J&K Imbroglio
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 19 Oct , 2019

The abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, came as a surprise to some and shock to some others, though many of us have over time been demanding their abrogation. Some are knocking at the doors of Supreme Court, essentially banking on section 3 of Article 370. What is obvious is that government took this step without adequate prior evaluation and planning, in line with its style of functioning. Consequently it is at a loss on the next move. Same was the case with demonetization, GST, Finance Budget and subsequent steps on the economic front such as cut in the corporate tax, rate cut by the RBI and possible cut in individual tax rate in the future.

Over the years political class in the Kashmir Valley has completely brainwashed the local population in that the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A will be their ruin and in fact their very end. Unfortunately from the Indian state there has been no counter narrative, more so during this government’s previous 5 year tenure, once it decided to do away with this article. It should have highlighted the fact that these Articles have in fact grossly disadvantaged the people of J&K: more so those in the Valley. How the state has seen no genuine economic development and consequent prosperity, but has merely lived by excessive funds provided by the central government. The impression with the people, but more so with the political class in the Valley has been that the state has been receiving disproportionately greater financial allocations due to Article 370! 

Separation of Ladakh from rest of J&K was never visualized, but is definitely the most appropriate move.  It goes to the credit of Modi and Shah to take these long over due steps, though without adequate prior preparations. State governor too has played his part with adroitness and political finesse, within the limitations of no prior preparations by the center. So far so good! 

All these years, Jammu and Ladakh regions, were grossly neglected. While the state of J&K was given disproportionately more central funds compared to other Indian states, but within the state, very little came to Ladakh region. Out of funds given to the Valley, good part ended up in the pockets of political leaders and with some others. Funds deployed in the Valley did lift the lower strata of population out of abject poverty. From the time Pandits were expelled out of the Valley, madrasas have seen exponential growth in the Valley leading to radicalization of increasing number of youth.

Of the three regions of J&K, it is Ladakh, which had been left far behind. When insurgency started in the Valley during 1989-90 and the footfall of tourists in the valley substantially decreased and at the same time it increased in Ladakh region, many businesses from the Valley shifted to this region, to the discomfiture of local Ladakhi small businesses. 

The segregation of Ladakh from rest of J&K and it now being a union territory, will usher in much development and prosperity to this region.  To that end it is essential to improve the state of road communication to this area. The extension of railway line from Joginder Nagar to Leh must be speeded up as also railway line from Shimla should be extended to Kelong and join one from Joginder Nagar. This will substantially increase tourism in Himachal as well. Kargil which is now part of Union Territory of Ladakh, where the local population being Shia, too had seen much neglect. This part of Ladakh too can look forward to much development and prosperity. Ladakh, has enormous potential for tourism that needs to be fully exploited.  

While both Ladakh and Jammu region will draw much investment in industry, horticulture, education, healthcare and tourism, Valley will have to wait for peace to return fully. As an immediate measure, to bring some degree of peace in the Valley, India has already opened up recruitment for fifty thousand youth in the military etc. Though such a move may upset the Male Recruit-able Population (MRP) formula adopted for others states, but this measure may have to be adopted on temporary basis. At present Central government appears determined to pour more and more funds into the Valley in the hope that peace will prevail there and people will reconcile to the abrogation of Article 370.    

The resettlement of Pandits will have to wait for peace to return to the valley and law and order to be fully restored. Their properties and business establishments must be handed back to them and where these have been damaged the same must be repaired by the state. Equally they or their off springs must find place in government jobs.

However here we need be concerned about the possible reaction to this new development in J&K from, both China and Pakistan and   reaction, from within the Valley, once restrictions are removed and political leaders let loose. While the world is generally in line with this development, (abrogation of Article 370 and accepts it as an internal matter for India) China, Pakistan, Indonesia and world press have expressed concern over this development. China’s immediate interest lies in China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) which runs though PoK and One Road – One Belt runs through Ladakh: part under occupation by China.   

China is directly concerned with Ladakh, because it is occupying parts of this Union Territory and Shaksgham Valley, which has been illegally gifted to it by Pakistan. China has already expressed concern at Ladakh being designated as Union Territory. China can be expected to keep the Line of Actual Control (LAC) somewhat activated, but without any incursion into Union Territory of Ladakh. The main reason for this is that India is a huge market for Chinese goods. At present India’s trade deficit with China is approximately $62 billions and that discounts large scale under invoicing by Indian businesses. This trade with India has become all the more important for China because of the heavy tariffs being imposed by America on Chinese goods imported into that country. The recent talks at Mamallapuram, between Modi and the Chinese Premier need to be viewed in the light of china’s compelling need to focus on the Indian market.  

Therefore, it is Pakistan, which can be expected to promote trouble in way of activating LoC. It may even initiate a conflict, in the hope that there would be a general uprising in the valley and create situation similar to that which took place in East Pakistan, eventually leading to creation of Bangladesh.  To that end would induct large number of terrorist into the Valley in the hope that locals will join terrorist groups and bring about revolt by the population there. In addition, once America pulls out of Afghanistan and Taliban’s gain full control over that country, then some of the terrorist groups operating in that country, are likely to be diverted to J&K. In all this activity China can be expected to keep encouraging Pakistan.  

Human rights activists, world over, are gradually showing concern at the repression and lock-down of mainstream politicians in the Valley. Call is being made, from within India to allow peaceful protests etc, therefore, Government has, though rather slowly, opened up phone lines and internet facilities as also removed some other restrictions. 

However it is when all restrictions are lifted and leaders of various hues are released, that serious trouble could be expected. After all a strong terrorist apparatus does exists in the Valley, stance of the political class and local population is well known and Pakistan’s involvement is another important factor. All this could lead to serious law and order problems, which cannot be overlooked. Therefore, Government should be prepared to deal with such a situation and keep in focus the imperatives of using minimum force in such cases. 

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Harwant Singh

Former Deputy Chief of Army Staff. He also commanded a corps in J&K.

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