On August 11, following Narendra Modi-Amit Shah's constitutional coup for bifurcating Jammu and Kashmir and integrating them into Union territory, father of Pakistan's atomic weapons Dr Abdul Quader Khan's irresponsible utterance that Pakistan can reduce Delhi in five minutes has astounded the world and created tension in South Asia. Dr. Quader's statement implied nuclear war that would damage India and obliterate Pakistan from the face of the earth. Though Pakistan's reaction has predictably been short of sabre-rattling and instead opted for diplomatic and trade sanctions, the unfolding drama is yet far from over. The world at large has been mute to the highhandedness of the BJP government over Jammu and Kashmir (except China who has promised to stand by Pakistan). The London Observer has commented, "It is a lawless world where the rules no longer apply, where pacts and treaties are bypassed or torn up, where nations blindly pursue perceived self-interest and where minorities, however defined, are mocked, ignored and exploited." The Observer went on to add, "Not a word of public criticism of Modi's high-handed behaviour. Not a thought, apparently, for the dire implications for the UN's authority, international law and the so-called rules-based global order. Not an iota of understanding that India's enhanced military occupation may revive a conflict that weaponises religion, race and identity in place of democratic dialogue and inclusion".
Years back, American South Asian affairs specialist Stephen Cohen had described the region as one of the most dangerous places in the world. Noted lawyer and writer A. G. Noorani in his long article (Murder of Insanyat and India's solemn commitment to Kashmir-13-08-2019) has written, "The President's order under Article 370 made on August 5, 2019, the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill and the two resolutions passed this week by parliament were conceived in malice and executed in deceit. They reduce Kashmir to India's colony." A. G. Noorani's main contention has been that the abolishment of article 370 has been illegal and unconstitutional as the revocation of the article requires consent of the state assembly which does not exist at the moment and the Governor appointed by the Centre cannot assume upon himself the mantle of the "state assembly". Mr. Noorani further argues that "Clause (3) is relevant for the issue of amendments.
It says: "(3) Notwithstanding anything in the forgoing provisions of this article, the President may, by public notification, declare that this article shall cease to be operative or shall be operative only with such exceptions and modifications and form such date as he may specify: provided that the recommendation of the constituent assembly of the state referred to in clause (2) shall be necessary before the President issues such a notification." Article 368 on parliament's power to amend India's constitution does not apply to J&K unless the amendment is applied to the state by the president under Article 370. Once the constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir was "convened", to use the exact word in Article 370, the state government lost its interim power to accord its concurrence. And when this body dispersed on January 27, 1957 after adopting the state's constitution, there vanished also the President's powers - under Article 370 - to add more legislative powers to the Centre in respect of J&K or extend to the state any other provision of the constitution of India".
While the legality of the abrogation of article 370 and allied measures will depend on the judgement delivered by the Indian Supreme Court which for the moment has reserved its opinion due to the prevailing situation in Kashmir, the US on August 7 called for urgent dialogue between India and Pakistan to reduce tension in the area. The call was rejected by India as she considers the whole situation as the internal affair of India. It also has to be recalled that unlike other princely states Kashmir acceded to but did not merge with the Union of India and secured autonomy in all matters except defence, foreign affairs and communication. Additionally, under Article 35A, added to the Indian constitution in 1954, Kashmiri citizens were afforded additional special rights and privileges, including with regard to property ownership and government jobs. The valley remains cut off from the rest of India and the world due to restrictions imposed by the Centre. Stephen Sacker's Hard Talk interview on August 14 of a former IAS officer who had topped the list of candidates in the year he sat for the IAS examination revealed the seriousness of the situation when he spoke of Indian governments' betrayal of his grandfather's generation, his father's generation and now his generation reducing young Kashmiris to be either "stooges" of the Centre or "separatists". Ramesh Thakur in an op-ed in the
Project Syndicate on August 9, 2019 apprehended that "government, ruled by Modi's Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), threatens to transform the country into a kind of Hindu Pakistan. The BJP government's religious chauvinism, together with its handling of the Kashmir conflict, has severely damaged India's reputation".
In conclusion, one may hesitate to pronounce a definitive opinion as the situation is still evolving and hopefully Pakistan would not try to play with fire by increasing the activities of the separatists and jihadists and the BJP government will recognise that Bikash (development) is not the sole wish of the Kashmiris and also consider the legality and constitutionality of the abolition of article 370 and ponder why from Pandit Jawharlal Nehru to other Indian leaders did not do what the BJP government has done. Chest thumping and electoral wins aside, India's national security and the peace and prosperity of South Asia should also be considered.
Kazi Anwarul Masud is a former Secretary and ambassador.