The recent verdict by the Indian Supreme Court affirming the 2019 decision about the special status of Kashmir is undoubtedly a matter of concern, especially when scrutinized within the framework of the constitutional amendments made in August 2019. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which holds power, scraped Articles 370 and 35A, thereby rescinding the special status guaranteed to the state of Jammu and Kashmir by the Indian Constitution. Subsequently, the Supreme Court has upheld this decision in its recent verdict.
Notably, there is a consideration of whether the Supreme Court’s stance reflects a bias towards the BJP. Modi’s Kashmir Policy’s central element was abrogating its special status. Modi made this commitment before the 2014 elections, and upon assuming office in 2019, he fulfilled it.
The SC’s verdict upholding the decision is raising questions about the judiciary’s alignment with the political agenda. Shouldn’t it be considered as “Politicization of Court?”
The BJP Regime’s decision to scrap Article 370 and Article 35A is considered the beginning of the darkest phase in the history of Kashmir. This decision sparked the Indian demographic engineering project in Kashmir, leading to the introduction of the New Domicile Law. Under this law, 4 million non-Kashmiris were granted domicile certificates.
These new settlements cast a shadow over the region’s cultural identity and social fabric. The settlement of such a huge number of people belonging to different cultures will definitely have adverse impacts on the indigenous culture, or simply it can be considered as the erosion of Kashmiri culture with “Multiculturalism.”
The repercussions of Article 370 are not confined to the cultural ones but are also extended to the Economic and Political Spheres. According to the meticulous analysis, about 1.5 million domiciles were issued to the business community or capitalist class. Moreover, the Indian government started a new rhetoric of investing 28000 crores for the development and prosperity of Kashmir.
Contrarily, it may be considered as a cunning ploy of the government to capture the land and resources of Kashmir. Stemming from the neo-liberal capitalist logic, this investment is aiming at purchasing the lands and making investments to systematically control not only the land but also the human resources of Kashmir by offering them jobs and other opportunities.
Furthermore, another important aspect of this Settler agenda is the political delimitation of the Muslims. Following the abrogation of Articles 370 & 35A, Indian government introduced a new Spatial policy in the form of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act. Apparently, this was done to smoothly manage the administrative affairs, but dividing the Hindu majority constituencies to make more constituencies unveils the Indian aspiration of delimiting Muslims on political grounds.
In the next election, the Hindus are more likely to get more seats in the assembly, further undermining the Muslim influence.
Furthermore, the implementation of the New Media Policy in Kashmir aims to stifle voices advocating for freedom. On January 15, 2022, control of the Kashmir Press Club (KPC) was transferred to journalists with military backing by appointing them as the Interim Management of KPC. Additionally, thousands of young boys were detained under the Public Safety Act to quell the Azadi Movement. The revival of Village Defense Committees (VDC) to advance this agenda raises serious concerns, potentially leading to ethnic violence and cleansing, reminding the historical events such as the Jammu Genocide, posing a threat to the Azadi Movement.
The recent decision of the Indian Supreme Court not only deteriorates the existing situation but also aligns itself with the settler agenda of the BJP regime. This decision not only neglected the historical context of the conflict but overlooked the provisions of international law over the status of Kashmir. It is a disputed territory, and its final status shall be determined through a free and fair Plebiscite as outlined in United Nations Security Council resolutions. Until a Plebiscite occurs, no government, assembly, or court can unilaterally alter the status of the state.
The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the changes introduced in 2019 may further worsen the situation in Kashmir. This verdict not only upholds the BJP’s decision but supports the Indian settler agenda, which may increase the rifts between two nuclear powers. Given the contemporary dynamics of regional politics and the historical experiences of both states, it is not hard to predict the implications for regional stability and peace. The Pulwama crisis and Balakot strikes, in addition to the growing sense of uncertainty and mistrust, led to strained relations between the two nuclear-armed rivals.
Additionally, Pakistan had already suspended its trade with India after August 5, 2019. Since then, Pakistan has taken a clear diplomatic position of not improving relations until India restores the special status of Kashmir. After this Supreme Court decision, the probability of reinstating articles 370 & 35A is minimal. Hence, the relationship of both neighbors may further aggravate instead of improve.
The Options for Pakistan:
As a response to the growing challenges faced by Kashmir and Pakistan, building an effective media strategy to counter the Indian narrative at a global level is imperative. Pakistan should focus on building partnerships with international media groups to multiply the spread and effectiveness of its narrative. In addition, the journalists and the students must be given scholarships, workshops, training, fellowships, and funded research projects related to the Kashmir cause. This investment would likely enhance their potential and interest in countering the Indian narrative regarding Kashmir and Pakistan.
Pakistan will not only be able to unveil the reality of the Indian agenda on Kashmir on the global stage. Still, it will be able to mitigate the threat of Indian propaganda warfare.
Furthermore, Pakistan needs to advance its diplomatic practices. The diplomatic staff must be equipped with modern diplomatic tools and practices so that they can effectively project the Pakistani narrative on a global level. Secondly, the weakened economic position is the main reason behind the ineffectiveness of diplomatic struggles. In this era of geo-economic competition, states aspire to ensure the economic interests at every cost. Until and unless Pakistan makes itself strong enough to present compelling offerings to the world, it cannot make other states align with its narrative. Pakistan should first develop the capability to construct a strong narrative and then ensure the ability to project it effectively.
Syed Inam Ali Naqvi: The Author is the Managing Director of The Global Politico and holds a degree in International Relations from the University of Azad Jammu & Kashmir.
Tayyaba Khurshid: Tayyaba Khurshid is an Associate Research Officer at CISS, AJK, pursuing her MPhil in International Relations from Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad.