Pak PM Imran Khan has announced a series of steps to counter India
The tyranny of Article 370 and 35A was dealt a mortal blow, which effectively sent the Abdullahs, the Muftis, and the Geelanis into political irrelevance
The Modi Government’s decision to scrap Article 370 and 35A, separate Ladakh from J&K and make both Union Territories is bold and historic. Removal of Article 370 has been on BJP’s agenda for decades but despite being in power in recent years this was not implemented. This created some uncertainty about when this step might be taken. In an extremely well-planned move, the government has acted swiftly in PM Modi’s second term and altered the course and dynamics of the situation in J&K. The remarkable organisational power of the Modi Government has been on display. Despite the involvement of scores of people politicians, bureaucrats, legal advisers, military brass, and so on-not a word leaked. This is a government that knows how to walk the talk.
It is also a Government that is willing to take risks, as risks are bound to be there. Kashmir has seen violence for three decades now. Terrorism and Islamism has seeped deep into hearts of the Kashmir Valley. Jihadi violence fuelled by Pakistan has spread far and wide, not to mention Pakistan’s direct complicity in exporting terrorism to India. These anti-national elements in Kashmir are not going to accept the changed situation without stiff resistance. The benefits of the revocation of Article 370, be it by way of investment, economic development, job growth, social justice, will no doubt come but not immediately. In Jammu and Ladakh and the hill regions of Kashmir, or even the areas in the Valley not prone to terrorist violence, the sentiments towards the rest of India being positive, the revocation of Article 370 will in any case be welcomed for the benefits it will bring. The problem will be in Srinagar and southern Kashmir where the government’s actions will be seen as an end to the power and privileges hitherto enjoyed by a group of people, blatant accumulation of wealth, political blackmail of the Central government, openly separatist agendas, and their plan to Islamise Kashmir.
The attempt by these forces backed by Pakistan will be to abet violent protests with the intention of a backlash by the security forces and then unleashing propaganda internationally on human rights violations in Kashmir. Already the UN Human Rights Council has issued an objectionable statement that interferes in our internal affairs. It could do more along these lines. The so-called liberal media, especially in US and the UK, will amplify this propaganda and accuse the BJP Government of implementing the RSS’s Hindutva ideology in Kashmir. Unfortunately, our own “Left-liberal” lobbies, or the “Khan Market Gang” will be complicit in this, not to mention elements of the political opposition, as we have seen in political speeches in parliament and newpaper articles in our mainstream media. Individuals like Pratap Bhanu Mehta have excoriated the government’s decision in an irrational outburst. Our own press gives space to foreign leftist ideologues like Christophe Jaffrelot to probe into religious and social fault lines in India to further the agenda to bring disrepute to the BJP/RSS in aca-demic and Leftist circles abroad. The New York Times, the Washington Post, The Guardian have written biased articles that distort even facts on the government’s recent step to fit into their anti-RSS narrative. We need not be too concerned because India has been subject to attacks on this or that issue - it was on nuclear issues in the past - and we have weathered them when we were less self-confident and strong. In the 90’s we were under vicious attacks by western human rights organisations at a time when Kashmir was burning and our economy was in a mess. We weathered that too. Today PM Modi is a global leader, re-elected to power with a massive mandate, and he heads an India that is rising, with an economy that already is the fifth or sixth largest and could in a decade become the third largest. Other countries have too much of a stake in India now to ride roughshod over our national sen-timent and interests.
Pakistan has been confronted with a situation to which it has no adequate response. We have not committed aggression against Pakistan, we have not sent in terrorists there or threatened to give “moral, political and diplomatic” support to the Balochis or support them to “the end” as General Bajwa has said with regard to the Kashmiris. The international community will not back Pakistan as its involvement in promoting terrorism in India and Afghanistan is well known. Our de-mand that Pakistan end its support for terrorism to open channels of a dialogue with India is backed by the US, France and some others. PM Modi’s diplomacy towards the Gulf countries has paid dividends as shown by the reaction of the UAE which considers the Indian decision an internal matter. The UN Secretary general has issued a mild statement, although it is objectionable, but the UNSC has to justify his function as a peace monitor. The UN Security Council will not intervene in this matter unless serious violence erupts between India and Pakistan. If peace is disturbed it will be because of Pakistani actions, not ours. A constitutional change is a peaceful change, not an armed one.
Out of frustration Pakistan has taken a few steps that we can easily live with. Withdrawing ambassadors means little to us as they were only performing representational functions and were not the channels for any serious dialogue as such. Ending trade is a self-inflicted wound. Stopping the Samjhauta Express hurts divided Muslim families, not the larger public. If Pakistan wants to celebrate August 14 in a particular way, why should that bother us? The Kartarpur Corridor, which, in my view, is a ploy to prop up the Khalistani movement by cultivating Sikh religious sentiment which the government of India cannot ignore, is being excluded from Pakistan’s retaliatory steps. Our concern could be about the Kulbhushan Jadhav case which can get complicated. By taking all these steps Pakistan is isolating itself. If its intention is to invite external intervention by raising tensions with India, it will not succeed because Pakistan has used these tactics before time and again, even threatening nuclear war, and the international community which is well aware of this, will not be manipulated easily. In any case, Imran Khan is eroding his own peace offensive towards India in the hope of putting India on the defensive and win support from the West, especially the US and UK. It was always a false agenda of “Taliban Khan” and now his mask is off.
Our reaction to Pakistan’s moves has been very mature and non-polemical. We are not walking into Pakistan’s trap by helping it aggra-vate tensions.
All in all, the Modi Government deserves the nation’s applause.
(The writer is a former foreign Secretary)