Friday, August 9, 2019
By VINDU GOEL
Kashmir, a mountainous valley that borders Pakistan and India, has been a center of conflict between the two nuclear-armed countries since the 1947 partition of British India.
At the time of the partition, the British agreed to divide their former colony into two countries: Pakistan, with a Muslim majority, and India, with a Hindu majority. Both nations covet Kashmir, which is Muslim majority, and occupy portions of it with military forces.
For decades, an uneasy stalemate has prevailed, broken by occasional military incursions, terrorist attacks and police crackdowns. But on Monday, the Indian government decided to permanently incorporate the territory it controls into the rest of India.
The administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked Article 370 of the Indian constitution, a 70-year-old provision that had given autonomy to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which includes the Hindu-majority area of Jammu and the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley.
The government also introduced a bill to strip the region of statehood and divide it into two parts, both under direct control of the central government.
But Mr. Modi, a Hindu nationalist, had campaigned for re-election in part by stoking patriotic fervor against Muslim-led Pakistan. He promised the full integration of Kashmir, a cause which his party has championed for decades, and now he is delivering on that pledge.
Pakistan condemned India’s moves. Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, called on President Trump to follow through on an offer he made two weeks ago to mediate the Kashmir dispute.
What are the roots of the conflict?
In 1947, the sudden separation of the area into Pakistan and India prompted millions of people to migrate between the two countries and led to religious violence that killed hundreds of thousands.
Controlled by Pakistan
LINE OF CONTROL
Controlled by India
By Scott Reinhard
Left undecided was the status of Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority state in the Himalayas that had been ruled by a local prince. Fighting quickly broke out, and both countries eventually sent in troops, with Pakistan occupying about one-third of the state and India two-thirds.
The prince signed an agreement for the territory to become part of India. Regional autonomy, which was formalized through Article 370, was a key inducement.
Michael Benanav for The New York Times
Despite efforts by the United Nations to mediate the Kashmir dispute, India and Pakistan continue to administer their portions of the former princely territory while hoping to get full control of it. Troops on both sides of the so-called “line of control” regularly fire volleys at each other.
Muslim militants have frequently resorted to violence to expel the Indian troops from the territory. Pakistan has backed many of those militants, as well as terrorists who have struck deep inside India — most brutally in a four-day killing spree in Mumbai in 2008, which left more than 160 people dead.
What is Article 370?
Article 370 was added to the Indian constitution shortly after the partition of British India to give autonomy to the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir until a decision was made about its rule. It limited the power of India's central government over the territory. A related provision gave state lawmakers the power to decide who could buy land and be a permanent resident -- a provision that irked many non-Kashmiris.
Although it was intended to be temporary, Article 370 says that it can only be abrogated with the consent of the legislative body that drafted the state constitution. That body dissolved itself in 1957, and India's Supreme Court ruled last year that Article 370 is therefore a permanent part of the constitution.
The Modi government disagrees and says the president of India, who is beholden to the ruling party, has the power to revoke the article.
Why did the conflict heat up this year?
The immediate cause was the Feb. 14 suicide bombing by a young Islamic militant, who blew up a convoy of trucks carrying paramilitary forces in Pulwama in southern Kashmir.
Controlled by Pakistan
LINE OF CONTROL
JAMMU AND KASHMIR
Controlled by India
By Scott Reinhard
Indian aircraft responded to that attack by flying into Pakistan and firing airstrikes near the town of Balakot. The Indian government claimed it was attacking a training camp for Jaish-e-Mohammed, the terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the bombing.
The next day, Pakistani and Indian fighter jets engaged in a skirmish over Indian-controlled territory, and Pakistani forces downed an Indian aircraft — an aging Soviet-era MiG-21 — and captured its pilot. It was the first aerial clash between the rivals in five decades.
Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, was elected last year with the backing of his country’s powerful military, and he wants to show that he can stand up to India, even as his country’s economy is so weak that he sought bailouts from Saudi Arabia and China.
Will the United States and other
global powers get involved?
