Dr. GHULAM ALI
On August 5, the Indian government repealed Article 370 of the constitution stripping Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) the seven-decade-long autonomy through a rushed presidential order. New Delhi decided the future of the valley without consulting Kashmir’s state legislature and putting behind the bar the entire Kashmiri leadership including handpicked pro-Indian rulers of the valley. How the amendment was made mocks the world’s largest “democracy.” The abolishing of the article has dishonoured India’s promise to protect Kashmir’s special status. The future influx of migrants from the mainland; as is the next step of the ruling party; will change the demographics of India’s only Muslim-majority state.
In the lead-up to its move, India sent tens of thousands of additional troops to reinforce to the existing. Over 500,000 already deployed in the valley for decades. The IOK witnesses the world’s highest concentration of troops verse civilians. By the third week to Indian action, the hapless valley remained cut off from the rest of the world.
Kashmir is a disputed territory claimed entirely and controlled partially by India and Pakistan. Two out of the three wars were fought on Kashmir. After the first war in 1948, India took the Kashmir issue to the UN. Since then, Kashmir remains on the UN agenda. The UN has also appointed its observes on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC).
India’s excessive use of force ultimately obliged traditionally silent international community to urge India to lift its curfew and the siege of the valley. The US Congress, Western capitals, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), name a few, have made this demand.
The decision to revoke the article reinforced Hindu extremists to accelerate their vandalism, especially against Muslims across India. The situation has reached a point that the Genocide Watch, a global organisation dedicated to the prevention of genocide, has to issue two warning alerts for India — one for the IOK and the other for Assam state.
Before Indian action, the new Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan who took power in August 2018, had made unprecedented peace gestures towards India. He assured that if New Delhi took one step towards peace, Islamabad would respond with two. The act to congratulate Indian team over its victory against Australia, opening up of Kartarpur Corridor for Indian Sikhs, and the release of Indian pilot whose plane was shot in Pakistan, were some crucial measures in the context of Indo-Pakistan situation.
As Pakistani side was busy in creating the atmosphere for dialogues, Indian’s unilateral decision to change the status quo of the Kashmir shattered all hope of dialogues pushing Pakistan to the corner. Pakistan termed Indian act illegal and unacceptable and resolved to take all necessary measures to counter it. In an interview with The New York Times, Pakistani Prime Minister ruled out further possibilities of dialogues. He stated Indians took his overtures for dialogue as appeasement. Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties by recalling its High Commissioner, stopped trade ties, banned Indian cultural programmes to air and halted the weekly train service between the two countries.
In the context of Indian move, Pakistani Prime Minister termed Modi as “a fascist and Hindu supremacist who intends to eradicate Kashmir’s mostly Muslim population and populate the region with Hindus.” India is following the “ideology” of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the parent organization of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and that believes in “Hindu supremacy.”
BJP’s act to change the constitution to appeal it’s extremist Hindu vote bank might have a rationale for India’s internal politics; it created far-reaching consequences for the region. First, it doomed the prospects of Indo-Pakistan dialogues. Islamabad regards the Kashmir as the “jugular vein” and the core issue between the two countries. India’s annexation of the Kashmir left no ambiguity of New Delhi’s complete defiance to the recognition of this reality. India is unlikely to reverse its steps, especially under the BJP. In tit-for-tat, Pakistan will continue to resist India in its capacity at all forums. In consequence, this will ruin the prospect of regional cooperation, which is already marginal.
India’s move will also affect its ties with China, which is a party to the Kashmir dispute. China condemned the Indian “unilateral” action and warned of “grave consequences.” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated, “The recent unilateral revision of domestic laws by the Indian side continues to undermine China’s territorial sovereignty, which is unacceptable and will not have any effect,”
China lays claim on the part of Ladakh, which currently is under Indian occupation. On the other hand, India claims the Aksai Chin, which China snatched from India in 1962, and the Shaksgam Tract which Pakistan recognized as Chinese territory during the 1963 Border Agreement. Under prevailing circumstances – the situation in Xinjiang, trade-war with the US, and protests in Hong Kong – China’s response was slightly muted. It is more of a tactical rather than a policy shift. China will remain relevant to the dispute and might become vocal at a time of its choice. This will naturally deepen Sino-Pakistan cooperation. China has supported Pakistan at the UNSC and other forums. Sino-Pakistan cooperation in this backdrop will add to Indian concerns.
The most dangerous aspect of the situation is its military dimension. As the curfew is relaxed, the Kashmiri people will resist with even greater force. Even during the strict curfew, Kashmiri people defied it and clashed with occupying Indian forces. To cover up its weaknesses and failures, India, like in the past, might accuse Pakistan of interference in the IOK. Pakistani Prime Minister has already warned the international community of Indian attempts to a “false flag operation” to divert attention from its massive human rights violations and put the blame on Pakistan.
Both sides have a sufficient amount of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems to eliminate each other a few times. India upholds superiority in conventional arms, at least in numerical terms. To counter it, Pakistan emphasis upon strategic nuclear weapons in which it is slightly advanced. In the recent conflict, India even indicated to change its long-held no first use of nuclear weapons policy. If conflict erupts, it will be in no one’s hand with consequences beyond someone’s imaginations.
Kashmir is a disputed territory taken to the UN agenda by India in 1948. Whether it should be resolved bilaterally as India emphasizes, or through international mediation as Pakistan desires, its disputed status could not be refuted by the recent Indian action. At a time Pakistani leadership was taking steps to ease tension with India offering dialogues even on terrorism – India’s chief concern – India’s unilateral, aggressive action is beyond comprehension. Likewise is Modi’s logic that the revocation of 370 will help to develop Kashmir valley which could not be achieved during its relative autonomy during the last seven decades. If over half-million Indian troops deployed in the Kashmir valley for decades with free use of draconian laws could not suppress the resistance, will the constitutional change make?
Dr Ghulam Ali teaches at the Department of Political Science, School of Marxism, Sichuan University of Science & Engineering, Zigong, China. Views are his personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org