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 Kashmir, its autonomy and the World

 Kashmir, its autonomy and the World

                        

 

By Wali Ejaz Nekokara

 

On 5 August 2019, the Modi government scrapped Article 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution which deprived Jammu and Kashmir of its special status. Articles 370 and 35A bestowed some autonomy to J & Kashmir. Article 370 provided the state with some space to exercise freedom in making its flag, constitution and laws.

 

The departments of foreign affairs, defense, and communication were under the control of the central government. Furthermore, Jammu & Kashmir could formulate laws akin to fundamental rights, property ownership, and permanent residency. As far as article 35A is concerned, it directed the legislature to define ‘permanent resident’ and to distinguish him from others. As per article 35A, only the people of J&K were entitled to buy and own the property in the state.

 

Another important thing to note is that the autonomy of Jammu & Kashmir had been reduced since 1954. Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal, in the very introduction of the book titled “Kashmir and the future of South Asia” mention that “After Sheikh Abdullah’s imprisonment in August 1953, constitutional order was promulgated by the president of India in 1954 upon the advice of Nehru’s government empowering the central government to legislate on all subjects on the Union list, not only defense, foreign affairs, and communication. The 1954 order also imposed restrictions on fundamental rights and enabled the suspension of the freedom of speech and association on grounds of security”. 

                           

 Intermittently, various presidential orders were promulgated to curb the autonomy and civil liberties of the people in Jammu & Kashmir. On April 1965, through the 6th amendment act, the status of Prime minister and Sardar-i-Riyasat was altered into the Chief Minister and Governor respectively. According to a study, from 1952 to 1986, forty-two presidential orders were passed which led to the erosion of autonomy of J&K.

 

Modi government’s step of abrogating articles 370 and 53A was a grievous blow to Jammu & Kashmir’s autonomy. It was a plank of Modi’s strategy to bring a demographical change in J & K. Modi's government not only snatched Jammu & Kashmir’s autonomy but also violated international law.

                               

 

According to International law experts, the Modi government’s move was a blatant violation of international law. Ahmer bilal soofi, an international law expert, maintains that “any attempt by India to change the existing constitutional arrangement of Indian occupied Kashmir will be a violation of International law, UN-mandated obligations, and the Fourth Geneva Convention”.

 

Similarly, Pakistan’s former ambassador to France, Ghalib Iqbal said that “If Indian-held Kashmir is divided into states; India will be in a clear violation of the UN resolutions. Legally, a disputed territory cannot be divided into sub-territories. As per law, it would not change the legal status of the disputed land”.   

 

                 

Furthermore, the revocation of articles 370 & 35A has damaged the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) adversely. A study titled “Abrogation of Article 370 of the constitution of India: Socio-economic and political implications on Jammu and Kashmir” shows the psychological, economic, and political implications of evaporated autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir. First of all, we talk about the psychological implications. The psychological impacts vary from gender to gender. Females have been badly affected by the suppressive environment of the Valley.

 

Gender

Probable Depression

Anxiety disorder

 

 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

 

 

 

 

Male%

37%

21%

18%

Female%

50%

36%

22%

 Note: This table is manually drawn. Facts and figures are taken from the above-mentioned study. 

           

 

Additionally, 41% of adults have symptoms of depression and 10% are fulfilling the criterion of severe depression.   

 

Secondly, due to curfews, internet blockade, and perpetual shutdowns from Aug 5, 2019, to Dec 2019, Kashmir lost a whopping Rs14,295 and Rs17, 878 crore. Tourism, agriculture and allied services, and the industrial sector with other utility services witnessed the loss of Rs1056 crore, Rs4591crore, and Rs45095 crore respectively. Thirdly, the revocation of Articles 370&35A has several political implications. 

 

 

  1. There were mainly two groups in India that Occupied Kashmir’s political leaders before the constitutional change. One group was of Unionist leaders who were in favor of the autonomy of Kashmir under the Indian constitution. The second group was separatists. Article 370 provided unionists with a rationale to refrain from separatist politics. Following the abrogation of Article 370, the political landscape of the valley has completely changed. Now, unionists are more likely to join separatists. According to unionist leader Shah Faesal, Kashmiri leaders have to choose between being a “stooge or a separatist.” The alliance between separatists and unionists may pose serious challenges to New Delhi. It would be the first time in 72 years of history when no credible leader would be under influence of India. 
  2. Despite portraying the Kashmir issue as an internal matter, India would not be able to hinder the internationalization of the issue. More brutalities by the Indian government would further strengthen the Kashmiri resistance. There are possibilities of terror attacks and civilian unrest in Kashmir. 
  3. BJP’s illegitimate move has further exacerbated the Pak-India relations. The situation does not seem to be changed soon.  
  4. BJP government would get more control over Kashmir following the abrogation of articles. Especially, BJP would fully use the legislative and administrative powers of Kashmir to design the valley following its ultra-nationalistic agenda. 
  5. Revocation of the article has badly affected the development, welfare, and growth of the valley. 

