Monday, August 5, 2019

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Is Pakistan drifting away from China?

By Kamran Yousaf

The positive vibes generated by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s maiden visit to the United States from July 21 to 23 are still being discussed both in Washington and Islamabad. While Imran hailed Trump’s ‘vision’ for the region in a recent high-powered meeting to review the outcome of his trip to Washington, President Donlad Trump also spoke about his ‘excellent’ interaction with the Pakistani prime minister.
The Trump-Imran apparent bonhomie has given many a reason to believe that both Pakistan and the US can still stitch together a cooperative relationship despite many divergences and mistrust. The issue that brought the two estranged allies once again on one platform is of course the Afghan endgame. The Trump administration, desperate to save some pride after 18 years of failed efforts to bring some semblance of stability in Afghanistan, is looking up to Pakistan for a bailout.
But Imran’s visit was not just about Afghanistan. The two countries are also discussing other areas of cooperation such as trade and business ties. Trump himself spoke about increasing trade to manifolds with Pakistan. There is no official word nor will anyone publicly say it but there are speculations that the Trump administration is ready to offer a ‘lucrative deal’ to Pakistan in return for rethink on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who complemented Saudi efforts in securing the White House invitation for Imran, is lobbying for free trade deal to Pakistan if it helps the US in bringing peace in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which already extended financial assistance to Pakistan, will pump in further investments in the country. But for that to happen, Pakistan may have to adjust its current foreign policy priorities particularly towards China.
The US opposition to China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative (BRI) is well known. Alice Wells, senior State Department official, told a group of journalists in Islamabad in April that the “US welcomes the infrastructure investment by China and by all countries so far it advances the prosperity of the countries involved.” The larger objective behind America’s opposition to BRI is to stop the rise of China as global power.
Of late there has been a debate in Pakistan that whether CPEC is mutually beneficial for the country. Those who take a critical view of CPEC claim that contracts signed with the Chinese companies were not favorable to Pakistan. On top of that the PM’s US visit has set off speculations that Pakistan may rebalance its ties with China. There was no official confirmation of this possible policy shift but it can’t be ruled out given how Pakistan often makes somersaults on the foreign policy front. There were many instances where Pakistan simply went for a short-term gain but lost sight of the bigger picture. We must learn from our history. Our policy of choosing sides in foreign relations has always come back to haunt us. The major flaw in our foreign policy has always been putting all eggs in one basket. When China announced billions of dollars of investment under CPEC few years back, we were boasting our ‘strategic partnership’ to tell the West, particularly the US, that we no more needed your support.
Now that the US has extended a “hand of friendship” to Pakistan, our romance with Washington is suddenly reignited. There is no point in getting blown away by Trump’s “charm offensive”. The government or the ones in charge of Pakistan’s foreign policy should avoid committing the past mistakes.
Reengagement with the US is certainly a positive development but that doesn’t mean Pakistan has to antagonise China. Pakistan can optimally use its geostrategic location to its advantage by maintaining friendly ties with both China and the US while without becoming a party to their power politics. It is certainly a difficult task but not an impossible one.

U.S. closely following events in Kashmir, expresses rights concerns: spokeswoman

The U.S. State Department said on Monday it was closely following events in Kashmir after India said it was revoking the special status of the territory and expressed concern about reports of detentions.
“We are concerned about reports of detentions and urge respect for individual rights and discussion with those in affected communities,” the department’s spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. “We call on all parties to maintain peace and stability along the Line of Control.”

Video Report - #KashmirTensions #Article370 - What's behind the decision to revoke the status of Indian administered Kashmir? | Inside Story

جموں و کشمیر کی خصوصی حیثیت کا خاتمہ۔

On Article 370, India hasn’t violated any international treaty. That’s why world won’t react

Expect furious media reactions, but as far as foreign governments go, all you will get is indifference or silence, and silence is acquiescence.

