Lt. Gen. (retd) Prakash Chand Katoch
(The author is Distinguished Fellow, United Service Institution of India. The article is in special arrangement with South Asia Monitor)
In a historic decision on August 5, India repealed Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories: Ladakh - without a legislature, to be ruled by the Centre (like Chandigarh, Lakshadweep, Andaman & Nicobar), and J&K - with a legislature (like Delhi). The procedure followed was democratic and the announcement to this effect was made in Parliament after the President had formalized it, by signing the Constitution (application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019. The Constitution of India is now applicable to both these newly created Union Territories.
When Article 370 was promulgated more than six decades back, then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru hadn’t followed the democratic route. Nehru also made the strategic blunder in 1948 of declaring unilateral ceasefire when Pakistani infiltrators were on the run, and sought UN intervention in Kashmir. This created Pakistan Occupied J&K (PoJK) and gave Pakistan a border with China it never had. Article 370 severely restricted rights of migrants, including denying right of franchise, and anyone outside J&K could not buy land or settle there.
For the Pakistan army to keep a stranglehold on Pakistan, conflict with India and Afghanistan is essential. The Pakistani army has not won a single war but has made terrorism its primary tool. Pakistan mistook recent remarks by US President Donald Trump for mediation on Kashmir and increased hostilities against India; cross-border firing, infiltration attempts and border action teams (BAT), which comprise regulars and terrorists.
Due to J&K’s special status and border with Pakistan, the two main political parties of J&K developed links with terrorists and ISI and amassed wealth, including through the terror industry. The National Conference (NC) was complicit in ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits, while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is firmly linked to the Pakistan-based Hijbul Mujahideen. When PDP won the J&K elections, Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Saeed publicly thanked Pakistan for his win. Through these links and with Hurriyat separatists, Pakistan has radicalized five out of 22 districts of J&K. When scores of Ladakhis died in a major mudslide, the government hospital at Leh didn’t have a mortuary because State government had not released funds, despite repeated requests over years.
India’s sudden announcement on August 5 stunned Pakistan, J&K politicians and the opposition. Pakistan dubbed India’s move to reorganize J&K ‘illegal’. But Pakistan doesn’t realize that India has not changed the constitutional status of J&K which became part of India when, in the wake of the Pakistani invasion post-Independence, the Maharaja of J&K signed the Instrument of Accession to make J&K a part of India. The only ‘disputed’ part since then is PoJK. In PoJK, Pakistan ceded Shaksgam to China, officially, and Gilgit-Baltistan unofficially to China for 50 years as per media reports of 2012.
Interestingly, a Pakistani TV channel termed the Indian move a slap by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the cheek of Trump. The US State Department statement on August 5 implicitly gave its nod to India revoking J&K’s special status, noting that India has described these actions as strictly an internal matter. There was no mention of Pakistan. This came as a jolt to Pakistan, which was linking Kashmir with Pakistani support to US in Afghanistan. Pakistan is now taking the issue to OIC but the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, had categorically stated in February this year that Pakistan’s narrative on Kashmir is not acceptable. However, despite the ‘Wuhan Spirit’, China has said that union territory status of Ladakh is not acceptable. Therefore, some mischief by China may be on the cards.
Pakistan PM Imran Khan has talked of rising tension amidst nuclear states, Pakistan says all options are being considered, and their army chief has said the army will support Kashmir in every possible way, which they have been doing for decades. Pakistan can be expected to up the ante on terror but any misadventure by Pakistan will be suitably responded to by India. Pakistan cannot afford a major confrontation unless it is destined to split, like losing East Pakistan in 1971. Nuclear engagement is out because Pakistan in such a case will cease to exist.
J&K politicians are angry because their cozy, corrupt kingdoms are disturbed. The charge that Kashmiris are de-franchised because J&K is now a union territory is wrong. Not only can they cast votes for the legislature, Home Minister Amit Shah has already said that full statehood for J&K would be considered at an appropriate time. China changed the demography of Tibet by overwhelming six million Tibetans with seven million Han Chinese. Pakistan has done similarly by moving millions of outsiders into PoJK, already reducing the Shia population from 70% to 50%.
The Indian move will bring investments in J&K and Ladakh, opening avenues for employment, which were denied to J&K because of its special status. An investors’ summit is scheduled in J&K later this year by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), under the aegis of J&K State Administration Council. Disruption of development activities by Pakistan would imply they want Kashmir radicalized and impoverished as they have done to Pakistan. (IANS)