Our generation will remember September 27, 2019, as a day when their Prime Minister roared like a lion in the United Nation’s General Assembly for almost 50 minutes and let the world leaders take notice of him. The future generations of Pakistan and Kashmir will thank God on their knees that once IK held the PM office. History will treat him as a man who gave voice to the voiceless Kashmiris, strived to bring about socio-economic justice in the country, he ruled and restored its national pride and sovereignty in the comity of nations. More than that, he will be remembered as the most revered leader who walked tall in the politics of Pakistan as well as international political arena. Now that, the speech is over. Kaptan is back. The nation is pouring love to its leader. The curfew has been partially lifted from Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir. We need to see, what’s next?  Where do we go from here now? Let’s have a detailed look into the Indian constitutional coup in Kashmir, its implications for Pakistan and the way forward.

Getting into the skin of the issue

August 05, 2019 will go down in the constitutional history of India as one of the darkest days. It will be remembered as a day of constitutional aggression where the world’s largest democracy conspired to subjugate 8 million Kahmiris against their wishes through a presidential order. Mr. Ram Nath Kovind, the President of India, Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India and Amit Shah, Minister for Home Affairs in the BJP led government are the prime architects of what Siddharth Varadarajan, a top Indian journalist called a “Constitutional Coup” launched to rob the innocent and resilient people of Kashmir of their blood soaked struggle for an independent home land.

In an audacious, unilateral and utterly undemocratic step taken in haste, the Indian Government has struck down Articles 370 and 35 (A) which means that the state of Jammu and Kashmir has lost a special status given to it by the Indian constitution under Nehru administration back in 1949 and 1954 respectively. Article 370 empowered the residents of Kashmir politically. Other than defense, foreign affairs and communications, the Kashmiris were independent on their legislative matters within the valley. While 35- A barred transfer of property to non-Kashmiris among other safeguards and thus provided a shield against demographic and geographical changes in the state prior to the message of misery was delivered to the Kashmiris in the garb of presidential order by BJP led government on August 5, 2019.

This is an extraordinary development in the 72 years of unfriendly history of two neighbors who have confronted each other more through the barrel of guns than on the negotiation table to solve what one side calls “an integral part” and other a “jugular vein”- the Kashmir valley. To the world, it is a disputed territory between India and Pakistan but both the claimants have stuck to their respective stance in the past seven decades. The unfortunate decision has come at a time when both the countries are nuclear and in possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) along with India being ruled by Hindu nationalist, the Bharatya Janta Party (BJP) which believes in the concept of “Hindutva”- a society built by and for Hindus only.

The genesis of Kashmir issue

Manoj Joshi, a leading Indian journalist has rightly termed Indian action in Kashmir as Constitutional coup in one of his articles that he wrote for The Wire. In order to understand what happened on 5th of August, we need to look into past to have a clear perspective by tracing the roots of the issue. History tells us that the Princely State of Kashmir came into being on 16th of March, 1846 after British sold Kashmir to Gulab Singh against a payment of Rs.7.5 Million. Later, it was ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh, a Sikh ruler who signed a fake instrument of accession with India on 26th of October, 1947 against the wishes of the population of the state. As it was a Muslim majority state, given the right to accede, the masses would have chosen for Pakistan.

The first war that broke out between India and Pakistan in 1947 was fought over Kashmir. When the dispute persisted, Nehru came under pressure; he took the matter to United Nations. Resultantly, UN declared it a disputed territory between India and Pakistan and ordered ceasefire on 1st January, 1949. The UN resolution of April, 1948 and many other resolutions categorically hold that the issue has to be solved through an independent plebiscite in the valley.

Masud Ahmed Khan, in his article titled, India’s coup in the Indian Occupied Kashmir appeared on 16th of August, 2019,pointed out that Nehru had written a letter to his counterpart in Pakistan and assured him plebiscite. He said, “I have repeatedly said that as soon as peace and order have been established, Kashmir should decide the accession by plebiscite or referendum under the international auspices of United Nations.”

Keeping this backdrop in mind, by doing away with the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, not only India has turned back from what Nehru had promised to the Kashmiris and World but also it has violated its own constitution and all other international conventions.

