Time to revisit Article 370

Set up by the Manmohan Singh government in 2010, the Kashmir panel comprising M.M. Ansari, formerly with the Central Information Commission, Radha Kumar, an academic with interest in conflict resolution, and journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, submitted its report about a fortnight back. Predictably, it satisfied nobody. The Hurriyat with its one-point agenda of assimilating Jammu & Kashmir into Pakistan had early on damned the panel as insufficiently high-level and as lacking in political clout. The rest of the country cared little – just another committee to flog a dead horse. Those who were interested didn’t know what to make of the panel tasked with soliciting the range of views within J&K and to come up with guidelines for a solution acceptable to all parties. This was tantamount to asking a dog’s tail to be straightened – it can’t be done.

The panellists are liberal intellectuals but the orientation they brought to their job can be gleaned about only one of them – Kumar, who edited a book of case studies containing “simulations” of various conflicts – Northern Ireland, J&K, Nagaland, an imaginary African country in a civil war situation, etc., written up by various people. In the introduction to the book, she wrote that in the context of centre-state relations, “the crux of the problem” is “Kashmir’s political status” and, unexceptionably, that any solution would require the separatists and independence-seekers to be drawn “into the consensus-building process” which, she deemed, “the key issue”. In the event, the separatists did not meet with the panel. Even so, it is clear Kumar’s views prevailed, with the panel recommending in the main the establishment of a Constitutional Commission to consider afresh J&K’s position within the Indian Union in terms of the applicability of Indian laws to Kashmir with a view to strengthening its separate status.

Helpfully, Padgaonkar has weighed in with a newspaper article on the subject, with a good portion of it devoted to the reasons why he believes the panellists and their report are relevant to such solution-seeking as the government may pursue in the months ahead. However, with the general elections looming and the ruling coalition’s prospects dimming by the day, it is unlikely that the Kashmir issue is going to be raked up any time soon. The report by Messrs Ansari, Kumar, & Padgaonkar, for all intents and purposes, has been interred in the shelves of the Parliament library as its principal promoters are preoccupied — the Home Minister P. Chidambaram with saving, not Kashmir, but his Lok Sabha seat, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, overwhelmed by his own irrelevance in government, contemplating inconsequence as president of the country.

Now, Ghulam Nabi Fai – the Kashmiri activist jailed in Washington for illegal lobbying in the US Congress, has jumped into the fray. In an article, he has voiced the aspirations of Kashmiris directly derived from the quixotic belief of Maharaja Hari Singh’s about an independent Kashmir. In the troubled times immediately following the lapse of British paramountcy in the subcontinent, the Maharaja held back on his decision about which Dominion to join in the hope that in the extant confusion and disorder, he’d get his “Switzerland in Asia”. But the circumstances of the invasion by the Pakistani raiders compelled him to accede to India. The enduring problem was, however, created by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who instead of pushing to militarily recover all of the presently Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, including the Northern Areas (Hunza, Gilgit and Baltistan), which the Indian Army was poised to do at the time of the 1948 ceasefire, took the dispute disastrously for this country, to the United Nations. There it instantly became a pawn in big power politics. Having made this horrible mistake, Nehru compounded it by agreeing to the right of self-determination based on nothing more than his conceit that, offered the choice, Kashmiris would join India rather than the rump state of Pakistan.

A still graver internal problem Nehru created for the country was to accord J&K separate Constitutional status (Article 370) within the Union. The question remains: What is so unique about Kashmir that it should enjoy such status? If one were to go by legal documents and the accords signed by the various princely states, the British Raj accepted a differential scale of sovereign functioning. Meaning, some kingdoms within the colonial architecture functioned more freely than others. By this criterion, Travancore and Manipur, for example, deserved special status far more than did Kashmir.

If, on the other hand, the issue boils down to Nehru’s promises to Sheikh Abdullah, these have even less sanctity than the Constitutionally-mandated privy purses Indira Gandhi abolished. Signed accords and paper deeds have been routinely abrogated by newly founded countries in the process of  consolidating themselves as nation-states.  Consider, for instance, the innumerable treaties the US government signed with the native American-Indian tribes and consigned to the dustbin once they became obstacles to territorial expansion and nation-building.

