Abrogation of key provision meant to distract public attention

By Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/9/19 19:53:47

Security personnel stand guard on a street in Jammu on August 6. Photo: VCG

Editor's Note:

Shortly after taking oath for a second term as prime minister, Narendra Modi shocked many people by revoking Article 370 of the Constitution which gave the state of Jammu and Kashmir near-autonomous authority, a move that pushed up tensions between India and Pakistan. What are Modi's considerations behind this move? What kind of foreign policy will Modi pursue in the second term? Global Times reporters Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi (GT) talked with Prasenjit Bose (Bose), economist and political analyst based in Kolkata, India, on these issues. 

GT: By changing Kashmir's status, what does Prime Minister Narendra Modi expect to achieve in the short and long term? 

Going by his televised address after scrapping the special status of Jammu & Kashmir, Prime Minister Modi seems to believe that Article 370 was the root cause of all the problems afflicting the troubled state - he explicitly mentioned separatism, terrorism, nepotism and corruption. He also suggested that it was the autonomy enjoyed by the state which has enabled Pakistan to fan anti-India sentiments and provoke violence. Unfortunately, this grossly erroneous view has been ingrained in the thinking of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and its mentor, the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), since long. Having attained a comfortable majority in the general elections, the Prime Minister is implementing the RSS' agenda of reworking the basic pillars of the Indian Constitution, like secularism and federalism, in order to establish a majoritarian Hindu state. Revocation of Article 370 is a step in that direction. 

GT: What triggers Modi to put this idea into practice? 

Bose: There is more than one theory for it. It is felt by many that the recent move on Jammu and Kashmir is meant to distract public attention from a serious economic slowdown and ebbing economic opportunities at home. The Modi government has been using militarist nationalism to its political advantage domestically since long, including in the run-up to the 2019 general elections. Few others have hinted toward strategic concerns regarding the consequences of US troops drawdown from Afghanistan in the region.

Whatever is the trigger, the domestic fallout is unlikely to follow the official script. 

Little was retrieved in terms of black money, much damage was done to the economy. This time there can be damaging political consequences. Besides, the decision may not stand judicial scrutiny. 

GT: What would be the possible implications on the entire region and the Indian internal society respectively due to the Kashmir status change?

Bose: The special status of Jammu and Kashmir embodied in Article 370 came from a covenant between the Indian leadership and the rulers of the province after India's independence. It was the condition on which Jammu and Kashmir acceded to the Indian Union in October 1947. Although there has been much erosion of the original autonomy accorded to the state over the years, the recognition of the state's special status through Article 370 has enormous constitutional, historical and sentimental value. 

The constitutionality of the presidential order and the legislations enacted in the Indian parliament, through which Jammu and Kashmir's autonomous status was revoked and the state bifurcated into two union territories, have been widely questioned. 

Politically, the move has been divisive, to say the least. While the Hindu-majoritarian opinion celebrated the demise of Article 370, all mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir were opposed to the move and many opposition parties in the Indian parliament have also opposed it. The imposition of curfew, house arrest of political leaders and the communications black-out have hurt the ordinary people. 

Far from ushering in peace and development, this is likely to cause further alienation of the people. 

If the mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir, who abide by the Indian Constitution, are repressed and marginalized, it will end up strengthening the separatist position and lead to an escalation of hostilities and violence. That will be against India's fundamental interests. 

GT: Through this move, have you observed any new changes or trends of the Indian foreign policy during PM Modi´s second term? Do you think India will adopt a more assertive foreign policy in the region to defend what it believes are its interests? If the answer is yes, what are the reasons behind this change? 

Bose: India's interests are best served through a restoration of peace and dialogue with the stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir. Problems with our own people cannot be solved through coercive military means. There has to be a democratic political process. The present step by the Modi government is not in that direction. 

Competitive militarism and terrorism are the biggest enemies of peace and stability in South Asia. Events over the past few years have only contributed to the escalation of conflicts, rather than the peaceful and diplomatic resolution. There is need for deep introspection, on all sides. 

GT: How do you evaluate the prospects for China-India relations after the Kashmir status change?  

Bose: The decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir has not been an unanimous one in India's parliament. Many opposition parties outside Jammu and Kashmir unequivocally supported the political parties based in Jammu and Kashmir in their opposition to the central government's move on Article 370. External interference on the matter will only vitiate the domestic political environment.

The history of China-India relationship, while complex, is quite different from the much troubled India-Pakistan relations. 

As a responsible power and neighbor of both India and Pakistan, China can play a constructive role in advising restraint on all sides and advocate peaceful resolution of all disputes.
Newspaper headline: Kashmir quagmire


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