(J&K leaders apprehending historic change)
The most offending and offensive Article of the Indian Constitution — Article 370 has finally been rid off (and automatically also Article 35A). Good riddance! Why there was so much hesitation for so long by ruling parties across the board (including the BJP government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee) in deboarding an Article described in the Constitution as “temporary” is beyond understanding and cannot be explained except as political calculation routinely taking precedence over the national interest. It only kept fueled the legal fiction that J&K was separate from India and, hence the impression that was abroad, that it was negotiable.
This is the first substantive good and correct step relating to national security that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken in an otherwise bleak 5-year record in office of seemingly endless series of misconceptions of national security, and equally serious misreadings of the regional and international reality, resulting in patently wrong foreign and military policies and diplomatic missteps that have progressively weakened India and its geostrategics. But re: 370 Modi has done the right thing, and has to be lauded for it.
(All the gassy rhetoric in Rajya Sabha about J&K, as a consequence of the tabling of the’Reorganization Bill’, soon turning into another Palestine, or a South Sudan, or an East Timor, or whatever…is nothing more than fear-vaping by the opposition who, odds-on bet, know nothing about any of these places mentioned, leave alone their histories, whence their facile forebodings.)
There were a lot of historical tid-bits revealed by some of the speakers in Parliament, especially the RSS ideologue and BJP nominated MP Rakesh Sinha, most importantly that Lal Bahadur Shastri contemplated trashing 370 in 1964 not long after Jawaharlal Nehru’s death in May that year. But one must be aware of the political thinking behind Nehru’s decision to stop the Indian Army’s push to Muzzafarabad and thereafter to fully recover what is now PoK, which was followed by his most unfortunate decision to take the issue to the UN. But as Subramaniam Swany rightly pointed out in the debate as regards the latter move, Nehru did so in 1949 without his Cabinet’s approval, leaving the door open for the Modi government legitimately to withdraw the issue from the UN and reversing 70 years of international interference and frustration for India!
But Nehru had, at that time, made a defensible political decision. The situation was this: With the India Army poised to retake PoK, Sheikh Abdullah told Nehru that were he to recover PoK, the Mirpuri-dominated population of that region aligning with the competitor Muslim Conference party would, in an election, vote against siding with India and create trouble, but that he, a “democrat” would ensure that his National Conference party would vote to stay with India. It convinced Nehru to terminate the military recovery of PoK and even to take the matter to the UN where, per Mountbatten’s advice, the Security Council would quickly decide in India’s favour; in thee event, killing two birds with a single stone. Nehru the gullible bought into this perfidious design of Britain. (Much of this is supported by archival material, see Prem Shankar Jha’s book — ‘Kashmir 1947’.)
The scrubbing of 370 has, among its other virtues, a realpolitik reason. By making Ladakh a Union Territory, Delhi can cultivate the shias of the Kargil region in order to influence the Hazara shias and the still majority shia population of Gilgit and Baltistan (G&B) in PoK — areas hosting Pakistan Army’s Forces Command Northern Areas. This will create a sort of shia equipoise in the larger erstwhile Kashmir territory vis a vis the dominant sunnis among the Punjab mussalmans of Mirpur (Mirpuris) and the Srinagar Valley, and making life that much more politically difficult for Pakistan in G&B.
But Modi will now face a Trump suddenly beholden to an Imran Khan who promised to ease the retreat of the US-led International Security Assistance Force from Afghanistan by persuading the Taliban to hold off as the US military cuts and runs. Part of the Trump-Imran deal was renewal of American pressure on Delhi to allow US or other international mediation, as Islamabad has publicly announced, to preempt which Modi hurried through with throwing out Art 370 and related impedimenta.
How will Modi hold up under Washington’s full court press — because Trump will have to show his hand before Imran (read GHQ, Rawalpindi) delivers on the last mile, as it were? Besides brushing off pressure and threats of dilution of US commitments on the antique F-16-level technology etc that Modi seems enamoured by, the Indian PM will have to show that India means business. This last will have to be evidenced in the manipulation of the Indian hand in Afghan Taliban’s affairs. A section of the Afghan Taliban has been successfully courted and cultivated by Indian intel (just as it has done its sister outfit — the Tehreeq-e-Taliban Pakistan). These contacts will need to be activated to torpedo the US-Pak plan, to prove India cannot be ignored. But this will have to be done in tandem with making peace with Tehran, whom the Modi dispensation has seriously alienated, and to recommit to Chabahar and the connectivity projects linking up with Afghanistan, Central Asia and Russia.
This is obviously a tall order for Modi who has swung Indian foreign policy so far over to the American side, that it has eroding creds with Moscow. Meanwhile, Xi of China sits on the sideline like the wily giant panda ready to put its weight behind the winning move. Absence of geostrategic foresight is why and how India has thus further empowered an already strong China. This is what all my warnings over the years were about. Now, Modi is in a double squeeze and Trump will only hope he will cry “Uncle (Sam)”!