UPDATED (JULY 5 – 3:20 PM ET)
Washington, DC – The United States reacted to the ongoing happenings in Indian Kashmir as the Government of India made dramatic changes in the status quo of the northern state – bifurcating it into two Union Territories: Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
In a statement to IAT, the State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said, “We are closely following the events in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. We take note of India’s announcement revising the constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir and India’s plan to split the state into two union territories.”
Noting that “the Indian government has described these actions as strictly an internal matter,” Ortagus expressed concern saying, “We are concerned about reports of detentions and urge respect for individual rights and discussion with those in affected communities.”
With the earlier fear-mongering and hype of possible attacks from across the border, the US State Department statement to IAT called, “on all parties to maintain peace and stability along the Line of Control.”
The reactions follow as Narendra Modi led ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) revoked part of the Indian Constitution which gave Indian controlled Kashmir a special status since independence.
Article 370, which is being revoked, gave the Muslim-majority state special autonomous status.
Fearing unrest and fallout as prominent political parties and elected representatives in the Valley were not consulted, the measure was accompanied by a strict clampdown since the weekend.
The leaders were first put under house arrest and then formally arrested, telecom and communications were curtailed, while a media blackout was imposed.
In addition India’s parliament is also splitting Indian Kashmir into two territories governed directly by Delhi. Jammu and Kashmir will be a union territory with a legislature, and Ladakh will be a union territory without a legislature.
Pakistan which occupies other parts of Kashmir reacted by condemning India’s decision to revoke the special status of its part of Kashmir as illegal.
“India is playing a dangerous game which will have serious consequences for regional peace and stability,” Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was cited as saying.
UPDATED (JULY 4 – 5:45 PM ET)
Washington, DC/New Delhi – The United States over the weekend was silent as IAT awaited a response from the Trump Administration as the Indian Government has imposed Section 144 in different parts of Jammu and Kashmir. While educational institutions were closed for an indefinite period, hostels were vacated and occupied by additional troops in the Valley. The Internet was either disabled or slowed down while hospitals were put on an emergency mode. (Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) prohibits an assembly of more than four persons in an area.)
Dozens of mobile bullet proof bunkers could be seen all across the Valley. Indian Paramilitary troops were everywhere, not only in the main cities, but also in remote rural areas, according to Indian media broadcasts. Cable News Networks are out and cell phone services are to be suspended, stated reliable sources cited by the local media.
Twitter started buzzing, as prominent leaders of the mainstream political parties in the troubled areas were put under house arrest.
Omar Abdullah, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir tweeted: “I believe I’m being placed under house arrest from midnight tonight & the process has already started for other mainstream leaders. No way of knowing if this is true but if it is then I’ll see all of you on the other side of whatever is in store. Allah save us 🙏🏼”
Mehbooba Mufti, President of the Jammu & Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party and another former Chief Minister tweeted: “Hope those who accused us of rumour mongering realise that our fears weren’t misplaced. Leaders under house arrest, broadband services suspended & section 144 enforced isn’t normal by any standard.”
Earlier, the National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah chaired an all-party meeting in Srinagar and appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi “not to revoke J&K’s special status.” The all-party meet was attended by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti, Peoples Conference leader Imran Ansari, Congress leader Taj Mohiuddin and J&K Peoples Movement chief Shah Faesal among others.
“Modification or abrogation of Article 35A or Article 370 would be aggression against the people of J&K,” read the joint statement called “Gupkar Declaration.”
India Mulls Solution to Kashmir Problem
Washington, DC – Enough blood has been spilled on the lanes and bylanes of Kashmir’s towns and villages and there is an urgent need for a peaceful solution, but a recent statement from Indian Federal Defense Minister Rajnath Singh raised many eyebrows. Indian media quoted him as saying during a trip to the Kargil War Memorial: “Problem of Kashmir will get solved, no power in the world can stop it. If somebody does not want a solution through talks, then we know very well how a solution can be found.”
With the BJP heavyweight not providing any details of the solution in his tough talking statement, the direct acknowledgement was that there is a problem in the state, the existence of which the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the BJP always denies. Till date, the federal BJP government under Modi always treated the unrest in the Valley as a law and order issue to be quelled by the use of force and development.
Another serious fallout is the fear-mongering and anxiety-stirring effects of such a vague and threatening statement, especially when it comes without a clearcut BJP plan of working towards a political resolution.
Such a blatantly threatening statement in the midst of recent conspicuous toughening of security measures in the Valley, with the reports of thousands of Indian troops being pushed in, creates more confusion as to the intentions of the federal government.
Ironically, Singh served as federal home minister in the previous Modi government, but his numerous attempts to find a solution by holding talks with various stakeholders failed. “I don’t think any other home minister has taken more initiatives to resolve the issue as I did in my five-year tenure,” he acknowledged before sounding his tough cautionary aforementioned statement at Kargil event.
Another very important factor that has entered the stage is the new Indian External Affairs Minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who is an ace diplomat and has very cordial relations with the US, China and other major countries. International observers hailed his appointment and called him an asset to India’s foreign diplomacy.
Many political pundits are speculating the military movement is to quell any large scale opposition as the BJP government starts undoing the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, or one of its major empowering features like the Article 35A that protects the J & K’s state subject laws whereby outsiders (other non-Kashmiri Indian citizens) can’t become the state’s citizens.
Most of the local population has repeatedly expressed willingness to support plans to defuse the situation and restore normalcy at local levels without much highhandedness of the armed forces. Today the glimmer of hope generated by the Indian Defense Minister Singh’s statement comes from expectations of an essentially political solution.