View: Pakistan has propagandist options, no substantial ones

Kanwal Sibal

Scrapping Article 370/Article 35-A, separating Ladakh from J&K and making both Union Territories is a historic decision. The Kashmir issue has bedevilled peace in the subcontinent, spawned terrorism, hobbled our diplomacy, distracted us from nation-building, and cost us economically. Pakistan has used it to cut India to size. The government’s decision, which alters the special status of J&K and integrates it fully with the Indian Union, completely changes the internal and external dynamics of the J&K issue.

If the Indian public has been stunned by the scope of the decision taken, Pakistan has been totally caught by surprise. The ground has been removed from under its feet. Pakistan will agitate over the issue internationally but will not obtain much support. If the internal situation in J&K explodes, which is unlikely immediately given the security precautions, it will get an opportunity to highlight Indian repression in Kashmir, human rights violations by our security forces, and so on.

The UN Human Rights Commissioner might comment adversely, but putting it on the agenda of the UNHRC would be difficult, given the manner in which China’s violation of human rights of the Uighurs in Sinkiang was treated in the Commission. Pakistan will no doubt try to instigate violence in J&K, but will have to contend with a strong Indian riposte. It has already received warnings from the Indian side.

Pakistan will raise the issue at the UN, seeking an intervention by the UN Secretary General and try to get it inscribed on the agenda of the UN Security Council. It may get the UNSG to issue some statement exhorting all sides to maintain peace, but beyond that it cannot intervene because per se a change in our domestic law by Parliament is not subject to international oversight.

Besides Article 370, introduced in 1954, does not violate any UN resolution, assuming that they remain pertinent, which is not the case. All countries have moved away from the defunct UN resolutions and want India and Pakistan to resolve their differences bilaterally. All major powers now have major stakes, especially economic, in a rising India, and would not want to risk a downturn in their ties with India for Pakistan’s sake, especially as many have decried Pakistan’s support to cross-border terrorism.

What’s most important is that no ground has been left to resume a dialogue with Pakistan. Kashmir can no longer be on the agenda as an outstanding issue, which means that resumption of any dialogue with Pakistan is no longer on the cards on the basis of past parameters. Those in India that have advocated such a resumption and test Imran Khan’s peace overtures will have no argument left to make.

It remains to be seen what a frustrated Pakistan might do and what the jihadi lobbies — the 40,000 militants — will do. Imran Khan has already “invited attention of world leaders and bodies towards irresponsible, unilateral and irrational behaviour of Indian leadership”. Pakistan has warned that it will exercise all possible options against India’s “illegal” steps. Pakistan has propagandist options but no substantial ones. It will no doubt seek US intercession claiming that India is distracting it (Pakistan) from aiding the negotiations with the Taliban. The US will stay away even if President Donald Trump has provocatively offered mediation.

In anti-Indian political, academic and media circles abroad, supported by “liberal” lobbies at home, the Modi government’s decision will be attacked as a manifestation of its anti-Muslim Hindutava ideology. What’s more important though is the enthusiastic domestic support for the Modi government’s gamechanging decision.

(The writer is a former foreign secretary)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of

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