For decades, the Indian constitution gave the part of disputed Kashmir under India’s administration special privileges, including having a constitution of its own, governing most of its affairs, and keeping people from other parts of the county at arm’s length through restricting property rights and the ability to hold offices.
This arrangement was scrapped on Monday by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as promised several years ago. It was made possible by the landslide victory of his BJP party earlier this year which gave it enough seats in parliament to push the change through.
Islamabad, which for decades has supported people who want Kashmir to split from India and either become independent or join Pakistan, lashed out at New Delhi, pledging to “exercise all possible options” to counter the “illegal steps” of its regional rival. However, Pakistan’s objections to changing Indian Kashmir’s status sound hollow if its own policies in the region are taken into account, geostrategist and author Brahma Chellaney told RT.
“While India maintained special rights and privileges for its part of [Kashmir] for 65 years, Pakistan systematically assimilated the regions it occupies, including through demographic change.”
“Far from granting special powers and privileges to its portion, Pakistan has treated it as its colony, exploiting its mineral and water wealth,” he claims.
That aside, no matter how strong the language Pakistan uses to warn India is, its actual options to respond are not many, according to Aleksey Kupriyanov, a senior research fellow at Russia’s Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO).
“Pakistan will be definitely trying to get the US involved because involvement of any third party is beneficial to it. Pakistan’s position is weaker than India’s. With a third party involved, it will have room for maneuvering,” he told RT.
Kupriyanov said he predicts a diplomatic crisis in Hindustan, which, he hopes, won’t escalate into a major conflict.
Indeed, Trump has recently offered to mediate between India and Pakistan in Kashmir. This was welcomed by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, but India’s leadership made it clear they don’t want anyone to interfere in what they see as a strictly bilateral matter. Chitra Subramaniam, an Indian journalist and author, said she has serious doubt whether Trump could do much in this regard anyway.
“I don’t think Mr. Trump even knows where Kashmir is. He probably thinks it’s a sweater,” she said, adding that the president may be more interested in fostering the image of peacemaker and collecting a Nobel Peace Prize than in resolving a conflict.
Sreeram Chaulia, a professor and dean at Jindal School of International Affairs, envisions an even grimmer scenario – if the Indian authorities fail to curb potential rioting and militant attacks in Kashmir or resort to a heavy-handed crackdown against dissents in the region, Pakistan will have a valid argument for international intervention.
“[Islamabad] will try to argue that the US should come, that the situation is otherwise becoming unbearable and there will be war in the region and a total breakdown of law and order,” he said.
Pakistan has fought two wars against India over Kashmir. The territory of the former princely state is now split between zones administrated by India, Pakistan, and China.
New Delhi accuses Islamabad of not only fostering anti-Indian sentiment among the population of Kashmir, but also of harboring militants responsible for regular terrorist attacks on its side of the Line of Control, the de facto border within Kashmir. Pakistan denies the allegations.
The revocation of Kashmir’s autonomy was hailed by many Indians as the bold resolution of a historical blunder that will finally heal a “bleeding wound” on the body of India, as Subramaniam put it. Yet, some fear a potential disaster.
“There could be the possibility of more escalation at the border and inside the Indian disputed Kashmir region,” political analyst Javed Rana told RT.
Ahead of Monday’s move, India ramped up security in the area, cut internet and phone services, and banned mass gatherings, bracing for likely outrage from the local population. Opponents of the constitutional change may also try to challenge it in the Supreme Court.
(Source: Russia Today)