It was inevitable. And about time too. This was expected. It was there in the BJP manifesto, just as years ago the BJP had promised in their manifesto they would test the nuclear bomb.
This time, the manifesto spoke about Articles 370 and 35A. Atal Bihari tried the insaniyat route in Kashmir but it did not work, primarily because of Pakistani intransigence. Pakistanis had assumed Vajpayee's offer was a sign of Indian exhaustion and weakness. Narendra Modi also tried reconciliation. They were both wrong.
It was time, therefore, to set historical wrongs right.
The Pakistani reaction on amendments to the Indian Constitution are out of place but along the expected lines.
The irony is that a Muslim country responsible for killing the largest number of Muslims in the region – from Baramulla to East Pakistan, from Kashmir to Afghanistan, and in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Karachi and Sindh, and even Punjab – is now shedding crocodile tears for Kashmiris.
It dare not say a word about Uighurs in China.
One can be absolutely certain that the Government of India has factored in Pakistan’s knee-jerk reaction.
Besides, what will Imran Khan tell his 40-50,000 jihadis, whose existence he grandly admitted to Trump? They must be given some employment and the Pakistan army has to be saved. So, the rest of us too should show spine and get ready. Not being alarmist, just practical.
For years, one has argued that Kashmir is an internal matter and we should not talk to Pakistan about it. They have no locus standi any more than that of an armed intruder who has entered your house.
And strong governments do not talk to terrorists or their masters till they have overpowered them. Once a government shows spine, terrorists tend to fade away.
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Article 370 Was Not The Glue
Only this government could have acted the way it did. It required courage and determination. The INC and its eloquent speakers are waffling inanities while the leadership is stunned into silence.
Some of the younger and saner elements of the party have seen the writing on the wall, while others remain illiterate. So be it.
However, one politician was perceptive and smart. The day the Indian Air Force hit Balakot last September, he realised things are going to change with this government. In an interview the next day, he remarked, “Tinkering with Article 370 or 35A will be disastrous for Jammu and Kashmir.” That politician was Omar Abdullah and it was meant to be a warning.
We have had the occasion to listen to the sharp debate by the young MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal. He informed the Parliament and the rest of India of the religious, social, economic, and political discrimination that the Rajas of Srinagar carried out against Ladakhis all these years.
Clearly, Article 370 was not the glue that kept Jammu and Kashmir with India. It was a tap that flowed unchecked and enormously enriched the few – politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, separatists, terrorists, all.
This myth was perpetuated with considerable assistance from dreamy-eyed liberals in the rest of the country. Previous governments conveniently chose to forget that Article 370 is listed under Part XXI of the Constitution – “Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions”.
Also Read : Article 370 revocation: Imran Khan warns of another Pulwama
Like previous governments treated illegal squatters or illegal constructions by pretending this was not happening, they let Article 370 appear to be a permanent provision, which allowed permanent misuse and abuse. How else would one explain that the average Kashmiri is still among the poorest despite the fact that for years Jammu and Kashmir has been getting 10 times the per capita subsidy of Uttar Pradesh?
Neutrality Won’t Do
As expected, Imran Khan fumed and threatened more Pulwamas, thereby admitting that the Pulwama terror attack was their act. He needs to be reminded of Balakot. If the world wants India’s actions to right a wrong not to escalate, it is incumbent upon them – including Trump, Putin and Xi along with Macron and Johnson – to ensure that Pakistan does nothing that invites retaliation from India. An anodyne statement will not be enough.
Pakistan must be made to realise and accept that it has been the original provocateur and it is only now that India has begun to react.
The anomalous inequities and incongruities of the horrendous Article 370 have been removed. The discriminatory and inequitable 35A has been thrown into the dustbin. The state had its own flag, their Assembly’s term was for six years, the RTI and RTE did not operate in the state. If a Kashmiri woman married anyone who was not a permanent resident of the state of J&K, she would lose her permanent residence status too.
Also Read : JD-U's U-turn on Article 370, says now supports it
Pakistan has no reason to help India, because until recently, it found the prevailing situation to its advantage. An adversarial stance with India has suited the Pakistan army so far; it kept the rest of the world concerned about the nuclear dimensions of this problem that Pakistan exaggerated periodically. Those who think that talks with Pakistan will solve this, live in their own make-believe cuckoo-land.
Pakistan Not Concerned About Kashmiris
Pakistan is not concerned with the Kashmiri people – if it were, it would have invited them to cross over on humanitarian Islamic grounds. They are interested in the territory and the water. Pakistani generals may indulge in a great deal of grandstanding – pampered in the past by the US military and the CIA – but they are not daft.
They are not going to start a nuclear war for some territory about the size of all their farms in the fertile Indus basin and Okara farms for a minuscule Muslim population that does not speak their language and is smaller than that in Balochistan, whom they subjugate ruthlessly. The generals are also not likely to risk losing all of Pakistan in a nuclear war.
Finally, any suggestion for talks with Pakistan while terror continues legitimises Pakistani terrorist activity in India and is counterproductive. The only dialogue can be over Pakistani sponsorship of terror in India.
It is time we developed our own response that makes Pakistan’s rulers pay a price they cannot afford. Since we have inalienable rights to Kashmir, we should stop being defensive about this, and stop making magnanimity a foreign policy virtue.
(The author is the former head of India's foreign intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, and an advisor to the Observer Research Foundation, an independent public policy think tank in New Delhi.)