In­dia needs to be pre­pared for the ex­ter­nal and in­ter­nal reper­cus­sions of its de­ci­sion to ‘di­lute’ Ar­ti­cle 370


Many things changed with a stroke of the pres­i­dent’s pen on Au­gust 5, not only in Jammu and Kash­mir (J&K) but in In­dia as well. The die is cast, the Ru­bi­con has been crossed and there is no go­ing back, even if the le­gal­ity of the gov­ern­ment’s moves al­ter­ing the sta­tus of J&K is suc­cess­fully chal­lenged in courts. The legal process will take time, but the facts on the ground will con­tinue to change and the fait ac­com­pli will be­come its own jus­ti­fi­ca­tion. What we need to fo­cus on is the fall­out from the mo­men­tous de­ci­sions taken on Au­gust 5, both do­mes­tic and ex­ter­nal, and for­mu­late ap­pro­pri­ate and care­fully thought-through re­sponses.

One, the evis­cer­a­tion of Ar­ti­cle 370 was held nec­es­sary be­cause it up­held a spe­cial sta­tus for Jammu and Kash­mir, which al­lowed the per­pet­u­a­tion of laws dis­crim­i­nat­ing against non-J&K In­dian cit­i­zens, such as the in­abil­ity to buy and own prop­erty, and sanc­tioned ret­ro­grade so­cial prac­tices such as de­priv­ing women of the state from en­joy­ment of equal rights. But the driver of Ar­ti­cle 370 is no dif­fer­ent from Ar­ti­cle 371, which con­fers the same spe­cial sta­tus on north­east­ern states. To ar­gue that 370 could be changed be­cause it was meant to be ‘tem­po­rary’ while 371 is a ‘spe­cial’ pro­vi­sion, which can­not be sim­i­larly al­tered, is disin­gen­u­ous. Pre­dictably, con­cerns have been ex­pressed by north­east­ern states on this count and if these mount, then the re­cent im­prove­ment in the se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment in the North­east may come un­der pres­sure.

Two, the Modi gov­ern­ment has jus­ti­fied the down­grad­ing of the trun­cated state of J&K into a Union ter­ri­tory (UT) on se­cu­rity grounds. This opens up a dan­ger­ous prece­dent that may strike at the very root of In­dian fed­er­al­ism. It is con­ceiv­able that in fu­ture, a cen­tral gov­ern­ment de­ter­mi­na­tion of a

break­down of law and or­der may be used to im­pose gover­nor’s rule in a state and, us­ing the same pro­ce­dure as ap­plied in re­spect of J&K, re­duce it to a UT on se­cu­rity grounds. Even the threat of such ac­tion will con­strain the au­ton­omy of states ir­re­spec­tive of the cur­rent con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sions.

Three, the prime min­is­ter, in his address to the na­tion, held out a mes­sage of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion to the peo­ple of J&K and promised a fresh com­pact—ac­cept the new po­lit­i­cal dis­pen­sa­tion, ab­jure con­fronta­tion with the In­dian state and en­joy a gen­er­ous de­vel­op­ment div­i­dend. The un­spo­ken threat is that re­jec­tion of this com­pact will bring the full co­er­cive might of the state to im­pose peace and or­der ir­re­spec­tive of the peo­ple’s sen­ti­ments. One hopes that a re­newed hearts-and-minds cam­paign will suc­ceed, but it would be pru­dent to an­tic­i­pate its pos­si­ble re­jec­tion. How far will the In­dian state be ready to go to en­force its will on an un­will­ing and sullen pop­u­la­tion? What is the thresh­old be­yond which the use of force negates the demo­cratic char­ac­ter of the In­dian state?

The Modi gov­ern­ment must re­flect on these pos­si­ble con­se­quences that flow from the Au­gust 5 de­ci­sions and en­sure that they do not trig­ger re­newed fis­si­parous ten­den­cies whose salience lies hid­den be­hind the pre­vail­ing cel­e­bra­tory mood.

