GP Insights # 396, 9 August 2020
5 August 2020 marked one year of India making constitutional and administrative changes to the erstwhile J&K State. While India kept a low profile of the date and treated it as an internal issue, Pakistan made the same into a national and international issue. Within J&K, there was a remarkable difference in how the two regions – Jammu and Kashmir saw the last one year.
India, officially, kept a low profile on the date. It has made a change at the leadership level, by replacing the first Lieutenant General of J&K Union Territory (a bureaucrat), with a new one (a political leader belonging to the ruling BJP). There were a few editorials and analyses in the media. Inside J&K, New Delhi imposed security restrictions especially in the Kashmir Valley, to prevent any protests on 5 August.
Pakistan observed 5 August as "Youm-e-Istehsal" (Day of exploitation). There was a Kashmir frenzy on 4 August and 5 August. The Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan made a statement, "the Almighty is passing the Kashmiris through a phase that will end up in their freedom." Pakistan issued a new postal stamp highlighting its support to the Kashmiris and named a new highway after Kashmir. Pakistan's foreign minister made a harsh statement on the OIC asking the latter to convene a meeting on Kashmir. Through China, Pakistan also attempted to initiate a debate in the UN Security Council. Importantly, Pakistan also issued a new map of the country. According to Pakistan, the new map "is a political map as opposed to the administrative map."
The people of J&K responded differently. The Kashmiris in the Valley marked it as a "black day" with their leaders either placed under detention, or not allowed to engage in political activities, and serious restrictions on connectivity, especially the internet. On the other hand, the people in the Jammu region was seen celebrating 5 August as the first anniversary.
What is the background?
India sees J&K as an internal issue. The government of India, cutting across political parties, have pursued J&K as a domestic issue. The Indian State sees Pakistan as a revisionist power and expects the international community to prevent Pakistan from intervening in India's internal matter politically and through sponsoring terrorism and fueling unrest. The BJP government not only have reorganized the administrative map of J&K but also stopped the bilateral dialogue process between the two countries.
The BJP government wants to pursue a muscular policy towards J&K and resolve the issue by removing the special status of the State and completely integrating with the rest of India. The removal of constitutional provisions (Article 370 and 35-A) was a part of this pursuit. The BJP government feels Pakistan has no locus standi in J&K.
Pakistan sees J&K as an international issue. For Islamabad, it is an unfinished agenda of the Indo-Pak partition at the bilateral level. At the international level, Pakistan wants an intervention by the United Nations, fulfil the earlier resolutions. It wants the international community to intervene in J&K and pressurize India to talk to Pakistan on Kashmir. Pakistan also wants the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) in which it is a member, to make a strong political statement, if not take action against India.
Pakistan fears that the BJP's muscular policy towards Kashmir would make Islamabad irrelevant. The bigger fear is that Kashmir would become irrelevant and an unimportant issue for the international community, as India's political clout at the international level is growing.
The international community is reluctant to intervene. While there have been reports by non-governmental organizations and civil society initiatives on J&K, there has been a low profile response at the official level. Neither the UN Security Council nor the OIC, nor the EU has made any substantial reference on J&K.
What does it mean?
Within South Asia, Pakistan will continue its political offensive on J&K. The map, stamp, highway, resolutions in legislative assemblies (provincial and national), conferences and full-page advertisements in the media is hardening Pakistan's position towards India and on J&K. Internationally, Pakistan would lean more towards China – politically and militarily, to gather support on J&K.
Pakistan's political offensive is likely to harden the Indian public position on the former, and also on bilateral dialogue. With the Indian government already having a hardened stance to restart the dialogue process, the above would only strengthen its position on Pakistan and resetting Indo-Pak relations.
The international community will remain a spectator. It would neither yield to the pressure from Pakistan to do more on India nor would it intervene and pressurize India to do more either on J&K or on Indo-Pak relations. It would pursue J&K as a bilateral issue. Except for China.
J&K would remain an internal issue for India. Unless the political detentions come to an end leading to a political process, and the communications restored, Kashmir Valley would remain suffocated. On the other hand, the Jammu region will find more breathing space politically and psychologically. This would also increase the divide between the two regions within J&K.