What now in Kashmir?
AUGUST 5, 2019
Even the Indian opposition and the less extreme-right sections of the Indian press described the Modi government’s abrogation of Article 370 of the constitution as ‘death of democracy’ and ‘midnight coup at 11 am’. But that’s really not the point, at least from Pakistan’s point of view. BJP’s been shouting about revoking the ‘special status’ since before its first general election victory. In the first manifesto the party said it would go after the clause after due consultation with stakeholders. And it seems nobody in Islamabad noticed that they removed the thing about stakeholders in the second manifesto, just before their thumping re-election.
The arrest of former chief ministers, blanket ban on all communication and right to assembly, turning out tourists, and above all the sudden deployment of tens of thousands of military personnel, clearly indicated that Modi was finally going to honour his campaign promise to his core hardline voter base. Yet it seems Islamabad had done little homework and did not raise much of an alarm beyond appealing to the United Nations. New Delhi, on the other hand, has clearly factored in the fury this move will unleash in Kashmir; not to mention parliament itself.
This, of course, is not one of India’s usual excesses. Now that there will be a severe backlash in the valley, and India has been lobbing its cluster bombs on our side of the Line, even a necessary measured response could spark a larger conflict. But, going forward as Pakistan prepares its response, it must first understand why the whole world watched silently as Indian forces deliberately blinded and maimed a generation of young Kashmiris over the last five years. Everyone, including the Indians, knew that that the uprising was completely indigenous; not backed by any jaish or lashkar. Yet there was no international outcry, even from countries that wear the human rights badge with much show.
The timing, too, is important. Delhi would not have forgotten the humiliation that came after Pulwama. And Trump’s recent remarks about mediation risked unnecessary international exposure. Surely, Modi is going all the way in changing the demographics of Kashmir. Next he will facilitate his hardline base to spread there and dilute the Muslim majority. Pakistan’s only option, really, is to get the international community to push India towards talks. Once everybody demands negotiations, and Kashmir is on fire, India could be forced into a dialogue. The only other option, really, is yet more aggression at the LoC and possible threat of war. *