The bill reorganizes the erstwhile state of J&K into two separate Union Territories (UTs), J&K being one and Ladakh being another UT.
Prime Minister Modi has clarified in his address to the nation that once there is peace, statehood will be returned to J&K. Ladakh, however, will remain a UT. This reorganization is purely an internal matter of India; however, few countries seemed to be extremely rattled over this development, while most of them chose to treat it as a bilateral/internal matter. While the discomfort of Pakistan and to some extent China was unwarranted, but expected, it was regrettable that some segments of global media chose to carry propaganda stories, based on fake news propagated by interested parties.
While India has no reason to be concerned about their desperation, for ill conceived reasons, some of the facts to mitigate some common international misperceptions need to be highlighted.
Facts versus Propaganda
After partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, the state of J&K was an independent state under Maharaja Hari Singh, which was attacked by Pakistani razakars to capture it by force. Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession to India for the entire state (including Pakistan occupied Kashmir, Gilgit- Baltistan, Shaksgham Valley and Aksai Chin) and Indian Forces were flown in which saved the remaining state of J&K.
One of the global daily in its article quoted "Article 370 had been considered a cornerstone of Kashmir's inclusion in India during the 1947 partition that separated India and Pakistan following the end of British colonial rule". The fact is that there was no Article 370 in 1947, as part of Instrument of Accession. It was introduced later, drafted on 05 Mar 1948 and amended on November 15, 1952.
The same daily quotes "Parts of Kashmir are controlled by India and Pakistan, both of which claim the strategic region in its entirety". The instrument of Accession signed on 27 October 1947, does not give any claim to Pakistan. Some global news channels chose to air fake videos of atrocities to people of J&K, in last few days, whereas the reality is that the Kashmir valley has been quite peaceful, after India strengthened the security force level in the terrorist threat prone area, to ensure safety of citizens and not a single bullet was fired.
Pakistan and terrorists are rattled because it was done with such a speed that it caught them by surprise and made their efforts to disrupt peace unviable Incident free Eid celebrations, although on low key, are enough to demolish the claim of propaganda oriented fake media coverage indicating heavy violence. Why was Article 370 Revoked Now?
Indian resolve to revoke temporary Article 370 and 35a in J&K was a national call, in the national interest and the ruling party was voted with thumping majority (including people of J&K) with this cause in their manifesto. These provisions were made by decision makers in 1952 purely under Indian Constitution.
Article 370 was drafted in Amendment of the Constitution section, in Part XXI, under Temporary and Transitional Provisions. In last few decades it was seen that these provisions have been hurting India and common people of Jammu and Kashmir since many decades.
Kashmiri Pandits, who are natives of Kashmir were forcibly pushed out by a motivated groups, which was the biggest abuse of power, which left India helpless in mitigating their grievances, due to such provisions. They were being misused by few local politic, separatists, elite businessmen aligned to them, terrorists and their supporters, at the cost of brewing inequality, depriving of legal benefits and welfare related laws for common people, thus proving to be a hindrance in inclusive growth of the country.
It was well realized that these provision had not given anything except separatism, corruption and family rule to the erstwhile State, with Pakistan using it as a tool to spread terrorism, which claimed over 42,000 innocent lives.
It's abrogation was desired by many governments, but could not be executed due to inadequate political will/ democratic mandate or bogey of grave repercussions thrown up by ruling families of erstwhile state and separatists/terrorists.
Revoking of Article 370 and 35A will allow all J&K citizens to vote for J&K Assembly and Panchayat elections, a democratic right denied to many residents in the state. It will restore rights of daughters to parental property, rights of safai karmacharis and their children to government jobs, education and make them eligible for many social benefit schemes of India. Why is Pakistan Rattled?
Pakistan, despite being an aggressor in 1947, seems rattled with abrogation of Article 370 and 35A in J&K to an extent that it took certain reckless actions. Lowering of diplomatic relations with India, scrapping trade ties, stopping rail communication and blocking few air routes are some examples.
The main reason of Pakistan's frustration is that its terrorists fuelling proxy war in Kashmir will be devoid of political patronage, the separatists will be exposed to central security forces and laws, and its terror industry/infrastructure built in Kashmir over decades will start weakening.
Pakistan's effort of approaching UNSC has no future, as is evident from the factual analysis above. If they still approach UNSC, then as per UN Security Council Resolution 47, adopted on 21 April 1948, there is no case for motion in UNSC, because Pakistan and China will have to be reminded to vacate PoK, Gilgit-Baltistan and Shaksgham as first step of UNSC Resolution47, which may not suit either of them.
In any case the President of UNSC made no comments and the Secretary General indicated bilateral settlement under Simla Agreement, with an advice to exercise restraints.
While Pakistan may keep advertising China's anticipated help in seeking justice for Pakistan, but there is no legally viable case with Pakistan and China. India is well aware of fake news and propaganda attempts by Pakistan on the issue, glimpses of some of them are visible in this article.
A recent survey reveals that more than 70 per cent of Kashmir has welcomed new administrative arrangement bringing them at par with rest of the country in terms of legal and administrative rights/benefits, denied to them by local governments under the shield of Articles 370 and 35A. In any case being an internal matter of India, no foreign interference will be accepted.
Other International Responses
Pakistan's efforts to garner support of other nations have not been that successful except China, which has its own interest to protect, in terms of CPEC, which passes through the territory acceded to India by Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir.
China reacted to Ladakh being made a UT, indicating that it undermined China's sovereignty, soon after Home Minister's statement in the Rajya Sabha. Later China indicated to Pakistan that "It should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreement."
The Ministry of External Affairs has given a befitting reply to China highlighting that India does not interfere in internal affairs of any other country and expects the same from other countries. The same has also been reiterated by Indian Foreign Minister in Beijing, who happens to be there for a bilateral meet.
US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said there was no change in the country's policy on Kashmir, and called for restraint. The restraint is applicable to Pakistan establishment as they have threatened Pulwama-like episode and DG, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) has indicated to adopt every possible measure to assist in freedom struggle of Kashmir (which can well be interpreted as refueling proxy war).
Taliban when approached by Pakistan chose to stay away from this issue, as they know the terror game of Pakistan better than others, having been a beneficiary sometimes.
What Next for India?
Abrogation of Article 370 and 35A was a big leap forward for inclusive growth of India, but the implementation of promised reforms and a positive environment in the valley will still take some time. The first priority will continue to be the safety and security of all Indian citizens in J&K and Ladakh, for which the methodology seems to have been well thought through.
India should continue with tight restrictions on potential problem creators and flash spots at least till August 15, even at the cost of some inconvenience to people and relax it in graduated manner. In democracy, the criticism against restrictions by opposition parties and activists is natural, but if it can save lives of innocent people then it is worth it. To enable the promises of inclusive growth to be implemented, the people of both the newly formed UTs have to come forward to find genuine representation amongst themselves and work towards reaping benefits from newly found freedom from archaic laws.
The countrymen have to invest in these regions for mutual prosperity. Regarding Pakistan, all actions taken by them were well anticipated and thought through. Whatever it does to interfere in Kashmir, it is going to harm itself. J&K remains integral part of India and the country is well poised to handle any awkward situation.
(The views expressed are personal views of the author, who retains the copy right. The author can be reached at Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ as Shashi Asthana, @asthana_shashi on twitter, and personnel site https://asthanawrites.org/ email: firstname.lastname@example.org LinkedIn Profile www.linkedin.com/in/shashi-asthana-4b3801a6 My Youtube link https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl50YRTBrOCVIxDtHfhvQDQ?view_as=subscriber
( With inputs from IANS )