BY D.C. PATHAK
The annulment of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution by the Indian Parliament in August last year shocked the pro-Pak Hurriyat Conference and the Valley-based political parties alike as it basically ended the era of their collusion that was dictated by their own vested interests — the latter running the state as a fiefdom where the former would be allowed to merrily continue playing the Pak hand and subverting India’s case. The rants of NC and PDP leaders against the deployment of the Army in Jammu and Kashmir always looked duplicitous because they never condemned Pakistan for pumping in Mujahideen into the Valley in the name of Jihad, did not shed their communal approach in not treating all subjects of the state on the same footing and did not discharge their administrative responsibility of taking action against Pak agents who were behind the forcible eviction of Pandits from the Valley and more recently the organised stone pelting that was meant to build the old narrative of the state witnessing ‘popular discontent’ against the Centre.
They shared power with the Government of India when it suited them and ran a corrupt regime from Srinagar — upholding the stand of Pakistan on Kashmir primarily to keep the attention diverted from their own misrule. One year down the line they have, after being released from a spell of house detention, tried to unite on the separatist slogan of keeping Kashmir’s identity distinct from India’s, demanded restoration of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and reiterated the stand that India must reopen talks with Pakistan on the ‘Kashmir dispute’. They have unabashedly refused to call Pakistan for its mischief of cross-border terrorism and, what should cause concern, parroted the old narrative that more and more Kashmiri youth were taking to militancy against an ‘oppressive’ Centre and its armed forces deployed in the state.
Sensing support from a major segment of opposition to the Modi government at home — and the pro-Pak lobbies outside — to the demand for the scrapping of Art 370, the leaders of the two principal Valley-based parties, NC and PDP, decided to build a united front against the BJP at the Centre to regain their political hold in the state. The so-called People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration signed at the residence of Dr Farooq Abdullah drew in, besides NC and PDP, other regional parties of the Valley, Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference and Awami National Conference as well as the two all-India parties in the opposition — Congress and the CPI(M). The alliance has, in its first political move, decided to contest the District Development Council (DDC) election being held at the end of November and tried to reach out to Pandits, as also to Gujjars and Bakerwals. The Congress has, in order to avoid getting identified too closely with the separatists, given out that it would be in the fray independently.
It may be recalled that the NC and PDP had been in power in the state using the unbroken cycle of democratic elections being held there since 1996, without giving up on their hand-in-glove relationship with the Hurriyat and without ceasing to support Pakistan’s say on Kashmir or ever speaking against Pak-sponsored terror unleashed in the Valley in the name of Islam. It is more of the same as far as the activities of these Valley-based anti-India parties are concerned. Hopefully, the right things done by the Centre in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir in the areas of development, equitable treatment to all citizens and firm handling of enemy agents would not leave much scope for the pro-Pak separatists to creep into a position where they could again misguide the ordinary Kashmiris for serving their vested interest. The parties in the Valley are welcome to run their politics but they should not have the freedom to push an anti-India and pro-Pak line in Kashmir, any more.
Some national political parties in the opposition have chosen to join up even with anti-India forces in the desperate bid to run down the present ruling dispensation on its stand on Kashmir — this has led them to take a position that puts them in the camp of Pakistan on this Indo-Pak issue. They know pretty well that Pakistan had put Kashmir on its Islamic agenda and called for Jihad to succeed there. The issue in Kashmir was not a communal but a territorial matter since Pakistan was in occupation of a part of the state from where it was directing a proxy war against India.
It is amazing that sections of the opposition in league with the Valley-based political outfits were not willing to say a word against Pak-sponsored terror that compelled the Modi government to take the legitimate line that ‘terror and talks could not go together’. They have watched Pakistan destroying the content of Kashmiriyat by injecting Islamic extremism in the Valley but cannot see the danger that Pakistan’s open claim on Kashmir as a Muslim majority state, had the potential of reenacting the fallout of the religion-based partition of India. The parties opposing the Modi government had every right to be on the side of the citizens belonging to Kashmir in voicing any grievances relating to security and development that they might have against the Centre, particularly after the scrapping of Art 370, but unfortunately they think their political advantage lay in pampering the separatists and going along with their pro-Pak narrative.
Behind this stand was also possibly a weird thinking that their stand on Kashmir would keep them on the right side of the Muslim minority of India. The opposition has tried to score over the BJP government by insinuating that ‘secularism’ was in danger in its charge but the politics of it cannot hide the reality that the secular credentials of a democracy were established by two fundamental paradigms — a political executive that did not have any denominational stamp and a state that worked for development for all and equal protection of law for everybody. The opposition has not been able to fault the regime on these and the people would see through that, if anything, it is an opposition-ruled state like Maharashtra that has invited criticism of the highest court of the land for not upholding the right to equality before law.
