In strategic affairs, one's ability to turn constants into variables is a much-prized and gifted attribute. Prime Minister Narendra Modi definitely belongs to the genre of leaders who think out of the box. And his move of abrogating Article 370, separating Laddakh from Jammu and Kashmir in one fell swoop has a touch of strategic genius.
He effectively demolished the narrative that Article 370 is a sacrosanct statute that can not be done away with. Interestingly, Modi did not force his decision through force but used constitutional methods. In a two-day debate in both the houses of the Parliament, Union Home Minister Amit Shah while piloting a resolution to revoke sections of Article 370 and a bill pertaining to the creation of two distinct Union Territories from the state of Jammu and Kashmir argued vehemently about the propriety and legality of his action. He tried to convince his opponents through arguments and marshalling facts from history.
A crestfallen Congress was too dazed to react in a coherent manner and found itself bracketed with fringe political groupings. No doubt the whole discussion was conducted with a consummate skill that uniquely placed the BJP on the right side of the debate. This was the precise reason why parties like AAP, BJD, TDP, YSR Congress Party and BSP shed their inhibition and joined the BJP bandwagon. They realised the popular mood and went along the way the wind was blowing.
Now the question arises about the timing of the move. Modi could have done it in his first stint as the Prime Minister of India. It would be naïve to assume that he became aware of this recourse only in his second term. The answer to this query is obvious. In his first term, Modi consciously avoided contentious issues that are identified with his ideological positions.
However, there is no denying of the fact that the revocation of Article 35A that defined "permanent residents" of Jammu and Kashmir was set to be on cards since 2018. A notification was drafted in the Ministry of Home Affairs to remove this provision that discriminated between the rights of the residents of Jammu and Kashmir and the citizens of the rest of India.
This provision also forbore citizens other than those qualified to be "permanent residents" of the state to buy properties or settle in any part of the state. In a liberalised world where people’s free movement across the globe is believed to be a futuristic idea, Jammu and Kashmir lives in splendid isolation on the pretext of its autonomous status.
The Modi government towards the fag end of its first stint avoided going ahead with the decision of revoking Article 35A as it found inadequacies of central forces on account of their deployment for election duties in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh. It followed preparations for the general elections to the Lok Sabha. The issue, therefore, was shelved for the future.
That the prime minister decided to take up the issue within 90 days of taking the oath of office in his second term is a testimony to his perseverance concerning national issues. There was no doubt that 2019 saw the BJP’s emergence with a greater mandate than 2014. And Modi read the mandate as people’s deep yearning from the BJP to fulfil its promises contained in the manifesto. Those conversant with the situation said that it would be absolutely wrong to link Modi’s action in Jammu and Kashmir was even remotely linked to the evolving US-Pakistan relation in the context of Afghanistan.
Strategic experts in the government dismiss the suggestion as unfounded that the abrogation of Article 370, creation of two separate Union Territories out of Jammu and Kashmir and cessation of Article 35A was linked to the great game being played on Afghanistan. "Some experts tend to overread the situation and link every move with the international scenario," they point out.
Modi in his own assessment of Jammu and Kashmir was quite convinced of taking unconventional steps to resolve the festering crisis once for all. He did not want to be seen in undue haste and held on to his patience in his first stint to conventional methods of resolving the issue. But in his second stint, he apparently believed in the saying that "no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it". On 5 August when Union Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the bills in Rajya Sabha on Jammu and Kashmir, he fundamentally altered the structure of the Kashmir problem that will bury old prejudices and trigger new hopes.
Updated Date: Aug 07, 2019 21:00:39 IST