Two months back, the Narendra Modi government sent out feelers, quietly, to the global community on a possible move to scrap Section 35A of the Constitution, under which anyone who is not a state subject of Jammu and Kashmir cannot purchase property in the state.
I had spoken discreetly to several people across the world to gauge their reaction to this very question.
Surprisingly, the reactions were, without exception, muted and unconcerned, bordering on approval. Although the conversations were restricted to Article 35A, they led me to believe that the scrapping of Article 370 will elicit no real response from the international community, save rage in Pakistan and a pro-forma condemnation by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Why is that?

Modi did the groundwork

Clearly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was laying the ground for this momentous occasion when he spoke to Donald Trump at the Osaka G20 summit. He definitely did not ask for mediation, but he almost certainly informed him of the decision, although that clearly went awry. Trump’s restraint in not responding to a public denial by the Indian government meant that some kind of urgent communication had taken place and the US President was finally informed about the exact request. Clearly when asked again – he did offer to mediate if asked – he did not repeat that he was asked to mediate by Modi.
In many ways, the US reaction is not just the most important reaction, it’s the only real reaction that counts. This is because the western foreign policy media, dominated as it is by US thinking, is seldom divergent and will align its views to the US.
We saw this in Bosnia, for example, when Britain and France, initially sympathetic to the Serbs, changed their stance rapidly when the US decided it was on the side of the Bosniaks.
Similarly, most of the West lined up behind the US, despite private reservations about the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Whatever opposition there was remained merely vocal, despite the outrageous breach of international law.

No breach of law

This is significant, because what India has done is entirely constitutional. It is not a breach of any domestic law, nor is it a violation of any international treaty obligation. This means the opposition to it will be muted at best. Note how the US, UK, Germany, Australia and Israel all issued advisories (based on Indian government briefings) asking their citizens in Kashmir to leave. Clearly then, they knew what was coming, and made absolutely no public statements about it.
If someone opposes your actions, invariably they leak the said actions. This is what happened when an irate Bill Clinton leaked Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s confidential letter citing China as the main motivation behind the 1998 nuclear tests. Cumulatively, this seems to indicate that the West – or at least the Anglosphere – is on board with India’s plans. Moreover, US trade with India unlike 1998 is significantly greater now.
Does the US need Pakistan for a safe withdrawal from Afghanistan? Yes, but the problem is the terms of the said withdrawal were already negotiated by Imran Khan and Trump. Any attempt to tag Kashmir on to the price will be seen as an attempted renegotiation by Trump and will not go down well. In short, if Pakistan thinks it can play the Kashmir vs Afghanistan card with the US, the boat has sailed.

Most will follow US line

This also means Germany and other European countries too will fall in line, even if reluctantly. They after all have much bigger issues to manage back home and Britain, which was the only real worry given its large Pakistani expat population, is bogged down by Brexit. Focusing on Kashmir when it desperately seeks alternative partnerships in Europe, will not go down well with its electorate. Although we can expect Pakistani-origin MPs and possibly Jeremy Corbyn to make some noise, given their constituencies. However, this will not translate into official British policy.
France is unique in that it has mostly adopted an independent policy line. In this case, during the Rafale talks – delicate negotiations enabled a nuclear delivery capability on these aircraft – France had indicated its willingness to provide a veto on demand. This was one of the many concessions offered to India (including a prima facie violation of the NPT) to show that India was unique. Moreover, France led the defence of India at the UN Security Council during the 1998 nuclear tests. The India-France relationship is solid and France, for its part, will not jeopardise anything over some province that 99 per cent of the French people have never heard of, especially when such criticism would be seen as violating its implied sales pitch “Rafale = Strategic Autonomy”.

Who can create a problem?