 

 

                                    

Bearing in mind the above-mentioned facts, a question arises what is the reaction of the world? To address the question, it would be pertinent to highlight the role of Pakistan, the Muslim world, USA. Firstly, if we talk about Pakistan, it would not be wrong to say that Pakistan fared well in making the world community aware of Indian atrocities in Kashmir.

 

Especially, former Prime Minister Imran Khan played an exceptional role in apprising the world of the gravity of the Kashmir issue. Khan was well-aware of two facts: first, he knew that good relations with India would help to solve the Kashmir issue, and second, he knew that Kashmir was a nuclear flashpoint. This issue had the potential to trigger a nuclear war which he wanted to avert. Khan talked about the peaceful solution to the Kashmir issue and the possibility of nuclear war time and again. Khan offered peace dialogues many times but the Modi government did not pay any heed to this. Modi's government created war hysteria in the country and jingoistic behavior reached its peak. BJP’s atrocities in Occupied Kashmir led to the “Pulwama crisis”.

 

On Feb 14, 2019, more than forty personnel of India’s Central Reserve Police were killed, when a 19 years old Kashmiri resident from the Indian Occupied Kashmir blew himself up. Right after the incident, the Modi government leveled allegations against Pakistan for orchestrating the attack. Pakistan rejected the allegations and denied its involvement in such a heinous act.

 

PM Imran Khan in his televised speech offered complete cooperation to investigate the matter. He said that India must share information or evidence if it had any regarding any Pakistani involvement. The culprit would be brought to book. He also said that “whenever we talked about dialogue with India, India stipulated a precondition that terrorism should be discussed first.” He showed readiness to talk about terrorism because it was beneficial for the whole region.

 

He warned of retaliation if India took a military path. Unfortunately, the Modi government, by making light of the situation, allowed Indian Air Force (IAF) to violate Pakistan’s air sovereignty. On Feb 26, India claimed that it had carried out a surgical strike in Pakistan’s Balakot area. India further claimed that it had killed 350 terrorists and destroyed terrorist camps. In reality, neither was there any terrorist camp, not the terrorists. Nothing was damaged except a few trees. 

 

On Feb 27, 2019, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) retaliated which led to the destruction of two Indian fighter jets and the capture of Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan. The retaliation of PAF is known as the “Operation Swift retort”. The whole above-mentioned scenario started with a suicide bomb in Indian Occupied Kashmir and culminated in the capture of Abhinandan. 

             Another important thing to note is that Khan was of the view that the peace in South Asia was linked with Kashmir. This led to taking up the matter of Kashmir on important platforms like the UN. A study titled “Persuasion and political discourse: A critical discourse analysis of Imran Khan’s UNGA speech” shows that Imran Khan repeated the word “Kashmir" 17 times, and the word “war” 8 times.

 

The study maintains that the repetitive use of the word “Kashmir” was a result of Indian atrocities in IOK. Similarly, he used the word “war” multiple times as a result of the conflict between Pakistan and India. Khan used persuasive language and explicitly put his agenda before the world. In a nutshell, Imran khan highlighted the issue to keep it relevant on one hand and to internationalize it on the other. 

             

                           

Secondly, the reaction of the Muslim world would be a crucial part of this article. Although it passed various resolutions to support the Kashmir cause, OIC could not take any effective step in favor of Kashmir. Sadly, the Muslim world was not united at the time of the abrogation of Articles 370 & 35A. Organizations like OIC are established for a common cause. Divergence of interests among the members of such organizations usually makes the organization redundant.

 

The same is the case with OIC and its members. OIC may be effective on the socio-economic front but on the political front, it has miserably failed to defend the rights of Muslims. The Gulf States especially Saudi Arabia and UAE could not even condemn the revocation of Articles 370 & 35A. UAE’s ambassador to India termed the abrogation of articles as an “internal matter” of India. It was painful to see that when the Indian atrocities in IOK were on an exponential rise and Kashmir autonomy was snatched, UAE conferred the highest civilian award on Modi.

