August 25, 2019
The revocation of Article 370 by a complete majority of the Parliament was a historic move which aimed at restoring Indian cultural and secular values based on peaceful coexistence and the idea of unity in diversity, besides extending Constitutional privileges to the state of Jammu & Kashmir. The partial autonomy in Kashmir, fueled by a hostile neighbor, led to developments in the state that are perceived as antagonistic to Indian social and constitutional values. Rise in intolerance and terrorism by exploiting Muslim sentiments led to forced demographic change in the state and enhanced threat to national integrity. The move has caused serious controversy because of a wrong narrative peddled over the years that Jammu & Kashmir became part of India on the condition of Article 370. Therefore, the temporary provision (370) was treated as a necessary condition and hence permanent, which could not be abrogated. Pakistan had also developed another narrative that the issue of Kashmir was a dispute, and it was long pending in the UN. The fact is that Pakistan has historically sought to grab Kashmir by unlawful means. As such, neither the accession of state was conditional, nor the UN resolution of 1948 has any validity due to changes that have taken place in the last seventy years. In order to understand the issue of Kashmir, one has to understand how Muslim sentiments had been exploited by international, regional, and state political actors for their political motives.
Kashmir has always been claimed by Pakistan based on two-nation theory whereas India being a secular country had acceded Kashmir legally by signing an instrument of accession. Then Indian Prime Minister Nehru took the Kashmir matter to UN, as in his perception, India had the right to take measures for self-defense, repelling invaders and pushing them beyond the borders of Kashmir under Article 51, and Pakistan should have been charged as an aggressor under Article 35. Contrary to India’s expectations, UN Security Council instead of condemning Pakistan’s aggression had declared the Kashmir issue a political dispute. Even India’s Governor-General Mountbatten stated that the UN decision was influenced by the UK and US Cold Car calculations. British archival reports show that Britain was motivated in creating Pakistan as a bastion of western security. Therefore it persuaded the US to support Pakistan’s case of invasion of Kashmir, ignoring the legal accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to India. It was a well-calculated move of the US and UK who wanted to control Gilgit and Baltistan bordering Central Asian republics in USSR and People’s Republic of China. The US and UK wanted to use Kashmir as their military base and a center for espionage. Due to the geopolitical significance of Pakistan, the Western objective was to place Islam between Soviet Communism and a Hindu majority India. Therefore, Cold War politics played a critical role in aggravating the issue and emboldening Pakistan.
The UN decision for a plebiscite was also illegal because, during the partition of India, rulers of the princely states had to decide which side to join and not the public. Since then, Pakistan, instead of evacuating its forces and maintaining peace in PoK, has indulged in aggressive activities against India. Pakistan, having failed to grab Kashmir by fighting three wars ( 1947, 1965,1971), resorted to the policy of state-sponsored terrorism to fight a proxy war against India. Pakistan sponsored terrorism gave rise to separatism and militancy in the Valley. The separatists tried to change the Muslim majority state into a Muslim state by changing its demography. During the last 30 years, it is estimated that more than 5,00,000 Hindu Kashmiris have been evicted who faced brutally violent acts including sexual assault on women, arson, torture, and extortion of property. It was a blow to Kashmiriyat, which was a symbol of communal amity between Hindus and Muslim who have lived in harmony from times immemorial. The attempt to turn Muslim majority state into a state exclusively for Muslims had served more the interest of rulers of Pakistan and Kashmiri political leaders than the people of the state. The political parties had exploited the sentiments of Muslim Kashmiris by projecting themselves as champions of the protection of the autonomy of Kashmir, even as their corruption and lack of good governance gave rise to insecurity, underdevelopment, and discrimination in Kashmir. For instance, if any Kashmiri woman married a non-resident of the state, she would have to renounce her inheritance.
Moreover, a large number of Dalits from Punjab who migrated to Kashmir in 1957 have not been entitled to any benefits. This autonomy was used to discriminate against some non-muslims and favor some others, like Muslims from Xingjiang and Rohingya. The increasing insecurity and changing demography were perceived as a serious threat to India’s cultural and secular values as well as the integrity of the country.
The changed status of Kashmir has been opposed by Pakistan’s government, whereas it is purely India’s internal matter. India has clarified that it can resume talks with Pakistan only if it abandons cross border terrorism in Kashmir. Most importantly, India has said that any talk with Pakistan on Kashmir will be about PoK. China is the only country which is supporting Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir due to its own political motives. China has built strategic-economic link, CPEC, in Pakistan and has invested about $65 million on CPEC, which passes through Gilgit and Baltistan areas of PoK. China does not want Pakistan to lose its control on that area. Moreover, China is committing atrocities on Muslims in Xingjiang and does not want its region to be influenced by terrorism. Therefore, China has its vested interest in supporting Pakistan on Kashmir issue just like western countries had their vested interest to support Pakistan on Kashmir during the Cold War.
However, the situation has changed today, and so is India’s power position to deal with the issue with confidence, assertiveness, and firmness.
*** The author is an Associate Professor at Satyawati College, Delhi University ***