Contrary to Pakistan’s expectations, Indian government’s decision to revoke special status of the state of Jammu & Kashmir, accorded under Art 370 and 35A of the constitution, did not elicit ‘angry’ reactions from the international community. While Russia and France came out openly in support of India’s stand, the Trump administration that had offered to mediate to resolve the Kashmir issue washed off its hands calling the decision ‘strictly internal matter’ of India. As the Modi government 2.0 gets down to put down a ‘forward-looking’ foreign policy and capitalize on the gains it achieved during the first term, Pakistan’s diplomatic isolation along with international community’s rather passive response to the developments in Kashmir could be considered as a first significant victory for India’s deft diplomacy.
China though managed to get the matter discussed in an informal meeting of UN Security Council but failed to muster support for passing any resolution against the Indian move. The attempts by Pakistan and China to censure India through a UNSC resolution or at least a public statement fell flat as an overwhelming majority opposed any such decision. The deliberations witnessed France and the US along with most of the non-permanent members of the council endorsing New Delhi’s contention that its decisions on J&K were ‘internal’ affairs of India with no implication on its border disputes with Pakistan or China. The Chinese statement, expressing concern over the revocation of Art 370 and creation of Ladakh as a separate Union Territory, was rebuffed by Ministry of External Affairs in no uncertain terms, signaling India’s intent to play ‘hardball politics’ on the issue in the global diplomatic arena. During his visit to China, just in the aftermath of revocation of Art 370, India’s Foreign Minister S.Jaishankar made it amply clear that the legislative measures that were adopted concerning J&K, ‘aimed at promoting better governance and socio-economic development. There was no implication for either the external boundaries of India or the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China’.
In response to Pakistan’s complaint that India’s move on Jammu and Kashmir violated UNSC resolution of 1949, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres invoked Shimla Agreement of 1972 that clearly stipulates the resolution of all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, through bilateral talks only, thus ruling out any kind of multilateral intervention. Joanna Wronecka, President of UNSC, also refused to make any statement on the Pakistani complaint. Significantly, key members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) such as UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey called for bilateral talks between India and Pakistan, choosing not to condemn or reject the Indian decision. Most notable among them was UAE whose Ambassador to India went as far as to call the change ‘an internal matter that would help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of administration and socio-economic development in the region’, soon after the bill was passed in the Indian Parliament. For these countries, India certainly offers much greater economic opportunities than Pakistan, who are struggling to survive as an economy receiving bailout packages from China and Saudi Arabia.
The decision of the Modi government to revoke special status of J&K under Art 370 and 35A has an Afghanistan angle. With President Trump being desperate to pull out from Afghanistan before his term ends, he could not ignore Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s fervent appeal during his US trip to offer mediation, at the cost of violating US’ consistent position of treating Kashmir as a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. Capitalizing on America’s vulnerability in Afghanistan, Pakistan intends to link the peace process in Afghanistan to the resolution of Kashmir problem and thereby drag the US into the scene. However, Afghan leaders, including the Taliban, were quick to slam Pakistan for its attempts to use the Afghan situation as a bargaining chip. Also, with elections around the corner, President Trump cannot afford to abandon his tough stand on terrorism just to placate Pakistan and force India for talks. On the other hand, Pakistan’s all-weather friend China, that has to contend with massive uprisings in Hong Kong and problems in Xinjiang, would not like to adopt any aggressive posture (except issuing statements) that would jeopardize its engagement with India and hurt its economic interests. In fact, during Jaishankar’s visit, India and China agreed on a host of initiatives to improve their relations, with New Delhi emphasizing that the future of the ties will depend on the mutual sensitivity to each other’s ‘core concerns’.
The situation is evolving. Pakistan’s diplomatic isolation is near complete as the Kashmir issue is no longer being seen merely as a political conflict but rather as part of terror agenda of jihadists and fundamentalists who are hell-bent upon creating instability in India. The strategic ‘passivity’ of major powers including the US, the aloofness of the Muslim world, and the UN’s refusal to address the Kashmir issue augur well for India’s efforts to achieve greater security in the region, curb terrorism and accelerate the process of economic modernization through mutually beneficial partnerships with other countries.
*** The author is Director of Kalinga Institute of Indo-Pacific Studies and currently working as assistant professor of political science at Ravenshaw University ***