By the stroke of midnight on 5th August, when India was asleep, it had no idea of that day being the next big bookmark in the pages of its history. There were murmurs in the mainstream media about possible action in the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) but nobody was sure about what was going to happen. By the noon, the Union Home Minister announced in Parliament that the President of India has decided to revoke Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that provides special autonomous status to the state of J&K, and it has been decided to bifurcate it into two ‘Union Territories’ with one having legislature (J&K).
Conventionally, India is not a Union of states but the states of India derive power from the Union of India. To speak in colloquial terms, the states of India owe their existence to the Constitution of India i.e. Union of India. Our founding fathers consciously did not use the word ‘Federal’ and instead opted for the word ‘Union’ to make it clear that India is not explicitly federal in nature but it is implicit to be treated as one.
The revocation of special autonomous status meant that the previously autonomous state has been amalgamated to the Union of India in absolute terms. For Kashmir, this is beneficial since, due to their regressive and orthodox constitution, they were robbed-off the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights (of the Indian Constitution) and remedies available to a normal resident of the rest of the Indian states. With one jolt, India has lifted the orthodox veil and modernised the state with pluralistic secular democracy, reflecting the true will of Kashmiri people.
Historical Background –
The Kashmir dispute arose when India attained independence and started the process of integration of 565 princely states to form the ‘Union of India’. When Pakistan tried to illegally usurp the territory of J&K by invading militarily in the state, the King of J&K approached India for help against the invaders and promised to accede the state into the Union of India. In return, India promised the King the status of autonomy for a temporary period (via Article 370 of the Indian Constitution) until they formulate their own Constitutional mechanism. When the invasion of Pakistan got international attention, United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan was tasked to look into the matter. Based upon the reports of the Commission, UNSC Resolution 47 was passed in 1948 which called for unilateral withdrawal of Pakistan from the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) territory (of both Army and tribesmen), subsequent to which India shall be allowed to retain its troops to ensure that status quo is retained as existed before invasion by Pakistan. The question of plebiscite comes later. Pakistan never adhered to the very first condition of the truce agreement and rather expects India to leave the territory unilaterally. In 1956, the Constituent Assembly of J&K, expressing the legitimate will of the entire erstwhile Princely State of J&K specifically said that J&K is an integral part of India. It is tantamount to a plebiscite where the voice of the people is spoken through their constitution-makers.
On the other side, Pakistan has unilaterally gifted a big part of the territory of PoK (Trans-Karakoram tract of Kashmir) to China in 1963 without taking India into confidence. It has also maintained the PoK as a centrally administered unit with a farce administrative decentralization, hence, the demographic changes have been facilitated to dislocate the original inhabitants with Punjabis (Pakistan’s dominant state). The same idea of demographic change is being pushed across Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and other areas of Pakistan where there are seeds of dissent against the rogue state of Pakistan.
The era of terrorism –
Since 1947, Pakistan tried to militarily squash India in its quest to claim Kashmir from India because it reminded Pakistan of the complete dejection of ‘two-nation theory’ postulated by Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Founder of Pakistan), which said that Hindus and Muslims comprise of two different nations by every possible definition, therefore, the partition of undivided India into India and Pakistan is natural. The decision of Kashmir to accede to India was the defeat of the very ideological existence of Pakistan. Hence, Pakistan resorted to military aggression against India in 1947, 1965 and 1971 with the ideological base of ‘giving a thousand cuts to India’ for balkanisation of the Union of India (Qurban Ali Doctrine). Each time it tasted the dust in the most humiliating way possible. Later, it realised that it cannot engage India militarily. Hence, it resorted to the strategy of proxy wars in Kashmir and other parts of India since the late 1980s through terrorism.
The special autonomous status to J&K was explored as a vulnerability of the Indian state to be turned into an opportunity by Pakistan which unleashed terrorism in the Kashmir valley with secessionist motives. The then Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Chief Hamid Gul planned to promote terroristic violence in Kashmir by utilising the vulnerabilities of autonomy of Kashmir. India was forced to impose the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in 1990 to control the terrorists harming local citizens and administration.
