By Dr Subhash Kapila
In a historically significant revocation of Special Provisions of Article 370 and Article 35A applicable to State of Jammu & Kashmir on August 05 2019 by a Presidential Proclamation followed by passage of J&K State Reorganisation Bill 2019 by both Houses of Parliament with overwhelming majorities, India signalled a paradigm shift in the assertion of its newfound geopolitical power and India also finally shedding its decades old diplomatic timidity and insipid domestic political dynamics.
India’s destiny had left this historical challenge to achieve full and undiluted integration of the State of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh (already integrated but with Special Provisos) to the hands of BJP’s indomitable PM Narendra Modi and his irredoutable Home Minister Amit Shah.
India’s moves on Kashmir in August2019 were not impulsive decisions by the Modi Government but a calculated and well scripted strategy which shell- shocked Pakistan and China especially, and Major Powers, by its suddenness and high-level secrecy maintained till final execution. It was Statecraft of an excellent high order exhibited by PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.
Politically shocked beyond belief was India’s prominent Congress Party which had perpetuated the charade of Kashmir being a Special Entity by PM Nehru and his successor Prime Ministers. This explains the rabid and intemperate outbursts of senior and seasoned Congress leaders who had for decades thrived politically on Muslim captive vote-banks. Suddenly, the political rug was pulled from under their feet as the Kashmir Valley political dynasties are displaced in the emerging political dynamics.
The crucial question then contextually arises is that what factors made PM Modi indulge in what ordinarily would have appeared as a big diplomatic and domestic politics gamble?
The short answer before a more detailed analysis is undertaken is that PM Modi and his trusted policy advisers took into account the two milieus of global geopolitical environment and India’s own domestic political dynamics post-General Elections 2019 in which India returned BJP PM Narendra Modi with majority figures far surpassing the 2014 figures of BJP Members of Parliament.
Global geopolitical environment in 2019 stood decidedly in India’s favour as PM Modi had crafted it so to India’s advantage in his first term as BJP Prime Minister 2014-19 by his personal diplomacy and political acumen in world capitals. India stood recognised as an Emerged Power with its national power attributes both existent and its potential, backed by its global reputation as a responsible and benign stakeholder in regional and global affairs and issues. This was in marked contrast to the reputation of Pakistan and its strategic patron China—both expected to oppose India’s moves on Kashmir and both having scant respect for global conventions.
Geopolitically, with no Cold War arithmetic in play in 2019, the Kashmir Issue had lost its relevance in Major Power capitals. This was a fact that recently was aired by no other than a former Pakistani Ambassador to India in his Column. Today this seems to have been echoed by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Qureshi in press conference in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. He opined that Pakistanis should have no high expectations that Pakistan will be supported in the UN Security Council on the Kashmir issue.
In terms of India’s domestic political dynamics, the General Elections 2019 signalled that India had overwhelmingly voted in favour of PM Modi and his leadership of the BJP Government based on their first term achievements. By giving a big majority in its own right to BJP, India signalled that it expected PM Modi to fulfil its Election Manifesto pledges of abrogation of Articles 370 and35A and ensure full integration of the Jammu and Kashmir State. India also strongly reposed faith in PM Modi that he was the Indian political leader who could give shape and substance to India’s aspirational goals befitting its Subcontinental size and abundance of power attributes.
In 2019, India’s political dynamics stood characterised by two significant characteristics—India’s Opposition Parties stood electorally decimated and similarly that India politically would provide no weightage to minority appeasement policies of Congress and the so called secularists’ parties. India’s political Opposition Parties stood hopelessly fragmented unable to provide effective and united opposition to Government policies and legislations.
In my assessment, these twin factors of India-favourable global geopolitical environment and India’s political dynamics post General Elections 2019 emboldened PM Modi to entrust the spearheading of the moves to abrogation of Articles 370 and 3A and the national security imperatives to reorganise the State into two separate Union Territories of Jammu& Kashmir and Ladakh as a distinct Union Territory. Both these entities would now function under direct control of New Delhi for effective and firm security management.
India would have also calculated that an economically bankrupt Pakistan with turbulence on its frontiers could hardly be expected to generate major security headaches for India’s security should Article 379 be revoked. The heavy deployment of Indian security forces in Kashmir Valley in any case would be capable of credibly thwart Pakistan’s military adventurism.
India’s national security interests impelled this challenging move as the Kashmir Valley which is the only predominant Kashmiri Muslim majority segment of the Jammu & Kashmir State had become the focal target of Pakistan Army’s dual strategy of incessant border skirmishes, fire-fights and artillery duels coupled with targeted killings of security personnel including those hailing from Kashmir Valley, by Pak ISI backed and financed Wahhabi radicalised Kashmiri youth.
In recent years Kashmir Valley ceased to be a political problem but emerged as a national security challenge to India’s sovereignty and National Honour. The Kashmir Valley stood out in Pakistan-generated turbulence in comparison to the relatively peaceful environment of the much larger Jammu Region and Ladakh Regions, even though both these regions had sizeable Muslim population but not Kashmiri Muslims. These two Regions comprising two thirds or more of the entire Jammu & Kashmir State had no sympathies for Pakistan.
