External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar spoke about the Indian government's plan to revive the economy and the situation in the state of Jammu and Kashmir post the revocation of Article 370. Jaishankar was speaking at an event held by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The subject of discussion was 'India's Foreign Policy under the re-elected government of Narendra Modi'. CFR is an independent think tank on the foreign policy choices faced by the United States and other countries from across the world.
Jaishankar was asked about the thought, intent and the future plan of action of the government in the state. Speaking on the intent, Jaishankar said that the state of Jammu and Kashmir was facing a lot of issues because of the Article 370, which gave special category status to the state. He said that the special status was holding the state back from progressing and coming at par with the rest of the country. Jaishankar said that because of the Article 370, the state was facing three consequences, with the first being lack of economic activity and energy. This lack of economic activity lead to 'fewer job opportunities, more sense of alienation and separatism and thus a climate for terrorism'. Secondly, the state was also being affected in socio-economic terms and was becoming less aligned with India in terms of laws. He added that, "The progressive laws such as the right to information, affirmative action, the law against domestic violence, law of representation of women in local bodies, equal property laws between men and women, etc, which applied to the rest of the country did not apply on Jammu and Kashmir." Jaishankar added that the first two issues lead to the third, which was, political consequence. The entire situation allowed a narrow elite group of politicians to arbitrage Article 370 to monopolise political power and to create closed-loop politics who also had vested interests of keeping separatists alive. There were instances of many political parties openly being aligned with separatists.
Jaishankar then said that the government, when it returned to power in May had two choices - to continue with the current situation where policies and laws were on paper but were not actually being enforced or to try something different. In the former, because of a lack of any system, 42,000 people lost their lives and the level of intimidation was such that senior police officers, journalists and even military personnel were killed. Thus, the government decided to try a different approach.
Jaishankar admitted that it is not an easy exercise because of deep, vested interests that resist the move. The government's first concern was that there would be violence. He said, "There would be demonstrations and we had the experience of 2016 when a self-advertised cult figure called Burhan Wani was killed which lead to a spike in violence." Justifying the restrictions which were put in place, Jaishankar said that they were intended to prevent any loss of life.