Kashmir is the northern state of India consisting of the regions of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh under Indian Administration, and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) which was seized from India in 1947. In 1963, Pakistan gave the Kashmir Shaksgam tract, a small region along the north-eastern border of Gilgit–Baltistan, to the People’s Republic of China. Kashmir remains a disputed territory, and as such it is regularly in the media. Since early August this year however, Kashmir has found itself the centre of a frenzy of propaganda- including on the 30th August, when Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, threatened the world with nuclear war in a televised speech to his people.
On 5th August 2019, the Government of India made a constitutional change, within its right as a democracy, to bring the state of J&K fully under the Indian umbrella ensuring that all citizens of J&K would have the same rights as the citizens of its other 28 states. The government also decided to create two separate union territories at the same time, the region of Jammu and Kashmir, and the region of Ladakh. The constitutional mechanism used by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India was to revoke Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution, which gave a special status to Kashmir state. The special status was introduced as a “temporary” measure on October 17, 1949. This temporary position means that the residents of Kashmir, who are mainly Muslims and Hindus, have been living under a discriminatory system, being denied access to the same rights as other Indians for generations.
It is apparent that Article 370 had become an obstacle to closely integrating J&K state with the rest of India. In the hands of hostile powers this article has been used to promote alienation, separatism and militancy in the region, resulting in the consequential loss of around 40,000 Indian citizens, including security forces. It has also encouraged corruption and sustained dynastic politics, with Pakistan exploiting the situation to spread terrorism. The Indian government undertook its decision with the objective of integrating J&K with the national mainstream, and ensuring security and stability in India.
Pakistan has taken this opportunity to not only provoke India, but also issue false claims to international press regarding India’s objective. Furthermore, both the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Chief of the Army have put out public calls for acts of violence. In effect, Pakistan has continued to display its ongoing commitment to jihad and terrorism.
The Indian government’s action is purely a matter of administrative reorganisation, pertaining to the Indian Constitution and India’s domestic affairs. It does not, in any manner change the boundaries of J&K, or Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan. It has, therefore, no external ramifications or dimensions. Whilst the issue is extremely sensitive, and has been a call for the Indian army to increase its presence in the region to ensure that peace and stability are maintained, there appears to be little reason for the international community to be concerned or alarmed. Armed groups based in Pakistan are known to operate in Kashmir and have been the cause of many killings of both military personnel and civilians. On 14th February this year, the terrorist group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, claimed responsibility for the murder of 40 Indian soldiers. To prevent further killings, and in reply to the calls for increased terrorism in the region by Pakistan’s hierarchy, India moved troops into the region to maintain peace. Since then, not a single shot has been fired, not a single killing has taken place.
Changes to a constitution in any democratic polity are the sole prerogative of the elected legislature. The Indian government’s action are intended to improve governance, ensure economic development and deliver socio-economic justice to the people of J&K. Due to Article 370, laws enacted by the Indian central government for socio-economically disadvantaged segments of the population and women were not applicable in J&K, depriving Kashmiris from benefits such as the Right to Education, Right to Information, Minimum Wages Act, Reservation for Scheduled Classes and Protection of Minorities. Additionally, the removal of Article 370 has allowed for grassroots democracy, and has even enabled those who had migrated to India from Pakistan after Partition, to vote for an Assembly and local body elections, a right previously denied.
Article 370 has propagated gender injustice as it barred Kashmiri women from marrying non-Kashmiris, and prevents them or their children from inheriting property. J&K is lagging behind economically as businesses are unwilling to invest in the state due to Article 370’s provision that disallows non-Kashmiris from owning property. It is hoped that the abrogation of the Articles will facilitate investment in the private sector, including setting up commercial ventures, thereby boosting tourism and generating employment in J&K. The decision of Government of India will facilitate an environment for development without discrimination and open up new employment opportunities by modernising infrastructure, opening new hospitals and educational institutions, and improving rail road connectivity. We are witnessing unprecedented efforts by the Pakistan government to use the revocation of Article 370 and 35A by India to internationalise the Kashmir issue through aggressive fake news and disinformation campaigns. Pakistan cites Indian’s record on human rights and democracy in Kashmir, but the UN Human Rights Report issued in July 2019 states that the armed terrorist groups are based in Pakistan while operating in India’s Kashmir. The report also highlights that Pakistan has prevented the UN from monitoring the situation in the POK, and that journalists and human rights activists are threatened, intimidated or murdered for reporting on the worsening situation in POK and Gilgit Baltistan. Pakistan remains on the FATF money laundering and terrorism finance list and is accused by countries such as the US of State Sponsored Terrorism. Currently all major Pakistan opposition leaders, including former Prime Ministers Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, as well as his daughter, Mariam Sharif, are in jail.
The world must not be drawn into Pakistan’s tantrum but must recognise that India, as the largest democracy in the world, is seeking to improve the situation for its all citizens, across all its states. India is standing strong in the fight against terrorism by protecting its borders. On August 6th, intemperate and provocative remarks from Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan’s threatened the unleashing of jihadis against India – India knows it must be vigilant in its defence of itself and its people, and it is doing so under the Indian constitution and with due respect to democratic values.