KASHMIR — nature’s handmaiden — lies ravished by the BJP. India’s Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah has revoked, with the stroke of a presidential pen, the special status of Jammu & Kashmir guaranteed under Article 370 of the Indian constitution. He has relegated them to the dustbin that contains the remains of Junagadh, Hyderabad and Goa.
Since 1948, the Jammu & Kashmir problem balanced like an inverted pyramid, resting on UN Resolution No. 47 of 1948, which provided that the “United Nations would conduct a free and impartial plebiscite” in the disputed territory. That resolution was adopted paragraph by paragraph, not as a complete resolution — an ominous portent for a state that would itself be dismembered piece by piece. This international commitment underpinned Pakistan’s persistent demand for a plebiscite.
As any plebiscite would apply to the whole of the former state of Jammu & Kashmir, it is useful to remember what that territory in 1947 comprised: “the valley of Kashmir, Jammu, Ladakh, Baltistan, Mirpur, Poonch, Muzaffarabad, Gilgit, Nagar, Hunza and smaller kingdoms and hill states.” Today, Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh are in Indian custody and control, while much of the rest is within Pakistan, except for Aksai-Chin which Pakistan handed over to China in 1962.
India’s action in altering the status quo of Jammu & Kashmir has implications which go beyond the illegal brutality of the act itself. It is a unilateral abrogation of the Shimla Agreement of 1972 and the Lahore Declaration of 1999, both of which have bound India and Pakistan to this commitment: “Pending the final settlement of any of the problems between the two countries, neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation and both shall prevent the organisation, assistance or encouragement of any acts detrimental to the maintenance of peaceful and harmonious relations.” In addition, both signatories “resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them”.
India’s action is a unilateral abrogation of the Shimla accord.
When signing the Shimla Agreement in 1972, Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto justified these clauses to himself because he thought he had bound India to direct bilateral negotiations. Mrs Gandhi agreed to the clauses because, having removed the United Nations fly out of the ointment, she had no intention of holding bilateral discussions with Pakistan over Jammu & Kashmir — ever.
Mr Bhutto’s detractors suspected that he had a ‘secret understanding’ with Mrs Indira Gandhi. Her principal secretary P.N. Dhar who was with them at Shimla, recalled: “Bhutto not only agreed to a change in the ceasefire line into a line of control, for which he had earlier proposed the term ‘the line of peace’, but also agreed that the line would be gradually endowed with ‘the characteristics of an international border’.”
In his time, president Musharraf authorised his principal secretary Tariq Aziz to hold confidential negotiations on Jammu & Kashmir with Mr Satinder Lambah (former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s private envoy). Lambah later revealed, after their abortion, that Pakistan had agreed not to pursue its case before the United Nations. In exchange, India “agreed to the reduction of military troops, not paramilitary, but that was subject to Pakistan ensuring an end to hostilities, violence and terrorism. That was a major prerequisite”.
All that is now history. Mr Amit Shah as chairperson of the BJP delivered the 2019 election to Mr Modi. As his home minister, he has fed a majority Muslim region to satisfy India’s Hindutva’s appetite.
How does this change in the constitutional status of Jammu & Kashmir affect Pakistan? Its only legal recourse is for it to return to the flaccid arms of the United Nations. The Foreign Office will unleash a diplomatic blitzkrieg in foreign capitals (as it does after every Indian infraction), with the OIC, the EU, and anyone else who will listen. However, Afghanistan, the Iran crisis, Yemen, and Brexit are of more immediate concern to the international community than a 70-year old regional issue that has achieved a conclusion, however illegally delivered.
Mr Shah, like Hitler in his Mein Kampf, has never disguised his religious intolerance. Mr Shah used the anti-Pakistan card to coalesce India before the 2019 elections. For him, Kashmir was a residual Muslim canker, which needed swift excision. He is a butcher to Vallabhbhai Patel’s surgeon who, as ‘The Iron Man of India’ in 1947, ‘persuaded’ Indian states to integrate into the Indian Union.
The avowed aim of Messrs Modi and Shah is not Akhand Bharat. It is a saffronised India, a Hindutva hegemony. Shah will support Modi for one or perhaps two more terms to complete this BJP/RSS agenda, after which he will take over as prime minister. He can expect no opposition from Congress. It has already committed suicide.
Pakistan should now prepare itself for at least 15 abrasive years of Indian hostility.
The writer is an author.
Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2019