J&K has no resources of its own and it cannot survive on tourism and timber industry alone. No investment can come to promote tourism industry because of Article 370. Unfortunately, this privilege was misused to stoke anti-India feelings. Late General Zia Ul Haq of Pakistan had rightly observed that as long as Article 370 existed in the India Constitution, J&K would never unite with India. This was his theme when he approved Operation Topac to initiate the “Azadi Movement” in J&K. And almost for 30 years, India has been fighting a proxy war.
by Col Rajinder Kushwaha (Retd)
In a historic verdict of parliament on 5th August 2019, the articles 35A and Article 370 pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) were abrogated. The voting in Rajya Sabha, where the ruling party does not have the majority, revealed the mood of the nation. It means, other than certain vested interests, the rest of India was against these provisions.
But the question arises: is it the final solution on Kashmir? It may disappoint some to know that it was only an internal action to rectify a historic blunder. These provisions had kept J&K alienated from India. Therefore their abrogation is only a first step towards state’s integration with India. Once it is done, then will come the final settlement of the vexed issue of J&K dispute with Pakistan. Let us see how it worked against its integration with India.
Articles 35 A and 370 had been long dubbed as a ‘Privy Purse’ for J&K. As a special privilege under these articles, it had got it’s own constitution and own laws plus unlimited financial aid from the central government. Over 14 years, between 2004 and 2018, it had got almost ₹2,78,000 crore as central aid, but corresponding development did not take place. In the recent years while all India per capita expenditure was ₹8200 for the rest of India, it has been ₹27000 for J&Z. These statistics tell the story as to how these provisions have been a white elephant on the exchequer of India.
J&K has no resources of its own and it cannot survive on tourism and timber industry alone. No investment can come to promote tourism industry because of Article 370. Unfortunately, this privilege was misused to stoke anti-India feelings. These J&K political leaders have been playing a double game of hunting with the hound and running with hare. Only three families amassed wealth at the expanse of common man. These leaders fed their people with anti-India feelings and made it their staple diet.
While a few politicians of Kashmir valley had flourished because of these central subsidies and economic doles, the general public remained poor without much growth. Instead, their frustration led to insurgency and terrorism. And local politicians, as power brokers, clearly invented a reason to blame the central government authorities. Articles 35A and 370 became lethal weapons for them to fire at the rest of India. Home Minister Amit Shah’s concluding speech had exposed the demerits of these provisions not only for India, but also for the people of J&K.
He elegantly brought out the sad fact as to how a woman from J&K marrying outside the state of J&K was disinherited from her parental claims to property. The irony was if she had married a Pakistani, he was entitled to citizenship of J&K. As against this, seven and a half lakh Hindu/Sikh refugees who had settled in Poonch region since 1947, were not given citizenship. It is no doubt that the Home Minister spoke about some of these bare facts which militated against these provisions and also they had agitated the minds of all other Indians. According to him, Article 370 was responsible for all the ills of J&K – from terrorism, underdevelopment, lack of education and health care etc. There is no denying this.
Late General Zia Ul Haque of Pakistan had rightly observed that as long as Article 370 existed in the India Constitution, J&K would never unite with India. This was his theme when he approved Operation Topac to initiate the “Azadi Movement” in J&K. And almost for 30 years, India has been fighting a proxy war. Having done this to take up religious sentiments, Pakistan wanted a referendum in J&K, which it had rejected it in August 1948.
Even though the Shimla Agreement has a provision to resolve the dispute bilaterally, Pakistan looked towards an outside intervention. This was the reason when Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan requested President Donald Trump of USA to mediate and help resolve it. Some analysts do ask as to why has this sudden development taken place to abrogate articles 35A and 370? Well, the plan and the will might have been there for some time with the BJP government but it is possible that the Donald Trump factor might have acted as a catalyst. His intention to mediate on Kashmir probably has triggered this fast track action.
Through this abrogation, the Government of India wants to make it clear as a ‘fait accompli’ on Donald Trump and Imran Khan of Pakistan. The clear message is: this part of Kashmir is ours and we would do what we want to do. If someone wants to mediate do so on Pakistan Occupied Territories of Jammu and Kashmir. This is a win-win situation for India. However, there is another school of thought which advocates that the said action of the government of India might have been undertaken with the connivance of Donald Trump and Imran Khan. It must be noted that Pakistan has very limited options to react. It can make noise in domestic and international forums. It cannot step up militancy in Kashmir valley by using its jihadi groups. It runs the risk of being further accused of sponsoring terrorists. If it happens, it would be noted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and it could be put under the ‘Black List’, thus jeopardizing its chances of getting a loan from the IMF or other financial institutes. Therefore, this action of Narender Modi has put Pakistan in a blind alley.
However, the Pakistan Army has also begun to feel the fatigue of running an unsuccessful militancy campaign in Kashmir for the last 30 years. In certain quarters even, there is an indication that the Pakistan Army and present political leadership also want to quickly resolve the issue. This is why they wanted Donald Trump to create congenial grounds for a middle ground solution. Imran Khan has expressed this desire to President Donald Trump during his visit to USA in July 2019.
And this middle ground is accepting the Line of Control (LoC) as an international border (IB) in J&K between India and Pakistan. In other words, the ‘middle ground option’ seeks to climb down from ‘Atoot Ang’ (inseparable limb) stance of India and the ‘unfinished agenda’ of 1947 stance of Pakistan to agree to keep what was being already held by both. If they agree on moving away from their stated bottom lines of the past, this is, then, the final settlement on Kashmir.
In any case, it is kudos to Prime Minister Narender Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for this historic decision. All the same, it is a first step though, towards a huge leap needed for a final settlement. I am sure Prime Minister Narender Modi must be humming American poet Robert Frost’s lines
Woods are dark, lovely and deep,
But I have promised to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep
Col Rajinder Kushwaha is an ex-NDA, commissioned into the 3 Bihar Regiment in June 1971 and was the Commanding Officer of same unit in insurgency environs in Assam in 1990-93. Has vast experience in CI Ops from North East to Punjab and J&K. A prolific writer-cum-critic on defence and security matters, he has authored the book, ‘Kashmir: A Different Perspective’. His second book on Assam in scheduled for release in December 2017. Held prestigious appointments in the army including as an instructor at a premier army institute, Col GS, Col Adm of an Infantry Division and Col “Q” works at a Command HQ. He can be contacted on Email: firstname.lastname@example.org