Four days after the Indian government hastily scrapped the special status that the border state of Kashmir enjoyed under a controversial Article370 of the Indian constitution and bizarrely locked down the state and its people after stationing thousands of soldiers in battle fatigues, Prime Minister Narendra Modi came on national TV reaching out to the people of the state, promising them a good life and freedom from terror and want.
Modi, who tried to show his government’s Kashmir decision as an internal matter that had nothing to do with neighbouring Pakistan, with which India had fought three wars over the disputed state, was calm and comforting to the people of Kashmir.
There was no hint at triumphalism, despite succeeding in annulling the special status for which he and his Hindu nationalist party had campaigned hard for decades. Due to the blackout imposed on Kashmiris, his message of peace and economic rejuvenation did not reach them.
Modi’s circumspection and promise of accommodation after Kashmir “integration” did not really reach his millions of supporters in the Northern part of India, who celebrated by distributing sweets and bursting crackers.
Some BJP lawmakers went a step further and took to social media, boorishly informing their followers that they could now go to Kashmir and marry a fair woman.
This search for spoils after this symbolic integration of Kashmir found an echo with all kinds of people, who had misinterpreted Kashmir’s special status with India. Blame for this largely falls on those who campaigned for the abrogation by suggesting that Article 370 was a fountainhead of terror, corruption, poor governance and fomenting anti-India feeling.
The rapturous response from the supporters of the ruling party and those who have little understanding of asymmetric relations between regions to deepen the federal character of a country, hence was understandable.
Also downplayed was that the central government could only fight insurgency and secessionism in restive north-eastern states once it sealed an asymmetric agreement preserving local values and identity.
In 1947, when British India was partitioned into India and Pakistan, the valley of Kashmir was a preponderantly Muslim state ruled by a Hindu King. Ideally, it should have gone to Pakistan, but the Hindu king signed an instrument of accession with India when the Pakistani army in the garb of tribals attacked state capital, Srinagar.
A Kashmiri nationalist leader, Sheikh Abdullah, cemented the relationship when he reiterated the commitment of his party to go with India, which was a socialist, secular, democratic republic.
India’s first prime minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru, a quintessential democrat, also promised a plebiscite once peace returned to Kashmir.
The Kashmir issue, which has blighted the relationship between India and Pakistan, was taken to the UN, and continues to be one of the most intractable and enduring disputes in the world. Pakistan has claimed for a long time that the solution to the Afghanistan problem cannot be solved until the Kashmir issue is resolved. Their argument is as follows: After the 1971 war, Pakistan lost its eastern part (now Bangladesh) and saw India on the threshold of capturing one of their main cities, Lahore.
Pakistan claimed that if it had to save itself from India in future wars, it would need strategic depth in Afghanistan, which would allow them to shift their assets and leadership to theirs.
Hence they needed a friendly regime in Kabul.
This logic is a bit convoluted, but has kept Afghanistan hopelessly destabilised. An unwilling participant in the Soviet Union’s great game, Afghanistan saw the US use Pakistan and its Islamic radical assets to bring down their communist government.
Post 9/11, Pakistan got an opportunity to emerge as a front-line state in the US-led global war on terror. The rise of the violent Taliban, with medieval views on women and foreigners that were fostered in the refugee camps of Pakistan, always allowed Pakistan’s powerful army to have sway over Afghan affairs.
After long years under US occupation, US President Donald Trump wants to pull out its troops from war-torn Afghanistan. A special US Representative for Afghanistan, Zalimay Khalizad, is hammering out a deal with Afghanistan, which was to be ready by September 1. Trump tried to rope in Pakistan PM and former cricketer, Imran Khan, during his visit to Washington, to hasten the Afghan deal.
Khan reassured Trump and perhaps India and Afghanistan that his country was not looking any more for strategic depth. Hence, Pakistan’s participation in US peace efforts was premised on its eastern border remaining quiet with India. A violent border would prevent Islamabad from fulfilling its part of the deal.
Now the two nuclear warriors, Pakistan and India are at daggers drawn imperilling Trump’s Afghanistan deal.
* Kapoor is a columnist and independent political commentator.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.