On July 22, Mr. Trump hosted Mr. Khan at the White House. Although the meeting was focused on how to end the war in Afghanistan, Mr. Trump told reporters that Mr. Modi had asked him to help mediate the Kashmir dispute. Mr. Khan welcomed his involvement. The Indian government denied making any mediation request and has long insisted on direct negotiations with Pakistan to resolve the dispute.
Under Mr. Trump, American foreign policy has shifted away from Pakistan, a longtime recipient of American aid, toward India, which the administration views as a bulwark against China’s rising influence in Asia.
China, meanwhile, has become a close ally and financial patron of Pakistan. The Chinese government recently urged India and Pakistan to settle their conflicts through bilateral discussions. China shares a border with Jammu and Kashmir state, and India and China still do not agree on the demarcation line.
What is likely to happen next?
The constitutional changes, issued through a presidential order, could face legal challenges. Last year, India’s Supreme Court ruled that Article 370 could not be abrogated because the state-level body that would have to approve the change went out of existence in 1957.
“My view is that this presidential notification is illegal,” said Shubhankar Dam, a law professor at the University of Portsmouth in Britain and the author of a book on executive power in India. “The question is one of jurisdiction: Does the government of India have the power to do this?”
Pakistan, for its part, said it will “exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps” taken by India.
Mr. Modi’s moves to integrate Kashmir into India are likely to be popular in much of the country. But there is widespread panic in Kashmir, where there have been decades of protests against Indian rule.
By Maria Abi-Habib
The dispute over Kashmir has long been a flash point between India and Pakistan, with each nuclear-armed country holding the threat of retaliation over the other. But when India stripped the Indian-controlled region of Kashmir of its autonomy this week, Pakistan’s reaction appeared to be limited to high-level hand-wringing.
As Pakistan marks its independence day next week, it increasingly feels like a nation with its back against the wall, with few options to protect its existential interests. Its economy is teetering on the brink of collapse, and its international allies have either stayed silent over Kashmir or defected in support of India.
A conventional military reaction is probably too costly as Pakistan seeks to shore up its finances. And one of the most effective strategies Pakistan has traditionally employed — using an array of militant groups as proxies to keep neighbors in check — has become a liability, amid the threat of international sanctions. (Pakistan has denied that it uses militant groups to achieve its foreign policy objectives.)
“The economy is hindering Pakistan’s options. As they head to a recession, can they really afford a war right now?” said Arif Rafiq, the president of Vizier Consulting, a consulting firm on South Asian political and security issues. “Their capacity to bear the cost of a full-fledged conflict with India over Kashmir, whether via insurgent networks or conventionally — there just are not a lot of options Pakistan has.”
Even Afghan Taliban leaders, who have long been sheltered in Pakistan, seem to have turned their backs on their ally of late.
Last year, in an effort to end its global isolation, Pakistan agreed to help the United States end its war in Afghanistan by delivering the Taliban leadership to the table for peace talks. In doing so, Pakistan employed one of its greatest sources of leverage with the United States. Those talks are now nearing a conclusion, with American negotiators sitting across the table from their Taliban counterparts and aiming to reach a settlement soon.
In recent days, several Pakistani government officials have demanded that their country end its cooperation in the peace talks to protest American silence over India’s elimination of Kashmir’s autonomy. But the Taliban on Thursday issued a forceful statement warning against any meddling.
“Linking the issue of Kashmir with that of Afghanistan by some parties will not aid in improving the crisis at hand because the issue of Afghanistan is not related, nor should Afghanistan be turned into the theater of competition between other countries,” the Taliban statement read.
The outcome of the peace talks and Pakistan’s role in them will likely influence whether the country finds itself blacklisted internationally over its continued support of terrorist organizations, a move that could save or break its faltering economy. The Paris-based group that monitors terrorism financing, the Financial Action Task Force, will vote in October on whether Pakistan has done enough to crack down on militant networks at home.
Pakistan hopes to make the case that it has moved against militant groups and should be taken off the gray list on which the watchdog placed it last year. Pakistan deeply fears it could be blacklisted and denied access to international financial markets at a time when it desperately needs loans to stay afloat. If Pakistan is blacklisted, that could tip its economy into recession.
Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan seemed worried about the lack of options to force India to renounce its new Kashmir policy.