The problem may arise from three quarters: an EU prone to posturing, Russia, and China. Here again, the EU can be safely ignored because the bilateral trade interests of the EU member states with India are so great that they can’t afford to outsource policy to the EU on this. Any EU protestations must be seen as purely superficial.
China, similarly, may protest, but that would open it up to comparisons with its actions in Tibet and Xinjiang that are far, far worse than India’s worst excesses.
As for Russia, we have on record, former ambassador to India Vyacheslav Trubnikov saying “the solution to Afghanistan lies through Kashmir”. Old and clueless Trubnikov is a known stooge of Putin’s Afghanistan point person Zamir Kabulov, who is anyway considered by the Indian establishment as being a compromised ISI stooge.  Given the large arms deals with Russia recently, it is highly unlikely that Putin will allow Kabulov to guide Kashmir policy and the fallback position will almost certainly be the USSR’s, which is that Kashmir is India’s problem or bilateral at best.
All up, expect furious media reactions, but as far as foreign governments go, all you will get is indifference or silence, and silence as they say is acquiescence.

#India - Modi govt had told US about plans to scrap Article 370 twice — last week and in February

On 1 August, Jaishankar briefed Pompeo in Bangkok, and in February, Doval spoke to his US counterpart Bolton on Modi govt's plans to revoke Article 370.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had briefed his American counterpart, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, about the Modi government’s intentions to abrogate Article 370 and Article 35A for Jammu and Kashmir, multiple sources have told ThePrint.
This, however, was not the first time that the US was briefed on this issue. In February, two days after the Pulwama attack, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had phoned his American counterpart John Bolton and told him about the Modi government’s plans to do away with the ‘special status’ for Jammu and Kashmir, sources told ThePrint.
The sources, however, said the decision to bifurcate the state came much later.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah Monday announced the move to scrap Article 370, which provides a special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and proposed the bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories through a fresh Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019. The bill proposes making Jammu and Kashmir a Union Territory with a legislature and Ladakh a separate Union Territory without an assembly.
Jaishankar’s meeting with Pompeo came on the sidelines of the ninth East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Bangkok on 1 August. At their meeting, Jaishankar had also reiterated to Pompeo that the US does not need to mediate in the Kashmir dispute and that any discussion on this issue, “if at all warranted”, will only be with Pakistan unilaterally.
The Modi government did not want to take a chance when it came to the US, and so all necessary safeguards were taken to apprise the Trump administration of the move, sources added.
Sources further said that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Monday briefed envoys of the P-5 nations: The US, the UK, China, France and Russia. It has also briefed envoys of all 15 members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
During its briefing to the envoys, the MEA said the proposals that are currently under consideration of the Parliament of India are internal to India.
“These are aimed at providing good governance, promoting social justice and ensuring economic development in Jammu and Kashmir,” stated a source.
“There has been no international reaction yet on this issue, which shows that India had done its calculations well in advance. And the US being an important and crucial member of the P-5, it is imperative to see how it reacts,” veteran diplomat K.C. Singh told ThePrint. “If it ignores the move, then perfect. If it does not, then India should be worried.”

Modi to meet Trump at G-7 summit

Following the J&K decision, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Trump, who has offered to mediate on the issue, will come face to face during the G-7 Summit, scheduled to take place on 24-26 August at Biarritz, France.
Modi is also set to hold a bilateral meeting with Trump in September when both leaders will be in the US for the UN General Assembly.
Last month, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said that it was time to “move on” from Trump’s controversial statement on US’ interest in mediating the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.
Trump, however, did it again. Last week, during a media briefing in Washington, the US president reiterated his offer to mediate on the issue.

