New Delhi must explain to the world its new Kashmir policy | HT editorial
India needs to make it clear why the older Kashmir policy, built around autonomy and Pakistan, is no longer relevant, and why its new policy deserves a chance to succeed.Updated: Aug 21, 2019 07:30 IST
The world is nervous, but not yet alarmed, by developments over Kashmir. India needs to ensure these concerns do not go beyond a certain threshold. US President Donald Trump’s communications with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan were about lowering the temperature between the two countries. To an extent, this is already a minor victory for New Delhi. Mr Trump’s vainglorious offers to mediate have now been banished into the fantasy world they had come from. The American leader did urge dialogue between the two, something the international community and Pakistan do converge on.
India has to continue to explain to the outside world the rationale for its refusal to resume dialogue. The Modi government’s position is not without merit - dialogue with Pakistan in the past have led to a dead-end, and served only to provide cover for Pakistan to resume terrorist attacks against India. Mr Modi is within his rights to argue dialogue must be conditional on Pakistan’s genuinely ending support for cross-border terrorism. An implicit addendum now is that Islamabad must also come to acquiesce to the changed ground realities in Indian Kashmir. There is zero evidence of Pakistan accepting either stance. Mr Khan’s blood curdling threats against India, if anything, have helped make India’s case that Pakistan is not fit to be an interlocutor for any form of dialogue.
While New Delhi emerged from the informal United Nations Security Council meeting on Kashmir relatively unscathed, the real diplomatic test will come as security restrictions in the Valley are gradually lifted. If protests follow, the government must minimise violence and ensure no bloodshed during this period, even as it moves towards restoring elections and democracy in the Union Territory. This transition will be tricky enough on the domestic front and a blowup on the international front will only complicate matters more. New Delhi has enough friends in the international system to avoid sanctions and withstand any critical resolutions. But a sense of global delegitimisation of India’s actions will make it more difficult to get the Valley residents to at least wait to see if New Delhi fulfils its policy promises.
Mr Trump and other world leaders seem ready to give India some time to roll out its policy. However, New Delhi has done poorly in explaining its policy to international civil society and this is a shortcoming that needs to be addressed. India needs to make it clear why an older Kashmir policy, built around autonomy and Pakistan, is no longer relevant and why its new policy deserves a chance to succeed.