As Trump reiterated his readiness to mediate the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan, PM Modi was trapped in an awkward situation since he could not accept or reject the President’s remarks. His silence only increased the level of criticism that other parties made on him. Hence, Modi responded by executing a new stratagem in Kashmir in order to calm the aggressive response of the opposition and please the Hindu nationalists who have expressed their anger over Trump’s remarks.
The increase in the number of armed forces and the use of cluster bombs across the LOC is the manifestation of the desperation that the Modi government is encountering in repressing the Kashmiri struggle. This aggression is being justified on the ground that a terror attack was imminent from across the border on the pilgrims visiting the valley. This claim was completely absurd and was solely erected for justifying its upcoming brutality on the unarmed Kashmiri population.
On Monday, the Minister of Home Affairs, Amit Shah addressed that the government will be doing away with article 370. The article allowed a separate flag and constitution for the Indian occupied Kashmir along with the denial of permanently settling, holding local jobs and having property rights to outsiders. This article provided a jurisdiction to the region to make its own laws except in the matters of finance, defense and foreign affairs. Abrogating this article will strip off the autonomy that the Muslim majority province was granted. Similarly, Article 35A defines the state’s “permanent residents” and issues them a permanent resident certificate which allows them to avail certain privileges related to employment, education and the right to buy and sell land. The core advantage was that this results into the Indian occupied Kashmir remaining a Muslim-majority province. Both of these are part of history now and the BJP has moved a bill to divide Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories i.e. Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh directly ruled by New Delhi.
The effectiveness of article 370 was somewhat symbolic, as over the years the level of autonomy gradually decreased, yet abrogating it has provoked a sentiment of alienation and deprivation within the Kashmiri population.
The rationale behind this move is to permit the influx of Hindus to these regions and pave way for a demographic transformation which would ultimately turn the Muslim majority province into a Hindu-majority one. The Modi government thinks that this fascist strategy will mute the Kashmiri struggle for their self-determination. However, Kashmiris will never tolerate the Indian government altering the nature of 35A and 370. Removing these articles will ignite a mighty response because the government has attempted to eradicate the Kashmiri identity and has placed Kashmir under the control of New Delhi, to which the Kashmiris have no affinity with .The people who have been suppressed and killed so cruelly are now deprived of the only identity they had.
The huge deployment of armed forces, cutting off internet, arresting leaders of various parties in Kashmir and the lockdown, cannot remain intact forever. As soon as the government eases the crackdown, the valley will bleed with turmoil and chaos once again, which might even spill over to other regions of India as well.
In reality, the Indian government has stormed these activities as they are aware of the crucial timings. Firstly, they have signaled to Trump that no third party mediation would be acceptable for India. India has embarrassed its ally as this move comes after Trumps remarks and the timings couldn’t be worse for Washington. Secondly, The Afghan Peace process is on the go and the Taliban are negotiating with world powers. This snubs India as they feel their declining relevance on a territory which they believed would be instrumental to wage proxy wars in Pakistan.
At a time when the Afghan peace process is at a decisive stage and when there are prospects of regional stability gradually making its way, India should have attempted to reengage with Pakistan. However, it opted to create more avenues for a potential conflict with Pakistan keeping in mind that Pakistan cannot afford a conflict at the moment. This strategy will further deteriorate relations with Pakistan, undermining the efforts which Pakistan has made on various occasions for resuming dialogue.
If a sensible government was in power, they would have seized the opportunity provided by Trump and would attempt to ease the tense relations between India and Pakistan. On the other hand, India humiliated itself by denying that no such request was made and instead it is on the verge of executing ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri people.
India is aware of the fact that any plebiscite in Kashmir would either result in Kashmir opting for Pakistan or remaining a separate state. Both of these options are not acceptable for New Delhi; instead it wants to change the demographics to the extent that even if such a situation arises an Indian victory would be assured.
This suppression has nothing to do with Indian interests, rather it is to push the BJP ideology of Hindu-majoritarianism. Kashmir is the only Muslim-majority province of India and any level of autonomy, even symbolic, is somewhat derogatory for BJP and RSS. This move was lauded across India even by critics of Modi him for such a decision. Apart from few, all the political parties have backed this decision as they believe that the previous policies have not been successful and maybe a new approach should be adopted. What is being ignored is that such policies come with a high price and irreversible implications.
The fate of Kashmiri people has been decided, in which they had no say. Suppressing their opinion in the short term is possible; however, the people who have been fighting for the last seven decades will not be stopped by such stunts. In addition, this suppression will sow the seeds of violence and militancy .Consequently, this will invite a new wave of instability which will haunt India for years to come.
The Indian government is on a very perilous path. This decision might divert the attention from the downfall that the economy is facing, and it would also allow Modi to orchestrate an enthusiastic speech on the coming Independence Day, yet all this would come at the price of peace and stability.
Modi seems to be inspired by the phrase of Thucydides “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”. The Indian government is playing with fire in the region, the international community must be vocal on this issue as India is violating international conventions and human rights. If India’s aggressive response is overlooked it will be another failure to avert a genocide on its way. Meanwhile, Pakistan must play a major role to intensify the diplomatic measures in highlighting the plight of the Kashmiri people and at the same time make sure that India doesn’t find any space in Afghanistan after the U.S. withdraws.
The Pakistani government has shown its firm commitment to the people of Kashmir, the COAS also stated “We are prepared and shall go to any extent to fulfil our obligations in this regard.” Moreover, the government is raising its voice on international forums so that the international community can look into the doings of the oppressive regime in India. Pakistan has always stated that it does not want war and has demonstrated its utmost willingness to proceed towards pacifying the issue, which has been lingering on for decades and has taken large number of lives and continues to be a source of regional instability. Talking to the joint session of Parliament, Prime Minister Imran Khan reasserted that a war would be catastrophic not only for the region but for the whole world.
It would be interesting to see how Washington responds to this as it is caught in the middle. There are slight chances of Washington criticizing its ally openly. On the other hand, it also needs Pakistan for a safe exit from Afghanistan and just 2 weeks ago, Trump himself offered to mediate.
Kashmir is a very sensitive issue for both India and Pakistan and as long as this issue remains unresolved, the prospects of a major conflict between India and Pakistan will remain on the table. Abrogating the article has shoved the solution further than it already was. Yoga-loving Modi should keep in mind that no amount of military force can halt the Kashmiri freedom struggle. It is the funerals of the Kashmiri freedom fighters that have kept the struggle alive after all these years. If force was the solution, the struggle would have stopped long ago. From the Indian side the perception prevails that Kashmir is integrated into India, yet the worst is awaiting ahead in response to Modi’s gambit.