 

This left a negative impact on all of those who were sincere about the Kashmir cause. Many people construed UAE’s step as N.O.C. (No Objection Certificate).

 

A question arises, what are the reasons behind the Muslim world’s failure to unite for Muslims’ rights? The real fact is that the Muslim World has been conquered by economic interests. The Muslim world has put the Kashmir & Palestine issue on the back-burner to pursue its economic interests. That is what makes OIC ineffective, and worthless.

 

The silence of Gulf States against the Indian atrocities is motivated by the fact that India is an important player in the global economy. Secondly, the Muslim world is rapidly embracing secular ideals to be at par with the western world. Thirdly, Gulf States have come to know that amicable relations with USA, Israel, and India would be useful for their survival and progress. Fourthly, the Muslim world is at war with itself. The Muslim world is like a bird having one wing, how can we expect that it would make Kashmir fly? Precisely, pinning hopes on the Gulf States to get support in favor of Kashmir would not work.   

                    

 

Lastly, the reaction of the USA would help us understand the role of a Superpower. A state’s capacity to work for USA’s interests determines the former’s relevance in sight of Washington. A study titled “Critical analysis of the US mediating role in India-Pakistan conflict” sheds a comprehensive light on the USA’s policy towards Kashmir. The authors maintain that the USA exerted political, economic, and diplomatic influence on India in the Cold war era to resolve the Kashmir issue. It was the time when Pakistan was USA’s strategic partner. However, the post-cold war witnessed a shift in USA’s policy from a “resolver to a crisis manager”.

 

In the post-cold war era, the main objective was to de-escalate the tensions. The study concludes that “The US role as a mediator was active while containing Communism with help of Pakistan as a strategic partner during the Cold war era. From Harry S. Truman to Senior George W. Bush, India was pressurized to resolve the Kashmir conflict with Pakistan. However, the US transformed its policy after the ousting of Soviet forces from Afghanistan and improved its relations with India. In the post-cold war era, the collapse of communism changed the strategic dynamics of the US policy towards India and Pakistan.

 

In the changed policy of the US, India became strategically important to balance out China’s rising power in the indo-pacific region. From President Clinton to the initial years of Trump, the US mediating role was relegated to the margins and sidelined due to pro-India lobby”. As India is a linchpin of the USA’s indo-pacific strategy, the latter would never go against the former’s wishes. President Trump offered to help resolve the issue but that was limited to lip service. Till now, the USA has not brought any change in its policy to Kashmir. 

 

As far as China is concerned, it condemned the BJP’s move. It helped Pakistan raise its voice for Kashmir. Although China supports Pakistan against Indian atrocities in IOK, there are limits to China’s support. A study titled “Kashmir and Global Powers” mention that China has its limits to supporting the Kashmir cause because supporting Kashmir would damage her interests in the Xinjiang region where separatists are doing the same as what Kashmiris are doing in IOK.

     

 Conclusively, Kashmir’s autonomy had been reducing since the 1950s. According to a study, from 1952 to 1986, forty-two presidential orders were passed which led to the erosion of autonomy of J&K. Revocation of Article 370 & 35A left psychological, economic, and political impacts on the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan under Imran Khan tried its best to highlight the issue but economic interests have conquered humanity. Muslim World is unable to condemn it because India is a big player in the global economy. India is more lucrative than Pakistan in terms of the economic market.

 

That is the reason behind the Muslim world’s attraction to India. As far as the USA is concerned, it supported Pakistan’s stance and pressurized India in the cold war era but in the post-cold war era, it shifted its attention from Pakistan to India. In simple words, in the cold war era, the USA was supporting Pakistan because latter was its strategic partner against communist expansion. In post-cold war era, India is USA’s partner because former is now strategic partner of latter against China.

 

China has been supporting Pakistan but it has some limitations. China is facing a separatist movement in Xinjiang province; it bars china to support separatist movements in IOK openly. Kashmir’s solution is mired in power politics. Kashmir's issue may be solved either by its people’s resistance or by the cooperation of international powers. the commitment of Kashmiris testifies the Earnest Hemingway’s words, that a man can be destroyed but can never be defeated. One would end the article in Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s words:

                    Oh God, break this tyrannical grip

                    That has mauled the spirit of Kashmiri freedom.

 

(Wali Ejaz Nekokara)(Independent researcher and freelance contributor)

 

  • Opinions expressed in this article are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The South Asia Times 

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