Indian constitutional coup: how & why?

India did not revoke the special status of Kashmir overnight. There is a series events which played their role over the years to strike the decisive blow.  However, many believe, including the Indian journalists that recent trigger points such as PM Khan’s visit to US in the late July followed by Donald Trump’s offer to mediate in Kashmir and American exit from Afghanistan by 2020, with Pakistan being a key player to strike a deal with Talibans have contributed towards making of the constitutional coup in Kashmir.

Indian administration had been skeptical of PM Khan being candid to President Trump. The Indian media and Modi administration closely followed Khan’s first visit to US. They inferred from the visit that Trump was desperate to get American Forces out of Afghanistan and US needed Pakistan’s help in striking a deal with the Taliban. During the historic visit, President Trump also admitted that Pakistan would do the needful for him and PM Khan quite successfully linked peace in Afghanistan with peace in Kashmir. This scenario alerted Modi administration at New Dehli and they went on to do what would later be known as constitutional coup. Christine Fair, American political scientist validates this assertion in her recent article for the Law Fare.

Moreover, BJP being a Hindu centric ultra nationalist party which believes in the ideology of Hindutva whereby it aims to convert India into an Indian state for Hindus only has also been one of the driving forces behind this undemocratic action. The party has been inserting scrapping of Special Status of Kashmir into its manifesto during the last many decades. However, this time around, during the election campaign for their second consecutive term in office, the party more categorically pledged to masses in their political speeches to merge Kashmir with rest of the India.

Last but certainly not the least, Pulwama debacle and shameful episode of capturing of Indian Airforce pilot Abhinandan by Pakistani forces followed by failed Indian Air Strikes at Balakot on 26th of February, 2019 also paved the way for the Indian aggression in Kashmir.

If you zoom in the post imposition of constitutional coup developments in Kashmir, you would instantly realize what hell has been let loose on the innocent people of Jammu and Kashmir. Massive violations of human rights have been reported. Pallet guns, tear gas and cluster bombs are being used on innocent children, women and elderly alike on daily basis.Almost entire political leadership of J&K have been imprisoned or put under house arrest. Women are being raped by Indian Security Forces in their houses.

A total media blackout has been imposed to suppress the blatant violations of human rights by Modi administration. If what Barbara Crosset, has written in her recent article is to be believed, Kashmir is going through a humanitarian crisis. The picture that she has depicted is grim which needs immediate attention by the United Nations Security Council. She wrote, “The Indian Military occupation has exacted great psychological and physical tolls. Unbroken lockdowns and curfews are making it hard to get food and people are hungry. Stores are closed, jobs are lost. All communications are periodically cut this time it’s different.”

Implications for Pakistan

Threats & challenges

Kashmir is an unfinished agenda of Partition and a disputed territory between India and Pakisatn as per UNSC resolutions. Furthermore, Simla Agreement and Lahore Accord recognized Kashmir issue as a bilateral problem. Unfortunately, this very unilateral revocation of Article 370 and 35-A has not only violated the Indian Constitution and UN resolutions but it has also trampled upon bilateralism. Ireal-India oligarchy supported by US has prepared a Gaza, West Bank model for Jammu & Kashmir. That’s why they have abolished the constitutional protection for territorial and ethnic unity of the people of J&K.

The socio-economic and political implications for the recent Indian action have grown manifold. The rallies, protests, and lockdowns in a bid to show solidarity with the people of Kashmir have significantly hampered the economic activity in the country. Pakistan has already suspended bilateral trade with India due to the situation in Kashmir. Pakistan has also closed the trade transit route that takes goods from India to Afghanistan via Pakistan. In a recent article for The Express Tribune by Muhammad Ashraf, he argues, “The bilateral conflicts and the ensuing trust deficit between India and Pakistan have also impeded the regional integration in South Asia. The World Bank estimates the potential of Pak-India trade at $37 billion against the actual $2.3 billion and the SAARC regions potential at $67 billion against the actual $23 billion.”

