The recent wave of uncertainty and intimidation in Indian-occupied Jammu & Kashmir by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government should not come as a surprise.
The deployment of thousands of troops, house arrest of prominent Kashmiri politicians and abrupt area-wise shutdown of Internet services may suggest preparations for war. Perhaps more so when viewed in the context of field testing the concept of Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) for swift proactive offensive operations by Indian Army in May and recent comments by Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat on the occasion of Kargil War in July when he claimed that Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) and Aksai Chin are part of Indian territory.
If the apparent is to be believed, India might indeed be gearing up for a protracted conflict with Pakistan. The question arises, can it actually afford one?
BJP’s powerplay during 2019 Lok Sabha elections witnessed the resurgence of a more empowered and confident Modi Sarkar; Rajnath Singh, credited for initiating restructuring of the domestic security apparatus, was given charge of the Defence Ministry, thereby intertwining his past experience leading the Home Ministry. The latter is now led by Amit Shah, President of BJP and a reported hawk. Meanwhile, former Intelligence Bureau czar Ajit Kumar Doval continues to lead the National Security Council (NSC). The external front (Ministry of External Affairs) is led by its former Secretary Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar who is now under the BJP fold. Jaishankar is son of the renowned Indian strategist Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam who drafted the country’s nuclear doctrine.
This unprecedented synchronisation among Home, Defence and External Affairs ministries and the NSC is bound to result in the unified projection of a common agenda: subsuming Jammu & Kashmir into the Cabinet Secretariat’s fold.
BJP’s manifesto for 2019 Lok Sabha Elections clearly outlines Modi Sarkar’s committed agenda to annul Article 35-A and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, decisions which will have long-lasting consequences for the entire South Asia, not just the bilateral Pak-India relations.
Following is a primer on both the Articles :
- Article 35-A
- Enacted by a special Presidential Order in 1954
- Authorises independent assembly of Jammu & Kashmir to define who is/ is not a ‘permanent resident’ of the area.
- Gives discretionary powers to grant or refuse special rights/ privileges/ grants for people within and outside the area
- Article 370
- Empowers legislators in Jammu & Kashmir to draft their own constitution autonomously without interference by the Cabinet Secretariat (New Delhi)
- Provides a mechanism for relations between the Centre (New Delhi) and Jammu & Kashmir
As per recent media reports, Home Minister Amit Shah has successfully annulled Article 370 (thereby automatically abolishing Article 35-A), signed by President Ram Nath Kovind. This action, taken after Shah’s consultation with security chiefs, has handicapped the legislative powers of the (occupied) Jammu & Kashmir Assembly and paved the way for greater involvement by the Centre to decide the fate of Kashmiris, against the wishes of their representatives.
This sabre-rattling against the people of Jammu and Kashmirs’ right to self-determination was further sparked in 2014 when, upon assuming office fresh after elections, then Minister of State to Prime Minister Modi Dr Jitendra Sharma suggested his party might consider revoking Article 370; former (occupied) Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had warned, in response, that the abrogation of Article 370 would result in Jammu & Kashmir’s complete dissociation with India. Furthermore, Abdullah rightly analysed that the move would significantly alter the demographics of the area, creating a security nightmare for the entire region.
This is where a well-planned Saffronisation is necessary to ensure political harmony between Srinagar and their puppeteers in New Delhi. In early June, Amit Shah had reportedly expressed his desire to appoint a Hindu Chief Minister and ensure the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits.
The aforementioned scenario has unravelled the BJP’s suicidal political strategy:-
Stage false-flag attacks and accuse Pakistan of initiating “Border Action Team raids” as part of a concerted propaganda campaign (key elements include Indian Army Northern Command and Home/ Defence ministries)
Execute a synchronous information warfare campaign through pro-BJP media groups and social media mouthpieces (Republic TV, Aditya Raj Kaul, veterans like Major (Retired) Gaurav Arya and Major (Retired) Surendra Poonia etc)
‘Inject’ Kashmiri Pandits and Hindutva elements in Jammu-Kashmir to spark responses from Muslim community thereby triggering a massive communal crisis
Use the above as a pretext/ justification for massive deployment of security forces with ‘special’ (read: genocidal) powers
Establish nodes for sabotage of strategic projects in Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) especially those which are part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
Generate fissures/ restlessness within ethnic Kashmiri community in AJK because of disconnectivity with Indian-occupied J&K
An unnoticed aspect of this whole debacle is that the same 2019 party manifesto by BJP mentions an ambitious agenda to make a ‘New India‘ with a 5 trillion-dollar economy. How can this reach fruition if war breaks out? Are there war plans in place at all?
It is difficult to guess what goes on in the mind of Narendra Modi. With Amit Shah as a kitchen cabinet member, BJP will not shy away from any further adventurism. Military conflict is certainly not the preferred option; so far, the Indian Army has engaged in routine Cease Fire Violations (CFVs) and hyperbolic statements by Northern Command.
The airlift of troops and sorties may have been a deception to divert attention from secretive talks to Indianise the Jammu-Kashmir Valley.
History will reveal what New Delhi gained from this blatant act of aggression. For the time being, the 56-inch chest of Narendra Modi is beaming with glory, not knowing that the flames of unrest in South Asia have been rekindled.
If ever a nuclear-armed state has gone down the suicidal route, India has set the precedent. It is not premature to infer that a regional nuclear crisis has been activated by narrow-minded hegemons sitting in the Cabinet Secretariat.
All eyes are now fixated upon Pakistan’s National Security Council.