There will be ex­ter­nal con­se­quences de­spite our as­ser­tion that these de­ci­sions were the in­ter­nal af­fair of In­dia. These have to be han­dled with skil­ful diplo­macy and ef­fi­cient se­cu­rity ar­range­ments.

It is only to be ex­pected that Pak­istan will do all it can to frus­trate In­dian ef­forts to re­store peace and tranquilit­y in J&K. It will seek to have its name re­moved from the grey list of the Fi­nan­cial Ac­tion Task Force (FATF), point­ing to the var­i­ous (cos­metic) mea­sures that it has taken re­cently to rein in the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) as well as the Jaish-e-Mo­hammed (JeM). It may be helped in this by the US, which be­lieves Pak­istan can help ex­tri­cate it from Afghanista­n. China, which will be chair­ing the FATF shortly, will cer­tainly lend pow­er­ful sup­port. If Pak­istan suc­ceeds, then it can re­sume cross-bor­der ter­ror­ism against In­dia with re­newed vigour. There­fore, one im­me­di­ate and ur­gent task for In­dian diplo­macy is to mo­bilise in­ter­na­tional opin­ion to have Pak­istan de­clared an of­fender un­der the FATF rules. Even if this does not

The driver of Art. 370 is the same as for Art. 371, which con­fers the same spe­cial sta­tus on NE states. To say one was ‘tem­po­rary’ and the other ‘spe­cial’ is disin­gen­u­ous

suc­ceed, it is im­per­a­tive that Pak­istan stays on the grey list.

If an Afghan peace is con­cluded and the Tal­iban be­comes an in­flu­en­tial com­po­nent of a rul­ing dis­pen­sa­tion in Kabul, Pak­istan will re­sume the es­tab­lish­ment of ter­ror­ist train­ing and launch pads tar­get­ing In­dia on its ter­ri­tory as in the past. This will have the ad­van­tage of de­ni­a­bil­ity. We need a strat­egy to fore­stall this. This may re­quire work­ing out mea­sures to desta­bilise a fu­ture and pos­si­bly hos­tile Tal­iban regime. A lat­ter-day Ah­mad Shah Ma­sood may have to be found.

Pak­istan will be dis­suaded from ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­ity against In­dia only if we har­den our own se­cu­rity ar­range­ments and im­pose enough pain on Is­lam­abad by ex­ploit­ing its vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties. As the Pathankot, Uri and Pul­wama ter­ror­ist at­tacks re­vealed, there are ma­jor se­cu­rity gaps on our side that re­main un­ad­dressed. Some re­late to gov­er­nance is­sues, such as the smug­gling of drugs and con­tra­band across our bor­ders, which ter­ror­ists are able to ex­ploit.

We must as­sert more strongly and con­sis­tently our claim on Gil­git and Baltistan. Why not in­vite and give promi­nence to dis­si­dents and ac­tivists from these ar­eas? Af­ter all, they are tech­ni­cally our own cit­i­zens. There ap­pears to be con­tin­ued hes­i­ta­tion in high­light­ing Pak­istan’s bar­baric be­hav­iour in Balochis­tan. With­out build­ing coun­ter­vail­ing pres­sure points against Pak­istan, there will be lit­tle in­cen­tive for a change in the strate­gic cal­cu­lus in Is­lam­abad.

In­ter­na­tional re­ac­tion on de­vel­op­ments in J&K has so far been muted. This must not lead to com­pla­cency. The sooner the sit­u­a­tion in the Val­ley re­turns to rel­a­tive calm and the heavy se­cu­rity pres­ence is thinned out, the less the risk of ex­ter­nal med­dling and re-hy­phen­at­ing In­dia and Pak­istan. Re­newed and wide­spread vi­o­lence in the Val­ley and heavy-handed paci­fi­ca­tion will turn the in­ter­na­tional spot­light back again on a trou­bled re­gion and di­min­ish In­dia’s stand­ing. ■

With­out build­ing coun­ter­vail­ing pres­sure points against Pak­istan, Is­lam­abad will have lit­tle in­cen­tive to change its cal­cu­lus vis-a-vis In­dia

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