کشمیر کی نیم خودمختار حیثیت ختم

بھارت  کی مرکزی حکومت نے پیر کو آئین کا آرٹیکل 370 ختم کر دیا جس کے بعد کشمیر کو حاصل خصوصی درجہ واپس لے لیا گیا ہے۔
وزیر داخلہ امِت شاہ نے آج راجیہ سبھا (بھارتی قومی اسمبلی) کے خصوصی اجلاس میں بتایا کہ صدر رام ناتھ کووند نے آرٹیکل 370 ختم کرنے کے حکم نامے پر دستخط کر دیے ہیں، جس کے بعد خطے کی خصوصی حیثیت آج ہی ختم ہو گئی ہے۔ اِمت شاہ نے ایوان میں کہا ’یہ قدم فوری طور پر نافذ العمل ہو گا۔‘
اس سے قبل بھارت نے کشمیر میں ہزاروں اضافی فوجی تعینات کرنے کے بعد آج صبح دفعہ 144 نافذ کر دی تھی اور تعلیمی اداروں اور مواصلاتی نظام بند کرنے سے اندازہ ہو رہا تھا کہ بھارت کچھ بڑی کارروائی کرنے جا رہا ہے۔
وزیر داخلہ امت شاہ نے کابینہ اجلاس سے قبل وزیر قانون شنکر پرساد اور این ایس اے اجت دوول کے ہمراہ وزیراعظم نریندر مودی سے ان کی رہائش گاہ پر ملاقات کی تھی، جس کے بعد یہ کہا جانے لگا تھا کہ امت شاہ کے خطاب کے بعد تمام تر صورتِ حال واضح ہو جائے گی اور ایسا ہی ہوا۔
واضح رہے کہ بھارتی آئین کے آرٹیکل 370 کی رُو سے جموں و کشمیر کی حدود سے باہر کسی بھی علاقے کا شہری، ریاست میں غیر منقولہ جائیداد کا مالک نہیں بن سکتا، یہاں نوکری نہیں کر سکتا اور نہ کشمیر میں آزادانہ طور پر سرمایہ کاری کر سکتا ہے۔
امت شاہ نے راجیہ سبھا میں خطاب کرتے ہوئے جموں اور کشمیر کو دو ٹکڑوں یعنی یونین ٹیریٹری آف لداخ اور یونین ٹیریٹری آف جموں اینڈ کشمیر میں تقسیم کرنے کا اعلان کیا۔
امت شاہ کا کہنا تھا ’جموں اور کشمیر کا ڈویژن لداخ ایک بہت بڑا علاقہ ہے جس کی آبادی کم ہے اور انتہائی دشوار گزار خطہ ہے۔ لداخ کے لوگوں کا ایک پرانا مطالبہ ہے کہ انہیں یونین ٹیریٹری کا درجہ دیا جائے تاکہ وہ اپنی خواہشات پر عمل پیرا ہو سکیں۔‘
انھوں نے مزید کہا کہ ’یونین ٹیریٹری آف لداخ مجلس قانون ساز کے بغیر ہوگی۔ ان کا کہنا تھا: ’موجودہ جموں اور کشمیر میں سرحد پار سے کشیدگی اور سکیورٹی کی اندرونی صورتحال کے پیش نظر جموں اور کشمیر کے لیے ایک علیحدہ یونین ٹیریٹری بنا دی گئی ہے۔ یونین ٹیریٹری آف جموں اینڈ کشمیر میں مجلسِ قانون ساز ہو گی۔‘
آرٹیکل 370 کے خاتمے کے حوالے سے کشمیریوں کو خدشہ تھا کہ اگر یہ دفعہ ختم ہوگئی تو کروڑوں کی تعداد میں غیر مسلم آباد کار یہاں آ کر ان کی زمینوں، وسائل اور روزگار پر قابض ہو جائیں گے۔
شاید یہی وجہ تھی کہ بھارت نے کسی بھی قسم کے احتجاجی مظاہروں سے نمٹنے کے لیے پہلے ہی وہاں موجود فوجیوں کی تعداد میں اضافہ کر دیا ہے۔
مسئلہِ کشمیر مزید پیچیدہ ہو گیا‘
پاکستان نے اس بھارتی قدم کی شدید مذمت کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ بھارت کا زیر انتظام کشمیرایک عالمی تسلیم شدہ متنازع علاقہ ہے۔
دفتر خارجہ کی جانب سے جاری بیان میں کہا گیا کہ چونکہ پاکستان اس عالمی مسئلے کا حصہ ہے لہذا وہ ’اس غیرقانونی اقدام کو روکنے کے لیے ہر ممکنہ آپشن استعمال کرے گا۔‘
پاکستان کے وزیر خارجہ شاہ محمود قریشی نے کہا: ’جس کا مجھے خدشہ تھا بھارت نے وہ حرکت کر دی۔ اس سے مسئلہِ کشمیر پہلے سے زیادہ پیچیدہ ہو گیا ہے۔‘
جموں و کشمیر پیپلز ڈیموکریٹک پارٹی کی صدر محبوبہ مفتی نے بھی ٹوئٹر پر اپنے ردعمل میں کہا: ’کشمیریوں نے بھارتی پارلیمان اور سپریم کورٹ پر بھروسہ کیا لیکن آج وہ ہارا ہوا محسوس کر رہے ہیں۔‘