It is, however, Nehru’s faulty premise that has seeped into the thinking of Indian liberals, that nation-building is a morality tale, an exercise in ethical norms. Actually, as history shows, nations are sewn together, often from disparate parts, by craft, graft, and bloodletting. It is dirty, usually violent business in which peoples who would otherwise have remained separate were dragged kicking and screaming into the national fold, and no nonsense about it. Again, ask the American Indians who, because they resisted, were exterminated. By reinforcing the notion of their distinctness, Article 370 has perennially fuelled discontent and insurgency, stoked dreams of independence in Kashmir, ill-served India, and should be done away with. It is best that the Kashmiris be told that once however in, there’s no out. If the Hurriyat and that ilk don’t accept it; they can go take a hike. Better still, they should be placed in a tub alongside Arundhati Roy — who seceded from the Indian republic (remember, she threatened to do that?), towed out to sea, and there left to contemplate their virtuous selves. Outside the 12-mile territorial limit.

[Published in the ‘New Indian Express’, Friday, June 15, 2012 at http://newindianexpress.com/opinion/article542867.ece]

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, Geopolitics, India's Pakistan Policy, Indian Politics, Internal Security. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Time to revisit Article 370

  1. Madhusudan says:

    Thanks for a realistic appraisal on the Kashmir issue.

  2. VOXINDICA says:

    Bravo! Instead to sticking to politically correct niceties, you have told the anti-national Hurriyat leaders and Arundhati Roy where they can get off. And it is time Article 370 is scrapped altogether. I was often puzzled by the idiocy of our ‘secular’ politicians. If their intention in not abrogating the impugned article is to placate the Muslim vote bank, how does providing special status to Muslims in Kashmir help the lot of Muslims in the rest of India?

    • It is a pity Muslim organizations in the country are not taking the lead in asking for removal of Article 370. That alone will free the issue from the clutches of appeasement politics Congress and Left Parties, in the main, have been practising for over six decades now.

  3. Krishnakanth says:

    Subramanian Swamy suggested that “At least 2lakh Ex-Servicemen families must be provided all facilities(regarding welfare and warfare) and be made to settle in the Kashmir valley from which about 5lakh Kashmiri Pandits have been hounded out in 1989.Isn’t it the only solution to stop
    the insurgent activities.But Sir,do you think that it is practically possible considering the callousness,negligence, in-sensitiveness on the matters of “National Security and Sovereignty” of Indians themselves

    • Kashmiris, of whatever religious persuasion, can settle down, open businesses anywhere. But Indians cannot buy property, put down roots in Kashmir. This is at the core of the problem because Kashmiris keep stewing in their little corner of the world w/o any live interaction with their countrymen. It’s a recipe for insurgent activity. Kashmiriyat needs to change to Hindustaniyat. Settling Indian army jawans/NCOs — is one option.

  4. Ravi says:

    A frank and honest appraisal, which is rare to find thee days. If one went a bit deeper, one will find actual collusion between the powers-that-be in India and the separatist (read Pak sponsored ter*****ts).

  5. Jagdish says:

    Every jawan who has served in Kashmir should get an acre of land to settle there.

    • Ravi says:

      @Jagdish: That would be the sensible policy. This is one case where the Israeli settlement theory is the only solution.

    • Ravi says:

      @Jagdish: As an addendum, merely giving a jawan who served in J&K an acre won’t do. They need to be groups of 10-20 with their families spread over 20 acres. They also need firepower in the form of assault rifles, mortars, and rocket launchers. In addition, satellite communication and armed vehicles should be provided. . If possible even night vision equipment need to be provided to them. The “relocated” jawans should be chosen on the basis of their ability and willingness to carry out combat operations against infiltrating terrorists. These mini-fortresses should be defensible and serve as base camps which are not only linked together and provide area defense on the ground, but if the need alone also carry out short range patrols. As an incentive, apart from an increase in their pensions, they should be able to grow fruits, etc. and allowed to keep the proceeds tax free.

  6. Vihan says:

    Dear Bharat,

    A very well written article and I agree 100% with you. I will only add that Article 370 labelled as “Temporary provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir” emphasize “Temporary provisions” . Therefore even constitutionally, it is an imperative of any government in power to scrap it as it was never meant to be permanent in the first place like a law.

    Regarding the naysayers – the Hurriyat, Arundhati Roy with the ever sanctimonious Jhola Brigade, and vote bank overlords who think it will offend the Muslims of India they can rightly and promptly go to their respective Islamic caliphates and Worker’s paradises if they dislike what India is giving them and feel there is better elsewhere.

    Best Regards,

    – vihan

  7. Sanjay Iyer says:

    WOnderful logic Sir, hope to hear you again at CDM this year

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