Indian Experts Divided over Fallout of Government’s Move on Kashmir

India’s strategic community is divided over the implications of the Modi-led government’s recent move revoking the special status that ensured autonomy and separate citizenship rights to Jammu and Kashmir. The move has already ratcheted up tensions in the region.

While Kanwal Sibal, a former foreign secretary, described the move as “bold and historic”, A. S. Dulat, the former chief of India’s Intelligence Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), said it was fraught with serious consequences.

N C Vij, a former army chief, claimed that the issue of Kashmir was now over by this bold move. Former Ambassador P Stobdan said separating Ladakh from rest of Jammu and Kashmir will help India to settle the boundary question with China.

The move is also casting a shadow over New Delhi’s ongoing negotiations with insurgent groups in the Christian-dominated northeastern state of Nagaland.

Dulat, who was also an adviser on Jammu and Kashmir affairs to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said he does not forecast any immediate violence.

Dulat, known as a deft hand on Kashmir affairs in Indian intelligence, said a huge crisis may develop in the region.

“My apprehension is, and I hope I am wrong, the recent steps in Kashmir will only increase violence. I don’t think anything major will happen in 10-15 days. But these measures have made the rest of India more vulnerable,” he said.

Wajahat Habibullah — an author and a retired top civil servant who has served in Kashmir for over 30 years — said the government should have followed a democratic process to bring constitutional changes in the statute book.

Former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, who led the peace process with Pakistan during his tenure from 2004-2006, said  though the step will further increase the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the rest of the country, the move will trigger increased militancy and violence in the region.

Ashok Bhan, former police chief of Jammu and Kashmir, said revoking the special status will add to alienation, mistrust, and questioning of the government’s democratic credentials in Jammu and Kashmir.

While, Dai Bingguo — China’s long-time negotiator on the border talks, who retired in 2013 — had said that a boundary settlement was possible if India agreed to make concessions in the eastern (Ladakh) sector.

The Indian Constitution confers on the Indian government sweeping power in the field of foreign affairs under Article 253. Since this provision was not applicable to Jammu and Kashmir, New Delhi was not able to exercise external sovereignty, while negotiating with China.

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