghanistan could prove to be another Vietnam for America. Not really, as here the government is with America and both are fighting a fundamentalist force. However, Trump is desperate to pull out of Afghanistan in partial fulfilment of his poll promise to disengage from the war-torn country. In order to do so, he may have dangled the Kashmir carrot to Imran Khan in lieu of his support for America against the Taliban.


However, Prime Minister Modi seems to have pre-empted any mediation initiative by America. The US State Department has treated the Indian action in Kashmir as its internal matter without any mention of Pakistan. This should dispel doubts about America’s response, that it would either remain neutral or support India.


The European powers, France and now Britain should support India, although the European Union as a supranational body should be managed by the Indian Mission in Brussels. Pro-active communication by Indian Missions should prevent formation of wrong perception about India’s intentions. At any rate, New Delhi could be quite sensitive to the opinion of the international community, not ignore it. Knowing Modi’s penchant for international engagement and his interest in international arena, one could be sure that he would not sully India’s image abroad! — INFA


(The writer Prof. International Politics, JMI)

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