External opinionated media like BBC and Al Jazeera, New York Times and Washington Post and some functionaries in foreign capitals policy establishments conveniently overlook these significant contextual strategic realities to buttress their Pakistani-supplied anti-India narratives. Ironically, such media and India’s Congress Party and the superficial Lutyen’s Delhi glitterati feed off each other in terms of fake news on Kashmir Valley. What forces are behind such diabolical moves?
Be as it may, India under Modi Government has not been deterred to secure India’s national security challenges posed by Pakistan or India’s own Pakistan-apologists abounding in India’s Congress Party and the so-called liberalist intelligentsia whom bulk of India derisively views as unconnected with New India’s realities, confined as they are to drawing rooms of Lutyen’s Delhi.
Contextually therefore, with the global geopolitical environment being favourably disposed to India and the complete mastery of the Modi Government over India’s domestic political dynamics, pushing through the Presidential Proclamation, revoking Article 370 of the Constitution and passage of the J&K State reorganisation Bill 2019 through both Houses of Parliament with overwhelming majority turned out to be not a very difficult task.
It must be noted that in the Rajya Sabha where BJP is short of majority by six seats, the passage of the Bill by a wide majority indicated that the BJP Government received political support from the other side of the aisles. Many of Congress Party allies either voted for the Government or abstained making the task of the Modi Government that much earlier.
Globally, the Major Powers and even Major Islamic Countries have accepted the reality that India has acted within the purview of the Indian Constitution in revocation of Article 370 pertaining to Jammu & Kashmir State and its bifurcation into two Union Territories. Globally, the predominant view is that it is an internal matter of India.
Complete and undiluted integration of the Jammu and Kashmir State into the Indian Union is now an established fact and an irreversible one at that. Any puerile debates on rolling back integration of Jammu & Kashmir State with Indian Union by doomsday soothsayers, both external and within India, can only break their foreheads on the emerged reality following Article 370 revocation.
Within India, the most rabid objections and comments opposing the Government’s decisions, more akin to those emanating from Pakistan, are forthcoming from the Congress Dynastic heirs and their acolytes. Within the Congress the younger generation of Congress leaders have openly supported the revocation of Article 370. The new Interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi has seemingly not reined-in what perceptionaly appears to Indian public as pro-Pakistan and anti-Indian elements within the Congress hierarchy.
However, the Parliament voting pattern clearly indicates that Congress Party stands politically isolated on issue of Article 379 revocation. Politically, therefore, Congress outbursts are denting Congress Party’s image and will impact its prospects in next General Elections 2024.
Moving on, one must also ponder as to the likely follow-up developments in the wake of full integration of the State into the Indian Union and the first factor requiring review is as to how will developments in the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh unfold in coming months. The Jammu Region and the Ladakh Region have always been opposed to what I would term as ‘Kashmir Valley Kashmiri Muslim-centric Imperialism’ which always stood discriminated in terms of economic development and Government jobs. Revocation of Article 370 stands widely welcomed by people of both these Regions. For them, this is the ‘Real Azadi’( Real Freedom) from Kashmir Valley imperialism inflicted on them for last six decades or more.
Kashmir Valley remains under tight security restrictions obviously to pre-empt Islamic Jihadis from Pakistan and their Valley cohorts raising their ugly terrorism heads again. This template is likely to continue for quite some time till the politically displaced Valley political dynasties and the Separatists coe to accept the reality that Kashmir Valley is not the centre of political gravity of the new Union Territory. Restiveness and sporadic incidents are likely to occur but well within the capabilities of security forces to manage.
The Election Commission has commenced the task of delimitation of new electoral constituencies’ after reorganisation. With delimitation the artificial electoral predominance of the Kashmir Valley by disenfranchising Jammu refugees from Pakistan and Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Cases will bring balance in the Jammu& Kashmir Union Territory. This possibly could displace existing electoral arithmetic to disadvantage of Kashmir Valley.
With speedy massive economic development plans in the New Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh on the anvil, even the Kashmir Valley populace long fed on false Pakistani narratives on Kashmir will see the advantages of full integration with India. Jammu Region and Ladakh Region have welcomed undiluted integration with India.
Pakistan will not cease its disruptive strategies directed at the Kashmir Region. In absence of Pakistan making headway globally on the Kashmir issue, Pakistan would be tempted to intensify border skirmishes, fire-fights and artillery duels all across the Line of Control to grab international attention. In tandem, Pakistan will attempt to resuscitate its Jihadi terrorism assets within Kashmir Valley more forcefully.
In terms of conflict escalation, Pakistan is well aware that any intensification of its disruptive strategies against India carries the risk of spiralling into a full-blown all-out major war. Can Pakistan which is on brink of economic collapse and minus credible external countervailing power to bail it out, risk a major conventional war with India?
Concluding, it is necessary to emphasise once again that India’s blueprint to assert its geopolitical power and dispense with India’s traditional timidity in diplomacy and politics also incorporates all operational plans and contingency plans to credibly defeat any military challenges thrown by Pakistan , whether conventional war, hybrid war, proxy terrorism or any other military adventurism. Historically, the moment has come when Pakistan must learn to accept prevailing geopolitical and strategic realities. It is also the moment when India’s main Congress Opposition Party with miniscule presence in Parliament learns to respect that its decades old flawed narratives on Kashmir stand rejected in General Election 2019.