Better late than never

Anand Kumar

The Pakistan inspired and supported insurgency in Kashmir gave India a tough time for last three decades. Unfortunately the existence of Article 370 and Article 35A provided a suitable ambiance to Pakistan to carry out its nefarious designs. The abrogation of these articles was long overdue and thankfully the Indian Government has now done it.
India has always been uneasy with these provisions. The chairman of the constituent assembly Baba Saheb Ambedkar was critical of these provisions. When Nehru incarcerated Sheikh Abdullah fearing that he wanted to take Kashmir towards independence, the mistake of including article 370 in the constitution was clearly highlighted. In 1964 the Indian Parliament unanimously agreed that the article 370 should be repealed. Despite all this the article 370 continued making India’s control over Jammu and Kashmir tenuous. This situation actually encouraged Pakistan to play its dirty game and present Kashmir as a flashpoint. Most recently it did so when Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan met American President Donald Trump in Washington.
The article 370 was a temporary and transitional provision. This article subsequently also added article 35A in 1954. Jammu and Kashmir in fact went on to adopt a separate constitution for itself in 1956. These developments instead of bringing Jammu and Kashmir closer to India bred separatism in the Muslim dominated Kashmir valley. Situation came to such a pass that 3.5 lakh Kashmiri Pandits were driven out of the Valley. People of Jammu and ladakh have been suffering because of disturbances in the valley. Clearly, the Pakistan supported insurgency in the valley was not for the interest of whole Jammu and Kashmir nor did it receive any support from Jammu or Ladakh region. A handful of Pak sponsored extremists and radicals were holding the remaining population hostage. Thankfully now it has been realised that the article 370 and article 35 A was posing a threat to India’s national security and have been rightly done away with. However the late realisation of this reality has made the country pay a heavy price.
The Pulwama terror attack sponsored by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed had underlined the need for India to do something to alter the situation in Kashmir. The terror attack virtually brought both countries to the brink of War. At that time it was also felt that situation in Kashmir would not improve as long as article 370 and Article 35A would remain. But as the government was in election mode and was short of majority in Rajya Sabha it did not do much. The Modi Government returned with a greater majority after the general elections. Now it was difficult for them not to do anything on these controversial articles. However they would have taken some more time before repealing these articles. What probably forced the hand of the government was the statement of the American President Donald Trump who showed his desire to mediate on Kashmir issue on request of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan who was promising him to extricate from Afghan quagmire.
Now it was clear to Government of India that the existence of Article 370 and Article 35A had only made Indian position in Kashmir tenuous. This also tempted many external powers to interfere. In fact Pakistan was using deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and ascendancy of Taliban in that country as a bargaining chip to gain leverage in Kashmir. It appeared for a while that president Trump in his desperation to get out of Afghanistan might fall into the trap of Pakistan.
Interestingly, more than the people in Kashmir valley, it is the Pakistani state that is feeling upset by this decision. Though the ruler of Kashmir signed accession treaty with India, Pakistan occupies a large chunk of territory of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It had occupied this area through aggression in 1948 and has no legal basis. Pakistan army always cornered a large part of the country’s budget in the name of Kashmir and by presenting India as an existential threat. This Pakistan army knows that its game in Kashmir is now up. A stable Kashmir will also make larger allocation to the Pakistan army questionable. It is hardly surprising that the Pakistan army and the government put in place by it and headed by Imran Khan is trying to raise as much hue and cry as possible.
The critics of decision say that revocation of these articles would aggravate the situation in Kashmir and worsen relationship with Pakistan. In fact, the situation was no better even when these provisions were existing. In 2017, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah said that India was losing Kashmir. Some analysts also echoed this view. In the past situation has been aggravated many times by Pakistan. Kargil, Mumbai terror attack, Parliament attack and most recently Pulwama attack in which 40 CRPF soldiers were martyred are just few examples. There was unrest for months when militant Burhan Wani was killed by the security forces. Does it mean that government of India should do nothing and let Kashmir drift as Pakistan and some radicals of the Valley want it to?
If anything, the abrogation of Article has only reduced chances of conflict with Pakistan. It will lead to improvement in situation in Kashmir. It will allow India to focus on other important things which an emerging power like India should do. Except for the Pulwama attack when the government of India responded by attacking Balakot terror camps generally the conflict was avoided by a low-key response of the Indian state. This only encouraged Pakistan to continue with its low cost proxy war and impose heavy cost on India. India obviously can’t allow this situation to continue forever. The functioning of Article 370 and Article 35A had only encouraged separatism in Kashmir. Its abrogation will start a new beginning of peace and progress that many peaceful Kashmiris have been aspiring for but could not say so because of the fear of militants.
The author is Associate Fellow Institute for Defense Studies & Analyses (IDSA)


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