Kashmir, a month on: Well managed globally, now look inwardsI HT Editorial
It has been exactly a month since the government piloted major constitutional changes in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The Parliament ended, in effect, Article 370, and,with it, the special status of the state. It also divided J&K into two Union Territories, with Ladakh being the second. The move was greeted with palpable enthusiasm and cheer in large parts of India. But it was also greeted with sullen anger in the Valley, which has remained under a virtual lockdown for this period. It also had immediate international implications. A month later, it is time to review the state of play.
First, the international dimension. Pakistan, which made the “liberation” of Kashmir a fundamental pillar of its domestic political consensus and foreign policy, and consistently sponsored terrorism and violence to achieve that goal, reacted with predictable fury. Its “all-weather friend”, China, concerned about the implications of the move in Ladakh, provided a higher degree of support to Islamabad than Delhi had probably anticipated. This was the challenge. But the rest of the international community — notwithstanding United States President Donald Trump’s occasional forays into offering mediation — has broadly fallen in line with the Indian position. China and Pakistan’s efforts failed in the United Nations Security Council. Other major powers — as well as India’s smaller neighbours — have more or less understood that the change is irreversible, that this is India’s internal affair, and have gone back to reiterating the need for bilateral dialogue with Pakistan. This is a position that suits New Delhi because the talks remain contingent on Islamabad ending its support to terror.
But even as India has done well to manage the diplomatic fallout, the situation in J&K is a matter of concern. Communication links were snapped. There was massive deployment of security forces. Political leaders, including former chief ministers, were detained and remain so. To be sure, some restrictions have eased. The State’s desire to avoid casualties is understandable. And to its credit, it has managed to avert violence and killings. There is often a trade-off between order and justice. Delhi has to maintain a better balance. The restrictions also give room to critics to question India’s moral authority and democratic credentials. It is now time to open up the Valley, release mainstream politicians, start a process of dialogue, and create a new understanding with the people of Kashmir. Only then will Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of a “Naya Kashmir” be fulfilled.