Article 370 is finally history; now need to stiffen national resolve to brush off US (and other Western) pressure

NC president Farooq Abdullah, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti and leaders of other mainstream parties at an all party meeting in Srinagar on Sunday. 	(Photo: H.U. Naqash)

(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)”!

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.
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9 Responses to Article 370 is finally history; now need to stiffen national resolve to brush off US (and other Western) pressure

  1. Rupam says:

    Don’t see retaking of POK happening. As u have said Modi seems to be tilting in favour of US more and more. And do u thing Aksai Chin should be taken back as well. Also what is your view when US made the statement of deploying its missiles in Asia? And do u think if Russia moves into Afghanistan then US will again come back or is it trying to get out for good?

  2. Indian says:

    Nice writeup about the inmediate future Mr. Karnad.
    Kudos to GOI for finally doing it. NEVER too late!! Amit shah/Modi/NSA should be given their due credit. Hopefully everything settles down soon.
    I’m flabbergasted at the news that USA was told about this in Feb 2019 and that MEA is now breifing P5 including China? For heaven sake, are we a banana republic?
    Why would someone even brief China, who has a vested interest in anything that does good to India? You should have just breifed the P4, only if they ever made a comment about it. I get the reality that US is the superpower and its voice could be better spoke on out behalf. But, couldn’t India show its confidence and nerve by actually doing it and then letting the American know about it rather than the other way around?

  3. PRATIK KUMAR says:

    First of all congratulations to all my dear Indians….its a historic day to remember…..Now as these two parasitic articles will be removed, there will definitely a big boost to CT ops in Kashmir. And agreeing with you Bharat Sir especially with your previous articles, its high time we should give main focus to combating China (though we should have done it decades before) as united India (including J&K) will definitely give a big boost to internal security, though we have several other security challenges.

    Also one more thing the decision to remove these two bloody articles definitely show the realist thinking of PM Modi, but I doubt that He will show real-politik thinking against China, like nuclear arming Vietnam, Taiwan etc…What do u say Bharat Sir????

    • PRATIK KUMAR says:

      I am replying to my own comment just to correct a word…the second word of second line in first paragraph is not ‘no’ but its ‘now’. Sorry for inconvenience.

  4. AD says:

    As you wrote, this is the first instance of Modi government showing real spine and some semblance of strategic thinking. Let us see if they follow it up, or this is a one-off. Only time will tell.

    It is going to be almost impossible for Modi to reverse course on this one, largely because the decision is so popular among voters and some state elections take place in next few months.

    I could never understand why something as widely detested among Indian voters was allowed to remain on the books for 70 years. In some ways, it was worse than the ‘triple talaq’ business.

  5. Viggo Hendrix says:

    Now nehru is gullible from a visionary. Visionary was ambedkar, who rejected 370, supported if india pakistan are to be partitioned then it should be by complete transfer of population.
    Visionary was patel who united india single handedly.
    Nehru was stubborn politician who got PMship on platter after losing election. He cost india aksai chin. By not deploying airforce because he feared that china will bomb delhi. and kept our forces weak by not supplying them with necessary equipment. Jailed sam manekshaw. His foolishness is the tale of legends. And this man held him in high regard and a sycophant.
    But hey lets enjoy this moment win for india. MSD at work.

  6. Viggo Hendrix says:

    Now nehru is gulblible from a visionary. Visionary was ambedkar, who rejected 370, supported if india pakistan are to be partitioned then it should be by complete transfer of population.
    Visionary was patel who united india single handedly.
    Nehru was stubbbborn politician who got PMship on platter after losing election. He cost india aksai chin. By not deploying airforce because he feared that china will bomb delhi. and kept our forces weak by not supplying them with necessary equipment. Jailed sam manekshaw. His foolnnishness is the tale of legends. And this man held him in high regard and a sycnnophant.
    But hey lets enjoy this moment win for india. MSD at work.

  7. San Mann says:

    The legacy of Nehru’s gullibility is gone, and the remnants of his party run by his carpetbagger grand-daughter-in-law is now left in a shambles. Pakistan is now also shorn of its precious narcotic called Kashmir. Let these fools be left in the dust, so that India can rise from its ashes.

  8. San Mann says:

    Main thing is that India should be vigilant against any attempt by Pakistan to trigger any intifada or street violence in the Valley. Vigorous use should be made of FATF to ensure Pakistan stays away from sponsoring violence.

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