INDIAN government has revoked the special status of occupied Kashmir through a presidential decree. Bypassing the usual procedure of amending the constitution through an Act of Parliament, Indian President signed a decree on 05 August, abolishing Article-370 of the constitution giving special autonomy to Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK). It has also been decided to split the state into two union territories, Jammu & Kashmir with a legislature and Ladakh will be ruled directly by the central government without a legislature. “The entire constitution will be applicable to Jammu and Kashmir State,” Home Minister Amit Shah said, ending the occupied territory’s rights to make its own laws. The step would also mean revocation of a bar on property purchases by people from outside the state. The revoked Article had also reserved state government jobs for residents, as well as college places, in an effort to keep the state from being overrun by people from the rest of India.
India is in a state of visible panic over President Trump’s reiteration for mediating over Kashmir dispute. Fresh deployment of 38000 paramilitary troops, use of cluster munition across the Line of Control and sudden cancellation of Amaranth Yatra coupled with a spate of government orders taking stock of the food and other essential items in Kashmir has created a massive fear psychosis. One cannot rule out the possibility of India executing a false flag operation resulting into mass casualties of yatris and tourists, and blaming Pakistan for it. India has a notorious track record of such false flag operations.
Associated Press has reported that “government order in Indian-administered Kashmir on Friday [August 02] asked tourists and Hindu pilgrims visiting a Himalayan cave shrine “to curtail their stay”, citing security concerns and intensifying tensions following India’s announcement it was sending more troops to the region”. Kashmir’s Home Secretary said in the order that the pilgrims and tourists should “curtail their stay in the (Kashmir) Valley immediately and take necessary measures to return as soon as possible.” The order cited “prevailing security situation” and the “latest intelligence input of terror threats with specific targeting” of the annual Hindu pilgrimage as reasons for the advisory. The Great Exodus is in the making.
The reports of a further surge in troop deployment has met with criticism in India. Former IoK Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti twittered that “Today marks the darkest day in Indian democracy. Decision of J&K leadership to reject two-nation theory in 1947 and align with India has backfired. Unilateral decision of government of India to scrap Article 370 is illegal and unconstitutional which will make India an occupational force in J&K.” “We had an agreement with India but by repealing it, India has turned Kashmir into an Israel-like illegal occupation,” Mufti said in an audio message shared on Twitter. The move, she added, will have “catastrophic consequences for the subcontinent”. There is “complete chaos on the streets of Srinagar. People rushing to ATMs, petrol pumps and stocking up on essential supplies. Is GOI only concerned about the safety of yatris while Kashmiris have been left to their own devices?” she tweeted. Another former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said: “Although this unprecedented order would seem to suggest a genuine fear of a massive terror strike directed at Amarnath ji yatris or/and tourists this will do nothing to dampen the sense of fear and foreboding that prevails in the valley at the moment.” Both are now under house arrest.
Much to the dismay of Modi, the US President Donald Trump has reiterated his offer to mediate between Pakistan and India on Kashmir. India is averse to the idea of mediation. Trump also said he reckons the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India “are fantastic people” and “could get along very well”. Trump made the disclosure during a meeting with Imran Khan on July 23 that he would be glad to play mediator between Pakistan and India on Kashmir. While Islamabad had welcomed the US President’s offer, New Delhi was quick to flatly repudiate Trump’s disclosure. Modi has since been keeping a mum despite calls from the Opposition for a clarification or denial. And under pressure from Hindu extremists of his party, he has now resorted to the madness of presidential decree.
Analysts opine that Modi is silent because he did request Trump to mediate. Modi is troubled by the Kashmir freedom struggle that is now taking a toll on the Indian economy. While India was in a state of denial, Trump’s Chief Economic Adviser on 24 July, rejected the suggestion that the US President had “made up” the claim. “The president does not make anything up,” Larry Kudlow told a reporter at a White House briefing. And when the debate on Trump’s disclosure started to die down in India, President Trump reiterated his Kashmir mediation offer on 01 August that he would intervene if the leadership of the two countries “required him to do so”. “If negotiated – a peace deal between India and Pakistan would be a great diplomatic achievement for President Trump, making him closer to Nobel Peace Prize.
Kashmir solution is now, somehow, linked to Pakistan’s ability to help the US negotiate a peaceful exit from Afghanistan. China and Turkey have also expressed their support to Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir. Now, if Pakistan wins over Russia, it would result in UNSC consensus as France and the UK would ultimately tow American line. Hence, chances of a multilateral negotiation mechanism under P-5 umbrella would brighten. Time is running out for India in the context of Kashmir issue, and in desperation, it could go to any length to regain the handle. Pakistan has a reasonable stock of options. And complacency is not an option.
—The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.