A distinct feature of the political debate set off by anti-Modi forces within India — comprising principally of ‘secularists’, liberals, leftists, advocates of minority politics and some major parties in the opposition, is that in content and projections it is on all fours with the line of attack adopted by known adversaries of this country such as Pakistan and China. This is particularly evident in regard to the responses to the abrogation of Art 370 pertaining to the status of Jammu and Kashmir. There is no doubt that for decades the state was being misgoverned by Valley-based political parties who continued lining their pockets and appeasing pro-Pak separatists to stay in power. Lack of development, inequalities and regional discrimination were the hallmark of their regime but they continued to exploit the temporary Art 370 for shielding their rule against scrutiny.
In a situation of serious destabilisation caused by Pak agencies in Jammu and Kashmir through terror and covert activities of Pak agents entrenched in the state within and outside the government, the Centre moved to do away with this anachronism and took care to give an assurance that at a suitable time in the future Jammu and Kashmir would be made a full-fledged state again by reversing its conversion into a Union Territory. The state presently has the benefit of the Centre taking direct responsibility for its development and security. However, while this process is on, Pakistan has predictably stepped up cross-border terrorism and subversive activities through its acolytes. The higher casualties in counter-terror operations confirm this.
The new dimension of the Kashmir problem is that this sensitive border state has presently become vulnerable to a serious external threat on account of the rise of Sino-Pak axis against India. On the one hand, Pakistan vowing to raise the issue of Art 370 on international forums and in the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) has caused aggravation of the situation on the LoC, while China has in full operational collusion with its ‘all-weather friend’, on the other, carried out a military build-up on the LAC in Ladakh. The huge infrastructure of CPEC erected by China on the part of POK parcelled off by Pakistan to China has brought these two adversaries of India together militarily in the post-370 period — the Galwan incident of June 15, in which a score of Indian army Jawans led by th Commanding Officer were killed in a confrontation with PLA, created a new level of tension on this border.
The declaration of Ladakh as a Union Territory has facilitated India’s countermeasures meant to defend the integrity of Jammu and Kashmir and take on both Pakistan and China together should that become necessary. China has described the repeal of Art 370 by India as an ‘illegal and invalid’ move inviting a reprimand from India to China to abstain from commenting on India’s ‘internal matters’. Jammu and Kashmir is now on the frontline of India’s defence and it is regrettable that the opposition has not rallied behind the Government on the latter’s tough stance against both China and Pakistan at this critical juncture — that this is happening for reasons of domestic politics makes it worse. What has truly revealed the mindset of the chief of Gupkar Alliance is the fact that he lost no time in adding to his advocacy of Pakistan, an appeal to China to compel India to restore the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
It is relevant to draw attention to the change of regime in the US that makes it crucially important for India to have a continuity of the deep convergence that had prevailed between the two countries on their approach to both Pakistan and China under the Trump administration. There is no reason why the Biden-Harris team would not put Indo-US relations on a premium in the current global scenario of US-China rivalry and the rise of radical Islam with its anti-West thrust — made stronger by the trio of Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia emerging as its new patrons. It was in the Obama regime, when Joe Biden was the Vice-President, that India was declared as a ‘major defence partner’ of US and foundations were laid of an irreversible strategic friendship between the two largest democracies of the world. The post-Cold War era demands this.
Strategic observers do recall the period following the success of anti-Soviet armed campaign in Afghanistan — Pakistan was the ‘frontline ally’ of the US there — when American policy makers hyphenated India and Pakistan and even made an artificial distinction between ‘good terrorists’ and ‘bad terrorists’ to support Pakistan. Much water has flown down the bridge since and today India and US need each other for reasons of both security and economy.
On the abrogation of Art 370, the US did not question the legitimacy of the action, asked for the parties concerned maintaining peace on LoC and hoped that restrictions imposed in the state by India would end soon. We can be sure that the new reality of collusion between China and Pakistan would be seen by the US for what it is — a geopolitical threat to the democratic order in the vital Pak-Afghan belt. It is expected that India’s defence of Kashmir would be supported by the US in the interest of the free world. The liberal and left lobby active in both India and US hopefully would not be able to divert the two democracies from their focus on the global commons.
(The writer is a former Director Intelligence Bureau)
Disclaimer: This story is auto-generated from IANS service.