Today the people of Jammu & Kashmir who reposed their faith in institutions of India like parliament & Supreme Court feel defeated & betrayed. By dismembering the state & fraudulently taking away what is rightfully & legally ours, they have further complicated the Kashmir dispute

2,784 people are talking about this

ایچ آر سی پی کا تشویش کا اعلان 
ہیومن رائٹس کمیشن پاکستان (ایچ آر سی پی) نے بھی بھارت کے زیر انتظام کشمیر کی آئینی حیثیت ختم کرنے کے بھارتی حکومت کے فیصلے پر گہری تشویش کا اظہار کیا ہے۔
کمیشن نے اپنے اعلامیے میں کہا ہے کہ بھارت کے زیر انتظام کشمیر میں فوج میں اضافہ اور شہریوں پر کرفیو جیسی پابندیاں مستقبل کی خوفناک صورت حال کی طرف اشارہ ہیں۔
اعلامیے میں کہا گیا ہے کہ موجودہ صورت حال لائن آف کنٹرول کے دونوں طرف رہنے والے کشمیریوں پر سنگین اثرات مرتب کرے گی جبکہ جنگ کا خطرہ بھی پیدا ہو گیا ہے۔
انسانی حقوق کمیشن کا کہنا تھا کہ ایل او سی پر فائرنگ کے تبادلے اور اس سے ہونے والے جانی نقصان میں اضافہ، خاص طور پر کلسٹر بموں کا استعمال، جس سے بچے بھی متاثر ہو رہے ہیں، انتہائی تشویش ناک ہے۔
انسانی حقوق کمیشن کے اعلامیے میں مزید کہا گیا ہے کہ بڑھتے ہوئے طوفان کے پیش نظر کنٹرول لائن کے دونوں طرف رہنے والے کشمیریوں کی سلامتی اور بنیادی حقوق داؤ پر لگ گئے ہیں۔ ’کشمیریوں کی سلامتی اور حقوق روندے نہیں جانے چاہییں۔ حقیقت میں علاقائی امن و استحکام کی جتنی ضرورت اس وقت ہے پہلے کبھی نہیں تھی۔‘
کمیشن نے مطالبہ کیا کہ انسانی حقوق کی عالمی تنظیمیں بھی اپنے علاقائی ساتھیوں کی صبر و تحمل سے کام لینے کی بلند آوازوں میں اپنی آواز بھی شامل کریں۔
آرٹیکل 35 اے کیا ہے؟
آرٹیکل 35 بھی انڈین آئین کی ایک شق ہے جس کے تحت جموں و کشمیر کی اسمبلی کو یہ اختیار حاصل ہے کہ وہ خود اپنے ’مستقل شہری‘ کی تعریف طے کرے۔ 1954 میں بھارتی صدر کے ایک حکم کے بعد آرٹیکل 35 اے کو آئین میں شامل کیا گیا تھا۔
اس آرٹیکل کے مطابق کوئی شخص صرف اسی صورت میں جموں و کشمیر کا شہری ہوسکتا ہے اگر وہ یہاں پیدا ہوا ہو۔
آرٹیکل 370 کیا ہے؟
بھارتی آئین کی اس شق کے مطابق ریاست جموں و کشمیر کو خصوصی حیثیت کا درجہ دیا گیا۔ جس کے تحت ریاست دفاع، امورِ خارجہ، مالیات اور مواصلات کے علاوہ باقی تمام امور میں خود مختار ہو گی۔ بھارتی آئین کے دیگر حصوں کا نفاذ ریاستی اسمبلی کے اتفاق ہی سے ہوسکے گا۔
اسی طرح اس قانون کے تحت ریاست کے شہریوں کو بھارت کے دیگر شہریوں سے مختلف حقوق حاصل ہیں، جس کی وجہ سے اس آرٹیکل کے تحت ریاست کے شہریوں کے علاوہ کوئی اور شخص یہاں غیر منقولہ جائیداد نہیں خرید سکتا۔  
