No adverse consequences of Kashmir’s full integration

A view of Srinagar last week. (Atul Loke for The New York Times)

Finally, Article 370 has been politically abrogated and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has been fully integrated into India as a Union Territory. The big question is what will happen now? Nothing much except J&K will be like any other state of India. Pakistan and some elements in Kashmir will attempt to create some troubles in J&K, but nothing would change the current situation and Pakistan has finally realized it.

Except DMK and CPM, almost all other parties openly or otherwise supported this historic step of righting a wrong decision of awarding a special status to J&K. The Congress Whip in Rajya Sabha refused to issue a whip to Congress members; resigned from Congress; and joined BJP. Under the influence of Shaikh Abdullah, Pandit Nehru agreed to provide special status to J&K and even allowed J&K to have autonomy to the extent that it had its own constitution, flag, President and Prime Minister (which Jana Sangha, predecessors of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) termed as Do Vidhans (two constitutions), Do Nishans (two flags) and Do Pradhans (two Presidents and Prime Ministers).

Indians were neither allowed to settle in J&K nor were they allowed to buy any property there whereas Kashmiris could settle and purchase properties in other parts of India. J&K could run all her affairs except foreign policy and defense. There was no need to do so and except Shaikh Abdullah and Nehru, no one liked it. Due to Shaikh Abdullah’s attempts to become an independent country, Mr. Nehru was forced to arrest Mr. Abdullah. Eventually, Kashmir’s constitution and flag were suspended; the posts of President and Prime Minister were replaced with the posts of Governor and Chief Minister similar to the other states.

Political abrogation of Articles 370 was not an unexpected event. Before the election, BJP had publicly stated that it would remove Articles 370 and 35(A) and a large majority of voters gave BJP a mandate to do so. Not only these two Articles kept J&K separate from the mainstream and industrially backward, as no Indian was allowed to buy any property there, other states also started requesting special status for their states.

In the hope of winning the elections, Chandra Babu Naidu left the NDA as the central government would not grant special status to Andhra Pradesh. Instead of winning the election, Babu’s party lost badly. While congratulating Modi on the abrogation of Article 370, I have advised him to start efforts to stop the business of special status to states, castes, religions, etc.

The government should also stop special status to politicians and bureaucrats as VIP, VVIP, etc. which has been done to a great extent by the BJP government. Congress Party blames Modi of following a divisive policy. After agreeing to the country's partition on the basis of religion, Congress Party has been seeking quotas for Gujjars, Jats, Marathas, Muslims, Lingayats and for anyone else who would vote for it.

After recognizing that it cannot get Kashmir, Pakistan was hoping for more autonomy for Kashmir. Now that hope is gone. When I was trying to have serious negotiations between India and Pakistan for improving relationship, one Pakistani ambassador told me to convey to Modi that Pakistan will not raise the issue of Kashmir and will do so in public only for domestic consumption. For many years, some Pakistanis, especially young ones have openly started saying, "Let India have Kashmir and let us concentrate on improving economy in Pakistan."

No adverse consequences of Kashmir’s full integration

Afshana Farooq, 14, was treated in a Srinagar hospital on Aug. 9 after being nearly trampled in a stampede when Indian forces opened fire on demonstrators. (Atul Loke for The New York Times_

During the debate on Kashmir in the Parliament (National Assembly), when Shahbaz Sharif, younger brother of ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was attacking the Pakistani government for its inaction, Prime Minister Imran Khan asked, "What do you want me to do; attack India?" There was no answer from Sharif or anyone else. For the first time, in Pakistan's Parliament, one member of Parliament blamed Pakistan for the current bad relationship between India and Pakistan and defended Vajpayee and Modi for their efforts for a peaceful relationship between the two countries.

As a reaction to the abrogation of Article 370, Pakistan expelled Indian envoys to leave Pakistan and called backed its envoys from India. However, there are already talks about reversing the order. Pakistan had suspended Thar Express, a train service from Rajasthan to Karachi, but at least one time Pakistan let the train to proceed to Karachi. Pakistan also suspended Samjhauta Train Service between Amritsar and Lahore, the bus service between two parts of Kashmir and all the trades between the two countries. Pakistanis and Muslims will be the main losers. Most of the passengers are Muslims visiting their relatives. Trade suspension will hurt economically weak Pakistan more. Soon, these steps may be reversed as Pakistan cannot afford to continue these suspensions. Pakistanis are openly acknowledging the empathy on part of the world towards the current happenings in Kashmir. UAE, a Muslim country, openly supported India. Even China, Pakistan's best friend, denounced India's action related to Ladakh only which China considers its part. In his article published in Dawn on August 8, Khuram Husain complained that "no one is listening to Pakistan anymore."

What will now happen in India, Pakistan and Kashmir? Again not much. It is true that Pakistan and some elements in Kashmir encouraged by Pakistan and Mullahs will try to conduct terrorist activities in J&K, but will not have any a lasting effect, if any. Further, Indian government will handle such activities firmly. The United States government has already cautioned Pakistan to desist from supporting terrorist activities across the border.

Eventually, Pakistanis and Kashmiris will realize that they would be wise to concentrate on their economies. There is already a realization among Muslims in India including Kashmir, especially young ones, that they belong to India and are better off being a part of the main stream rather their stressing for a special status. In fact, in the last Parliament election, many Muslims, especially women and youngsters, voted for BJP and more will do so in future. BJP will also make efforts to discourage inhuman acts by some Hindus to bring more Muslims into its fold. I also hope Hindus will accept that Muslims are as much Indians as are Hindus. After all they have same ancestors, blood and genes. Modi's slogan of "Sabka Vikas" (economic progress of all Indians) and Sabka Vishwas (trust of all Indians) will become a reality.

Finally, I believe that Pakistan will also realize the reality that it cannot get Kashmir nor can it get more autonomy for Kashmir than any other Indian state has. Then, both countries can and should start negotiations and efforts to have a peaceful and mutually beneficial political and economic relationship. That is what most of the people want on both sides of the border and that is what both the governments should try to achieve.


Jitendra K. Tuli was an advisor to former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

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