While enough dissection of Narendra Modi’s decision to scrap Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir would have happened by the time both the Houses of parliament pass the law Tuesday, India’s security and foreign policy establishment is already planning ahead to take care of challenges that the development is attracting. Army headquarters sources confirmed Monday that in the big terror push over last fortnight, Pakistan has succeeded in infiltrating five hardened Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) cadres inside the Kashmir valley. This might just be the beginning of a concerted attempt to foment trouble aimed at international attention.
That’s why even as the mandarins at the Ministry of External Affairs got busy briefing foreign envoys from P5 to the European Union, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval flew down to the valley to make sure domestic use of force to quell disturbances remained proportional, as also to oversee India’s military response in case of any adventurism from across the border.
But those in the know believe the real challenge to the Indian action lies ahead, the most immediate test of which would be the August 12 Eid festivities in the valley. Special operating procedures are being put in place to make sure that the anti-national elements in the valley do not create a crisis during the festival and thus tarnish Indian State. Intelligence inputs suggest a considerable build-up across the Line of Control (LoC) reflecting desperation on the part of Pakistan to use the scrapping of article 370 to push its agenda.
What is worrying the Indian establishment is the possible release of pressure on Pakistan from its western front with the planned American withdrawal from Afghanistan. It is recorded history that terrorism reared its head in Kashmir in tandem with the withdrawal of Russians from Afghanistan in the late 1980s and the redeployment of mercenary Jehadis towards India.
So while at one level it provides an internal security challenge, at another, it is a big diplomatic one as well. Pakistani leadership led by Prime Minister Imran Khan has already hinted at the possibility of taking the issue to the United Nations. While that itself should not be of undue concern, what is of worry to South Block is the uncertainty around American response. In its own desperation to leave Afghanistan, the United States has shown an eagerness to compromise with Pakistan. While it seems short-sighted in the long term, President Donald Trump’s recent mediation offer as a sop to Pakistan in return for cooperation with Taliban does not go well with India’s expectations.
Pakistan’s hectic parleying with Malaysia and Turkey indicates towards the possibility of an even more organized reaction from the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) that the Modi government would need to account for. In such a scenario it is imperative that no mistakes are made at the domestic front. While the opposition questions the government inside the parliament, it would be a disservice to the nation if the bipartisan consensus on Kashmir is allowed to be compromised by historical compulsions (as in the case of the Congress party), or worse, vote bank (as in the case of the left).
While celebrations across the country truly reflect the sentiments around Kashmir in India, it would also be premature to let the momentous decision get overshadowed by the issue of Kashmiri Pandits and their relationship with their homeland. While their return to the valley remains the most important aspect in the medium to long term, it should not be allowed to become a rallying point for the divisive forces. India in Kashmir is not China in Tibet. Let us stand by the Modi government and strengthen the narrative that Kashmir’s true integration with rest of India is the actual unfinished agenda of partition.