Alwaght- Tensions are on the rise afresh in the Indian Subcontinent after the right-wing government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India has recently revoked the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir and the national parliament backed the move by constitutionally finishing the autonomous status. Following the parliamentary bill, the army increased the degree of combat readiness and sent military reinforcement along with 8,000 soldiers to the disputed region.
The measure was met with reaction from local people and neighboring Pakistan. The people of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir remain in the street protesting Modi’s decision. Islamabad stated that it considers Jammu and Kashmir an occupied region and the Pakistani Foreign Minister called the move racial cleansing and a pretext to annex the disputed region to India, warning that it can result in a new war between the neighbors.
Alwaght has arranged an interview with Abbas Fayaz, an Iranian expert of the Indian Subcontinent affairs, to discuss various aspects of the situation.
The first question was about New Delhi’s goal behind the revocation of Kashmir autonomy. Mr Fayaz replied that the issue has various aspects. From a home dimension, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for a long time sought to take such a measure as a great success for its own credit in the eyes of the Indians. The Indian media reports repeatedly suggested that the BJP that once again won the elections in late May intended to end the special status of Kashmir. It now saw the opportunity ripe for such a decision.
From a foreign dimension, Mr Fayaz said we can look at the timing to better understand the goals of the measure. The peace talks between the US and Taliban with the help of Pakistan are making advances despite some roadblocks and this does not send good signals to India.
“New Delhi thinks that a peace process to which Islamabad is a party cannot be good to India’s future in Afghanistan and the region. The Indians think that the US is dealing Afghanistan with Pakistan to reach peace, remove its forces from the Central Asian country, and thus cut its military spending there. This will disconnect the US from its policy of taking India as its top regional partner. So, India by pressing Pakistan through the Kashmir measures seeks to tell Islamabad and Washington that New Delhi cannot tolerate the new regional political order that is in favor of Pakistan.”
The Iranian expert added that India may want to seize the opportunity and while the attention is directed to Afghanistan peace talks end a job it sought to accomplish for seven decades and officially annex Kashmir, a region whose fate according to the United Nations resolution should be determined by own people. In this case, Pakistan will be forced into reaction. A new regional crisis can put the brakes on the Afghanistan peace process, which is not favored by India in its current form, or pave the way for New Delhi to influence the process.
“There is another vision: That the US has given a green light to India to annex Kashmir to its territory in exchange for New Delhi’s silence to the negotiations with the Taliban.”
Alwaght asked how India’s move can make a difference to the status of Kashmir and what options the Kashmiri people can lose. Mr Fayaz said that article 370 of the Indian constitution gave Kashmir special autonomy privileges. It gave it the power for lawmaking and relative autonomy. Also according to the law, other than the Kashmiris no one could buy lands and property in the region. Now with the recent revocation, there is a risk of huge demographic changes that in the long run can turn Kashmir’s aboriginals into a minority whose voice for independence is not heard. Currently, 82 percent of the Kashmiris are Muslims and the new situation can expose this figure to change.
Asked about what makes Pakistan concerned and what its options will be, the Iranian expert answered that Pakistan has under its control part of Kashmir and has always voiced advocacy to Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination.
He continued this has a clear reason. If the people of Kashmir who are predominantly Muslim want to choose between Pakistan and India, they would choose Pakistan. The Kashmiris can have a third choice which is independence from the two countries. This option has been up for debate since the start of the crisis. But Islamabad over the past seven decades and mainly since the occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviet army promoted Jihadi culture in Kashmir and sent militias to the region in order to strengthen the local tendency towards Pakistan. Pakistan has always tried to expand Kashmir cause beyond regional boundaries by engaging the Islamic and international powers and organizations into it. But India has so far rejected any mediation.
“From Pakistan’s viewpoint, India by revoking Kashmir autonomy sweeps the problem under the rug. By doing so, New Delhi wants to tell the world that there is no such a thing as Kashmir problem inside India. Then the problem will be, instead of a Kashmir showdown, the annexation of the Pakistan-controlled Kashmir to India. If India takes the first step successfully, it will be emboldened for the next step. That is what pushes the Pakistani officials to warn that all options are on the table to confront India’s measure. Perhaps one of the options is taking hostage the Afghanistan peace talks to press Washington to put strains on New Delhi.”
Commenting on how autonomy revocation affects New Delhi-Islamabad relations and regional security, Mr Fayaz said that certainly this will increase the Indian-Pakistani tensions. It will also influence other countries’ ties to the two neighbors and prompt a race between the two over winning further support.
“Most importantly, in the shadow of the crisis, Kashmiri people can lose the right to self-determination or be the currency to bigger deals. This possibility considered, the Muslim countries have a duty to accomplish mainly through calculated diplomacy in favor of a solution in which the Kashmiris gain the main avail.”