Shringla in office

Ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla



Washington, DC – Kashmir, the whole of Kashmir including parts of it occupied by neighboring countries belongs to India, asserted top Indian diplomat here in an interview with IAT.

Speaking to Tejinder Singh on Thursday (September 5), Ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla said, “The whole of Jammu and Kashmir including parts occupied by Pakistan and China, belong to India.” Going down memory lane to “understand this issue one had to go back to 1947 when the Instrument of Accession by the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was deposited in favor of India,” the ambassador reiterated.

The assertion by the diplomat reflected the statements over recent years from top regional and national leaders of the Indian ruling party (Bharatiya Janata Party – BJP). Similar statements have been made by Amit Shah, the present Federal Home Minister, Late Sushma Swaraj, the former External Affairs Minister and even regional leaders.

“Indian Parliament has made it clear that the whole of Jammu and Kashmir belongs to India and Pakistan has to vacate illegally occupied areas,” said Jammu and Kashmir State BJP president Sat Sharma in 2017 as war of words with neighbor Pakistan leadership was heating up.

On the present day rhetoric conversation going on with India clamping down on liberties in Jammu and Kashmir in addition to changing the administrative setup, the ambassador said, “What we are talking about today, relates to that part of India, which is a part of Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.”

Calling it “a bold and courageous step to bring about a new paradigm, provide an alternative paradigm to the residents of the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” Ambassador Shringla explained the move as, “Reorganizing Kashmir into two union territories, with their own legislative assembly and council but also by abrogating anachronistic article 370. I say anachronistic because this article was based as a temporary article in the Indian constitution under schedule 21 which constitutes temporary articles.”

“The idea at that time was the integration of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union of India. The idea was, once that is done, these articles will be removed. Now this was not done for a number of years and it’s a credit to the government of Prime Minister Modi that the step has been taken,” highlighted the diplomat.

Stressing that it’s an “internal matter of India,” Indian Ambassador stated, “The importance of this is it doesn’t alter the boundaries of the state of Jammu and Kashmir or the international line of control (LoC). Therefore the move has no impact on Pakistan or any neighboring countries.”

Administrative reorganization of states has been taken several times in the past and this is the 12th time India has undertaken this, noted Shringla.

Timing of Reorganization

On the question of what prompted the Modi government to go ahead with such dramatic changes in administrative reorganization, Ambassador spoke of the ongoing “political system that has been fostered by the special circumstances, has prevented the delivery of development funds to the population at the grassroots level.”

“Also rules relating to acquisition of property have precluded investment and entrepreneurship, have certainly contributed to the economy of Jammu and Kashmir being a low-performance one, with very few opportunities for economic development,” said the diplomat.

With today’s majority population in the state below 35 years of age, the Indian diplomat said the youth there have, “a perceived sense of frustration, primarily because of lack of economic opportunities, given the moribund economy and limited employment opportunities. So their focus goes towards activities which are detrimental to law and order situation but if they had jobs and a future to look forward to, they will be gainfully employed.”

Good Governance, Social Justice And Economic Development

Ambassador Shringla looked forward to “the unique opportunity (for the new governmental setup) to deliver on good governance, social justice and economic development,” specifying, “in the last 15 years, the central Indian government has spent $40 billion for development purposes in Jammu and Kashmir but very little of it has percolated down.”

Blaming the “ruling political elites” for having ensured that the special status of the state prevented the development funds from going down (to the grassroots levels), the ambassador accused those of “indulging in corruption and nepotism and appropriated much of those funds.”

“We want to replicate what we are doing in the rest of India, in Jammu and Kashmir,” said Indian Ambassador Shringla, disclosing that an investors conference in Srinagar from October 12-14 is schedules in which many of the large companies will participate. Shringla believed that with limitations on property ownership in the state, people didn’t invest in hospitals, educational institutions, colleges, universities and Kashmiris had to go out. The ambassador expressed hope, “Now that issue is being resolved as investment will flow and infrastructure will be built. GOI has already announced that 50,000 vacancies will be immediately filled up.”

Warm Welcome at Arrival

Shifting gears to back in Washington, DC, and on the question of fast-tracking of presentation of his credentials, Ambassador Shringla said, “The fact that I was able to present my credentials within 48 hours of arriving in Washington, DC is reflective of the close and cooperative nature of the relationship between India and the United States.”

Shringla with Trump
Indian Ambassador Shringla with US President Donald Trump

“I do understand the relationship has not always been that way but as two major democracies, the oldest and largest democracies, sharing the same values and principles, there was an inevitability in the closeness of relations that we have attained,” said the ambassador, adding, “And will take on closer and stronger levels of cooperation in the years to come, in other words we are yet to reach our fullest cooperation potential.”

Trade Equations

With the plus/minus going on in the trade relations question facing both the nations, the ambassador said, “One has to see the relationship as a whole. In any relationship, especially one which is so multifaceted and comprehensive as ours, there will be some issues which the two countries will have to deal with. These issues do not jeopardize or impact adversely but simply means issues keep coming up and the two countries which have all necessary diplomatic mechanisms to do so, can deal with them.”

Highlighting the “recalibration of the United States’ own trade relationships with many countries,” like China, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Canada and Mexico, Ambassador Shringla said, “India, as the US’ larger trading partner is also facing it but we, two countries are working closely to find solutions which can be win-win situations.”

“Our two way trade has been increasing very steadily, every year between 10-15 percent, to come to the present level of $142 billion,” noted the ambassador. Even in the first months of 2019, there was a similar increase and a very steady increase in US exports to India as well. India also introduced new products like oil and gas for the first time and buying aircrafts. “There is a single largest deal in civil aviation with Indian company Indigo placing with GE, order for aircraft engines worth $20 billion,” pointed the Indian diplomat.

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