Time to revisit Article 370!
One of the first controversies that erupted after Narendra Modi took over as the Prime Minister was the issue of Article 370. When Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), raked up the issue, all hell broke loose with the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, tweeting that Article 370 was the only constitutional link between J&K and the rest of India and that “long after Modi Government is a distant memory either J&K won’t be part of India or Article 370 will still exist.”
It is a precarious situation and it remains to be seen how the BJP-led Government is going to deal with it. Prime Minister Modi is scheduled for his first official visit to the Kashmir Valley on July 4 wherein security and other issues (including Article 370) are reportedly going to be discussed.
Article 370 specifies that except for defence, foreign affairs, communications and ancillary matters, the Parliament needs the State Government’s concurrence for applying all other laws. Thus the state’s residents live under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to other Indians. There has been demand by the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for abrogation of Article 370.
We have two comprehensive viewpoints on Article 370, one by General (Retd) V.P. Malik and the other by Lt General (Retd) P.C. Katoch, both giving differing points of view, but the bottomline is the necessity to revisit Article 370. General Malik has said that in the present circumstances, it would be preferable to chip away Article 370, as has been done in the past, instead of rushing for its elimination. General Katoch has a more radical approach stating that it should have been consigned to history as it was a temporary provision.
Another important issue we have in this issue is that of creating a defence industrial base. Vice Admiral (Retd) Anup Singh has outlined how in the last few years, defence needs have been opened up to the private sector and foreign investment, with the aim of restructuring and developing the defence industry, largely untapped by the private sector. In consonance with this thinking, the new government has proposed further liberalisation of foreign direct invest- ment in defence, going up to 100 per cent. This, indeed, is a forwardlooking decision and it is sincerely hoped that India not only gets the best of technologies, but also is able to build its own defence industrial base at the earliest.
In our National Agenda section, we have another interesting piece by Ranjeet Kumar on the new government’s foray in nuclear diplomacy by ratifying the India specific safeguard agreement called the additional protocol of the International Atomic Energy Agency. At the same time, France is stepping up its defence and nuclear cooperation with India, while it is awaiting for the Rafale deal to come to a closure. These are big steps being taken by the Narendra Modi Government and would certainly have a bearing on the robustness of the government. We look forward to your feedback as to improve our coverage. Happy reading !