Meeting with Pakistani journalists on Thursday, Mr. Khan dismissed using “jihadi organizations” against India in Kashmir. “There are more disadvantages than advantages,” Mr. Khan said, according to Amber Rahim Shamsi, a reporter for Samaa TV who attended the meeting.
The possibility of international sanctions also seemed to weigh on Mr. Khan.
“Pakistan has taken every step to get itself out of the baggage of the past,’’ the prime minister told the group of journalists, according to a second account of the meeting.
He said the government had undertaken “a complete cleansing operation” against terrorist groups. “My government has ensured there is a complete and sincere effort to bring Pakistan out of FATF,” Mr. Khan added, referring to the Financial Action Task Force.
Pakistan’s foreign minister has said he would raise the issue of Kashmir to the United Nations Security Council for a vote. But so far, the country’s closest allies have remained silent on the matter.Muslim nations have usually supported Pakistan’s claims on Kashmir. But with their own economic and political troubles at home, many have tilted toward India, looking to secure lucrative deals with the ascending economic power.The biggest blow came from the influential United Arab Emirates, which stated that Kashmir was an internal matter for India, withdrawing any support to raise the issue internationally.India has long maintained that Kashmir is an internal issue; the disputed territory chose to join India rather than Pakistan during partition in 1947, based on assurances that its autonomy would be maintained. Pakistani forces invaded part of Kashmir and now control that part of the territory.
When Pakistan agreed after the September 11, 2001 attacks to help the United States fight terrorist groups, it asked for a favor in return — American help mediating on Kashmir and pressing India to make concessions. When the United States refused, Pakistan felt betrayed.
Just last month Pakistanis felt more upbeat about their country’s prospects. Mr. Khan had returned from a visit to the White House where he met with Mr. Trump, who promised to intervene on Kashmir. But India’s swift action days later to strip Kashmir of its autonomy plunged Pakistan back into isolation.
“The U.S. has again let us down, and those who were starry-eyed about the American trip have got a wake-up call,” Senator Mushahid Hussain said in a speech this week.
Early elections and full statehood are essential to the total integration of J&K with India. Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s address to the nation on Thursday may not have reached its primary audience in Jammu and Kashmir which was in blackout. But he did well by speaking out on his decision to revoke its special status, and divide it into two Union Territories. Considering the secrecy and disinformation that preceded the decision that he rightly characterised as historic, and the triumphalism among his supporters that followed, the address was reassuring. The promises he made will be checked against delivery in the coming months, not only by the people of J&K but also by the rest of India and other countries. In his 37-minute address, Mr. Modi promised restoration of statehood to J&K once normalcy returned, a participatory election, and growth in employment, commerce and opportunities in general for them. The PM urged industrialists to set up shop, and film-makers to shoot in the Valley, and asked people there to integrate with the global community. He even offered a catalogue of products and services that could make the State attractive in the global market. While these are desirable objectives, the PM could start with what is exclusively within his powers to effect — to call for fresh election and restore statehood at the earliest. While an elected government itself will be a sign of improvement in the situation, it will also make normalcy more organic. Revocation of statehood was unjustified in the first place, and its restoration must be immediate. What actually triggered separatism and terrorism in J&K — whether the special status and autonomy it was granted by the Constitution, or the gradual erosion of these concepts over decades — is a difficult question, but the BJP has always claimed to have known the answer. The PM reiterated that position, stating that Articles 370 and 35A gave only “separatism, nepotism and corruption to the people of J&K”. Additionally, he also said these were hurdles in the region’s development; and now that these are removed, an era of development and progress could be ushered in. While the charges of corruption and nepotism are true to an extent, there is no reason to suggest that J&K has been any worse than other States in this respect. The implied reductionism in the address that political aspirations may be a price worth paying for material progress may not be a democratic path to progress. No other formation in India is more vociferous than the BJP on questions of culture, heritage and faith. National integration is essential for peace, stability and progress, and uniform development across regions, but this is not synonymous with an enforced cultural homogeneity. J&K needs a representative government and full statehood urgently for normalcy and integration with the Indian Union. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/state-of-the-union/article28968901.ece