India’s unilateral Kashmir move unwise, dangerous

By Adam Garrie Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/12 20:08:40

Pakistani people in Karachi, Pakistan on August 5 rally to oppose that India unilaterally changed the special status of India-controlled Kashmir. Photo: IC

For a long time Jammu and Kashmir has been a place of strife, inequity, conflict and geopolitical deadlock. In such circumstances any move made to destabilize an already tense situation can uniformly be described as the wrong decision. By revoking Jammu and Kashmir's relative autonomy and by likewise revoking a decree which forbade non-Kashmiris from buying property in the disputed territory, India's status in relation to Kashmir has been inexorably changed from that of a party to a conflict to an instigator of an unnecessary and counterproductive provocation. 

There was no proximate justification for the controversial move based on any event within Kashmir nor based on any global movements around the disputed region. Due to this reality, it can be deduced that the move was not taken with clear thinking but was instead an attempt to distract from domestic economic issues, global economic instability and India's own trading difficulties with the US. But unlike mere nationalist rhetoric which has become ever more common in India, New Delhi's new move is already having very real consequences. 

As things stood, India and China had been in the midst of the second year of a reconciliation effort in the wake of the 2017 Doklam standoff. Although India's nationalistic government has prohibited New Delhi from taking a pragmatic win-win approach to the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, trade and related joint economic endeavor were progressing adequately between China and India. Likewise, Pakistan and India, whose relations have always been tense, had been in the midst of de-escalating tensions which had degraded in February when Pakistan closed its airspace to Indian flights following the Pulwama incident. 

But in one move, India's decision in respect of Kashmir has caused Pakistan to once again close its airspace to India after opening it back up in July. Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic ties with India while also taking measures to reduce bilateral trade and sever rail links between the two countries. 

For China, the issue is less central than for Pakistan but when India's move in relation to Ladakh is taken into account, this too can be classified as a counterproductive provocation against China. Prior to August 5, Ladakh had been part of Jammu and Kashmir but under the changed status in Indian Constitution - though not international law - Ladakh has been separated from Jammu and Kashmir by New Delhi and will now be classed as a new separate territory of India to be ruled directly by New Delhi. When Indian Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah loudly claimed that India seeks to establish rule over Aksai Chin in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, it displayed an attitude of hostility against China that is incompatible with a productive partnership based on realism and shared economic goals. 

India's government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has tried its best to balance external economic pragmatism with an internal and regional narrative of extreme nationalism. Yet because of New Delhi's decision on Kashmir, this balance has been thrown out of line and jingoistic hostility is now the overriding message that India is conveying to its neighbors and the wider world. 

Although a chance of nuclear war remains remote, any steps taken by a nuclear-armed India to provoke a nuclear-armed Pakistan or a nuclear-armed China are clearly matters which should concern the wider world. In this sense, the threat of such a war is sadly closer than it was just weeks ago. 

Although the status quo in Kashmir has been poor since 1947, this month's unilateral moves by India have discarded a fragile status quo and in so doing have violated the letter and spirit of UN Security Council Resolution 47. 

The move which amounts to an annexation of a disputed territory now makes the UN mandated plebiscite for Kashmir all the more difficult to achieve while a crackdown on electronic communication, media and free movement goes against the interests of the most basic human rights for Kashmir's civilians. 

Kashmir was the most militarized region in the world even before the recent moves by New Delhi. As Pakistan has vowed not to let the move go unanswered, another India-Pakistan war is now all the more real a possibility. 

It is imperative that the international community de-escalates tensions, ensures that the rights of Kashmir are not violated and that India refrains from making further provocative moves against its neighbors. 

The template for 21st century cooperation and development in Asia is one based on a fundamental respect for the sovereignty of nations and of peoples. By taking such a unilateral move, India has shown a disregard for this cooperative spirit. Nothing good can result from such a move.

The author is director of Eurasia Future, an independent news platform.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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