To sow the seeds of secessionism, All Parties Hurriyat Conference (Tehreek-e-Hurriyat), a secessionist political force, was created by Pakistan in tandem with its western partners (with the help of US Ambassador to Pakistan Robin Raphel) in 1993. The nexus of Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Clinton’s White House through Robin Raphel and Dr. Maleeha Lodhi (Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States) became a cause of concern for India, not just for Kashmir separatism but for an increased cooperation between them in Afghanistan. India responded well with ‘ethical realism’ by allowing the free flow of democratic ideals through impartial and free elections in Kashmir reflecting the ‘real will’ of the Kashmiris.
The increased pace of terrorist violence saw its peak in 1999 when Pakistan invaded Kargil (part of J&K) with military force i.e. going back to the old military tactic. India repulsed the attack and forced the retreat of Pakistani forces in another war like a skirmish. The defeat at Kargil concretised Pakistan’s hard lessons that it cannot engage with India militarily, so it resorted to proxy war strategies again and it continues to do it till now.
The bluff of an ‘indeterminate threat’ –
Strategically speaking, to amalgamate a territory, it is advised to follow the rule of cartographic annexation; military expansion; diplomatic solution and; governance and development (essentially in that order). For seventy years, India messed up in both the chronology and the time allotment for each step. Since the late 1980s, a carefully cultivated ecosystem pushed for maintaining status quo in Kashmir by hyperbolising an ‘indeterminate threat’. Successive Prime Ministers fell for this bluff and failed to do the right thing.
The wheels of fortune turned in India’s favor with the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ‘iron will’ to undo the historical wrongs. He unclogged the wheels of fortune in Kashmir with a successive five-year strategy by placating all the stakeholders through social, political, economic and military tactics. By military tactics, it is meant that the security forces were allowed to use coercive instrumentalities against the terrorists who were terrorising the state residents through violent means. ‘Operation All-Out’ was launched against them for absolute annihilation. The secessionists were either co-opted or held accountable by the corruption cases in which they were found to be linked directly with the Pakistani state. The trust on Hurriyat turned at an all-time low with the expose of such cases and the luxurious lifestyle facilitated through the unethical embezzlement via state exchequer and politician-mafia nexus.
Another factor has played a crucial role in dealing with the ‘axis of evil’. Since the assumption of office of Prime Minister by Prime Minister Modi, the faux patriots/motivated pacifists have found that their voice is neither heard in 7 LKM (official residence of the Prime Minister) nor they have access to the state secrets anymore. They can speak as ordinary Indians, their voice will not be stifled but their ability to influence decisions is severely limited now. The Prime Minister gave voice to his security team and understood that the time has arrived to undo the aberrations that have been used by forces inimical to the progressive forces in the state of J&K and the rest of India.
The beginning of a new era –
As discussed above, the time is ripe for India to simultaneously push for a diplomatic solution and developmental objectives. An internal issue of India will be internationalised by Pakistan, or at least it will be tried as such. There should be unambiguous message to the international community that any dispute resolution on Kashmir is bound by the Shimla Agreement of 1972. Recently, the United Nations Secretary-General has also reminded both India and Pakistan to resolve the dispute bilaterally (as per the Shimla Agreement). The world should remember that the dispute is limited to the peaceful transfer of ‘Pakistan Occupied Kashmir’ for a merger with the state of Jammu and Kashmir (especially the region of Gilgit-Baltistan and Mirpur-Muzaffarabad) that decided to accede to India in 1947.
In respect of fulfilling the obligations of UNSC Resolution 47, it must be noted that with the demographic imbalance in PoK, it is evident that the question of a UN-mandated plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir stands defeated due to the absence of original population in the region illegally controlled by Pakistan through strongly coercive tactics.
With the lifting of veil of Article 370, the people of J&K have shown keen support to the idea of amalgamation because they have seen the rise of pluralist democracy and economic success in the rest of India with peace and prosperity for all in the country. They are jubilant to be a part of the mainstream and wish to disassociate themselves with the narrow associations of region and religion. It is incumbent upon Union of India and its people to welcome them with an open heart, as outlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is time for the accentuation of the developmental process, accommodation of social aspirations in policymaking and, acceptance of our Kashmiri brethren throughout the territory of India to further consolidate the model of an integrated and plural democratic India.
For all those who are skeptical about the sudden shift in Kashmir policy, probably, Brutus has an answer for them – “There is a tide in the affairs of men / Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”