DESPARDES — The Modi-led government on Monday issued an unprecedented (presidential) order to scrap the special status of Muslim-majority disputed Jammu & Kashmir region, merging it completely in the Indian Union.
The order has also reorganized the disputed region into centrally controlled Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as “Union Territories”.
Jammu and Kashmir region (the occupied Himalayan valley) will have a local Assembly with limited powers, but there will be no Assembly in Ladakh region.
The decision has a direct impact on relations between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan. Kashmir has been divided between the neighboring countries since 1947 and they have fought two out of three wars over the region. The matter remains unsettled– the 1948 UN Security Council Resolution called for plebiscite. Both sides agreed to the proposal.
The move could also affect the United States’ move to exit Afghanistan after an 18-year war, launched following the 2001 terror attacks.
Pakistan has been a key facilitator in direct talks between Washington and the Taliban in Afghanistan over the exit plans. If the Americans do not support Islamabad’s interests in Kashmir following India’s move, it could jeopardize the talks, some observers say.
US President Donald Trump recently offered to mediate between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, but New Delhi has long insisted the issue can only be resolved bilaterally.
Up next is a bill proposing splitting the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories — Jammu and Kashmir division, and Ladakh.
This means the entire region would lose its autonomous status and come under the direct rule of New Delhi.
The Jammu and Kashmir division will have its own assembly and elections but the national government will have control of local laws, including the maintenance of public order.
The tinderbox region was placed under a massive security lockdown and communications were cut ahead of Monday’s announcement, on fears it would trigger fresh unrest.
India also moved in more than 30,000 additional troops ahead of the move, including using cluster bombs in the region.
On Monday, defense attaches of China, UK, France, Russia and Germany visited the Line of Control to gather first-hand info on the use of cluster bombs considered a violation of the Vienna Conventions and international humanitarian laws.
WHY NOW? The Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoys a sizeable majority in parliament after dominating the polls in the April-May elections.
Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) can now push through parliament its key policy goals. This includes the BJP’s long-held promise to scrap Article 370, which it argues is necessary to integrate Kashmir with the rest of the country– thereby departing from the UN Resolution unilaterally.
Critics say the BJP’s latest move is a part of its agenda to please core supporters and win more votes by stoking Hindu nationalist fervor.
The move is in line with its muscular approach towards Kashmir and Pakistan, which also claims the Himalayan kingdom.
India’s main opposition Congress party described the decision as a “catastrophic step”.
“Shameful that you have turned Jammu and Kashmir into a non entity,” said Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress parliamentarian who comes from India-occupied Kashmir.
One legislator from the occupied valley-based Peoples Democratic Party tore up a copy of Indian constitution before being reportedly removed from the chambers by parliamentary marshals.
On Sunday, the National Security Committee met in Islamabad under the chairmanship of PM Khan and took stock of the destabilizing moves by India. India is trying to disrupt Afghan peace talks at a time when Pakistan and the international community are focused on resolving the Afghan conflict, said a report.
According to diplomatic observers, President Trump may have to mediate between Pakistan and India sooner than he expected while making this offer, as tensions over Kashmir once again threaten to spin out of control.
Although India denied ever asking the US president to play this role, Mr Trump reiterated his offer on Thursday, noting that this dispute had remained unresolved for too long. PM Khan told Mr Trump during his visit to Washington few weeks back that he would earn “the prayers of over a billion people” if he brought peace to the region.
Time is right for Trump mediation on Kashmir, said Mr. Khan a few days back. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said: DANGEROUS GAME BY INDIA AT LOC… May put Afghan talks at risk…
He said: AFGHAN SITUATION CAN’T BE VIEWED IN ISOLATION FROM SITUATION ON EASTERN BORDER…