Rise in pan-Islamist militancy in Kashmir, possible Taliban rule in Afghanistan: BJP couldn't have picked a worse time to scrap Article 370, 35A

Quite apart from its merits or demerits, the timing of the Union government’s revocation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status could not have been worse. This is true at the international level, quite different from the local level.

This is the annual tourist season in the Kashmir Valley, when those connected to this industry expect to make a large part of their annual income. It is also the start of the apple season — the 'Hazratbali' type of apples have been on sale for a few weeks, and 'amri' are just coming. The most popular 'Golden,' 'American' and other such varieties are just ripening.

Not just that, the annual Amarnath Yatra was in full swing when it was suspended, and then unofficially called off — at least as far as pilgrims from across the country were concerned. The pilgrimage has become a hugely popular spiritual journey for devotees. And a large number of Kashmiris earn money from the various allied trade, and the spin-off tourism.

Pan-Islamist militancy

 Rise in pan-Islamist militancy in Kashmir, possible Taliban rule in Afghanistan: BJP couldnt have picked a worse time to scrap Article 370, 35A

Indian Army personnel stand guard during restrictions, in Jammu on Monday. PTI

The other aspect of the local scenario that is worrying is the turn that militancy has recently taken. Pan-Islamist militant groups have gained tremendous ground in recent weeks, particularly after the death of pan-Islamist icon Zakir 'Musa' in an encounter with the forces a couple of months ago.

We have seen glimpses of an internecine war between pan-Islamist and pro-Pakistan terror groups in recent weeks. In the past, it was possible to talk to Pakistan, or get world powers to lean on it, to handle the militancy in Kashmir. Pan-Islamist movements tend to develop a momentum that becomes impossible to control. The ideological spread of pan-Islamist thought has been quite amazing in recent years.

International scenario

Even more disturbing than these local factors is the international scenario, especially in the backdrop of which these steps — to do away with Articles 370 and 35A and to reduce the state from 'special status' to a couple of centrally administered Union Territories —have been taken.

It has been obvious for years that there will be a terribly negative impact in Kashmir if and when the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan. That is on the brink of happening, de facto if not yet de jure. This will immensely relieve the ISI and other power centres in Pakistan, which have been preoccupied with making this transfer of power happen to their north. In fact, for much of the past 15 years, these powers in Pakistan have felt caught in a pincer between antagonistic forces in India and Afghanistan.

Far more worrying is the fact that Pakistan appears to have made a deal with US President Donald Trump to back US efforts in Afghanistan in exchange for Trump arbitrating or at least mediating between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. No doubt Trump also obtained assurances that Pakistan would back his efforts to contain Iran, and to destroy its power in the West Asian region.

China factor

China has long been a close ally of Pakistan. Indeed, the two countries have described each as other as 'iron brothers' and the closest of close strategic allies. That bilateral relationship has gained tremendous salience after the two countries signed a Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Good Neighbourly Relations in 2005. Since 2013, they have been working to turn Pakistan into a fulcrum of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Indeed, under the terms of the 51 Memorandums of Understanding the two countries have signed under the aegis of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China will take over key and very large segments of Pakistan's railways, roadways, communications, power generation, water management, agriculture, irrigation, textiles, other production, packaging and sales, consumption, and of course defence facilities.

At a time like this, the government has presented an issue — a set of issues rather — which could be used by world powers to use as levers against India. Pakistan will, no doubt, do its best to ensure that the issue comes up at international fora such as the UN Security Council.

Triumphalism is not the best way to build international relations. It was needlessly provocative for Sanjay Raut of the Shiv Sena to state in the Rajya Sabha to say that 'we have taken Kashmir today, we will take Balochistan tomorrow.' It was like negating the accession of Jammu and Kashmir and ceding Kashmir to Pakistan at the same level of the Pakistani province of Balochistan.

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Updated Date: Aug 05, 2019 16:42:30 IST