Abrogation of Article 370 – what next in Kashmir?

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By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

It could be described as a colossal diplomatic blunder to indulge in triumphant hip beating on what was considered as a major breakthrough when American President Trump disclosed to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan that during his sojourn at G-20 he was asked by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to use his good offices to mediate between India and Pakistan over the 70-year old long festering Kashmir issue keeping the two countries at loggerheads more than often gun totting at each other threatening of a nuclear flashpoint.

Since it sounded too good to be true the Prime Minister was accorded an unprecedented welcome home on his return as if he had, according to him, won a second time Cricket World Cup. His government and his supporters created the perception that he had got over with Kashmir dispute as if J&K has finally been secured. It was no doubt beautiful and skilful management of a public relations exercise that was made to be taken as gospel truth when it was pack of conjured lies. However, euphoria of a diplomatic triumph was too short lived as Prime Minister Modi immediately followed with a blitzkrieg strike by rushing through a bill for the abrogation of Article 370 that had given special autonomous status to J&K as early in 1953. Besides, Article 35- A was part of larger scheme of things, simply to contain demographic composition of the population by restricting sale and purchase of property in Kashmir for outsiders. Now that restriction has been removed and there is big rush to buy real estate in J&K.

Those who see a conspiracy in every move believe in whatever has happening as part of a package deal sold out to PTI government by the Americans who are desperate to withdraw from Afghanistan. Indeed, looking back at past professions of Prime Minister Imran Khan one could see thorough the unfolding scheme of things revealing that whatever is happening now was preconceived by Khan in a wide ranging interview with J&K journalists in 2016 in which he supported triangular division of J&K.

A TV anchor Raza Syed believes that people of Kashmir are not privy to what Modi government has actually planned to do nor do they have access to Pakistan’s thinking and options that Islamabad has in case of fait accompli. It is being regretfully noted that notwithstanding Indian government’s planning, Islamabad seems to have miserably failed to genuinely articulate and pursue Pakistan’s Kashmir stance on the Indian violation of the United Nations resolutions changing the demographic status quo.

What has been most shocking is the intelligence failure to decipher Indian moves in Kashmir. It is a common knowledge as highlighted by different sources that India carried out a calculated implementation of its scheme of things to permanently annex J&K and grant citizen/property rights to non-Kashmiris there.

To counter the Indian move Pakistan’s utmost output was to indulge in meaningless rhetoric. Its critics are absolutely right in stating that nothing was done by this incompetent government to prevent India from going ahead by mobilising international pressure on her especially of oil exporting OIC countries. Pakistan Foreign Office failed to approach and not even bothered to make a request in time to the UNGA/UNSC in this regard for convening of a special session to look into this extremely important violation in contravention of U.N Security Council resolutions granting right of self determination to the people of Kashmir. The abrogation of Article 370 and 35A has violated the status given to Kashmir as a disputed state. The lack of sincerity of interest lies in the fact that Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has flown out of Pakistan for Hajj when his presence was constantly required in Pakistan. It is, however, of some solace that UN has taken note of human rights violations in Kashmir and the abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A.

Whether it is all part of an international conspiracy or our failure to grasp the gravity of the situation from the time India decided to implement its scheme of annexing Kashmir, one wonders what transpired in Washington during PM Khan’s much touted yatra when it came out in the open that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took President Trump into confidence twice regarding his so-called historic decision of annexing the disputed state.

Whatever-one must acknowledge the high standard of debate in the Indian Parliament as compared to our high sounding good for nothing indulgence in rhetoric. Former Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram described the decision as a monstrous conspiracy that would to lead to division and colonisation- a fact that shall be regretted for all times. Yet another parliamentarian warned of the serious consequences that would lead to creation of yet another Palestine.

Many legislators shared the view that the act of abrogation was surreptitious thievery, that the BJP Govt has made mockery of the constitution. Congress and other Opposition members also believed that doing way of the Special Status would strengthen elements waging struggle for freedom and perhaps it will provide a boost to other fissiparous forces too in some northern states. On the other hand, Home Minister Amit Shah told the Parliament that getting rid of Article 370 would convert Kashmir into a paradise on earth opening flood gates of prosperity. Veteran leader LK Advani welcomed it so did former Army Chief Deepak Sharma. They shared the view that abrogation would bring peace and end the era of bloodshed.

Notwithstanding the fact that this ‘surreptitious’ move’ would in the long run prove to be implosive, it is time United Nations and international community take serious interest in resolving the Kashmir issue which until solved shall remain a powered keg and a flash point for nuclear conflagration. One must remember disclosure of Prime Minister Khan to a media interview in DC that Pakistan has over 30,000 to 40,000 militant warriors itching for Holy Jihad in Kashmir. Although one does not know how much Prime Minister Khan was privy to the unfolding drama, a Pakistani Tv anchor in UK-Taimoor Iqbal-believes that ‘history will remember Imran Khan for giving away Kashmir on a platter’.

There are critics who see in the prevalent atmosphere of doom and gloom positive signs indicating that India would ultimately be regretting abrogation of Article 370. Experts don’t rule out the possibility of it being struck down by the Indian courts. It may be mentioned here that Kashmir High Court has already declared any change in status quo as ultra virus of the Constitution whereas Supreme Court of India too has already declared Article 370 to be permanent in nature as concluded by J&K High Court. In conclusion experts see a silver lining as abrogation breaks the 70-year old stalemate.

(The writer is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist.)