آرٹیکل 370 کے تحت بھارتی صدر صرف جموں و کشمیر کی آئین ساز اسمبلی کی ایڈوائس پر ہی آرٹیکل 370 کو ختم کر سکتے ہیں۔ بھارت کے زیر انتظام کشمیر میں آئین ساز اسمبلی 1957 میں توڑ دی گئی تھی جس کی جگہ قانون ساز اسمبلی نے لے لی۔ گذشتہ سال بھارتیہ جنتا پارٹی (بی جے پی) اور کشمیر کی پیپلز ڈیموکریٹک پارٹی کے درمیان اتحاد ختم ہونے کے بعد قانون ساز اسمبلی برطرف کر دی گئی تھی۔
اہم بات یہ ہے کہ بھارتی صدر کے تازہ حکم میں آرٹیکل 370 میں موجود قانون سازاسمبلی کے لفظ کو گورنر جموں و کشمیر سے بدل دیا گیا ہے۔ اس طرح گورنر کی رضامندی کو ریاست کی رضامندی کے طور پر استعمال کیا گیا ہے۔ اس اقدام کو آنے والے دنوں میں بھارتی عدالت میں چیلنج کیا جا سکتا ہے۔
یہ نکتہ بھی اہمیت کا حامل ہے کہ پاکستان نے کشمیر کے بھارت کے ساتھ الحاق اور آرٹیکل 370 کو جموں و کشمیر پر بھارتی دعوے کی بنیاد کے طور پر کبھی تسلیم نہیں کیا۔ پاکستان کا مؤقف رہا ہے کہ کشمیر کے مہاراجہ ہری سنگھ نے پہلے پاکستان کے ساتھ معاہدہ کیا تھا اور کشمیر پر بھارت کا جبری قبضہ ریاست کی مسلم اکثریتی آبادی کی خواہشات کے خلاف ہے۔
اب کیوں؟
بھارتیہ جنتا پارٹی اپنے انتخابی منشور کے طور پر طویل عرصے سے آئین کے آرٹیکل 370 اور 35 اے کے خاتمے کی وکالت کرتی رہی ہے۔ بی جے پی کے مطابق: اس سے نمبر ایک جموں و کشمیر کو مکمل طورپر بھارت کا حصہ بنانے کی راہ ہموار ہوگی۔ نمبردو ریاستی شہریت کا قانون ختم ہونے سے غیرکشمیری وہاں جا کر رہائش اختیار کر سکیں گے اورانہیں ووٹ کا حق مل سکے گا۔ اس طرح ریاست میں مسلمانوں کی اکثریت ختم ہو جائے گی۔
بھارت میں عام انتخابات میں دوسری بار بھارتی اکثریت کے ساتھ کامیابی سے وزیراعظم نریندرمودی کو موقع مل گیا کہ وہ جموں و کشمیر کی قانون ساز اسمبلی جسے گذشتہ برس ختم کردیا گیا تھا، کے خیالات اور رائے کو خاطر میں لائے بغیر آگے بڑھیں اور آرٹیکل 370 کا خاتمہ کردیں۔
آئینی چیلنجز کیا ہیں؟
بھارت نواز کشمیری اور حزب اختلاف کی قیادت بھارتی حکومت کے تازہ اقدام کو آئین کی روح کے منافی قرار دے کر اسے سپریم کورٹ میں چیلنج کر سکتی ہے۔ یہ چیلنجز ممکنہ طور پر قانون ساز اسمبلی کی بجائے گورنر کی رضامندی سے آرٹیکل 370 کے خاتمے کے طریقہ کار کے گرد گھومیں گے۔
2018 میں بھارتی سپریم کورٹ نے کہا تھا کہ کئی برس گزارنے کے بعد آرٹیکل 370 کو مستقل حیثیت حاصل ہو چکی ہے جسے ختم کرنا ممکن نہیں رہا۔ اس سال جولائی میں بھارتی سپریم کورٹ نے ایک بار پھر کہا تھا کہ عدالت آرٹیکل 370 کے خلاف مفاد عامہ کے حوالے سے سماعت کرے گی۔ یہ معاملہ عدالت میں زیر التوا ہے۔