Moreover, one has witnessed the hardliners beating war drums with India on mainstream media in the wake of Indian constitutional aggression in Kashmir. There is a visible pressure to release Jamat-Ul-Dawa head as well. Indian Occupied Kashmir centric militant organizations are being lauded by hard liners as one of the solutions to teach India a lesson. The situation in Kashmir has also detracted the focus of our leadership from socio-economic challenges faced by the people of Pakistan.

Opportunities & options 

For the first time in history, it is quite reassuring to know that Kashmir issue has become the center point of Pakistan’s foreign policy. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, during his recent visit to US highlighted the significance of the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue. During his meeting with US President, he urged upon President Trump to use his office as well as influence to bring Indian leadership on the negotiation table. President Trump offered to mediate and it hit the headlines. Therefore, the Kashmir issue stands internationalized. This offers a unique opportunity for Pakistan to build a new narrative around the undemocratic, unconstitutional and inhuman actions done by India in Kashmir.

Time has also come to reach out to the international leadership in all important capitals of the world and thus register the new narrative there. Pakistan must use this historic opportunity to contact UNSC, EU, SCO, AU and OIC for the peaceful settlement of the Kashmir issue in accordance with UN resolutions as well as the wishes of the people of Kashmir. At the same time, Pakistan must link its cooperation needed for the conclusion of peace process in Afghanistan with the just and peaceful settlement of the Kashmir issue.

Before suggesting the future course of action to get out of the quagmire that India has created for both, Kashmiris and Pakistanis, it is pertinent to briefly have a look at what Pakistan has done so far. Turning the challenge into an opportunity, the Pakistan Prime Minister reacted immediately and took the following steps on war footing;

  • PM Khan pledged full support to the people of Kashmir in a nationwide address.
  • Downgraded diplomatic ties with India by calling Ajay Bisaria Persona non grata.  
  • Took up the matter with UNSC, OIC and engaged other leaders of the World.
  • Cut off trade ties with India.
  • Blocked Indo-Afghan trade route.
  • Put Samjhota Express on halt.
  • Observed 14th August as a Solidarity Day with Kashmiris and 15th August as a Black Day throughout the country.

Recommendations: the way forward

Madness brings more madness. War is not an option. Giving in to Indian hegemonic designs is not an option either. A middle way has to be found that is acceptable to the Kashmiris, the Indians and Pakistanis. The Future course of action by Pakistan to highlight the Indian coup in the World should include following steps:

  1. Come up with a new narrative knitted around Modi’s fascist and intolerant ideology of Hindutva.
  2. Build on to PM IK’s address (“fair worry”) to UNGA and keep the pressure on India.
  3. Highlight the use of brute force and humanitarian crisis in Kashmir to the World through a dedicated media campaign.  
  4. Launch “Mission Kashmir 2020”, allocate funds for powerful content generation and dissemination by space buying on CNN, BBC, Fox, Al Jazera and devise a separate strategy for global social media influencers.
  5. Engage with international leaders, opinion makers, celebrities, sportsmen etc and brief them about the situation in Kashmir. 
  6. Re-engage with new Kashmiri leadership and build their capacity to raise their voice on global fora equipped with new narrative.
  7. Advance Pakistan’s image of a progressive, peaceful and moderate state with the new leadership keen to uplift its masses.
  8. Put our house in order first by fixing things in Baluchistan, FATA and protecting our minorities.
  9. Do not give in to the Anti-India militant outfits such as Jamat-Ul-Dawa and its allies.
  10. Focus on stabilizing our economy through unflinching resolve for implementation of tax reforms and eradication of corruption from all segments of society.
  11. Exert external pressure on India to restart bilateral talks for the just and peaceful settlement of the Kashmir issue.

Conclusion

The Modi government, on August 6, also claimed AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan as parts of India. Therefore, any military adventurism by India will be countered tooth & nail as warned by PM IK in his historic address to UNGA on 27th of September, 2019. It is also very likely that the conventional war escalates beyond proportions and either of the country may resort to the use of nuclear option. Such a prospect will be disastrous not only for the two counties at war but also for the peace and security of the entire world. Hence, it is high time for US, UNSC and China to press India in order to get Kashmir issue resolved according to the wishes of the people of J&K. Time to act is now, before it gets too late!