India on Monday launched a diplomatic offensive briefing key diplomats from the countries currently in the UN Security Council (UNSC) in New Delhi to counter any adverse reactions to its decision to revoke the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.
The announcement of the revocation of the special status to Kashmir was made by home minister Amit Shah in both Houses of Parliament. Article 370, enacted in 1954, lays down that except for matters related to defence, foreign affairs, communications and issues specified in the Instrument of Accession of Jammu and Kashmir, Parliament needs the state government’s ratification for all other laws. So far, residents of the state lived under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property and fundamental rights.
New Delhi’s move refashions the contours of the discourse on Kashmir—nationally as well as internationally. As a Union territory of India and not a “dispute" with Pakistan, it changes the dynamics of India-Pakistan engagement over Kashmir.
The briefing to diplomats comes as Pakistan condemned home minister Amit Shah’s move to bifurcate the region—Jammu and Kashmir which will have a legislature and Ladakh region without a legislature. According to a person familiar with the development, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale and other senior officials of the Indian foreign ministry briefed all 15 members of the UN Security Council in New Delhi.
“In the light of interest expressed by members of the diplomatic community in New Delhi, senior MEA officials are briefing the envoys of several countries, including P5 (US, Russia, Britain, France and China) on proposals related to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and administrative reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir that were introduced in Parliament," the person cited above said. “It was highlighted that the proposals which are currently under consideration of the Parliament of India are internal to India. These are aimed at providing good governance, promoting social justice and ensuring economic development in Jammu and Kashmir," the person added.
In the coming days, India could brief envoys of some other countries too, a second person said.
Reacting to the Indian move, Pakistan on Monday said it “strongly condemns and rejects the announcements made today by the Indian government." The part of the state in Indian control “is an internationally recognized disputed territory," it said.
“No unilateral step by the government of India can change this disputed status, as enshrined in the UNSC resolutions. Nor will this ever be acceptable to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan," the statement said.
“As a party to this international dispute, Pakistan will exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps."
“Pakistan reaffirms its abiding commitment to the Kashmir cause and its political, diplomatic and moral support to the people of Occupied Jammu and Kashmir for the realization of their inalienable right to self-determination," it added.
Analysts have said India will have to look at Pakistan raising the Kashmir issue at all possible fora, including at the forthcoming session of the UN General Assembly in September. In 2016, Pakistan had despatched envoys to prominent world capitals in its bid to highlight alleged human rights violations by India in Kashmir. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to travel to the US for the UN General Assembly session and is expected to address the gathering on 28 September.
Officials and analysts in New Delhi were confident that the move would not in any way negate India’s claims on regions of the state that are under Pakistani control.
“This is an internal matter of India. India has complete sovereignty over the state of Jammu and Kashmir and therefore, this is perfectly legal within the framework of our Constitution," said former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh. Given that India says the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is part of the country, revoking Article 370 in no way interferes with India’s stance that Pakistan is in illegal occupation of a part of Kashmir, he said.
Referring to India’s claim over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan, Mansingh said this would not be diluted by the central government’s move. “We claim the whole of Kashmir as part of our territory and that includes Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan," he said. Moreover, India’s claims over Kashmir date back to 1947 and Article 370 came into existence in 1954, he said.
“Pakistan will make a noise and ask the UN and others to intervene. But the Simla Accord of 1972 takes precedence over all previous positions on the matter. Under the Simla pact, we said India and Pakistan would sort out this problem bilaterally. So, the UN is a closed matter," Mansingh said.
Recalling that Pakistan had made moves to extend its sovereignty over Gilgit-Baltistan some months ago, Mansingh said that this was an illegal move given that all of Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to India under in 1947. “So Pakistan crying foul over the revocation of Article 370 is a bit like pot calling kettle black," Mansingh said.
Former army chief Ved Prakash Malik welcomed the move by the Indian government saying that the revocation of Article 370 was in the long-term interest of the country. “Within Jammu and Kashmir I have felt that there is a distance between the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh."
When asked about apprehensions that the government move could fan separatist sentiments and boost the position of Pakistan-backed terrorists in Kashmir, Malik was of the view that “in the short term, we may see some law and order problem."
“Pakistan as a country is not a position to wage a war against India," he said adding that in the short run, Pakistan could step up infiltration of terrorists into Kashmir. “That is the kind of challenge we can face," Malik said.