#India - #Jammu and #Kashmir: Now a territory of the Union

The move has triggered a debate among constitutional experts, with many experts asking if Article 367 can indeed be amended through a presidential order.
In a move planned with political and legal precision, and complete suspense, the central government led a move in the Rajya Sabha on Monday to end the special status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). By the end of the day, Article 370 and Article 35A, which have, for close to seven decades, defined the state’s relationship with the Union, were effectively rendered null and void.
It also pushed through a bill in the Rajya Sabha to reorganise the state. J&K has now been bifurcated; Jammu and Kashmir will be a Union Territory (UT) with a legislature; and Ladakh will be a separate UT without a legislature. The resolutions are to be tabled in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, where the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has an overwhelming majority.
The move came after a week of intense security build-up in the state — additional paramilitary troops were deployed, the Amarnath Yatra was cut short, tourists and non-Kashmiri students were advised to leave, Kashmiri leaders, including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, were detained, internet and phone connections were suspended, and movement severely curtailed. The actions caused panic in the Valley and prompted speculation about whether the government was pre-empting a terror threat from across the border, or seeking to bring in drastic legislative changes.
Monday provided the answer.
The day began with a Cabinet meeting at 9.30am at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence in New Delhi’s Lok Kalyan Marg. Union home minister Amit Shah then headed to Parliament, where he began speaking in the Rajya Sabha at 11am. While Opposition leaders first sought a response to the unfolding situation in the Valley and the detention of Kashmiri leaders, Shah said he would address all the concerns.
He then moved four motions. The first was the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019, which superseded the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of 1954. The 1954 order gave rise to Article 35A, which defined and prioritised permanent residents. The order also enabled all provisions of the Indian Constitution to be applied to Kashmir. With this, not only was the supremacy of the Indian Constitution and its laws reinforced, but the special provisions which gave the state a distinct constitutional identity, removed.
The order also added a clause to Article 367 of the Constitution — whereby it said that references to the Government of Jammu and Kashmir would be construed as the governor of the state (acting on the advice of a council of ministers); and the reference to the constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir of Article 370 would now read legislative assembly of the state.
The second was a statutory resolution to recommend to the President to issue a notification, using clause 3 of Article 370, to declare that all clauses of Article 370 would cease to be operative and that all provisions of the Indian Constitution would apply to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.Clause 3 empowered the President to do so, but only on the recommendation of the constituent assembly (CA) of Jammu and Kashmir. This was overcome by the earlier order, which replaced the CA with the state legislature, and empowered the governor.Together, these two moves mean that J&K will no longer have its own flag and own constitution; Indian laws — from the penal code to property and taxation — will now be applicable. It also paves the way for citizens from the rest of the country to be able to exercise rights to move, settle, and purchase property in J&K.
Shah then introduced the Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganisation) Bill, 2019. The new Ladakh UT will include Leh and Kargil districts; and the remaining districts of the state will constitute the J&K UT. The final bill was the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Second Amendment) Bill 2019, which enabled reservations for economically weaker sections to be extended to the state.
Shah’s proposals caused a massive stir in the House and outside. The treasury benches erupted with applause and cheers, and its supporters outside lauded Prime Minister Narenda Modi and Shah’s courage for fulfilling a key ideological goal and manifesto promise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to integrate the state fully into the nation. Jitendra Singh, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, said, “This will be known as the day of redemption, as the day of rejuvenation.”
But the Opposition was not pleased. A furious Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and a former CM of J&K, led the charge for the Congress: “In my political life, I had never even imagined that the state which is India’s crown, one day that head will be chopped off.” He warned that the move would not integrate, but in fact had laid the foundations for disintegration.The move also provoked howls of outrage from Pakistan, which has fought four wars with India and continues to engage in a shadow war in Kahsmir with the use of terrorists. It asked the Indian government to “halt and reverse” its decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, contending such a unilateral step cannot change the state’s status as an “internationally recognised disputed territory”.Foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood summoned Indian envoy Ajay Bisaria to the foreign ministry to convey a “strong demarche” or formal diplomatic representation on actions taken by India.The response from Kashmir was strong too. With most of the state under a blackout, little information percolated out. But former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted, “GOI’s intention is clear & sinister. They want to change demography of the only Muslim majority state in India, disempower Muslims to the extent where they become second class citizens in their own state.” Another former CM, Omar Abdullah, said, “Government of India (GOI)’s unilateral and shocking decisions today are a total betrayal of the trust that the people of Jammu & Kashmir had reposed in India when the state acceded to it in 1947. The decisions will have far-reaching and dangerous consequences. This is an aggression against people of the State as had been warned by an all-parties meeting in Srinagar yesterday.”
But the government sought to allay apprehensions. “Article 370 is the biggest hurdle to normalcy in the state,” Shah said, promising to make J&K among the most developed states in India.
The Opposition fractured in Parliament. Congress’s own chief whip in the house, Bhubaneshwar Kalita, resigned from the party disagreeing with its position on Article 370. The Bahujan Samaj Party and the Aam Aadmi Party, in surprise moves, backed the government — as did the Telangana Rashtriya Samithi, Biju Janata Dal, YSR Congress Party, and AIADMK, among others. One hundred and twenty-five MPs voted in favour of the Reorganisation Bill, while only 61 voted against it.
The move has triggered a debate among constitutional experts, with many experts asking if Article 367 can indeed be amended through a presidential order. Mohan Parasaran, a senior advocate and a former solicitor general of India, noted, “An amendment to the Constitution may only be done by recourse to Article 368 by introducing a Bill, in that regard, in the Parliament and being passed in both the houses by a majority of 2/3rd of its members present and voting and thereafter the Bill receiving the assent of the President. As the amendment to Articles 367 and 370 are the fulcrum of the Presidential Order, question may arise as to whether such amendments can be made through a circuitous manner without resort to Article 368 and whether such an Order would suffice in light of the spirit behind Article 370.”
But beyond the legal complexities — and there are indeed complexities which could well end up seeing a challenge in court — the government’s move on Monday on Kashmir was fundamentally political. Over the next few days and weeks, observers will closely track developments in Delhi but also more importantly Kashmir, where the response has remained muted because of the clampdown. Observers believe that managing the fallout in the Valley will now be the government’s next big challenge.